Friday, December 4, 2020


The Original and Best
On December 17, 1974, ABC aired a Christmas themed program for Episode 11 in Season 2 of its eventual long-running Happy Days  situation comedy series (1974-1984) titled "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas."  In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of this milestone Christmas episode, full historic context is required.  Happy Days initially made its debut as an episode of the ABC sit-com Love American Style (February 25, 1972) -- appropriately titled "Love and the Happy Days" -- and then began its network TV run in January 1974 as a midseason replacement to capitalize on the enormous commercial success of the 1973 nostalgic motion picture "American Graffiti."  Ron Howard was the lead actor in all three variants of this 1950s nostalgic motif.  In its first season and a half, Happy Days was filmed with a single camera, featured a laugh track and had a movie-look instead of taping in front of a live studio audience (which began in Season 3).  During its early run, Henry Winkler, who starred as Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli was largely a supporting character that was a fusion of the 1950s film star personas portrayed by Marlon Brando ("The Wild One") and James Dean ("Rebel Without a Cause") with a touch of the hot-rod racer persona portrayed by Paul Le Mat in "American Graffiti."  As such, Winkler's Fonzie character had an edgy air of mystery and danger that implied he would sometimes engage in activities that were outside the law.  At the time Happy Days began its network TV run, Winkler could also be seen portraying an identical if not very similar character in the 1974 motion picture "The Lords of Flatbush" (that featured Winkler playing alongside future "Rocky" star Sylvester Stallone and TV star Perry King as the lead actors).  This cult classic is still remembered for its famous group shot of the aforementioned actors in its publicity poster displayed in movie theaters (and included in this Blog).  The simultaneous big and small screen presence of Winkler's tough guy persona in a supporting but critical role added something extra special to this family TV show.

It is this context, and more, that is important to include if one is to fully appreciate the wonderment and poignancy of this Happy Days Christmas episode -- long before Winkler's Fonzie was made into a more central character that led to him becoming a TV icon.  Since Fonzie was a combination biker / high school dropout / expert auto mechanic, his presence gave various early Happy Days episodes an element of danger as well as cool since he often was shown giving advice to the squeaky clean teenagers -- especially the Richie Cunningham character played by Ron Howard -- who were seen on TV as approaching coming of age milestones.  Set in mid-1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this Christmas episode reveals a very serious side by reminding the viewing audience on the true meaning of Christmas: when we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are reminded of God the Father's Love expressed through the person of His Son Jesus Christ sent forth into the world in the Holy Spirit.  It is the birth of Christ that gives each of us renewal as God's love fills our heart and soul so that we, in turn, can reflect and share that divine love with others.

It is in this spirit that Richie and his family are able to give Fonzie a true Christmas -- one that warms the heart and soul by dispelling darkness, loneliness and despair while affirming the virtues of faith, hope and love.  After Fonzie repairs the Cunningham family car, he claims to have plans of spending Christmas with relatives in nearby Waukesha to cover up the truth that he will be spending the Christmas Holiday Season by himself!  In a very sad, poignant moment, Fonzie is shown cooking a canned meal over a hot plate with a forlorn, tiny, tabletop Christmas tree nearby.  Having discovered the truth that Fonzie is all alone, Richie and his father (played by Tom Bosley) invite the Fonz to their home on the pretext that their mechanical Santa Claus (part of the outdoor Christmas display at the Cunningham residence) requires his mechanical expertise.  Thus Fonzie is able to join the Cunningham Christmas celebration while still maintaining his dignity and pride, if not his bravura.  Fonzie is welcomed by the Cunninghams, and he easily slips into the Christmas spirit by participating in various family activities including a reading of "A Visit from St Nicholas." In a most touching and fitting conclusion to this classic TV episode, Fonzie then leads the family in a Christmas prayer in which he bows his head and simply says "Hey God!  Thanks!" and then flashes that warm, friendly smile that would become part of his signature style in later years when Happy Days reached top-rated status.

Beyond the earlier background information shared,  the additional context that makes this early Happy Days Christmas episode unique is that it is very rarely if ever shown in syndication in the manner it was originally aired in 1974.  Typically it is seen as a flashback episode in two different variants (1975 and 1976) in which Fonzie is recounting this magical Christmas first with Arnold (Pat Morita) and later with Al (Al Molinaro).  The original version marked the first Happy Days episode in which the Fonzie character was completely featured.  As such, his concise manner of expression along with his street gang style of dress was given a touch of humanity but without being overly sentimental.  This rather thoughtful, somewhat reflective tough guy Fonzie seemed far more genuine and real than the superstar icon he later became in which he was shown repeatedly saying the one word catch phrase "Aaay" to convey reaction to everything from humor to seriousness.  This is not to denigrate either the popular Fonzie character nor the 11-season commercial success enjoyed by the Happy Days series (plus its many spin-offs) but rather a reminder that often the most touching episodes from classic TV come when a series is either struggling for ratings or trying to secure its niche in the early going while its principal characters are not caricatures but real people growing and becoming more relatable to the audience.  The original, and in my opinion, the best Happy Days Christmas episode still resonates more than 45 years after its network TV debut.

In this season of Holy Advent, please take time to view this very special Happy Days Christmas episode that reminds us all that family is that which makes you feel loved.  Please share your thoughts and memories of the Holiday Season via posting on 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.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

TOM DEMPSEY - Remembering an Inspired Life
In 1969, the 50th year of the National Football League, a very special man signed with the New Orleans Saints as a non-drafted player.  Thomas John Dempsey -- born without toes on his right foot and fingers -- joined the Saints as a placekicker.  In his rookie season, despite these physical challenges and playing for an expansion team (the Saints joined the league in 1967) in a very fast, violent sport, Tom Dempsey immediately showed he belonged with the NFL's best as he achieved both All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honors for the 1969 season.  Such individual honors meant even more in yesteryear as such awards were often the difference makers in securing a spot on the active roster and earning a cash bonus that determined whether or not a player had to work in the off-season to make financial ends meet.  ESPN and 24/7 cable TV sports coverage were more than a decade away, so a player like Tom Dempsey who was playing at the highest level in a physically demanding contact sport often toiled in relative obscurity.  This was especially true with expansion teams like the Saints playing in comparatively small media markets and struggling to achieve respectability.

Tom Dempsey was born January 12, 1947 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but raised in California where he attended San Dieguito High School (excelling in both wrestling and football) and then matriculating to nearby Palomar College.  At Palomar College he started out playing collegiate football as a defensive lineman but then transitioned into a placekicker, thereby creating an opportunity to play in the NFL.  In his second year with the NFL, Dempsey not only made history but became a legend of the game and an inspiration to people in all walks of life who were dealing with physical challenges.  On Sunday, November 8, 1970, Dempsey kicked a record-setting 63-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the game to give the Saints a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions - a playoff bound team that same season.  It was a home game for the Saints and instantly Dempsey was the toast of "The Big Easy."  The very next day on ABC's Monday Night Football (airing in its inaugural season) a nationwide TV audience celebrated Dempsey's record setting field goal as his gridiron feat was the highlight of ABC's half-time recap of the Sunday NFL games narrated by the one-and-only Howard Cosell.  Again, in those pre-ESPN days, such events on the highlight reel were often the only ones the TV viewing audience would ever see.  With Cosell's powerful voice describing the action, the viewers were made to feel as if they were witnessing the uncovering of a secret treasure.  In the case of Tom Dempsey, this moment in time and the man himself were treasures of inspiration for everyone.  His record field goal stood for several decades and Dempsey became a legend of the game.

He played for a total of eleven seasons (1969-1979) starring with the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills.  In a career that spanned 127 regular season games Dempsey scored 729 points with a field goal percentage of 61.6% and extra point percentage of 89.4%.  But these are just numbers.  To fully appreciate the magnitude of Dempsey's moment in time and his inspired life, one had to see him play in person.  Yours truly, along with my father, saw Tom Dempsey in person less than a month after his record-setting field goal when the Saints played the Rams at the LA Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, December 6, 1970.  While the hometown Rams prevailed 34-16, a capacity crowd roared its approval and admiration as Dempsey accounted for 10 of those 16 New Orleans points with three field goals (24, 50 and 54 yards) plus one point-after-touchdown.  I vividly recall the murmur in the crowd as the 54 yard field goal easily cleared the goal post giving many who were there (including my father) good reason to claim that the kick could have gone another 10 to 15 yards!  In other words, we had all witnessed what could have an even greater record setting gridiron event.  But more importantly, the conversation about Dempsey (we sat with regular season ticket holders) continued throughout the entire game as people talked about his life's journey and overcoming obstacles that likely would render most people to the sidelines.  He received a standing ovation following each of his field goals -- thereby showing that not all Southern California sports fans at major events are laid back or lackadaisical.  Dempsey was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame in 1989.  In the context of sports, it is often said that heroes get remembered, but legends never die.  Tom Dempsey was a legend whose gridiron presence was transcendent and inspiring to all who face enormous difficulties but aspire to accomplish great things in life.  Earlier this year (April 4, 2020) Tom Dempsey passed away after having battled dementia in his final years.

This month, please join us in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Tom Dempsey's record setting field goal as a reminder that dreams can come true for those who never give up and stay in the game!  Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on 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.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020


LON CHANEY - Universal's Best Classic Monster Star
October is the month we celebrate Halloween and so therefore it is appropriate to pay tribute to the best monster star in Universal Studios Classic Monster roster:  Lon Chaney.

If we were to play "Jeopardy" we would begin with the following answer: He is the only actor to have portrayed all four of Universal's monsters (horror characters): The Wolf Man, Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy.  And the question would be: Who was Lon Chaney?

To be more accurate, it was Lon Chaney, Jr - the son of the famed silent film star who was known as the Man of a Thousand Faces.  Originally named Creighton, he later changed his name to Lon Jr in honor of his father who had passed away in 1930, and by 1942 at the behest of Universal Studios, he was simply billed as Lon Chaney.  The "Jr" was only used when published articles needed to distinguish between the two as both father and son were renowned for their portrayal of horror characters.  Unlike fellow Universal stars Bela Lugosi (Count Dracula) and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy), Lon Chaney was the more diverse and versatile of the trio.  Biographer Don G Smith, author of Lon Chaney Jr - Horror Film Star (1906-1973), noted that Chaney's best work was in such classic films as "Of Mice and Men," "High Noon" and "The Defiant Ones."  Smith affirmed that Chaney was not only more versatile than his fellow monster actors but the best of the Lugosi-Karloff-Chaney trio that enabled Universal to carve out its niche in the horror film genre.  Chaney provided a bigger-than-life onscreen presence that included inner turmoil within the characters he portrayed in film and television.  His ability to engender empathy from the film audience, even while portraying tortured characters, may have resulted from what Chaney himself described as a very difficult early life: his parents' troubled marriage and separation, being raised by deaf grandparents and his ambivalence on taking on his late father's film career and becoming an actor.  Perhaps Chaney was able to use acting as a means to express his personal travails experienced in his own family life.  Whatever the reasons, nearly half a century since his passing, Chaney's exemplary work remains a standard of excellence for connecting personally with the audience and engendering empathy if not sympathy while portraying horror characters.

Chaney portrayed The Mummy three times between 1942 and 1944, Frankenstein's Monster in 1942 and Count Dracula in 1943.  But it was as The Wolf Man that Chaney made his signature mark as a horror film star appearing as Larry Talbot, a man bitten by a werewolf who becomes one himself, and then seeks help to cure himself of this condition.  Between 1941 and 1948, Chaney appeared as The Wolf Man five times as the sequel proved to be a most effective film vehicle for bringing back to life the title character even after it appeared he had died!  The fifth film was a crossover that featured Chaney in his signature role along with Lugosi as Dracula in supporting roles as part of an Abbott & Costello comedy vehicle that allowed Universal to showcase its dynamic comedic duo and its Classic Monsters.

My personal favorite of the Lon Chaney Wolf Man franchise was "House of Dracula" (1945) in which Larry Talbot is finally cured of his werewolf syndrome through surgery.  Perhaps in tribute to the empathy that horror film fans had for the Talbot / Wolf Man character, he was able to help vanquish both Dracula and the Frankenstein monster in the film's exciting climax.  Appropriately this marked the last of the "dramatic" Universal movies that featured Frankenstein's monster, werewolves and vampires save for the aforementioned comedic entry "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1945) that featured all three horror figures.

The Wolf Man and Lon Chaney became woven into the popular culture of baby boomers due in large part to Universal Studios releasing its archive of classic horror films to television in 1957 and then the following year (1958) Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine regularly profiled all of the films featuring Universal's Classic Monsters in a monthly publication that could be found on the newsstands of every major grocery store chain throughout the USA.  Baby boomers came to view these classic films that had been originally released decades before as contemporary films, thereby creating generations of new fans, especially as local TV stations in various major markets (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia) aired these films on weekends with hosts dressed for Halloween.  This tradition continues to this very day: think "Elvira - Mistress of the Dark" and "Svengoolie."

In 1997, the US Post Office paid official tribute to the Universal Classic Monsters with a series that featured Dracula (portrayed by Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein's monster and The Mummy (both with the likeness of Boris Karloff), The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr) PLUS as a bonus -- The Phantom of the Opera (!) portrayed by ..... Lon Chaney -- father of Lon Jr!  Thus, father and son were reunited in the iconic film roles for which they were best known among horror film fans, with Lon Jr representing the "talkies" and Lon Sr representing the "silent film" era.

In closing this remembrance of Lon Chaney and his iconic role as The Wolf Man, here is the closing passage spoken by actress Maria Ouspenskaya (who played Maleva the Gypsy Woman who sought to help Larry Tolbot find a cure for his werewolf syndrome) as Talbot / Wolf Man lay dying at the end of "The Wolf Man" (1941):  "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity."  Given the challenges Chaney had during his own lifetime, this would seem an appropriate epitaph for Universal's Best Classic Monster Star.

Please join us in paying tribute to Lon Chaney and all the Universal Classic Monster Stars by sharing your thoughts via posting on 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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020


by George Haloulakos

The Summer of 2020 has marked the return of America's manned spaceflight program with the successful SpaceX Dragon.  As we watched the first splashdown of an American manned space expedition since 1975, we were reminded that this landmark accomplishment with its enormous and optimistic promise for the future has its roots in classic science fiction TV.  As it turns out, “Lost in Space” (the classic CBS television series airing from 1965-68) reflected scientific protocols of the 1960s while offering a preview of what future rocket ships would look like!  In fact, the view from 1965 accurately depicted the design, propulsion and long-range missions that we are now starting to witness.  Viewed through the prism of 1960s scientific knowledge and mission protocols, the future as envisioned by “Lost in Space” (LIS) was both feasible and achievable.  Based on expert authority, we can make the case that LIS helped inspire the future through imagination.  The first five episodes of LIS contained most of the footage from the series pilot, "No Place to Hide" (which we covered in great detail in a Galaxy podcast titled "Man, Moon, Media & Myth" first broadcast October 2011). But in episode #6, the content of the "Lost in Space" series was entirely new while providing a template for what the future would eventually look like for rocket mission fundamentals.

This particular episode, titled "Welcome Stranger," originally aired on October 20, 1965 with guest star Warren Oates as American astronaut James Hapgood who has come to enjoy the life of a roving space cowboy.  Hapgood and his rocket ship "Travelin' Man" lifted off from Earth on June 18, 1982 aiming for a possible soft landing on Saturn as an optional part of a fly-by survey mission. He missed his landing and has been wandering in space for 15+ years before his encounter with the Space Family Robinson in the late 1990s.  “Welcome Stranger” reflected 1960s scientific protocols – notably use of nuclear engine rocket vehicle applications (NERVA) for interplanetary and interstellar space travel. In this era, manned space flights to Mars were being planned, with possible missions to Saturn and Jupiter. At that time, a soft landing on Saturn or Jupiter was deemed possible as the gaseous composition of both planets was not yet fully known. Hence, the basis for this LIS story line.  When we view the launch of the "Travelin' Man" rocket ship (shown in the Black & White photo below this paragraph) it eerily resembles not only the rocket ships of the Mercury/Gemini Redstone programs from the 1960s, but accurately presages the McDonnell Douglas Delta DC-X Clipper (color photo shown as well) which presaged the SpaceX Dragon by more than 25 years!  The resemblance of both the imaginary and real space vehicles is underscored by the artist rendition of "Travelin' Man" that is also included in this article.

While LIS aired on network TV, aforementioned long-range missions were not only in the works but would require nuclear rockets to make them feasible/achievable. Moreover such expeditions were planned to occur in what would be the same timeline of the future as envisioned by “Lost in Space.” This is the essence of the book titled Rocket Propulsion Fundamentals and Mission Analysis, by Dr Vassilios Elias Haloulakos, that documents his research and technical contributions to helping conceive or develop nuclear rockets as well as reusable rocket ships such as the McDonnell Douglas DC-X, long before Space-X and Blue Origin ~ thereby affirming the scientific basis of the LIS future!  Here is a picture of the tantalizing cover of this book and its vision for the future that is now being realized.  Again, we would refer you to once again listen to the Galaxy "Man, Moon, Media and Myth" podcast for further insights.

While the public was largely enthralled with the USA versus USSR race for the first manned moon landing during the 1960s, other manned space flights for the ensuing decades (1970 - 2000) were also being planned for Mars along with possible missions to Saturn and Jupiter. At the time and as already noted, a soft landing on either Saturn or Jupiter was deemed possible as the gaseous composition of these two planets was not yet fully known. Viewed through the prism of scientific knowledge and mission protocols during the 1960s, a landing on Saturn’s moon Titan was understood as both feasible and achievable as an intermediate step before landing on Saturn itself. NERVA was the technology to make this happen!

NERVA applied also to the goal of fulfilling interstellar space travel. In LIS, the original mission of the Jupiter II saucer craft was to transport the Space Family Robinson to the Alpha Centauri star system. When space cowboy Hapgood explains that he was traveling on a path taking him to Epsilon Eridani, a type K main sequence star, as is Alpha Centauri B, it becomes evident that for Hapgood and the Robinsons to cross paths was clearly in the realm of possibility in the future envisioned by “Lost in Space,” which itself was an extension of 1960s scientific knowledge! 

What are the takeaways as we reflect on the connections of the SpaceX Dragon with classic science fiction TV?  First, the “Travelin’ Man” rocket ship is a fusion of the Mercury & Gemini manned space capsules (1960s) but its Delta configuration (plus landing struts) - which became a signature characteristic of the DC-X reusable rocket that made its debut in the 1990s - is a testimony on how "Lost in Space" offered a realistic if not achievable future based on science fact! Second, the same can be said about envisioning the astronaut space suits.  What this teaches us is that advancing the future begins with Imagination -- which can take us to places we once thought might be unattainable.

Please join us in saluting the resurgence of America's manned spaceflight program along with the 55th anniversary of the TV show ("Lost in Space") that helped inspire the future by sharing your thoughts 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: 

Friday, July 31, 2020

AUGUST 2020: THE SUMMER GAME: Baseball Returns -- Finding New Facets on the Diamond

by George Haloulakos

The long awaited return of baseball - deferred for several months due to the public health crisis - has put forth new challenges for both players and fans alike.  Since the players are plying their skills on the diamond before largely "empty" stadiums (unless you count the cardboard cutouts of people as real fans) this has renewed interest in enjoying the summer game by listening to radio broadcasts in which the "Voices of the Game" create a pastoral setting for a veritable theater of the mind rather than watching the action on TV or streaming via Internet.  This includes creating sound effects (e.g., crowd noise, the sound of the bat connecting with a pitched ball, vendors selling concessions, and so forth) that we associate when certain events occur that elicit a response from the fans "in attendance."

For people like yours truly along with my fellow Galaxy co-hosts Gilbert and Mike, following baseball by listening to radio broadcasts has been a lifetime activity.  However, with newer generations of fans who learned the nuances of the game through the use of analytics & metrics (i.e., quantitative methods based on statistical analysis & applied mathematics), the absence of live games for the current season has created yet another way to appreciate baseball from the distant past to the present.  

Baseball has long been a venue for numbers.  Consider the Topps brand of baseball cards that contain the yearly lifetime statistics for players going back a century or more.  Collectors note that Hall of Fame or veteran players with lengthy careers tend to have "microscopic" matrices of numbers telling their story while younger players or those with short careers have those same statistics but in larger font!  Whether you are an "analytics" person or one who prefers the "eye test" there is no doubt that in the context of baseball, numbers offer a compelling vehicle that transport us back in time. 

As already noted, a classic Topps baseball card will carry the entirety of a player's career (as expressed by numbers) in a neat matrix that fits neatly in your wallet or pocket.  A box score contains the entirety of a game with its universal scoring or tracking metrics.  And now, with computer power at your fingertips, one is able to reexamine games from last night, last year or the last century with a clarity that enables us to have even greater appreciation for what we have witnessed either in person, watching on TV or streaming, or having listened to a game broadcast.  This has allowed people to have new conversations about old memories and thereby create new memories that elicit the same joy that comes from following a sport that has measured the passage of time like no other in American history.

Here is an example on how analytics enable us to have even greater appreciation -- if not insight -- into this great game while perhaps creating new conversation and sparking renewed interest in what has historically been known as America's Pastime.  The World Series - where all players aspire to showcase their talent and help their team become World Champions - can now be viewed through the prism of "The Golden Pitch" - a new metric defined as being a pitch that can only be thrown in Game Seven of the World Series in the bottom of the 9th inning [or in the bottom of an extra inning] when the road team has the lead BUT the result of that pitch has the ability to win for EITHER team.  It can be viewed as a baseball equivalent of sudden-death victory / defeat.  This feat has only occurred only seven times since the 1903 World Series, with the most recent being 2014 when pitcher Madison Bumgarner turned the trick leading the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series crown in five years.  To put this into even a sharper perspective: out of the more than 50 MILLION plus pitches hurled since the first World Series in 1903, there have been no more than between 36 to 40 such Golden Pitches.

Here is where the conversation becomes even more interesting: Out of those 36 to 40 Golden Pitches, 12 of them belong to Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry (!962 World Series MVP), with ALL of them coming in Game Seven of that storied 1962 World Series in which the Yankees held on to beat the Giants.  No other pitcher -- including fellow Golden Pitchers Christy Matthewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Mariano Rivera -- even comes close to Ralph Terry.  What the analytics reveal is that an iconic moment that is a treasured memory for Yankee fans (while a heart breaker for Giants fans) is EVEN more special if not unique, thanks to the application of these metrics.  Arguably this would make Terry the best pitcher of the moment in the greatest game on the biggest stage in baseball since 1903!

While games are being deferred, rescheduled or cancelled in the midst of the ongoing public health crisis of 2020, you can use this summertime to review baseball through a different prism and relive favorite moments or continue conversations from your childhood.  On this note and just for fun, I will offer this as a conversation starter (or to be more accurate, a restarter) for those of a certain age:  Yours truly recalls the schoolyard debates regarding who was the best player, Willie Mays or Henry Aaron?  

This became especially intense when both were neck-in-neck chasing Babe Ruth's career home run record in the 1971-72 period.  In the midst of this ongoing debate I submitted for consideration the name of another transformative player - Roberto Clemente!  My reasoning was based on a very simple metric with the aid of the eye test.  Clemente was 2-time World Series Champion with the Pirates (1960 and 1971), equal to the combined total of World Series Championships won by Mays (1954) & Aaron (1957) while playing for Pirates teams that had far less talent and depth in comparison to the Giants team of Mays and the Braves team of Aaron.  So what is my current view with the passage of nearly 50 years since those schoolyard days?  With the aid of analytics, my appreciation for these three iconic, transformative players is: Mays is the BEST ALL-AROUND ball player, with Aaron as the BEST HITTER and Clemente as the MOST VALUABLE to his team (for the reasons I noted earlier).

What do you baseball fans in the Galaxy audience think?  Please share your thoughts 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:  

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

WAR & REMEMBRANCE: Mortal Games -- Queens, Kings and Pawns on the World War II Chessboard--

by George Haloulakos

The 75th Anniversary of the Allied Forces Victory in World War II provides an opportunity to look back at this historic event through the prism of interesting biographies whose lives intersected with the war on the Chessboard of Life.  There are, it would seem, countless stories about people and events of WWII that had enormous personal impact in the post war era. This would include the famous and not-so famous as well as sports stars, entertainers, writers, political leaders, scholars and so forth. This month, we remember two great Chess champions -- Vera Menchik and Akiba Rubinstein -- who not only left their indelible mark on the game they played so well, but also giving us pause to wonder what might have been were it not for the fortunes of war!

VERA MENCHIK - A Pioneer Ahead of Her Time at the Right Time Long before the celebrated Polgar Sisters emerged as the world's reigning Chess family during the decades of the 1990s - 2000s, Vera Menchik (Feb 6, 1906 - Jun 26, 1944), a British-Czechoslovak-Russian Chess player became the world's first women's Chess champion.  Ms Menchik's dominance was overwhelming as she won seven consecutive world title women's championship tournaments from 1927 - 1939.  Her overall score in the 83 games spanning these seven title events was 78 wins, 1 loss and 4 draws!  In the four tournaments held between 1931 and 1937, Ms Menchik won 45 straight games!  Ms Menchik's supremacy in women's championships has never been matched, much less exceeded by the likes of male world champions such as Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov.  In sum, Ms Menchik was the longest-reigning female world Chess champion in history having held the title for 17 years.

As impressive as that championship reign was, it likely would have been even longer were not for the ravages of WWII.  Ms Menchik, who married in 1937 and then relocated to the United Kingdom, was the reigning female world Chess champion as the flames of World War II engulfed the world.  Sadly, Ms Menchik became widowed in 1943.  The following year, she and her sister along with their mother perished in a V-1 flying bomb attack which destroyed their London home.  Ms Menchik was only 38 years old, and had a full life ahead of her that sadly was brought to a close by WWII.  She had fully embraced her life in the United Kingdom and with the tide of the war swinging to the Allies was eagerly looking forward to fully concentrating on Chess and participating on the international stage as a world champion.  One can only imagine the great inroads Ms Menchik could have made in breaking down societal barriers in the post-war era.  We are left instead with a stellar legacy that is commemorated by the trophy for the winning team in the Women's Chess Olympiad named as the "Vera Menchik Cup" and a commemorative postage stamp issued by Yugoslavia.

AKIBA RUBINSTEIN - A Point of Light Amidst the Holocaust Akiba Rubinstein (Oct 12, 1882 - Mar 14, 1961) is the quintessential "what might have been" in the Chess world as he was one of the strongest players ever who did NOT become a world champion.  Mr Rubinstein was a Rabbinical student in his native Poland who abandoned his studies to concentrate fully on Chess and thereby became one of the strongest end-game players in the history of the game.  As the shadows of war turned into a fiery storm that raged across Europe during the 1930s, Mr Rubinstein was plagued by mental illness and his Chess powers waned.  For a while he was able to peacefully live in occupied Belgium.  However as the Holocaust gained momentum, an SS officer recognized Rubinstein's name on an "official inventory" of people to be sent to a concentration camp.

Then the hand of Providence intervened as this same SS officer was a genuine Chess fan whose heart was not yet solely consumed by the darkness of evil.  At enormous personal risk to himself, the SS officer removed Rubinstein's name from the list for deportation as he could not bear to consign the aging and ill Chess grandmaster to an ignominious end in a death camp.  Although plagued by the ravages of mental illness for the remainder of his life, Mr Rubinstein was able to live with family until 1954, and then following his wife's passing lived in a long-term care facility.  He continued to follow the game he so loved, and is remembered not only for his prowess on the Chess board, but as a point of light in a world engulfed by war.

Do any of you have any special remembrances of World War II that have been passed along by loved ones or friends?  As we commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Forces victory, please share your thoughts 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: 

Monday, June 15, 2020

GOATS, Heroes and Health Care Professionals - -- People We Remember and Appreciate in the Midst of Challenging Times --

by George Haloulakos

While most people have been sheltered in place in the midst of the worldwide public health crisis, popular conversation has revolved around the interrelated subjects of GOATS (Greatest Of All Time), heroes and health care professionals.  Specifically, with the absence of major league sports, popular conversation has been aimed at discussing if not debating the Greatest Of All Time sports figures (hence the acronym GOATS) with emphasis on heroic play under time pressure or extremely competitive circumstances for all types of sports in different eras.  At the same time, the reality of COVID-19 has also provided a sobering reminder on the heroes in our everyday lives, especially health care professionals -- whether it is physicians, nurses, technicians or support staff.

This ongoing nationwide conversation prompted my personal remembrance of a very, very special man, who was a GOAT not only in NFL Football but also the medical profession: Dr Daniel John Fortmann (1916-1995).  Dr Fortmann was our family doctor from the mid-1970s to the early-1980s.  He was a renowned physician & surgeon in Southern California from 1946 - 1984, and during that time was the team physician for the Los Angeles Rams (1947-1963).  Yours truly along with my parents were greatly blessed to be under his care as Dr Fortmann embodied all the ideals we associate with amazing health care professionals: Excellence, Integrity and Compassion.  The public itself was blessed by this man's towering presence as he was named chief of staff at St Joseph Hospital (Burbank, CA) in 1965.

  I became acquainted in the mid-1970s with Dr Fortmann while I was in college.  At our first meeting --  not fully knowing just who this man really was -- I remarked to him that I had read about the gridiron exploits of an NFL Hall of Famer "Danny" Fortmann, team captain for the Chicago Bears during a career spanning 1936-1943.  He smiled and chuckled softly while acknowledging that he was THAT man!  Dr Fortmann then showed me a coin he wore around his neck that was the very same coin used in the coin-toss for the 1940 NFL Championship where he helped lead the Bears to a 73-0 victory over the favored Washington Redskins.  Needless to say, I was bowled over to be in the medical care of a person who was not only a football hero, but a hero in real life.  Here is a synopsis of a truly inspired life:

> High School Valedictorian with 12 varsity letters in sports.
> Phi Beta Kappa scholar at Colgate University and MD from University of Chicago Medical School.
> NFL Hall of Fame member (1965).
> College Football Hall of Fame (1978).
> NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
> US Navy Lieutenant in World War II (Pacific Theater - 1945).

  Baby boomers who are longtime NFL fans may recall that when the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team was presented earlier this year at the 2020 Super Bowl, Dr Fortmann's photo from his playing days was on display with other all-time greats departed this life before us.  Despite a comparatively short career, he was regarded by coaches and peers as the best and most important player on his team during his collegiate and NFL playing days.  He was the anchor for the legendary "Monsters of the Midway" (as the Bears were known in that era) as a 7-time First Team All-Pro (1937-1943) as a 3-time NFL Champion (1940, 1941 and 1943) plus 3-time Pro-Bowl selection (1940-1942).  As a guard who anchored the era's most dominating team, Dr Fortmann was also named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1930s.

   Most people would regard this as sufficient for one lifetime, but for this GOAT, it was just the beginning as he would make his greatest and most lasting contributions in service to others as a premier physician and surgeon (in both military and civilian venues) -- ALL of which followed his stellar gridiron career!  Dr Fortmann was a man for all seasons.  When engaged with conversation with friends and colleagues alike, I find that being able to talk about someone who was truly a GOAT, hero and a force of nature in the all-important health care arena makes for a refreshing change from the all-too familiar popular discourse on the drama associated with sports stars who are obsessed with their personal brand, legacy management or rewriting history to fit their social media profiles.

Do you have a special someone who continues to be a point of light that you regard as a GOAT or hero, or perhaps someone who has been of immeasurable help to you and loved ones while confronting a health crisis?  I feel privileged and blessed to have known such a man as Dr Dan Fortmann and am certain everyone in our GNN audience can relate to this.  Please join us in celebrating the real GOATS, heroes and health care professionals -- transcendent people in our lives -- 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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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: