Darlene Love Means It’s Christmas

I realized I was acting like those people who’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show a few dozens times and now talk back to the on-screen dialog.

darlene-love-christmas.jpgIt is said Jews have written the best Christmas songs. This is what we talk about while going to the movies and having Chinese food on Christmas Day. There’s White Christmas and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). The latter has the distinction of also being the finest Christmas song from a convicted murderer–Phil Spector.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was performed tonight on the Letterman show by Darlene Love. She’s been doing it on his last show before Christmas as long as I remember and I look forward to it every year. I’m not alone.

For late night TV this is a big budget production. Along with Paul Shaffer and the band there was a nine voice chorus, six string players plus a few brass pieces and other instruments I surely missed.

Darlene’s still got it. She belts the song. She hits the notes while staying mainly on key. She wears a skirt short enough to shame women a third her age and gets away with it.

Darlene is always on last. That makes her appearance late enough that I’d never watched it with company until tonight. I had to drop off something at my friend Rick’s house and we watched from his basement.

What a scam! The man works from a studio in his basement. Sorry–jealousy getting the best of me.

Rick is an announcer. You have heard him a million times. He sounds like God.

I always wanted to be an announcer, but wasn’t born with the equipment. I told him tonight he is my Mickey Mantle.

Darlene finally came. I waited a year for this. I was excited. Rick, not so much.

As the song began I told him what was coming next. I realized I was acting like those people who’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show a few dozens times and now talk back to the on-screen dialog.

It made no difference. Darlene was magical. The song is hers alone.

I left Rick’s a few minutes after Darlene’s exit. I watched her again a few times on the DVR at home.

This is obsessive behavior right? It’s the way I know it’s really Christmas.

Must See TV – Darlene Love on David Letterman

2005 Update for Google searchers

I know a lot of traffic comes here via Google every year at this time, looking for my info on Darlene Love’s annual Letterman appearance. Darlene will be on Late Night with David Letterman this Friday, December 23, 2005. The info comes from Darlene’s website.

As long as you’re here, read my blog.

Every year, on the last show before Christmas, David Letterman has Jay Thomas on trying to knock a meatball off a Christmas tree with a football. I can live without that.

On that last show he also has Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” I look forward to it every year. Tonight’s the night!

This is worth watching and taping.

First, Darlene is dynamite. She sells every note and gives this Phil Spector classic the respect it deserves. If she’s lost anything since this song was released over 40 years ago, I’m not hearing it.

Letterman goes all out bringing in a huge choir and string section. The sax solo is usually played by David Sanborne. Paul and the boys turn it up.

But really, it’s all Darlene. She owns it.

There is no doubt it is my favorite Christmas song. My DVR is set.

My Day in a Spacesuit

It’s been a while since I hosted Inside Space on SciFi. It was a really good show. Maybe I realize that more today than I did then.

Isn’t that always the way? You have a backstage view of the job you’re performing. You know when you’ve executed perfectly and when you didn’t get close. No one else knows, but you do.

A friend sent me an email yesterday and that sent me looking into the archives to find a show he wanted to see. I found one where I’m trying on a spacesuit at Hamilton Standard (now Hamilton Sundstrand) here in Connecticut. They’re made for space, not Earth. You realize that as you put it on… all 150 pounds!

After I had gone in and out of the suit, one of the techs helping out told me a story. Some people panic when they realize getting out of it means going through a rigid, difficult to move, ‘tunnel. It can take hours until they’re comfortable enough to make a move. I’m glad he waited until after I was out to tell me.

One thing Inside Space had going for it was the producer, Dave Brody. Dave is more detail oriented than anyone I’ve ever worked for before or since. He and I would get into fights about syntax and script, but when the shows were finished they were things of beauty. Sometimes, to make a point, the video would be layer upon layer upon layer. Dave’s philosophy of video is similar to Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound.’ The screen was constantly used to make a point.

As long as I was dubbing it, I put a streaming copy here on the website. Just click to see it on any Windows computer with a broadband connection.

Being Jewish at Christmas

I had to work later than normal tonight. We’ve just installed a new computer graphics system. It needed a little last minute tweaking… what is sure to be the norm for a few weeks, at least.

Darlene Love was scheduled to be on David Letterman tonight. Though I finished my work before she was on, I waited until Darlene sang so I could hear “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

This was her 19th trip to the Letterman show – or so said Dave. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is certainly the best Christmas song ever written by a Jewish guy under a murder indictment (Phil Spector). Even up against “White Christmas” (Irving Berlin), it might be the best Christmas song written by a Jewish guy, period.

The hell with it. It’s just the best Christmas song and Darlene Love is unbelievable singing it. It has become a tradition for Letterman to bring in a full string section and large gospel choir… and she was born to sing this song.

I’m glad that I can appreciate Christmas songs. There was a time I couldn’t – when I was totally divorced from Christmas. Being Jewish, it’s not my holiday, but I have come to embrace the secular aspects of Christmas and the general warmth and good feeling that goes around.

Growing up Jewish, around Christmas, is very difficult for a kid. It is a holiday with exceptionally powerful images. Families get together. Houses get beautifully decorated. You get presents.

As a kid, I remember Christmas Day being very isolating. Nothing was open, not even gas stations (as my father found out 40 some years ago). All the ‘good’ shows were off TV, replaced by religious or holiday oriented programs. Of course you couldn’t go to friend’s houses or have them over either. We were circumspect on December 25th, trying to fade in with the woodwork.

It wasn’t until “Animal House” (1978) that I realized a good Jewish Christmas included Chinese food and a movie.

I’m not sure when I began to embrace the Christmas spirit, but I do remember always volunteering to work. Once, in radio, I pulled an 8 hour shift (radio shifts are like dog years in that they are multiplied by a constant before they’re comparable to real life) so others could spend the day with their families. By my rough count, I’ve worked 34 of the last 35 Christmases and will work again tomorrow.

The New York times did an article Monday about the unwritten pact that brings Jews to work on Christmas, and has gentile’s covering for us on the High Holy Days. Thursday, our newscasts will be produced, anchored, directed and primarily staffed by Jewish people.

It wasn’t always this way, but today I love the lights and the decorations. I like to see the tree at neighbor’s houses. I love egg nogg, though I had never tasted any until I was well into my twenties. I once sat slackjawed as I watched Andy Williams sing “Sleighride” and realized just how good he/it was.

Even more, I love the thought of people traveling so they can be close to their relatives and parents. Marianne, a waitress at the little luncheonette next to the station, is flying to Chicago where she’ll meet her granddaughter for the first time. What could be more Christmas than that?

There’s a line, somewhere, that defines how far I will go in celebrating Christmas. Steffie has always wanted a Christmas tree. That’s over the line, though I understand why she wants it.

It used to be, I’d shy away from saying Merry Christmas. I don’t any more. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Personally, I’m going to enjoy working so others can have one.

However, if you’re not celebrating, I’ll see you at the Chinese restaurant.

No One Pleads Innocent

I was going to write about what TV, radio and newspapers do to a defendants court plea… and I will, but I’m pleased to add a twist.

With Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson, Phil Spector and a zillion others charged with crimes, we’re hearing a lot about defendants declaring their indignation at the charges and pleading innocent.

From Reuters:

ALHAMBRA, Calif. (Reuters) – Legendary “Wall of Sound” record producer Phil Spector pleaded innocent on Thursday to murdering B-movie actress Lana Clarkson who was found lying in a pool of blood in February at his Alhambra, California, home.

Way to go Phil… except in the United States you don’t plead innocent. In reality, the proper pleading is “not guilty,” and there’s an immense difference.

My dictionary says of innocent:

Uncorrupted by evil, malice, or wrongdoing; sinless: an innocent child.

Who wants to stand up to that standard? In fact, having done something, but for whatever reason being ‘not guilty” is a much easier defense.

If you’re innocent you are not guilty. However, you can be not guilty without being innocent. There is a distinction and it’s very important.

Until recently the Associated Press had recommended (in its well circulated style manual) using innocent instead of not guilty. The reason actually goes back to the pre-computer days of set type where the “not” might fall off or become detached from the “guilty.” With computers, that can’t happen anymore. So, a few weeks ago, AP did the right thing and began recommending not guilty as the proper term.

It will take a while for everyone to fall into line, so you’ll continue to hear innocent. But you’ll know lots of people walk without being close to innocent.

Who’s Next?

You have to admit, this is a little over the top. Today Michael Jackson gets arrested, Phil Spector gets officially charged with murder, and the prospect of a trail and 15 years in jail looms over Martha Stewart.

First things first. If Michael Jackson would have know there were handcuffs involved, maybe he would have turned himself in sooner. OK – cheap joke. I know.

This story is probably the weirdest. Jackson has been accused of improprieties with young boys before. In fact, California now has a law on the books which can force testimony from a minor. The law is there specifically because it seemed like Michael Jackson bought his way out of the earlier accusation by buying the boy’s silence.

I’m a parent, so let me ask the rhetorical question. What parent in their right mind would let their child do overnights with Jackson? Hell… with any non-related adult?

This leads me to believe there is a backstory here, and Mark Geragos (Jackson’s attorney) will bring it out. But, even if the parent is more wacko than Jacko, that doesn’t take Michael Jackson off the hook in his responsibility to act as an actual adult.

Phil Spector is another story entirely. He is of the last generation. It is possible he is the most creatively talented music producer of the era of recorded music. But, he has been considered more than a little ‘unusual’ for decades.

There were always rumors swirling about drug use and that Phil was reclusive because he was never straight enough to meet the public. I remember seeing him on some televised event years ago and was astonished at the mere fact that he was appearing. I wasn’t there to give him a drug test or Breathalyzer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t have walked a straight line that evening.

if it’s possible to look stoned, he looked stoned.

To me, there are two significant Phil Spector moments. The first is the Ike and Tina Turner version of “River Deep, Mountain High.” This is one of the finest recordings of the rock and roll era. It is the perfect example of Spector’s famous ‘wall of sound.’ Ike and Tina Turner with full orchestration – who would have imagined?

The second is a little more esoteric. In the late sixties, an immense 48 hour, radio documentary called “The History of Rock and Roll” was produced (I think) by Ron Jacobs who worked for Bill Drake, the radio program director. The best segment in “History” was billed as “Phil Spector takes the blindfold test.”

Spector was put in a studio, headphones on, next to an open mike. As his hits from the 50s and 60s were played, he spoke off the cuff about what he was listening to and what went into making it. This was astounding listening. It was a backstage view unavailable in any other forum. It was the precursor of today’s DVD narrations.

I haven’t heard this segment in at least 30 years and wish I knew where to get a copy.

Spector going off the deep end is troubling, but not a major leap for me to buy.

Finally there’s Martha Stewart. I assume it would be easy to get on her case because she so represented what she did as the proper way to do things. Wanting her strung up for that would be vindictive (and though I am not above that emotion, it really isn’t usually warranted… certainly not here).

My bigger problem is, Martha Stewart was fully knowledgeable of the rules. She had been a stock broker. She had brought her company public. She knew what was allowable and what wasn’t.

If she saw that her investment was going bad and decided to save herself some cash, she deserves to be treated as the common criminal she was. We don’t punish enough people who commit what I consider ‘crimes of trust.’ At the moment, crime pays. We have to change that perception.

I hope the three of them are innocent (as opposed to not guilty which you can achieve while still having done something wrong) but it’s more likely prosecutors will be 3 for 3… 4 for 4 if you throw in Robert Blake.