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Monday, May 25, 2020

Laughter is the Best Medicine / The Marx Brothers -- Comedy for All Seasons and for All Time --

by George Haloulakos

In the past, Galaxy Nostalgia Network podcasts and blogs have celebrated excellence in conversation (Johnny Carson), imagination (Rod Serling), appreciation for outdoor wildlife photography (Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom"), honoring the valor and sacrifice of American combat veterans (70th Anniversary of D-Day), and more recently we celebrated love in popular literature & film ("Love Story") as well as heroism for the Space Age (Apollo 13).  This month we recognize the oft used expression that laughter is the best medicine by celebrating the Marx Brothers -- 70+ years after their last motion picture was released ("Love Happy" in 1949).

 It is indeed a tribute to the genius of the Marx Brothers that so much content from their comedic routines have become an integral part of American culture spanning multiple generations.  When thinking of the Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico and Harpo are the best remembered because this trio formed the "core" of this comedy team.  Two other brothers, Zeppo and Gummo, were also part of the team in the early years but later departed to pursue business careers at which they were successful.

What are the reasons for the staying power of the Marx Brothers and why do they continue to make us laugh?  My thought here is that their wide range of comedy styles arising from their distinct and ever memorable personalities were an almost invincible if not timeless combination.  Groucho's acerbic wit is peerless, Chico's comic ignorance and charm coupled with Harpo's gregarious physical comedy made for some memorable on-screen moments.  Here, in the interest of brevity, we offer a sniff of the cork:
> Groucho making the observation to co-star Margaret Dumont that he could visualize her slaving over the hot stove, but he could not see the stove!  Or his rendition of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" - that later became the theme song for his 1950s TV show "You Bet Your Life."
> Harpo's mirror scene with Groucho in the film "Duck Soup" as well as becoming overtly friendly with the female cruise workers in the close quarters of an ocean liner stateroom causing Groucho to say that Harpo did better with the opposite sex while asleep than he (Groucho) did while awake!  The famous stateroom scene was from "A Night at the Opera."
> Chico still raises laughter when we repeatedly hear him ask "Why a Duck" in the film "Cocoanuts" and witness his "Sanity Claus" addendum to a contract he was drawing up for Groucho in "A Night at the Opera."

Groucho's ability to carry on rapid-fire conversation filled with sharp wit and double meanings without his brothers present enabled him to not only have more screen time, but to be a most effective straight man providing a segue for the antics of Harpo and Chico.  Harpo and Chico were also remarkable musicians as each of their films featured Harpo playing the harp and Chico playing the piano.  The love and seriousness of purpose displayed in their musical prowess was evident in their visage, thereby providing a nice break from the comedy but in no way disrupting the story line.  Harpo was a fusion of sweetness and malicious mischief.  Chico's lack of general knowledge and tenuous capability with the English language would often create humorous misunderstandings.  With all three brothers in perpetual motion and on-going conversation, it was a demonstration of extemporaneous or spontaneous comedy at its best!  Its unpredictable edginess made it a challenge for directors and co-stars alike (as well as censors), but the lasting popularity of their films demonstrate that the formula worked!

In the midst of being sheltered in place, people have been binge watching everything from classic TV and film to great moments in sports history.  To that list we would add or suggest you take time to watch the Marx Brothers.  Their brand of timeless humor will make you laugh and temporarily forget about the problems or issues of the day.

Please join us in celebrating the Marx Brothers -- the platinum standard in comedy -- by telling us which are your favorite Marx Brothers films by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Please also include your favorite moments or special routines of this remarkable comedy trio who remind us that humor does not have to be personally hurtful or crass to be truly funny.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.
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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Golden Anniversary of APOLLO 13 - Heroism For the Ages

by George Haloulakos

For Baby Boomers, the year 1970 featured a remarkable display of heroism that not only defined the Apollo manned space exploration program but continues to inspire anyone who may be faced with grim or dire circumstances in which there is seemingly no hope.  Apollo 13 was designated as a mission focused largely on scientific exploration as the immediate two preceding missions, Apollo 11 and 12, respectively, fulfilled President Kennedy's goal of a manned lunar landing before the end of the 1960s and then affirming the precision spaceflight and landing skills of American astronauts.

   Needless to say, the original Apollo 13 mission was aborted and became a life-or-death situation as an oxygen tank in the service module failed two days into the spaceflight.  The Apollo 13 crew - James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise - displayed superlative courage in the face of enormous odds by improvising critical solutions with the aid of ground control to loop around the moon and safely return to Earth.  The situation was crucial as the crew faced the prospect of running out of oxygen and power in the midst of their spaceflight.  However, the astronauts were able to use the lunar module (call sign "Aquarius") as a lifeboat while shutting down the command module (call sign "Odyssey") so that its resources could be conserved for reentry into Earth's atmosphere. 

   The "Aquarius" was designed to support two men on the lunar surface two days, but its systems were reconfigured along with transfer of cartridges from "Odyssey" to enable three men to survive for four days.  This was cutting it extremely close, especially noting that the mission launched on April 11 and landed back on Earth April 17 (with the explosion of the oxygen tanks occurring April 13).

   The Apollo 13 astronauts exemplified heroism not only for the Space Age but for all ages.  My father, Dr Vassilios Elias Haloulakos, worked with Lovell and Swigert.  Yours truly, courtesy of my father, met Haise in person in 1977.  As such, the Apollo 13 astronauts are considered as extended family members!  These men were heroes before they were astronauts: all were holders of degrees in science & engineering, active duty members of the US armed services and test pilots.  While their original mission was bringing the light of knowledge to all mankind through scientific exploration of another world, the Apollo 13 astronauts ironically ended up exemplifying heroism associated with the Homeric legend that was the command module's call sign!

   Apollo 13 has been immortalized in pop culture and media, and we would commend our Galaxy audience to peruse the archives of published works as well as various TV documentaries and of course, take time to watch the 1995 motion picture directed by fellow boomer Ron Howard.   As an example of how Apollo 13 still holds the public imagination is that the most popular or widely known expressions inextricably connected with Apollo 13 continue to be a part of our lexicon: "Houston, we have a problem" and "Failure is not an option."

  Please join us in celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Apollo 13 by sharing memories of this major historic event by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Please also include your other memories of this remarkable era when mankind set forth on a journey to the stars.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Golden Anniversary of "AIRPORT"--The Movie That Launched the Disaster Film Genre

by George Haloulakos

For movie-goers the 1970s is probably best remembered as the decade of the Disaster Film.  Big screen films such as "The Poseidon Adventure," "Earthquake," "The Towering Inferno," "Black Sunday," "Two-Minute Warning," "The Cassandra Crossing" and many more dominated the box office.  But the Golden Age of the Disaster Film literally took off on March 5, 1970 with the release of "Airport" -- a blockbuster film based on the 1968 Arthur Hailey best seller with the same title.  In this instance, both the book and the film were high-flying commercial success stories.  "Airport" boasted an Academy Award winning All-Star cast that included Burt Lancaster, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton and George Kennedy.  Other headliner stars featured in the cast were Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean Seberg.  The combination of an exciting story, major film stars, great special effects and realistic action scenes all shown on a giant screen at breakneck pace made for a winning combination.  "Airport" earned over $100 million in box office receipts -- a 10-fold return on investment as the film had been made for $10 million.

     The premise of taking a seemingly ordinary common place setting like a busy metropolitan airport, the individual drama of so many individual people and families reaching a nexus on a commercial jet flight and then colliding with severe winter weather and a suicide bomber provided a formula that was oft repeated throughout the 1970s.  The aforementioned partial list of disaster films in the same decade is a testimony to its popularity and commercial success.  Despite mixed reviews, the genre took hold by not only defining film making for the 1970s but continuing into the ensuing decades.  James Cameron's 1997 epic film "Titanic" (winner of 11 Academy Awards) is an affirmation on the staying power of the disaster film and its hold on the public imagination that really achieved grand scale starting with "Airport" in 1970.

     "Airport" is packed with lots of great scenes but perhaps the two most endearing and memorable characters were Patroni -- the chief flight mechanic played by George Kennedy (who literally saves the day with his expertise on the Boeing 707 jet airliner) -- and Ada Quonsett - an elderly habitual stowaway played by the First Lady of Stage, Helen Hayes (whose Academy Award winning performance is a stellar fusion of drama and comedy).  Baby boomers who watched Classic TV during the 1960s will also note the excellent performances by Barbara Hale, Gary Collins and Whit Bissell.

   While the film gives attention to the details associated with both airport and airline operations, the effective intertwining of personal stories coupled with minute-by-minute decisions as disaster unfolds truly makes for compelling, fast-paced, high-flying drama!  There were three sequels that followed over the next nine years, but none could quite match the novelty, star power and realistic excitement of the original.  Such are the rewards of not only being first, but also best!  Another aspect of "Airport" that can only be appreciated with the passage of time is that it is truly a time-capsule of another era.  Not just in terms of jet air travel, but pop culture, human values and also film making.

   On a very personal note, this movie holds special memories for me as I first saw it on the big screen on Hollywood Boulevard in the Spring of 1970.  My mom took me out of school that day for a medical appointment and as a special treat after visiting the doctor, she then took me to see "Airport."  What a treasured memory!  In general, the Disaster Films made movie-going a fun event for family and friends as the use of very-large wide screens, extra-large speakers, zooming in for close ups or backing up for panoramic, wide-angle views made theater audiences feel as if they themselves were actually experiencing the on-screen action themselves.  This created lots of conversation whether among kids in the school yard or adults at a cocktail party.  As movies migrated from theaters onto TV at a much faster clip, the Disaster Film genre was unique for its time as it helped maintain strong motion-picture theater attendance despite the reduced time from large to small screen for newer films.

   If somehow you missed this epic film, or have not viewed it for quite some time, it might be fun to give it another look with an appreciation for the amazing star power assembled in a single film and as a testimony on how big-screen movies continue to transport audiences to another place and time.  Please join us in celebrating the Golden Anniversary of "Airport" by sharing memories of the book or movie by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Please also include memories of your other favorite disaster films from the 1970s as we fly high above memory lane.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn:

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Valentine's Day Celebration Of An Iconic Romance Novel

by George Haloulakos

   This February 14th not only marks our celebration of Valentine's Day but also the 50th anniversary of the publication of Erich Segal's Love Story, a best-selling romance novel later made into a full length motion picture the very same year starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw.  At 131 pages, this slim, hardbound book stayed for 41 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, reaching Number One!  Love Story is romantic, humorous and tragic.

   The story of two young people -- Ollie and Jenny -- from entirely different backgrounds who fall in love, marry and then face the daunting challenge of self-financing Ollie's law school education is one that reflected the pop culture of the 1960s.  Ollie comes from a very wealthy New England family while Jenny is the only child of a Rhode Island baker.  Since Ollie's parents oppose the marriage, this leads to an estrangement.
   Set in Boston and New York City, our romantic duo not only survive but thrive as Jenny teaches private school while Ollie graduates 3rd in his law school class, thereby receiving-and-accepting a job offer from a respectable New York law firm.  With the wind seemingly at their backs, tragedy strikes as Jenny is diagnosed with Leukemia and the prognosis is terminal.  Ollie seeks financial relief by reaching out to his estranged father who while lending his son the money, is not told about the grave situation at hand.  Just prior to her passing, from her hospital bed Jenny tells Ollie to not blame himself and to please hold her tight before she passes away.  When Ollie's father discovers that Jenny is extremely ill, he travels to New York City but by the time he reaches the hospital, Jenny has passed.  Ollie's father apologizes to his son.  Ollie replies with something Jenny taught him: "Love means never having to say you're sorry..." and then breaks down in his father's arms (noting that he had never cried in front of his father until that very moment).

   This romance novel, despite receiving rather scathing if not harsh reviews, was an immediate commercial success.  Moreover, despite critics saying Love Story did not qualify as literature, found to their surprise that the book actually helped fuel increased interest in reading, especially with young people from 8th grade on up!  The book became such a wildfire commercial success and pop-culture phenomena that it was made into a full length motion picture and released on December 16, 1970  -- just ten months after it was published!

   The theme song ("Where Do I Begin?") for the film version of Love Story was a huge success, especially the vocal rendition by Andy Williams.  Erich Segal, the author of Love Story, helped contribute to the film's success by recommending Ryan O'Neal for the role of Ollie.  Segal had worked with O'Neal in the 1968 film "The Games" which profiled various Olympic marathon runners in a fictionalized account of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Interestingly enough, Segal himself was an accomplished competitive runner!

My favorite memory of Love Story has nothing to do with either reading the book myself or watching the film in person.  While I enjoyed both the book and the film, my favorite moment occurred in my 8th grade English class where a female classmate was doing an oral book report before the entire class.  She concluded her report with a deeply moving, poignant reading of the closing pages in which Jenny passes away in Ollie's arms, which then follows with Ollie's reconciliation with his father.  Even now, nearly 50 years later, I get misty eyed when I recall what I believe was one of the very best readings I have ever witnessed.  Her heartfelt reading inspired me to read the book and then see the movie.  The theme song from the film later became my mother's favorite!

Love Story is not merely a pop-culture relic from the late 1960s / early 1970s, but a stirring reminder on why we celebrate Valentine's Day and how love transcends all generations.  As the song title says ... "Love Makes the World Go 'Round."

Please join us in celebrating Valentine's Day on February 14th, along with the 50th anniversary Love Story by sharing memories of the book or movie by posting to the Galaxy Facebook page (and be sure to "Like" us when doing so), or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.
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Friday, January 3, 2020

Whoa, Nellie! Remembering Dick Lane, Wrestling and Roller Derby

by George Haloulakos

HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!  And for those of you who view the New Year as the beginning of the 2020s, HAPPY NEW DECADE!  Whoa, Nellie!  Where has the time gone?  Hopefully, it has been the basis for creating wonderful memories!  Using the exclamatory phrase "Whoa, Nellie!" provides a Maginot Line for baby boomers and their remembrance/association of how this became part of the boomer lexicon.

Dick Lane chats with "The Destroyer"

  Much younger baby boomers typically associate this phrase with former ABC sports announcer Keith Jackson but more seasoned boomers with a longer time line know that "Whoa, Nellie!" was actually coined by Dick Lane a longtime Southern California announcer who called play-by-play action for roller derby and wrestling from the late 1940s through the early 1970s.  [In fact, Mr Jackson himself acknowledged/credited Mr Lane with coining this phrase that both gentlemen used in their long, distinguished professional broadcasting careers.] For those who grew up in the Los Angeles area, Mr Lane is specifically remembered as the lead announcer for the Thunderbirds team Roller Derby on KTLA Channel 5 and Championship Wrestling on KCOP Channel 13.  These events were broadcast from the Grand Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles (built in 1924 and one of the few wrestling/boxing arenas still in existence from that golden era -- albeit now as a Korean-American evangelical church).  My father was friends with Mr Lane as both were members of the same lodge and I recall hearing personal accounts on how Mr Lane could make a simple dinnertime conversation a hyper-kinetic event with his energy, charm and genuine interest in people -- especially his fans, old and young alike!

The Olympic Auditorium

   Long before wrestling became a worldwide multi-media mega-billion empire, Mr Lane's signature calls helped elevate wrestlers like Jim Londos, Gorgeous George and Andre the Giant into legendary status while furthering the popularity of the sport.  Similarly, Mr Lane did the same with popularizing Roller Derby worldwide (especially in Australia and Japan) as the LA Thunderbirds reached a peak attendance of over 50,000 for an exhibition match in Chicago's Old Comiskey Park (September 1972).  Fittingly, in the same year, Mr Lane played himself as a roller derby announcer in Raquel Welch's memorable film "Kansas City Bomber."

  Mr. Lane was posthumously inducted into the "Wrestling Observer Newsletter" Hall of Fame (1996) and the Southern California Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame (2002).  The Grand Olympic Auditorium where Mr Lane demonstrated his broadcast excellence, remains an iconic landmark that transcends its Los Angeles locale, for I would guess that members of the Galaxy audience can relate to similar buildings that once existed in large and small towns alike all across the continental USA.  Even if you did not see such a building in person, you no doubt saw something just like it in Rod Serling's "Requiem For a Heavyweight" or the film noir John Garfield movies from the 1940s, or classic TV shows like "Route 66" and even the Sly Stallone "Rocky" film series that began in 1976.  The Grand Olympic Auditorium and Mr Lane are indelibly associated with a Los Angeles from an earlier period in our history - often eliciting images of smoke-filled arenas -- but transcend space and time as we are reminded of lifetime memories that have now become priceless treasures.

Please join us in celebrating the New Year by sharing memories of wrestling, roller derby and Dick Lane by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn. View my LinkedIn profile at: 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Very Mayberry Christmas

by George Haloulakos
It has been a longstanding tradition here on the Galaxy Nostalgia Network to pay tribute to the Holiday Season through our podcasts and this monthly blog. This year, we pay tribute to one of the best and perhaps one of the most beloved episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show." Aired on the CBS Network on December 19, 1960, "The Christmas Story" was the eleventh episode of season one and the only Christmas episode in "The Andy Griffith Show" complete series. A little known bit of trivia about this wonderful Yuletide episode is that it featured actress Margaret Kerry, who was the model for the Tinkerbell character in the 1953 Walt Disney animated feature “Peter Pan”.

Here is a summary of this sparkling episode: On Christmas Eve, Mayberry's curmudgeon and retail store owner Ben Weaver insists that Sheriff Andy Taylor jail moonshiner Sam Muggins. Andy complies with this request as Ben has physical evidence to support his charge of law breaking but also incarcerates Sam's wife (played by the aforementioned Margaret Kerry) along with their young son and daughter since they all had knowledge of Sam's moonshining.

 The story takes a most charming turn as Andy, Barney Fife, Ellie Walker, Aunt Bee and Opie decide to relocate their Christmas party to the Sheriff's office / jail so that the Muggins Family can celebrate the Nativity. They bring along a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings plus a Christmas tree. Everyone, including the Muggins Family, is decorating the tree while singing Christmas carols. Barney even dresses up as Santa Claus!

Ben Weaver, secretly watching from the window outside the jail, observes this Yuletide joy unfold and is deeply moved as well as transformed by the Christmas spirit. Weaver concocts several! unsuccessful schemes to get himself arrested so he can join the party. When Andy realizes this, he arrests Ben and then the TV audience witnesses the two men arriving at the jail with a suitcase full of wrapped gifts from Ben's retail store for everyone, including the Muggins Family. Ben is welcomed by one and all while enjoying the food and drink at the party. Andy releases the Muggins Family as there is no longer any evidence of wrongdoing. Reason? Ben is shown in the closing moments of the episode asleep in one of the jail cells after having finished drinking the jug of Sam's moonshine!
This Holiday episode from a classic TV show is one of many examples seen in other television series in the same era that remind us of the reason for the season. In this instance, we are able to witness in the span of less than 30-minutes why programs like "The Andy Griffith Show" continue to resonate in our hearts as they remind us of the importance of showing goodness, kindness and love to one another.

Please join us in celebrating the Holiday Season by sharing your favorite classic TV memories featuring a holiday-based theme by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site. Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.
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Saturday, November 2, 2019

NFL Centennial

by George Haloulakos
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the National Football League (NFL) and we celebrate this great event through the prism of the amazing 21-year career of quarterback Earl Morrall (1934-2014).  Morrall is an NFL legend as indicated by his different monikers: King of the Comebacks, the Best of the Back-Ups and the Champion of the Understudy.   Any one who has played football at any level or in any venue knows the importance of the quarterback (QB) position, and can relate to the enormous competition to be the signal caller.  Morrall exemplified the preparation and commitment to excellence we all strive for, especially in sports.  By his own words he said that "when you get the chance to do the job, you have to do the job."  Morrall showed why it was prudent to be prepared at a moment's notice for such an opportunity.

Morrall elevated the importance of the understudy, and much more.  During the first twelve years of his NFL career he was a backup QB for the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and New York Giants.  In an era of legendary NFL QBs (Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin, Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, et al) Morrall showed himself to be a competent, efficient professional always ready to take the helm when needed if the number one signal caller was unable to play.  When Morrall joined the Baltimore Colts, his legend unfolded.  Taking over for an injured Johnny Unitas in 1968, Morrall led the Colts to an NFL Championship while earning MVP and All-Pro honors.  Two years later, he again came off the bench to replace an injured Unitas, this time in Super Bowl V, to lead the Colts to a last second victory thereby winning the World Championship!  Two years later, this time with the Miami Dolphins, Morrall took over as the QB from the injured Bob Griese and helped lead the Dolphins to an undefeated season plus win a playoff game.  While Griese returned as the starter for the AFC Title and Super Bowl games to cap the Dolphins' first World Championship, Morrall continued to work closely with head coach Don Shula (who was his former coach while playing for the Colts) in what can best be described as an informal but active player/coach role.  Having Morrall available to immediately step into the QB role enabled the Dolphins to not only achieve the only perfect season in NFL history, but go on to repeat as back-to-back Super Bowl champs the very next season!   Following his NFL career, Morrall mentored legendary collegiate QBs Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde at the University of Miami thereby passing along the art of quarterbacking to a new generation.

Ironically, in this the 100th year of the NFL, there has been a rash of injuries to a rather large number of star QBs, thereby again elevating the importance of having a good substitute in the wings.  It would seem that NFL teams are all now eagerly searching for this generation's Earl Morrall just in case the situation requires an effective substitute to step in.  Earl Morrall showed what it means to be a leader and a great team player.  Don Shula described Morrall as an "intelligent quarterback who's won a lot of ball games for me."  There have been a lot of NFL QBs who are heroes of the game.  While heroes get remembered, legends never die.  Earl Morrall was a legend, and now almost 50 years since his stellar gridiron accomplishments, we salute this Galaxy Good Guy as one of the best to ever play the game, albeit in a back-up role!

Please join us in celebrating the centennial anniversary of the National Football League by sharing your favorite NFL football memories with us by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.
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