Yours Coolly, Sammy Drake

In 1959 Sarah Vaughan musically convinced listeners that her lover was a “Smooth Operator” whose kisses could make toenails curl, thrilling her to the point where she asked for mercy from Mr. Percy and unashamedly admitted “I like it like that.” While Sarah certainly was entitled to her opinion, I suggest a smoother operator can be found in the person of Sammy Drake during the investigation of the “Cui Bono Matter” by Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in February 1956. Drake, played by Sam Edwards, talked in a slick, rhyming style that predated the Kookie jive-talking craze by two years. Sammy gave every indication that, in a duel of words, he would have knocked the comb-carrying hipster into the alley nearest 77 Sunset Strip.

Even in 1956 listeners could find name rhymes in Delbert Barker’s “No Good, Robin Hood” which contained a number of warnings to any rivals for his girl’s affections, including “Too bad, Galahad” and “Bad Break, Rattlesnake.” Nearly 20 years later Paul Simon named names among the 50 ways to depart from a loved one, including tips for Gus to hop on a bus, Jack to slip out the back, and Lee to drop off the key.

But those happened to be names read off song sheets with musical accompaniment in no particular context. What made Drake’s rhymes in dialogue distinctive is they sounded like spontaneous replies to queries posed by the shrewd insurance investigator. When Johnny Dollar (Bob Bailey) tossed soft curves toward Sammy, the smooth operator of the Sleepy Hollow Roadhouse responded with a handful of catchy responses: “What’s the pitch, Mitch?” “You’re outta luck, Chuck.” “What did you say your name was, Buzz?” “Let’s relax, Max.” “So what comes next, Tex?”

Drake, not the primary suspect in the case, definitely served as the most memorable character in that five-episode mystery involving an accidental shooting which may have been murder. Cui Bono (“Who benefits?”) has an easy answer: anyone who listens to this well-crafted series

And, I might add, anyone who comes in contact with me because I have armed myself with a batch of Drake Takes to fit a variety of situations.

At the farmer’s market: “Hand me a cuke, Luke.”

At the gas station: “I’ve had my fill, Bill.”

At the hat shop: “Let’s see your best lid, Sid.”

On the beach: “Great tan, Nan.”

To an usher at the ballpark: “Where’s this aisle, Lyle?”

To a cabbie: “Here’s the toll, Joel.”

At the yard waste disposal site: “Where goes the crud, Bud?”

To any flagman who waves me down: “What’s the beef, Leif?”

To the constant lane changer: “Quit your swerving, Irving.”

At the racetrack payoff window: “Make with the green, Dean.”

To someone who asks what I am going to do with my winnings: “In the bank, Hank.”

To a snob at a party: “Get off your high horse, Doris.”

To someone leaving the party early: “Where you goin’, Owen?”

To a neighbor with a woeful lawn: “Get some new sod, Tod.”

To an author at a book signing event: “Keen story, Laurie.”

To a postal clerk weighing a parcel: “What’s the freight, Nate?”

To someone wearing a sporty shirt: “Some tartan, Martin.”

At a lunch counter: “Spin me a malt, Walt.”

To a persistent salesman: “Why should I buy it, Wyatt?”

To the cook at a pig roast: “Sever it, Everett.”

To a local near Cave of the Mounds: “Which way’s the hole, Lowell?”

Obviously, those lyrical lines leave me open for stinging retorts such as “You’re a knave, Dave” and “Take a hike, Mike.” Like many of the claimants Johnny Dollar encountered, I am willing to take a chance. It will be worth the risk if just one person tells me “I like it like that, Pat.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Young at Art

A number of letters to the editor of the Maine Antique Digest have responded to reports in that publication regarding the cancellation of several long-established shows. In the August issue, a letter from a subscriber in Arizona who defends the next generation of collectors begins with the statement “I’m amazed at the amount of stereotyping used when describing younger collectors,” yet in the next paragraphs he purports to speak for the entire younger population by grouping them together: “Millennials don’t have the time or desire to attend a show, they don’t have the time or desire to sit through an entire auction either online or in person…A millennial makes virtually all types of transactions electronically…” His advice to dealers wanting to attract younger adults: use social media and text often. Otherwise, things look bleak from his viewpoint in Phoenix: “Ten years from now auctions and shows will be ghost towns.”

Let us reason together as we consider the matters of time and desire among the young and restless. Antique shows are held all over the country, not just in large metropolitan areas, often within moderate traveling distance of just about everyone, and these events are almost always held on a weekend. If millennials are pressed for time on a Saturday or Sunday to drive less than 150 miles to attend a show at which they can actually see and touch objects, learn from knowledgeable dealers and build relationships with actual human beings face to face, what are they doing on those days? Binge-watching episodes of the first seasons of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones? Programming robots or flying drones around the living room? Seeking the Boulevard of Broken Dreams in the mosh pit at a Green Day concert? Lining up to see the premiere of the latest “must see” Hollywood blockbuster? Hunting for cosplay outfits? Priorities, priorities. Collectors of all ages soon discover the wisdom of these words: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Reproductions and charlatans thrive on the Internet. Vetted dealers who attend shows have nurtured friendships with customers and other exhibitors, and therefore have reputations to uphold. Collectors also learn quickly that vendors at shows are more willing to negotiate prices with an eager and informed “cash and carry” customer who will likely be a caring custodian of an antique or collectible than they are to dicker with an impersonal browser visiting the dealer’s website. Regardless of how many times the cutting edge of virtual reality is sharpened, there is no substitute for the actual reality of holding a desired object in one’s hands.

By their very nature, antiques tend to be fragile or bulky, and usually travel much better from exhibition floor to customer vehicle than through the vagaries of delivery systems. Just a few examples of such antiques frequently seen at shows: pottery, wall mirrors, tables, phonographs, cupboards, Tiffany lamps, mantel and grandfather clocks, art glass, oriental rugs, paintings, crystal, slot machines, marble sculptures, advertising signs, and lawn statues. Wouldn’t a customer feel more comfortable leaving an expo center with a horse and sulky weathervane purchased from a congenial dealer specializing in folk art than buying a similar item from an unknown online vendor and trusting that party to carefully wrap and insure an oversized package that could arrive looking like a copper pig that got poked by Pokémon?

Regarding the issue of the time required to bid at auctions versus the immediacy of seeing and buying it right away from a dealer’s site, millennials wanting to start a political or superhero collection might ask the question: Who should I trust more for a Civil War campaign banner or vintage Superman figure? The “buy it now” online dealer whose descriptions include lines like “Got this at an estate sale” and “Worn a bit but great condition for its age” or Ted Hake, author of numerous guides on political memorabilia and character collectibles, who for the last 49 years has been conducting auctions and issuing catalogs in which each item is shown and described in 100-400 words? Winning bidders receive certificates of authenticity signed by Ted Hake. The novice who places an impulsive order from Buy It Now Buster may be disappointed with the purchase and discover too late that time saved turns out to be money wasted.

If Hake’s Americana and Collectibles is still active in ten years, I believe that young collectors will be placing bids and their trust in what Ted has wrought. If I am alive in 2026, I will still be attending antique shows, even if they are held in ghost towns. Any young collectors I see along the way are welcome to ride with me, providing they are not running with the crowd or walking with the dead.

 

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peculiar Science 3

The July/August Popular Science spins further into its orbit of being way, way out with Simon Pegg acting as guide to the spaciness of its first annual insane ideas issue.

Readers are supposed to be getting a lift from learning about Lyft, a fleet of self-driving taxis that will pave the way to Utopia. A Lyft co-founder wonders why people will want to drive their own cars that are only used four percent of the time and have to do all the “work” of parking and washing it. He suggests “Start to imagine all of the idle vehicles disappearing.” Readers are apt to imagine all the idle minds seeking to find ways to steer the public onto the off-ramp of uniformity.

When the pleasure of driving our own automobiles is gone, people will probably head for a Risk Theme Park like the one proposed for Daegu, South Korea. The nine death-defying scenes include simulations of wilderness rescue and being trapped underground. The biggest trap will certainly be at the ticket booth.

Foot fetishists will still get their kicks as the PS crew reports in “Rocket Science Meets Runway” on high heels that absorb shock better and offer extra arch support. When the stilettos are released this year, leg lovers should station themselves near arches or doorways where women will be supporting each other and recovering from the shock of shoes retailing at $925 a pair.

About halfway through the issue readers finally get to play Simple Simon with ideas that are more inane than insane. Worrywarts who keep watching the skies for asteroids and other falling objects headed our way can be comforted by the prospect of comet-crashing rockets being developed. Or maybe they might simply realize that these earth-shattering events occur about every 500,000 years.

Anyone concerned about Air Supply (and not just those still singing “All out of Love”) might be interested in knowing that artificial intelligence (the only kind that seems to intrigue the editors) is now monitoring the quality of air in Beijing, which has some of the worst air pollution in the world. Now high-resolution forecasts give residents of the populous city 72 hours advance warning and planning time. To do what? Take a deep breath and hold it until the worst of the smog dissipates?

Very prominent in the spacey category are the thousands of cracker-sized spacecraft to be launched by a Russian billionaire with the express purpose of searching for extraterrestrial life. It will take 20 to 30 years for the tidbits to reach their targets so about 2045 expect a message from outer space on the order of “Polxyp wants another cracker. This time, with onion dip.”

Although doctors haven’t made house calls for decades, we are expected to believe other health care professionals may soon be on the move. A physician requests a blood draw, the patient then schedules a convenient time, and a phlebotomist arrives to take the sample. All might go well if every abode was a sanitary and safe haven. Just how will the patient know whether the stranger knocking on the door is after just a small sample in a vial or is really a vile character out for blood and anything else that isn’t nailed down?

Never let it be said that the PS staffers aren’t just sitting around for sitting compresses the spine or standing idly by which makes the feet ache. The solution in the Manual section: walk while you work by converting a base-drum carrier into a desk that can be worn. No mention is made of sore tummies and banged knees from bumping into chairs and tables the walker cannot see over the top of a laptop.

In the “Ask Us Why” department readers are asked to consider the question of whether skunks hate the smell of their spray. The short answer is “Not as much as humans do.” One wonders “Do the staffers at PS find their subjects as weird as their readers do?” The short answer probably is “Not as long as they get paid for their weirdness.”

 

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Believe It Or What?

Although some readers of magazines like Popular Mechanics might be attracted to ads for the EGO lawn mower this summer because of its innovative 56-volt lithium battery technology which allows consumers to cut their lawns with the efficiency of a gas mower, my attention will continue to be drawn to the appealing phrase found beneath the wheels of the silent, silver beauty: “Power Beyond Belief.” Like Neil Diamond, I’m a believer.

Oh, it’s not that I have tried the mower. What I believe in is the power of ballyhoo. That slogan reminded me of the attention-grabbing callouts on the posters for Walt Disney’s own bit of innovation, a 1944 feature film combining live action and animation. The double-barreled come-on for The Three Caballeros was “Thrilling Beyond Words! Amazing Beyond Belief!”

It appears that the advertising world is ready now to go once again one step beyond in descriptions so here are some catchy taglines just waiting to get caught:

Despicable Beyond Yosemite Sam

Puerile Beyond Pee-wee Herman

Saccharine Beyond “Sugar, Sugar”

Dazzling Beyond Off-White

Calamitous Beyond Cleopatra

     Insufferable Beyond Endurance

Bilious Beyond Lawrence Tierney

Derivative Beyond Fast and Furious 12

Loopy Beyond “Little Latin Lupe Lu”

Colossal Beyond Lilliputian

Hackneyed Beyond a Beatles Tribute

Pricey Beyond Tiffany & Co.

Overexposed Beyond J. Lo

Malodorous Beyond Odorama

     Felonious Beyond Ponzi

Abominable Beyond the Frostiest Snowman

Wretched Beyond Beyond Valley of the Dolls 

For those who think I have become holier beyond thou, I will take my ego and do my cutting up somewhere Beyond the Sea.

 

 

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A Civil Matter

One of the unexpected pleasures of listening to vintage radio shows is hearing bits of dialogue that are relevant to life in the 21st century. While reviewing the episodes of Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator in my collection recently, several exchanges gave me reason to hit pause and reflect on current events.

Craig, played with breezy nonchalance by William Gargan, was a New York detective who frequently took lumps on the head but who also gave as good as he got both with his fists and his tongue. Sometimes, when Barrie was en route to his nondescript office in a building on Madison Avenue, he engaged in snappy patter with elevator operator Jake, a Vermont transplant played by uncredited Parker Fennelly. Jake’s laconic answers suggest he could easily have been kin to Parker’s Titus Moody, resident Yankee in Allen’s Alley.

     However, in the episode of January 9, 1952 that most caught my attention, Fennelly assumed the role of a cagey old salt named Obermeyer who proved evasive when Craig approached him on the docks in hopes of finding a way to “Murder Island.”

Craig: You rent motor boats?

Obermeyer: You can read.

Craig: Sassy at your age and you won’t make out with St. Peter.

Obermeyer: What do you want?

Craig: Civility.

Obermeyer: Ain’t got any. Rent boats.

Right then it hit me like a blackjack delivered to the back of Craig’s cranium, though I didn’t tumble all the way until the seaman admitted he knew Barrie was a detective because of his big feet, bad jokes, and swelled head, and suspicious Craig asked pointedly, “Do you have some reason for being a little slippery?”

Consider the slippery slope of recent months when public discourse in the political arena has consisted of insults, innuendoes, mudslinging, partial truths, pussyfooting, unfounded claims, equivocation, bold-faced lying and deception, name-calling, profanity, backstabbing, and bickering. One wonders what would happen if the candidates with the swelled heads seriously asked the American people what they wanted and were told quite bluntly “Civility!” The unspoken but honest answer would have to be “Ain’t got any. Want votes.”

Despite taking more than his share of blows from all sides, Barrie Craig never became a whiner, which is more than be said about some aspirants vying for the highest office in the land. Before the political conventions begin with discord certain to be on the agenda and then nominees from both parties descend to unprecedented depths of acrimony, keep in mind Barrie’s prescient assessment of an uncivil cabdriver in “Ghost’s Don’t Die in Bed” from September 7, 1954: “Somebody must love him, but it must be uphill work.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

           

 

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Peculiar Science 2

     The May/June issue of Popular Science continues the magazine’s pattern of astonishing revelations in the guise of reporting on innovative trends. Rather than allow unsupported statements to go unchallenged, yours truly will comment on each claim that floors cruelly.

A GIF is touted as the future’s most effective communication tool, which comes as a surprise to those who thought it was what particular mothers selected as the best way to get their children to eat peanut butter. Readers are told that in “a busy world, where even tweeting takes too much time, the highlight clip has become our go-to lexicon.” Tweeting “Our team #1–Yea!” and similar bits of nothingness takes too long? Does it distract gamers from the six hours a day they spend chasing blinking lights with their fingers?

The otherworldly opening statement in the Manual section is way, way out: “In the 1980s a talking bear called Teddy Ruxpin took the world by storm.” What planet was the author on during that decade or was he even alive during the Reagan years? One wonders how many of the bears were sold in parts of the world other than North America. Madonna took more countries by storm at that time by telling papa not to preach to her than any automated Ruxy.

“Holy Cow!” might be the reaction to a page devoted to synthesizing substances normally derived from cows by using bovine cells in the lab. So far, attempts to pass off cultured meatballs have two disadvantages: too much chewy, chewy, chewy and more moola. Getting milk from inserting 3D-printed cow DNA into yeast cells, harvesting the resulting protein, and adding potassium and calcium to the concoction seems utterly more involved and expensive than the udder method.

The Invention Award section calls attention to such vitally-needed gadgets as a self-powered camera and a “robot companion you’ll want to hang with.” Hanging should be reserved for the editors who chose to honor such time-wasters as a hoverboard that flies. Taking a clue from the one-to-five maturity scale indicating how soon these gems will be available to the public, readers should feel free to let the editors have it a rating of five stars for immaturity.

Scientists planning their summer vacations need look no farther than North Dakota, now called Drone-Kota, the “Silicon Valley of drones.” Repeated graphics of quadcopters hovering over bison suggest that the thundering herd should have no trouble getting speedy pizza delivery by air.

“Can Your Genes Make You Kill?” will likely be required reading by all defense attorneys searching for excuses for the violent behavior of their clients. Four pages are devoted to contradictory arguments about genetic disorders with no definite conclusions. The question “Would genetic testing have stopped killers Ted Bundy…and Adam Lanza?” is answered in the negative and reinforced with “And researchers are skeptical that it ever could.” The concluding paragraph quotes a neuroscientist: “Everyone’s genome has a different level of risk for different disorders. Everyone’s got something.” Memo to those defense attorneys: Just use the headline in court. Don’t let the jurors or the judge read the fine print.

The Rube Goldberg Award goes to the way to reinvent breakfast with a helmet-mounted crane for pouring milk on and scooping up cereal illustrated on page 82. That is topped by a bizarre mixture of old and new titled “Pipe Up the Volume” which tells readers how to improve the intensity of sound on their Smartphone by cutting a hunk of PVC to act as el cheapo speakers. In a coming issue we can no doubt expect a piece of steampunk detailing how to modify ear trumpets to improve moshing at rock concerts.

“Ask Us Anything” provides a short copout to the query “Why hasn’t the U.S. adopted the metric system?” in the form of “It’s complicated.” The president of the U.S. Metric Association claims that “It’s going to happen, but at the rate we’re going, it will take a while.” Considering that the USMA has been around since 1916 and has shown little progress in its mission, expect any action to peter out before getting the meter out.

The final page, titled Terminus, should be called “The Last Straw” with a painting of a laid-back traveler waiting for a train powered by the tides. The tidal forces should cause any gentle reader to pronounce this “rich, technologically plausible universe” as very implausible. Like most of the magazine, the far-fetched concept is all wet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Call Them the Way I Seize Them

At this time of the year when basketball keeps dragging on through prolonged playoffs and baseball is just stretching out for the long hot summer, it might be instructive to call out the shouters who describe for listeners and viewers those high points of each sport, field goals and home runs.

The sportscasters looking down on the floor really do fall into a rut. Their standard response for a score, be it jumper or layup, is “Good!” That’s not so good. To be fair, I suggest calling a missed shot “Bad” or “Awful.” If the screamers are going to be fixated on “Good,” they should also toss in “Better Than Ezra” now and then.

“Downtown!” is pretty run down. Try “Up the Next Block!” A catchy way to capture the uptempo nature of the game is “Round Every Corner!” accompanied by a clip from Petula Clark’s hit as the teams head down the court.

To everything there is a season so mix in ringers with stingers. “Nothing but net!” should be balanced by “Nothing but air!” or “Less than nothing!” “Hit the trey!” aptly salutes the sharpshooter, but the trigger-happy tosser who constantly rattles rims should be called out with “Get the eye chart!” Similarly, “Trifecta!” for the aimer, “Try passing!” for the slinger. A swish shot merits “Bingo!” and a wish fling deserves “Stinko!”

It is probably unrealistic to expect baseball announcers to describe drives that go over walls and into the seats in an unemotional fashion such as “That ball is hit very well. It is a…home run.” But some of the calls are more fitting for settings far removed from any stadium. One famous goodbye note seemed more suited for a stable as if telling a horse to retreat and start eating: “Back, back , back…Hey, Hey!” Sleepy vagrants would almost certainly cringe and vacate the property if they heard this coming from a radio: “Get up! Get outta here! Gone!”

Some broadcasters apparently have missed their calling (in more ways than one) for they really belong more on the stage hosting game shows than in the booth with catch phrases like “It could be—it might be— it is,” “It’s got a chance…gone,” and “You can put it on the board, Yesss!”

At one time announcers could make definite statements about a home run such as “That ball is gone and it ain’t coming back” and “That ball’s history.” Now that some hometown fans toss enemy homers back on the field, the wording has to be modified a bit to “That ball left the premises, but now it’s on the warning track” and “That ball’s current events.”

But as long as the umpires agree that the batter is entitled to a round trip around the bases, he can touch them all, providing he keeps his hands to himself.

With long shots in both basketball and baseball, “He got all of that one!” might be welcome anywhere except in my domicile. When Casey on the court or at the bat fails miserably, I make the call that brings joy into at least one heart in Thudville: “He got none of that one!”

 

 

 

    

           

 

 

 

 

 

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