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Saturday, February 28, 2009

RIP Paul Harvey

One of the great voices of authentic heartland America fell silent today. Paul Harvey was doing nationwide conservative talk radio for decades before anyone thought of it as conservative talk radio. Everybody recognizes his distinctive, quirky voice with the…….odd pauses and offbeat emphases, but his success was about far more than his distinctive diction.

Paul Harvey put news out there that no other outlet touched. His Paul Harvey News and Comment scoured the wires for random stuff–and ideologically inconvenient stuff– you just didn’t hear on the Big Three mainstream TV news, and crammed it all in to crisp five minute chunks, complete with terse commentary and the occasional wry thwack of sarcasm–and he still had time for the inevitable personalized pitches for Buicks and the Bose Acoustic Wave Radio. Here’s what he had to say about his advertisers:

“I can’t look down on the commercial sponsors of these broadcasts,” he told CBS in 1988. “Too often they have very, very important messages to put across. Without advertising in this country, my goodness, we’d still be in this country what Russia mostly still is: a nation of bearded cyclists with b.o.”

Zing. He was always like that. Paul Harvey invented blogging; he just did his blogging on the radio.

His other program was the famous two-minute cliffhanger, “The Rest of the Story”. What a great and simple concept. The title itself gives away the game: the news you hear is only a scratch on the surface of reality, which has a roomy, spacious Buick Roadmaster trunk full of connections and ironies the network talking heads only hint at. The media isn’t giving you enough of the story, Paul told us, which is something we’d all suspected all along: more is going on out there than they let on.

His radio show wasn’t particularly ideological–you could tell he leaned right but it was mainly through the choice of stories and headlines he picked out. He also had a syndicated column back in the day that my state paper carried, and he was a rock-ribbed Middle American (Tulsa native, in fact) social and fiscal conservative with a heart of gold, a deep love of country, and no illusions about the stakes of foreign policy. He was a Reaganesque thinker, as well as a Reaganesque communicator.

CHICAGO – Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation's most familiar voices, died Saturday in Arizona, according to ABC Radio Networks. He was 90.

Harvey died surrounded by family at a hospital in Phoenix, where he had a winter home, said Louis Adams, a spokesman for ABC Radio Networks, where Harvey worked for more than 50 years. No cause of death was immediately available.

Harvey had been forced off the air for several months in 2001 because of a virus that weakened a vocal cord. But he returned to work in Chicago and was still active as he passed his 90th birthday. His death comes less than a year after that of his wife and longtime producer, Lynne.

"My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news," Paul Harvey Jr. said in a statement. "So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents and today millions have lost a friend."

Known for his resonant voice and trademark delivery of "The Rest of the Story," Harvey had been heard nationally since 1951, when he began his "News and Comment" for ABC Radio Networks.

He became a heartland icon, delivering news and commentary with a distinctive Midwestern flavor. "Stand by for news!" he told his listeners. He was credited with inventing or popularizing terms such as "skyjacker," "Reaganomics" and "guesstimate."

"Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation's history," ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said in a statement. "We will miss our dear friend tremendously and are grateful for the many years we were so fortunate to have known him."

In 2005, Harvey was one of 14 notables chosen as recipients of the presidential Medal of Freedom. He also was an inductee in the Radio Hall of Fame, as was Lynne.

Former President George W. Bush remembered Harvey as a "friendly and familiar voice in the lives of millions of Americans."

"His commentary entertained, enlightened, and informed," Bush said in a statement. "Laura and I are pleased to have known this fine man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Harvey composed his twice-daily news commentaries from a downtown Chicago office near Lake Michigan.

Rising at 3:30 each morning, he ate a bowl of oatmeal, then combed the news wires and spoke with editors across the country in search of succinct tales of American life for his program.

At the peak of his career, Harvey reached more than 24 million listeners on more than 1,200 radio stations and charged $30,000 to give a speech. His syndicated column was carried by 300 newspapers.

His fans identified with his plainspoken political commentary, but critics called him an out-of-touch conservative. He was an early supporter of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy and a longtime backer of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps Harvey's most famous broadcast came in 1970, when he abandoned that stance, announcing his opposition to President Nixon's expansion of the war and urging him to get out completely.

"Mr. President, I love you ... but you're wrong," Harvey said, shocking his faithful listeners and drawing a barrage of letters and phone calls, including one from the White House.

In 1976, Harvey began broadcasting his anecdotal descriptions of the lives of famous people. "The Rest of the Story" started chronologically, with the person's identity revealed at the end. The stories were an attempt to capture "the heartbeats behind the headlines." Much of the research and writing was done by his son, Paul Jr.

Harvey also blended news with advertising, a line he said he crossed only for products he trusted.

In 2000, at age 82, he signed a new 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks.

Harvey was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa, Okla. His father, a police officer, was killed when he was a toddler. A high school teacher took note of his distinctive voice and launched him on a broadcast career.

While working at St. Louis radio station KXOK, he met Washington University graduate student Lynne Cooper. He proposed on their first date (she said "no") and always called her "Angel." They were married in 1940 and had a son, Paul Jr.

They worked closely together on his shows, and he often credited his success to her influence. She was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997, seven years after her husband was. She died in May 2008.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins & Johnny Cash

Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins & Johnny Cash (Behind Stage 1955)

Friday, February 6, 2009

RIP James Whitmore

James Whitmore dies at 87; veteran actor brought American icons to life
An avid gardener, he also was known as the TV pitchman for Miracle-Gro.
By Dennis McLellan

February 7, 2009

James Whitmore, the veteran Tony- and Emmy-winning actor who brought American icons Will Rogers, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt to life in one-man shows, died Friday. He was 87.

Whitmore died of lung cancer at his home in Malibu, said his son, Steve. He was diagnosed with the disease a week before Thanksgiving.

"He cared about acting; his whole life was dedicated to the theater and to movies," said actor David Huddleston, a longtime friend who appeared in Whitmore's 1964 movie "Black Like Me" and did a couple of plays with him. "I asked James Cagney one time to tell me the best thing you can about acting. He said never to get caught at it. That's kind of how I'd sum up Jim Whitmore."

James Arness, who appeared with Whitmore in the movies "Battleground" and "Them!," said Whitmore was "an actor's actor," adding that " it was always a treat to work with him."

Arness also remembered the "great intensity" Whitmore could bring to a role.

"When we wanted to get an actor to play a character who had that quality, Jimmy was the guy you'd think of," said Arness, who starred in "Gunsmoke," a TV series that Whitmore appeared on a number of times.

A stocky World War II Marine Corps veteran who bore a resemblance to actor Spencer Tracy and shared Tracy's down-to-earth quality, Whitmore earned early acclaim as an actor.

In 1948, he won a Tony Award for outstanding performance by a newcomer in the role of an amusingly cynical Army Air Forces sergeant in the Broadway production of "Command Decision."

Whitmore's Broadway success brought him to Hollywood, where he received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor in his second movie, the hit 1949 World War II drama "Battleground," in which he played a tobacco-chewing, battle-weary Army sergeant.

Supporting roles and occasional leads in some 50 movies followed over the next 50-plus years, including "The Asphalt Jungle," "Them!," "Kiss Me Kate," "Battle Cry," "Oklahoma!," "Planet of the Apes," "Tora! Tora! Tora!," "The Serpent's Egg," "Nuts," "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Majestic."

A frequent guest actor on television, Whitmore also starred in three series: the 1960-62 legal drama "The Law and Mr. Jones," the 1969 detective drama "My Friend Tony" and the 1972-74 hospital sit-com "Temperatures Rising" (although he left after a year, he later said, "because it was just a series of jokes").

In 2000, Whitmore won an Emmy Award as outstanding guest actor in a drama series for "The Practice," and he received a 2003 Emmy nomination in the same category for "Mister Sterling."

An avid flower and vegetable gardener, Whitmore also was known to TV viewers as the longtime commercial pitchman for Miracle-Gro garden products.

Whitmore often said he found acting in films and television boring because of the long waits between scenes; his passion was for the theater, and he continued to act on stage throughout his long career.

"I've been very, very lucky," he said in a 2003 interview with the Nashville Tennessean. "The stage is human beings sharing something together -- flesh and blood together -- and the others are mechanical and shadows on the screen."

Although he starred in productions of plays such as "Our Town," "Inherit the Wind" and "Death of a Salesman," Whitmore was best known for his three one-man shows: as Truman in "Give 'em Hell, Harry!," as Roosevelt in "Bully" and as Rogers in "Will Rogers' U.S.A."

The 1975 film of his performance in "Give 'em Hell, Harry!" earned Whitmore a best actor Oscar nomination.

But the one-man-show character he said he "always felt most comfortable with" was Rogers.

"He was wise with a sense of humor, and that's an unbeatable combination," Whitmore told the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader in 2003.

He was initially resistant to the idea of playing the gum-chewing, lariat-twirling humorist -- his first one-man show -- when adapter-director Paul Shyre brought "Will Rogers' U.S.A." to him in 1969.

"I didn't think I could conceivably carry an evening by myself. I had difficulty holding the attention of my family," Whitmore recalled in a 1995 interview with The Times.

But any qualms he had disappeared when the show premiered in a small theater in Webster Groves, Mo., in January 1970.

"I realized immediately that I was in the presence of an extraordinary man," Whitmore told The Times. "I didn't realize that until I heard the response of other human beings to him."

Whitmore ultimately had about eight hours of Rogers' various comments about the topics of the day memorized, changing the show each time he did it.

"I tried to use whatever seemed to be of interest to the folks in the audience that day," he told the Tulsa World in 2001. "I took the news from today's newspaper but didn't change what Will Rogers said. It's amazing how little things have changed since Will was about."

Whitmore completed 30 years of on-and-off touring as Rogers at Ford's Theatre in Washington in 2000, and his costume is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution.

Born in White Plains, N.Y., on Oct. 1, 1921, Whitmore later moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where he attended public schools until his senior year of high school, when he attended the Choate School in Wallingford, Conn., on a football scholarship.

He was a pre-law major on an athletic scholarship at Yale University, but he had to quit playing football after suffering two knee injuries.

While at Yale, Whitmore helped launch the campus radio station.

"I was able to stay in school with a nightly sports show, 'Jim Whitmore Speaks,' with interviews and sports news. I made 40 bucks a week," he told the Tennessean in 2003.

With World War II underway, Whitmore joined the Marines during his senior year in 1942 and served in the South Pacific. After his discharge, he eventually moved to New York City and used the GI Bill to study acting at the American Theatre Wing.

In 1947, he married his first wife, Nancy Mygatt, with whom he had three children. They were divorced after 24 years. After Whitmore's second marriage in the 1970s, to actress Audra Lindley, he and his first wife were remarried but divorced after two years

Whitmore, who was an early student at the Actors Studio in New York in the late '40s, taught an acting workshop after moving to Hollywood. Among his students in the early '50s was young James Dean, whom Whitmore advised to go to New York.

"I owe a lot to Whitmore," Dean told Seventeen magazine in 1955. "One thing he said helped more than anything. He told me I didn't know the difference between acting as a soft job and acting as a difficult art."

For his part, Whitmore remained modest about his own acting talent.

"I never thought I was good," he told the Palm Beach Post in 2002. "I've touched the hem of the garment a few times but never grabbed it full-hand."

When he died Friday, Whitmore "was surrounded by what he considered to be the most important thing in his life, which was his family," his son Steve said.

In addition to his son, Whitmore is survived by his wife, Noreen; his sons James Jr. and Dan; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Services are pending.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized for surgery for pancreatic cancer. Here is the court’s statement:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the Supreme Court, had surgery Thursday for early stage pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court announced.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has undergone two bouts of cancer since she joined the court in 1993.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has undergone two bouts of cancer since she joined the court in 1993.

Ginsburg, 75, is at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the court said in a news release. It said she will likely remain there for seven to 10 days, according to her attending surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan.

"Justice Ginsburg had no symptoms prior to the incidental discovery of the lesion during a routine annual checkup in late January at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland," the court said.

A CAT scan "revealed a small tumor, approximately one centimeter across, in the center of the pancreas," the release added.

Court sources said the surgery went well and that doctors and the family were cautiously optimistic. Ginsburg was still working in her chambers late last week. She had been diagnosed shortly after attending the presidential inauguration, the sources said.

The court returns for public oral arguments February 23, after a month-long break, but justices are also scheduled for a closed-door conference February 20. There is no word whether Ginsburg will attend in person, or if she will eventually have to curtail her workload.

Ginsburg previously underwent surgery for colorectal cancer in September 1999. Court sources said she continued to work on pending cases while in her hospital bed and during her subsequent recovery. Less than a month later she appeared in public to give a speech and said, "I am still mending but have progressed steadily." She never missed a day on the bench.

She received chemotherapy between October 1999 and June 2000. There was no word on her future course of treatment beyond Thursday's surgery.

President Obama wished Ginsburg a speedy recovery, offering his thoughts and prayers, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

She is the second oldest justice on the high court, after 88-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens.

"Cancer is a dreadful disease," Ginsburg told a women's health research dinner in 2001. "The surgery, and what I call the post-operative insurance course (chemotherapy and radiation) are not easy to bear physically and can generate large anxiety."

But, Ginsburg added, "there is nothing like a cancer bout to make one relish the joys of being alive. It is as though a special, zestful spice seasons my work and days. Each thing I do comes with a heightened appreciation that I am able to do it."
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Ginsburg's mother died of cancer the day before the future justice graduated from high school. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer while she was in law school, but was successfully treated.

Almost 35,000 Americans are estimated to have died from pancreatic cancer in 2008, making it the fourth leading cause of cancer death overall, according to the American Cancer Society. For all ages combined, the one-year survival rate is 24 percent; the five-year survival rate is 5 percent.

However, it is not often discovered in the early stages, because symptoms usually do not appear until the condition is advanced.

Ginsburg, considered one of the more liberal jurists on the bench, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

She is admired by her colleagues for her intellectual prowess, her understanding of court precedent and her quiet but firm manner. She loves opera and fine arts and is close friends with Justice Antonin Scalia, a fellow New Yorker but one of the most conservative members of the bench. They have vacationed and organized dinner parties together.

She is the only woman serving on the high court, and the second ever, following Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who served from 1981 to 2006.

Ginsburg was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. District Court of Appeals, where she served from 1981 until her nomination to the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

For Fans of Edgar Allan Poe, a Happy 200th Birthday

For Fans of Edgar Allan Poe, a Happy 200th Birthday
Remembering the writer of terror and mystery, who developed the modern detective novel. He led a short but extremely creative life. Transcript of radio broadcast:
02 February 2009


Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.


Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
And I'm Shirley Griffith. This year is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of writer Edgar Allan Poe. The United States Postal Service is honoring him with a stamp. And several museums in cities where he lived are remembering him with plays, readings and other events. This week on our program we explore his life and the continuing influence of his work.



Edgar Allan Poe wrote stories and poems of mystery and terror, insanity and death. His life was short and seemingly unhappy.

He was born Edgar Poe on January nineteenth, eighteen hundred and nine in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were actors. He was a baby when his father left the family. And he was two when his mother died. At that time they were in Richmond, Virginia.

Edgar went to live with the family of a wealthy Richmond businessman named John Allan. John Allan never officially adopted him as a son, but the boy became known as Edgar Allan Poe.

He attended schools in England and in Richmond. He also attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He was a good student. But he had a problem with alcohol. Even one drink seemed to change his personality and make him drunk. Also, he liked to play card games for money. Edgar was not a good player. He lost money that he did not have.

John Allan refused to pay Edgar's gambling losses. He also refused to continue paying for his education. So the young man went to Boston and began working as a writer and editor for monthly magazines.


Poe served in the Army for two years, before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point to become an officer. He was dismissed from the academy in eighteen thirty-one after six months. By then he had already published three books of poetry.

He began writing stories while living with his aunt in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. In October of eighteen thirty-three, he won a short story contest organized by a local newspaper. He received fifty dollars in prize money and got a job editing the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He published many of his own stories.

In eighteen thirty-four, Poe married his cousin Virginia Clemm, the thirteen year old daughter of his father's sister. They moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in eighteen thirty-eight. There, Poe served as editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and continued to write.

He published many of his most frightening stories during this time. These included "The Black Cat," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Pit and the Pendulum."


Edgar Allan Poe did something unusual for writers of his time: he used a narrator in a story to describe what was happening. A good example is the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart."

The narrator claims that he is not mad, yet reveals that he is a murderer. He has killed an old man for no apparent reason. He cuts up the body and hides the parts under the floorboards of the victim's house.

Police officers arrive after getting reports of noises from the house. The murderer shows them around the house and is proud of the way he has hidden all the evidence. But he begins to hear a sound. The others in the room cannot hear it.


Yet the sound increased -- and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound -- much a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath -- and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly -- more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men -- but the noise steadily increased. Oh God what could I do? I foamed -- I raved --I swore. But the noise continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder!


Edgar Allan Poe is also remembered for the kind of literature known as detective fiction. These are stories of an investigator who has to solve murders and other crimes.

In fact, Edgar Allan Poe is considered the father of the modern detective novel. His fictional detective C. August Dupin first appeared in his story "The Murders In the Rue Morgue" in eighteen forty-one. Dupin also appeared in two later stories, "The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter."

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, wrote about Poe's influence on other crime writers: "Each may find some little development of his own, but his main art must trace back to those admirable stories of Monsieur Dupin, so wonderful in their masterful force, their reticence, their quick dramatic point."


Jeff Jerome is the curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. He says Poe's influence can also be seen in the work of H.G. Wells and Alfred Hitchcock, to name a few. Poe's influence extends to plays, movies, operas, music, cartoons, television, paintings -- just about every kind of art.

Poe's creation of the detective novel is recognized by the Mystery Writers of America. The writers group presents the yearly Edgar Awards to honor the best detective and suspense books, movies and TV shows.

An award also goes to an individual, organization or business for working to continue the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. The award is named for Poe's most famous work. This year, the Edgar Allan Poe Society and the Poe House in Baltimore will receive the Raven Award.


Edgar Allan Poe became famous after "The Raven" was published in eighteen forty-five. The poetry is rich in atmosphere. The rhythm suggests music.

The narrator of "The Raven" is a man whose love has died. He sits alone among his books late at night. He hears a noise at the window:


Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
Merely this, and nothing more."


The man finds a large black bird and asks it questions. The raven answers with a single word: "Nevermore." At the end of the poem, the man has quite clearly gone mad from grief:


And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted -- nevermore!


The sadness and horror in Poe's writing might lead readers to suspect a disordered mind. Yet people who knew him reported him to be a nice man. Some even called him a real gentleman.

His wife died in eighteen forty-seven. Virginia Clemm Poe had suffered from tuberculosis for many years. At the same time, Poe's magazine failed, and so did his health. He died on October seventh, eighteen forty-nine, under mysterious conditions.

He was found in a tavern in Baltimore. He did not know where he was or how he got there. He was dressed in rags. He died four days later in a hospital. He was forty years old.


Over the years, historians and medical experts have tried to explain the cause of Poe's death. Some say he killed himself with drink. Others say he developed rabies from an animal bite. Many in Baltimore believe he was beaten by local criminal gangs.

Every year about two thousand people visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore. And every year on January nineteenth -- Poe's birthday -- people watch for a man dressed in black to appear. His face is covered. He places a bottle of French cognac and three roses on the grave.

No one in Baltimore really wants to know the visitor's identity. They prefer that it remain a mystery, much like Edgar Allan Poe himself.


Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Shirley Griffith. Doug Johnson was our reader. To hear the short story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, listen at this time Saturday for the program AMERICAN STORIES. And join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.