obits


The engineers at Denny’s have put together the only thing that could ever get me back inside their restaurant:

Who’s with me?

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Farewell to a legendary journalist and one of the most recognizable voices on NPR.

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You’re a legend to the old men, a hero to the child

Though it may look like a wax figure, that’s the real Jerry Reed. (I think he only looked directly at the camera for paying customers.) And to his left, of course, that’s me, thrilled to be standing next to a longtime hero.

We went up to see him perform at the Little Opry in Brown County back in 1998, well out of his prime. But the man was still a consummate entertainer. And it’s a real heartbreaker to hear that he has passed away.

I know Smokey and the Bandit won’t make any lists of the best movies ever made, but it’s one of the earliest movies I remember seeing. And one of the few I won’t hesitate to watch over and over again. Jerry’s Cledus was my favorite part of the movie, a free-wheelin’, wise-crackin’, punch-throwin’ trickster in the true folkloric sense.

For me, Smokey was a gateway to Jerry’s other accomplishments, his not-so-great movies and his respected songwriter/performer career. I remember finding “Amos Moses” and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” on vinyl Reader’s Digest compilations at my Grandpa’s houose. I remember being surprised to hear his infection laugh on “Another Puff” on the Dr. Demento Show. I remember enjoying High-Ballin’ during a long B-movie rerntal run.

So in God’s big recipe book, to make a proper Bob Neville, you’ll definitely have to find a pinch of Jerry Reed. If you don’t have any, ask around. Anybody that has some will be more than happy to share.

Godspeed, Snomwan. Put that hammer down and give it hell.

“Oh Pooh, if ever there was a tomorrow when we are not together, remember you are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we are apart I will always be with you. I will always be with you.”

I really can’t think of a more fitting analogy.

For years, Bob-net has succeeded at filling voids in my life — mainly the one created by a mindless job that involved countless hours in front of a computer with little to do. I simply don’t have that situation anymore, and while that sounds like a regret, I couldn’t be happier that my life is so full. I have a fulfilling and rewarding job, an entertaining and rapscallying child, a loving and life-affirming wife, and the best group of friends anyone could hope to have.

At this point, I can’t wedge Bob-net in without squeezing something out. And I don’t want to do that.

I’ll remember fondly the games we played and the adventures we had. Thank you, Bob-net. I can only hope my son gets to experience a silly bear like you someday.

Thanks for everything, gang.

I stopped doing obit posts a while back. It was tough work keeping up, and trying to decide which obits were postworthy started to bother me a bit.

But John just alerted me to the fact that Al Wilson passed away. You probably only know one of Al’s songs, the classic “Show and Tell,” but John and I saw Al live in one of the weirdest concerts I ever seen.

There’s a lot I don’t remember about that show, but I do know the following:

– It was at the Palace.

– There were many acts, and each of them only performed two or three songs.

– Someone from either Iron Butterfly or Brownsville Station (I don’t think it was Cub Koda) was there and made some kind of “Winners don’t use drugs!” proclamation at the end of his set.

– Al Wilson was there, wearing at one point what had to have been R&B’s Most Comfortable Tracksuit. He was easily the best performer of the evening, and he put a smile on all faces in attendance.

– The whole thing was emceed by Donnie Brooks, a Rockabilly Hall of Famer who had a top ten hit with “Mission Bell.” Much of the show’s weirdness radiated from Mr. Brooks.

He seemed like more than an emcee. He came off as a malevolent circus master, trotting out all of the night’s acts as if they were there because they all owed him money. At one point he told the audience a story about his homophobic misadventures in San Francisco, a tawdry and offensive recounting that included the perennially disturbing phrase, “If I wanna, you’re gonna.” It didn’t surprise me that when looking for information about Al and Donnie’s relationship, I came across the following anecdote at a Donnie Brooks memorial page:

Sad news to me, I played a lot of shows behind Donny playing drums. He was a fine entertainer with a crazy sense of humour. You always got your money’s worth with Donny. On one oldies show we did in the 80’s, Al Wilson was the opener and used all of Donny’s jokes in his set. Donny had not arrived yet, so he was not aware of Al using his material. When Donny began his show all his jokes were met with silence, so he stopped and ask the audience “What the hell is going on? I know this shit is funny”. A guy in the back of the room hollered out “Al just told all those jokes”. Nonplussed, Donny just switched gears and said “Oh yeah? I got a bunch I bet he won’t use”. He then launched into a series of black jokes that even had Al on his knees laughing his ass off.

Al Wilson saved that night for me. And I will always remember him as the effervescent yin to Donnie Brooks’ unctuous yang.

I’ve kind of stopped doing obituary posts of late, mainly because in this increasingly interconnected world, this blog is far from the first place you’re likely to hear about significant deaths.

But I’d like to turn that spotlight back on for a brief moment to point out that the only congressman Bob-net ever outed as a vampire has passed away.

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Tom Lantos was a tenacious asset in the war for peace, and his death is a solemn reminder that we are not-so-slowly losing an entire important, grounded generation.

It is also disheartening to learn that even vampires can be made to succumb to cancer. Keep that in mind.

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