Are You Sure That’s The Right Album?

Some of you may have heard of Jim Steinman’s passing yesterday at the age of 73. It made me think of my freshman year of high school, venturing by bus to Pinellas Square Mall one Saturday in the spring of 1986.

CBS had just released Bonnie Tyler’s latest album, Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. The album wasn’t even remotely the commercial success of Faster Than The Speed Of Night, but I didn’t know that was going to be the outcome when I got it.

It was also around that time wrestling was so big that Hulk Hogan had his own cartoon series and had that powerful theme with vocals going, “Hulk! Hulk!!”

I put side one of Bonnie’s album and hear the first track, Ravishing. It sounds the same as the Hulk Hogan theme! I gently lift the needle and examine the album print. Was someone playing a practical joke on me?

I put the record back on and eventually Bonnie starts with the vocal. Yep, it was Hulk’s cartoon instrumental with different and a lot more lyrics.

An interesting piece of marketing for sure, but Steinman had a lot of ideas that were repackaged and refined.

Hillary Goes To High School

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I look at some of the stories I’ve told about my life on this blog – and there are times I think I tell a good “beginning” and a good “ending” of stories, but I don’t tell you all the “middle” of a story for one reason or another.

So let me get back to “Hillary” who I recently discovered had passed away somewhere around 2000 or the early 2000’s. I’m unsure of how she passed exactly.

August 26, 1985 was the day my graduating class began high school – with Hillary and I both in the same Phys Ed/Health class. On the surface, that seemed to be good news – we were already good friends though we generally weren’t social past going to school, and I’d probably get to talk to her more.

As often happens as a young person gets older, the total makeup of who is a friend to you and who isn’t changes with time. Some stay with you, but others drift apart, one way or another. For some reason as 9th grade starts up, Hillary starts goofing on me and treats me like I’m some sort of joke to her. A few weeks later, she asks why I never asked her out.

Hillary was notorious in school for – ummm – short-term relationships with some boys by that point, even though she’s 14 (and could pass for 18 easy). That got me thinking I had a chance with her throughout most of late ’85 and early ’86 – and that was exactly what she wanted me to think. I even gave her flowers one day – oddly enough the day was January 28, 1986.

Kind of like how a certain structure went up in flames that day, so did my relationship with her in the time that followed. Her boyfriends were basically cover for the “side action” she was getting by cheating on them with other boys (by today’s terms, she was probably a sex addict of some sort), and by the end of that year, I wanted nothing to do with her. At best, I would have been a pawn in her game of life, as Alex Karras said as Mongo in Blazing Saddles.

Fast forward to August 25, 1986 – the start of my sophomore year. I’m begging “the school schedule gods” not to stick me in a class with her. Five classes come and go, no Hillary – so I have my hopes up like watching a pitcher throwing a no-hitter that this can be done. The bell for the sixth period Science class to start sounds, no Hillary. A few moments later, the door opens, there she is – a line drive up the middle for a base hit. No-hitter gone. She’s waving at me – I totally ignore her, probably wishing I had gone to Seminole High, which was actually closer to home than Largo was.

Our friendship deteriorates further – but you knew that already. One day, I’m on the bus heading home – and she’s on the back of a truck with about six other high school guys that I guess you could say were part of our “redneck” clique of the school. They’re more or less surrounding her in the back of the truck – and I don’t know where they are taking her. Somehow, I don’t think hog prices or Hank Williams Jr. are going to be discussed knowing Hillary’s penchant for short-term relationships – but I never ask her or them about what I suspect might have been some sort of gang-bang. It’s none of my business, and I’m trying to keep her in my rear-view mirror, if you get me.

The last time I see her in school was late 1988 – I’m a senior by now, and she would wind up dropping out of school around that time, possibly as part of a narcotics bust that hit our high school in early ’89. Oddly enough, it’s another situation that could have been sexual or might not have been – she’s in the back seat of a car with another woman, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Godspeed, Hillary. You were a character and a half.

Natural Selection

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Now that I have your attention (I kid!) – have I ever mentioned I’m not a big fan of women augmenting themselves in certain parts of their bodies? I love the female form, don’t get me wrong – but I’ve always thought of women who get boob jobs and whatnot to be “cheating” more or less.

I didn’t always feel that way, of course – but as opinions are often formed, one such instance changed my view forever. It took place at a room I was staying in at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas in June of 1996 when I stayed out there for a few weeks.

No, the story doesn’t involve prostitution or anything like that – I knew that was illegal in Clark County (where Las Vegas is) before I left. Back in the days before on-demand video was a common thing as it is now, the Luxor had it. To pass a bit of time, I watched a James Bond movie that was relatively new back then, Goldeneye. Later that evening, I discovered that for a small fee – you can watch, ahem, more raunchy flicks.

I don’t think the phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” was a thing yet, but I certainly had that feeling hit me in the privacy of my hotel room – so I selected a movie that had a former Playboy model named Teri Weigel in it. As the movie and the – ahem – “plot” progressed, Teri revealed a bit more of herself including some heavily augmented breasts.

Let’s just say it took me right out of the “mood” I was in, seeing those “Frankentitties” sit on her chest like a couple of immovable Las Vegas desert boulders – and let’s just say I’ve been a fan of the “real thing” ever since.

Mount Hillary Revisited

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It’s always the most unlikely things that mentally kick you in the shins.

About five years ago, I wrote a story about a young lady I went to school with who I named “Hillary” for wanting not to give out her real name. Much like the political Hillary we all know about in the here and now, this Hillary always got into trouble, or found ways to get out of such trouble.

You’d think someone like the Hillary I knew would be on social media these days with a Twitter account, more likely one of a legion of people with Facebook accounts. In doing some elementary searching, I found out that Hillary is no longer with us – passing away sometime around 2000.

If that were the story in whole, I wouldn’t be mentioning it here. But one day after I returned to Florida from North Carolina in the summer 2000, I’m on a PSTA (the local bus transit company here in Pinellas County) bus for some reason. As fate would have it, Hillary got on – and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s her. For some reason, I’m too shy to go and say hello – I bury my head in the St. Pete Times newspaper, figuring acknowledging her and vice versa would be too awkward,

And that would up being the last time I saw her. The moral of the story: make every second count – tomorrow is not guaranteed.

It’s All Fun And Games Until The UPI Wire Breaks Down

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I don’t think I’ve ever told this particular story from my radio days – so stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

I don’t remember the exact date this happened – but it’s sometime in early 1992, and I’m working with the late Stan Major overnights at the Sun Radio Network at their old Feather Sound studios in Clearwater, Florida. For most of the night, the only two people in the building are us – which changed when morning newsman Frank Kinsman came in around 4:00 to 4:30 or so.

Our Sun Radio network feed is being simulcasted on WEND, 760 AM out of Brandon, plus various stations across the country large and small. A few times an hour, I hit a set of buttons in front of my console to trigger something called a “35 Hz” tone – which sends automation to the unmanned stations to play a brief, ten-second recording called a “liner” so that local stations can identify themselves or promote something.

If local news broke during the shift, we didn’t have the means to break whatever that news was. One night, an early-spring squall line is coming through central Florida, setting off various weather advisories such as tornado watches. Stan and I are debating: how do we get the information on our local station with no staff? If I did it, no one could run the board – and if Stan did it, no one would be doing his show. We reached the compromise of Stan giving out the local weather information nationally, apologizing for the awkward setup to everyone outside of Florida.

I have a open-air booth where I run the board, answer the phones, record the current show, and have playback standing up in the case of emergencies. Stan is in a soundproof booth with a window so he and I can communicate with hand gestures and through a private intercom. We’re using an old TRS-80 computer to log the calls Stan works through as the show progresses.

On occasion, news breaks through the night – but what if the news stops coming to you? One night, that happened when the print on the UPI machine – one of the two wire sources we used, the other being AP (though it couldn’t be acknowledged). On this one night, I’m hearing the UPI wire machine making strange noises – and I can’t remember whether or not the machine is jammed or it has run out of paper. Here I am, trying to run a nationally syndicated talk show and also playing a printing repairman – and this was back in 1992 when my computer knowledge is next to nil. It’s not an easily fixable problem back then as it would be today in the era of laser printers and the like.

It’s freaking me out, and Stan notices – saying that I looked like someone who needed his mommy. At this point, I’m just trying to stay off the unemployment line – which is where I think I’m heading, Stan Major or no Stan Major to save me.

I call the staff that would come in ahead of me and alert them to the problem – thinking I’ll get my ass chewed on for doing so. The one thing I can’t do was the one thing I needed to do – fix the printer to avoid a news-gathering catastrophe for our AM news show, American Sunrise. If I’m going to be screwed either way, I figure it’s best to be screwed trying to help people out – which was my intent.

The “crisis” gets solved – but I don’t seem to remember a procedure put in place so that something like that couldn’t happen again. A few months later, American Sunrise was cancelled – management must have figured out the futility of having a skeleton crew putting out these kind of possible fires.

Climbing Bars

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About four years ago, I mentioned I had this phobia at one point in my life regarding escalators.

Can you imagine how I felt about climbing things in P.E. class in elementary school – which I never had to do in middle school or high school, because no such apparatuses existed?

There was this thing called “the climbing bars” in my elementary school class, about ten feet wide and seven feet tall with wooden stumps on each side – five metal rods that you had to climb up and over. As you can tell, I hated the hell out of it and never did it.

Two things were going on in my mind, actually. The first and foremost thing being my own irrational fears – and I admit that freely. I should have done what was asked of me and not squawked as much as I did – but I would have done anything else than to climb those bars, including taking whatever punishment came with it. What could they have done – kicked me out of school for not climbing those silly bars? Even as a kid, I saw this as a battle I’d win if I stood my ground.

Then there’s the other factor: the thing really didn’t look all that safe with all of these kids climbing it all at once. I had big feet for a child my age, and those metal rods I had to climb up didn’t look like it could support them.

This PE coach (who was in fact a very nice guy) made it his life’s work to make me climb those bars for whatever reason he had – maybe he saw I had this “fear barrier” that I needed to be freed of. All these years later, those bars have long since been taken down – a victim of the expansion of the school.

But alas, I should have done the task asked of me.

Bottom Lockers And Gym Bags

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When I went to school, I never belonged to a specific clique – and in the nearly 30 years I’ve been out of school, I guess that’s one of the things I was most proud of. I could talk to anyone and not get the stink eye from so-called friends, and even if they did – I wouldn’t care.

Call me wacky, but I always seemed to HATE having a locker in school, either for gym or for classes. I’d much rather carry a large athletic bag and lug that around and have anything I possibly needed on me at all times than to keep a locker and find myself wondering what was in it that wasn’t in my bag.

By the time I got to high school, my policy on that softened a bit – mainly because I was well known as the kid who always had the gym bag around me all of the time. In school, when you do things differently, no matter what the differences are – you stand out. It was time to change things up, so I used lockers a bit more.

The odd thing was – I never seemed to get a bottom locker, and with the lockers stacked in threes, you had a 1 in 3 chance of getting one any given year. I might have had a middle locker one year or two, but if you had a top locker- life was good for you. The odds of not getting a top locker throughout four years of high school were about a 1 in 5 chance – so it wasn’t inconceivable that this would happen.

I still hated it – because I was a big kid. To cram into those bottom lockers and get your stuff wasn’t fun. You’d have to stick your legs out and worry about tripping other kids that way, which happened a few times.

And you all wonder why I had that gym bag…

A Trip To The Spa

One of the bigger stories the past few days was the news that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft had been caught on video at a West Palm Beach day spa with a prostitute that wasn’t a legal resident of the United States.

In the words of comedian Judy Tenuta, it could happen. Heck, it’s even possible (somewhat) that Kraft might not have known the sex worker in question was an illegal alien. Not likely, but possible.

This brings to mind my own little spa story – and, unfortunately for me, my 20-something naivete.

Sometime in the 1990s when I was working at the Sun Radio Network in St. Pete, I would have access to the Tampa Tribune – a newspaper no longer around that always played second fiddle to the then St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times. I’d always read the Tribune’s sports page, which had an ad for something called a “hot tub spa” over in north Tampa. Sounded like a plan to me, so I went and had a glance on one Monday evening when I was off from work.

The building was nondescript (which could have been my first red flag), one of those places that seemed to fit with the other stores and shops within it. I wasn’t totally naive – I figured some nudity amongst the women there would be included, but how it exactly worked was a mystery. I figured you sit in a hot tub and the girls get in bikinis, and for a higher rate of payment lose parts or all of same.

The hot tubs in question were all a front for – you guessed it – prostitution. I paid for this thin blonde young woman (who was definitely American) to get naked, as did I, but within a few minutes, I got nervous and aborted the rest of my “mission” so to speak. It’s not like I was a well-known figure in the local radio scene – but I couldn’t help but think that if I got busted here, that may change and not for the better. With the thin build the young woman had – could she have been underage? Did I have a Traci Lords situation on my hands?

The moral of the story, if there is one – it probably doesn’t hurt to ask around if you have the urge to go to one of these places. It might save you some trouble – luckily for me, my “urge” came long before trafficking and sex trafficking became an issue. Nowadays, you don’t know what you’d get at a place like that, and it’s not like they would tell you.

An Odd Time For A Perfect Game

It was one of those days in my life I recognize like it was yesterday – how is that for a frequently-used phrase? But in my story, it’s true. The date in question was January 31, 1991.

Three nights before, on January 28, 1991 – my father had died after a brief fight with cancer a few months shy of turning 63. I was 19, and I wasn’t quite ready for one of my parents to leave the scene forever – but then again, who is? I remember a lot of tears – a scene etched in my brain from that time  I can still remember of my mother weeping picking out a casket for her husband, and melancholy organ music droning on. Ever see the scene in Diamonds Are Forever where Sean Connery escapes being cremated alive and the eeriness of that music?

Kind of like what happened yesterday at the “Poppy” Bush where George W. Bush eulogizes his father, I play that role this January 31st day for my dad. The speech is composed, and those who see it love it. It’s a couple of hours before the funeral begins, so I want to unwind. I play a little NES game called Baseball Stars.

On that morning, something happens during this one game that I still remember to this day. Most of us play computer and video games like a drug addict needing a fix. I tend to believe that we don’t spend a long time reliving the results of these games – we just need the distraction. You either “win” these games or you never do.

I play the game, and the team I control is getting out after out after out in the field. I get a couple of runs eventually – but as the game goes on, the outs pile up. No hitter on the computer’s side is getting on base. The next thing I know, it’s the 9th inning, and my pitcher has a perfect game going. Three outs later, it’s a done deal.

It’s something I never accomplished before, or afterward, playing that particular video game. But it wound up happening the day my father was buried. Spooky stuff.