The Baby Boomer Experience - 1945 to Today

Author: Dave Price (Page 2 of 22)

I am a former journalist and educator who now operates a DC-based writing/speaking/podcasting/tour guiding practice. Talking ' Bout My Generation focuses on subjects of interest and/or importance to Baby Boomers with an emphasis on music, lifestyle, pop culture, activism, and successful aging.

The Best of Sports: It’s Just a Click Away

This post 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC – 12.10.2011

He’s been called “the Mozart of sports photographers.” His photos made the front cover of more than 170 issues of Sports Illustrated. His shot of Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) standing in triumph over a fallen Sonny Liston is considered the greatest sports photo of the 20th Century.

Neil Leifer, whose photos make up the visually arresting Photo Finish: The Sports Photography of Neils Leifer now on display at the Newseum, described his 5 decades as a premier picture taker during today’s latest edition of the interactive museum’s Inside Media program.

During his hour-long presentation, moderated by long-time journalist Shelby Coffee, the amiable Leifer detailed his belief that his amazing success is a combination of skill, determination, preparation, and perhaps most of all, some incredible luck.

As a teenager, Leifer said he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to combine his passion for sports with his love of photography. “Besides, I knew it would let me have the best seat in the house which I never would have been able to afford,” Leifer said.

In 1958, pluck and ingenuity propelled Leifer toward his desired career. He would arrive early at Yankee Stadium for New York Giants football games and volunteer to wheel in disabled veterans. “There were 50 or 60 veterans and only 6 or 7 people to push the wheelchairs. Once we got them in, we could watch the game,” Leifer said. He explained that he would bring hot coffee to shivering police officers who would “look the other way” while Leifer would pull his cheap camera out from under his coat and shoot some pictures from the bench or the end zone. It was this arrangment that allowed him to capture his first great shot: Johnny Unitas scoring the winning touchdown in what is still called the greatest professional football game ever played. “I learned that day that 75 percent of great sports photography is luck and the rest is getting the shot,” Leifer explained.

Leifer readily admits that boxing is his favorite sport, with the incomparable Ali his favorite subject of all-time. Leifer captured Ali in more than 70 different photo sessions, some staged and some acted out on canvas. “Ali was God’s gift to every journalist and photographer. He made everything you did that much better,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Leifer calls Ali that greatest athlete he ever photographed. Numbers 2 and 3 aren’t as obvious, however. He lists triple-crown winner Secretariat as second. In 3rd place, he claims it is American Olympic skater Eric Heiden. “He raced in all 5 speed skating races, won all 5, and set 4 records,” Leifer said. “I think that may be the most incredible sports performance of all-time.”

And what, after the millions of photos he has taken, is his favorite? Leifer says that answer is easy – it is the 1966 picture of Ali walking back to his corner in the Houston Astrodome after kocking out his challenger. “That picture … there isn’t a thing I would change,” Leifer said. “It’s the only one of my pictures I have hanging in my house.”

While Leifer is most known for his collection of sports shots, he has scored with some non-sports pictures, too. One of his favorite photos came after he convinced Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to light his cigar and then have a shot of both of them smoking away.  Leifer captured a Time magazine cover with his shot of Pope John Paul. And then there is the rare  picture of a hat-wearing President John Kennedy at the opening day of the 1961 baseball season at Washington’s Griffith Stadium. Leifer explained how he captured that picture. As was then custom, Kennedy,  as president was called upon to throw out the first pitch. “Let’s just say he had a lousy delivery.  I knew I didn’t have a picture there,” Leifer said. So, for the next 8 innings, he sat with his back to the game, waiting for a worthwhile shot of JFK. “I was hoping he would eat a hot dog and get some mustard on his chin, but he wasn’t really doing anything,” Leifer said. Suddenly, it became colder and Kennedy did something he never did – he placed a hat on his head. Then, Leifer was once again the recipient of great luck. A high foul ball headed toward the Presidential box, Kennedy turned, Leifer clicked, and another award-winning photo was captured. “I always say this is the picture of the Kennedy administration leaning left. Caroline Kennedy once told me that (picture) was the only time she had ever seen her Dad with a hat on,” Leifer said.

During the audience question-and-answer session, Leiffer was asked if there were any shots he regretted not capturing.  “Of course,” he responded. “You’re paid not to miss, but you do. Sometimes it comes down to being in the right seat. There’s skill involved, but as I say, there’s a lot of luck, too.”

Coffee said Leifer is an extreme rarity in the sports world, a non-athlete who is considered as famous as the subjects he is covering. “I’ve been with Neil at an event and it’s sort of like being backstage with Bono at a U2 concert.  John McEnroe comes to Neil’s table to greet him,” Coffee explained. 

All She’s Still Saying Is Give Peace a Chance

This article 1st appeared in The Price’s Do DC – 02.18.2014

This month we’ve seen a new British Invasion of media about the Beatles almost the same as that which also exploded when John, Paul. George, and Ringo first set foot in American in February of 1964. We had the Grammy tribute concert celebrating the Beatles’ historic first performance 50 years ago on the Ed Sullivan Show. Then, of course, there was the re-creation of the band’s 35-minute, 12-song, first American concert right here in DC.

Well, in the event you are in the DC area and you aren’t yet Beatled out, you can head to the Hirshhorn Museum to check out art work by one of the most important non-Beatle players in the Beatles’ story – Yoko Ono.

In 1969, one year before the Beatles broke up (at the time, and even today, there are fans who blame Ono for the dissolution of the Fab Four), John Lennon married Yoko and the pair remained united in their art and music until Lennon was tragically gunned down in 1980 outside the couple’s apartment in New York City.

Ono’s work is included in the exhibition Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950. The exhibit features creations from artists influenced by the fear and uncertainty caused by the threat of imminent annihilation posed during the immediate decades following World War II and the anxiety that still resides in our contemporary world today.

Ono appeared at the museum to discuss her work, and naturally, she spoke much of her relationship with John and how they influenced each other.

“I didn’t wish for it, but I met John and my whole life changed,” Ono said. During much of their time, both in music and art, the couple delivered a blistering critique of the social conditions of the 60s and 70s.

“People would ask – ‘what is she doing here’ and I would say trying to make it a peaceful world,” Ono told the crowd of art and Beatles lovers.

“With John’s assassination, I know the pain that people go through,” she said. “But we can survive all this together. I know we can if we use our brains. We all have brains. They think they can control us but we can change the hate to love and the war to peace. We just need a clear, logical head to know what is going on.”

“We think ‘I shouldn’t do this’ – but if all of us stand up it will be very difficult to beat us. They (the oppressors) will be very lonely. They won’t even have servants,” she added.

“Not too many people choose to be activists. Well, John and I were activists. Today people ask me – ‘Yoko, are we going to have doomsday (which is a recurring motif in the Damage Control exhibit)?’ I say, well it is up to us. If we are all so dumb, we will,” Ono said.

Now 81 years old and having spent more than 30 years without John, Ono acknowledges that she has changed. For one thing, she focuses much more on her Japanese past and her ancestors. “I thought I was escaping that and being a rebel. But today, I know family history is important.”

“There are so many beautiful things now. Whenever I get depressed, I take a look at the sky. It is so beautiful,” she concluded.

Our Talks/Lectures/Presentations Available for Any Group, Organization, or Venue

Talks from my book Come Together

Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On: How Did Rock and Roll Come to Be?

  • 12 Changes That Paved the Way for the Rock and Roll of the 50s
  • What Was the 1st Rock and Roll Record?
  • Rockin’ ‘Round the Clock: DJ Alan Freed, the combo band Bill Haley and His Comets, and the movie Blackboard Jungle ignite a rock and roll explosion

Setting the Stage for the Beatles

  • The King and Court: Elvis and 6 other rock and roll pioneers who greatly influenced the Beatles
  • A New Frontier: The music of the Kennedy years (1960 to 1963)

From Rock and Roll to Rock: A 6-year musical road trip from Liverpool to Woodstock

  • 1964 – The Beatles and the Music of the British Invasion
  • 1965 – With Rubber Soul, The Beatles, Under the Influence of Bob Dylan and Pot, Create Song Lyrics with More Mature Meanings
  • 1966 – Garage Rock Rules, but Albums like the Beatles’ Revolver Begin Making LPs More Important Than 45 Singles
  • 1967 – With the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s as Its Soundtrack, a Summer of Love Gives Birth to Psychedelic Rock and the Hippie Lifestyle
  • 1968 – The Music of the Beatles, the Stones, and Others Reflect Turbulent Times
  • 1969 – The Beatles Stay Home But from Atlantic Pop to Woodstock to the Isle of Wright to Altamont, It’s a Year of the Big Music Festival
  • from Our Rock and Pop Culture Division – Rock of Agers Icons

Rock Icons and the Real World Series

The Bands

  • Here, There, and Everywhere: How the World Would Be Much Different Without the Influences of the Beatles
  • What a Drag It Is Getting Old: What the Rolling Stones Can Teach All of Us About Aging
  • A Traveling Show of Deadheads and Tie-Dye: The Radical, Yet Highly Successful Business Plan of the Grateful Dead

Individual Artists

  • The Answer Is Blowin’ in the Wind: The Great Protest Anthems of Bob Dylan
  • Is a Dream a Lie If It Don’t Come True or Is It Something Worse: Bruce Springsteen and the Unfilled Promise of the American Dream
  • Rebel, Rebel: David Bowie Drives GlamRock, Androgyny, and Gay Life Style

45 Revolutions a Minute: Singing Out for Social Change 

  • Just Show Me Some Respect: Songs Celebrating Gender Equality & Female Freedom 
  • Keep on Pushin’: The Greatest Songs of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud: The Songs of Black Pride and Power
  • We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Anti-Vietnam War Songs & Peace Classics
  • Smile on Your Brother: Songs Calling for Peace, Love, & Understanding
  • Look at Mother Nature on the Run Since the 1970s: Songs to Save Our Earth

The Free Speech & Protest Series

  • They Are Women, Hear Them Roar: DC Protests for the Vote, Female Equality, and Reproductive Rights 
  • They Had a Dream: 7 Decades of Civil Rights Marches and Rallies in DC
  • Hell No, We Won’t Go: The Pro-Peace, Anti-War Protests of the 60s and 70s
  • We’re Coming Out: The Fight for LGBTQ Rights in DC 
  • It’s Nature’s Way of Telling Us (Something’s Wrong): DC As One of the Centers of the Struggle to Save the Planet 
  • 1970s: Songs to Save Our Earth

Looking at the Darker Sides of Our Government by Decade 

  • The 1920s The KKK Rides Again: America First, White Pride, and the 1st Resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan
  • The 1930sBrother, Can You Spare a Dime? High Society, the Common Man, and the Great Depression
  • The 1940s – Behind the Wire: World War II, FDR, and the Japanese-American Internment Camps
  • The 1950s – Freedom Under Fire: Congress, McCarthyism, The Red Scare, the Lavender Scare, the Comic Book Controversy, and the Fear of Juvenile Delinquents, Blackboard Jungles, & Rebels without a Cause
  • The 1960s No Rockin’ in the Free World: J. Edgar Hoover & The FBI’s Secret Files on Rock and Roll Artiists, “Filthy” Songs, and “Anti-American” Albums 
  • The 1970s  One Toke Over the Line: Richard Nixon, His Enemies List, and the War on Drugs, the Youth Counterculture, and Rock Music

Sting, Paul Simon Sing Late into the Evening

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC — March 13, 2014

When you think of a partner for Paul Simon, you probably see Art Garfunkel. You probably don’t consider Sting. But tonight at the Verizon Center, Simon teamed with Sting to perform more than 25 songs that they had made individually part of the rock and roll discography.

After the duo played a 3-song opening – “Brand New Day,” “Boy in the Bubble,” and “Fields of Gold,” Simon addressed the sold-out crowd.

“Welcome DC to this experiment we have been conducting,” he said. “Two bands, changing the set list up. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to have sex for days. (a reference to Sting’s claims for Tantric benefits). And it’s all because of that man.”

“You’ve changed too, right,” he added, turning to Sting.

“Not really,” Sting said with a laugh.

Then for the next 2-and-a-half hours, the duo alternated playing heir hits. The 14 other performers from the 2 groups shuttled in and out depending on the tune. There were so many combinations that you would have needed an advanced math degree to keep track of them all.

For Sting fans, there were both his solo hits and the songs made famous with his old band, The Police. Here’s a sample – “Englishman in New York,” “Driven to Tears,” “Fragile,” “Message in a Bottle,” and “Roxanne,” To me, the high point of the Sting portion was a magnificent “Hounds of Winter.”

For Simon fans, there were solo hits and songs he had popularized with his long-time partner Art Garfunkel. Those included “Mother and Child Reunion,” “Graceland,” “The Boxer,” “Me and Julio (Down by the School Yard), “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and Simon’s high point “Call Me Al.”

Throughout the night, as they switched from on-stage to off-stage, Sting and Simon talked about their new musical touring union.

Sting was particularly poignant as he described how much Simon’s music has meant to him. He said that some songs always remind people of a certain time and place in their lives. He then proceeded to talk about when he and his Police bandmates first came to America.

“We were touring all over America. Staying in shitty motels and and playing to empty clubs,” he said. “And this song speaks to much of that.” He then broke into a solo performance of Simon’s classic of “America.”

The duo performed a 3-song encore with all 14 band members. It started with a gospel-tinged “Bridge of Troubled Waters. That was followed by an exhilarating “Every Breath You Take.” After the last notes of the 3rd song, an extended jammy version of “Late in the Evening,” the 14 backing band members headed backstage.

Simon and Sting, each with an acoustic guitar in hand, approached the front of stage. “Rock and roll began with a couple of voices, a couple of guitars, and a mike,” Simon said. “I think that’s the way we’ll finish tonight.” He and Sting then offered a beautifully harmonious rendition of the Everly Brothers “When Will I Be Loved.”

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow …

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC 4.19.2014

For Russell Mitchell and Richie Nocella, who too soon were taken to be a part of the greater Cosmos, and to Steve Ferrera and Dr. Robert Wilkinson, who are still here. And a special shout-out to William Shakespeare, John Updike, and all my South Jersey high school students without whom this story could not be told.

Have I ever told you about the time I performed the “Tomorrow” soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth live on the stage of the Folger Shakespeare Library? No? Well, that’s because up until last Sunday, I hadn’t done any such performance.

But now I can tell you the tale (and, no, you smart-assed Shakespearean scholars – it’s not a tale told by an idiot).

I performed the monologue as part of a day-long celebration at the world-renowned DC Shakespeare institution to honor what would have been William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

And, as you can see here, I even have visual proof, that, in the words of Macbeth himself, “I have done the deed.”

But my involvement with the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy actually begins more than 4 decades ago, which of course chronologically makes for a whole lot more than just 3 tomorrows.

In 1970, I was a 2nd-semester freshman at Villanova University. My English class was taught by Dr. Robert Wilkinson (who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become a life-long mentor ). In the class were 2 of my best friends, Steve Ferrara, my Boston-speaking roommate, and Richie Nocella from South Philly. Richie, Steve, and I had all been randomly assigned to Dr. Wilkinson’s Freshmen Comp and Lit Class (a bit of fortunate fate that would change all of our lives) the 1st semester and had chosen him for our Spring Semester English course.

In our next class, we would be examining the John Updike short story “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth.” Obviously, Updike used the beginning of the Macbeth soliloquy for his title. So Dr. Wilkinson had assigned me to memorize the 74-word word soliloquy and deliver it to the class to start our exploration.

Piece of cake, I thought. And it would have been too, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my recitation happened to occur on what turned out to be the first beautiful warm day of a Main Line spring. So somehow Richie and Steve, now joined by the fourth member of our freshmen quartet, Russell Mitchell, decided to celebrate the arrival of warm weather by grabbing some quarts of beer and some smoking material and head to a small stream near our Havertown apartment.

Now, in my defense, I probably didn’t fully realize what Steve was suggesting. To this day, Steve speaks funny. You know the type – Pahk yer cah in the bek yahd. (I mean, come on, there are r’s in those words).

But no matter what the reason, I found myself partaking in the merriment and soon I was – what is the phrase I am searching for here – oh yes, stoned and completely wasted. However, I was confident that I could still deliver my soliloquy since at the time I was a keyboardist in a rock band and had performed numerous times under the influence of chemicals that made members of the audience appear to be things like crazy-colored, melting dragons spewing giant bubbles.

We arrived at class. Richie, Steve, and Russell positioned themselves in strategic places where they could best annoy me. Dr. Wilkinson summoned and I headed to the front of the room, where I proceeded to deliver the soliloquy in flawless fashion despite the best attempts of my trio of friends to distract me. But Dr. Wilkinson – did I mention he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever encountered – must have sensed something was awry. He asked me to repeat my performance. And this time, the outcome was decidedly different. I swear I thought I was beginning by repeating “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” but instead it came out something like “Tomershthis, ang Teropoly um tomomsie.” And it went downhill from there. Anyway, we all had a good laugh, I graduated Villanova with a BA in English, and we moved on with our lives.

After a decade as a reporter, I switched careers and became a high school English teacher. I found myself teaching Macbeth in my British lit class. And so, as I had been asked to do so many years before by Dr. Wilkinson, I had each of my Honors and Academic students memorize the “Tomorrow …” soliloquy and deliver it to the class. To make it more memorable, I tried to pair up performance with interest. A member of the baseball team could recite it standing at home plate. Members of the drama club could say it on stage.  Classroom sweethearts could deliver it together. To this day, many of my students can still recite the soliloquy by memory when I see them. Of course, they then spoil the moment by pointing out that that is the only thing they remember from my class and exactly when did my hair turn gray.

Three years ago, I retired from teaching and instructional coaching and we moved to DC. But then I was asked by a friend to join him in educational consulting. Now I find myself splitting time between high schools in DC and Syracuse, working with teachers who teach in Twilight programs designed for students who are in danger of dropping out.

Last month, I was delivering an impromptu presentation to the teachers and students in Luke C. Moore High School in DC and, in the middle of the delivery, I used the “Tomorrow” soliloquy. While I was speaking the lines, I observed 2 teachers reciting them along with me. After the presentation, I discovered that one, an English teacher, had memorized the passage when he was a high school senior in Asia. The other, a math teacher, had been required to master the soliloquy when he was a 16-year-old student in Nigeria.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, that presentation served as a good rehearsal for my Sunday work on the Folger stage which you can view by clicking here.)

So that concludes my Tomorrow tale for now. I swear it all true except for the parts I made up. But does the story, as I always used to ask my students, contain any morals, messages, or meanings?

I think there are quite a few takeaways from combining Shakespeare’s original soliloquy with my several encounters with it over the decades. They include:

  1. Macbeth says the future “creeps” in a “petty pace.” He is wrong. The future doesn’t creep. One day you are delivering a Shakespeare soliloquy in your freshmen college class. In what seems like a brief passage of time (but is actually 4 decades) you find yourself delivering that same soliloquy on a stage.
  2. Macbeth calls life “a walking shadow” that after death is “heard no more.” Sorry, Macbeth, wrong again. Life is not a shadow, but substance. And memories allow our life stories to resonate through times that come long after we are gone.
  3. While it’s true that moments of our lives are “full of sound and fury,” they do not “signify nothing.” Our friends, our experiences, our memories all give meaning, not nothingness, to our lives.
  4. And perhaps most importantly, if 3 or more of your friends ever ask you to celebrate the warmth and beauty of a first warm Spring day, be safe, but take a chance.  For whether you are an idiot or genius, there really is no telling how your tale will turn out.
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