Monday, August 22, 2011

We're Moving

With the impending fifth anniversary of this blog, it has seemed in order to update, upgrade and move.

This site will not be completely shut down in the short term, and there may be parallel posts for a while, but the new "official" blog is going to be:

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: Show Me State Show Biz

Another Magpie Tale

It was a muggy Tuesday in mid-August of 1947 when the three Blodgetts packed up the Studebaker, ready to seek their fame and fortune in show business and leave Sedalia behind forever.
The show biz bug ran deep in their family, going back to their maternal great-uncles, the Sauntering Steinbergs who were the toast of Jefferson City where the performed to sold out houses at the Tivoli Terrace Theatre in 1897. They toured upper Missouri and lower Iowa for six years, performing at union halls and synagogues. They felt they had hit paydirt when they signed an exclusive contract with the Odd Fellows lodges in early 1903, only to be devastated that fall when they had to turn down a chance to headline at the Rotary Convention in Kansas City. They went downhill after that and blamed it on not having a good agent.
No other successful acts came out of Sedalia unless you counted Dorinda and Dorenza Walker who were better known for their shoplifting sprees and were now serving time at the women's correctional facility in Monette.

After the Steinbergs broke up, the eldest brother Sheldon had a modest "performance" career as the Santa for the V. Payne and Cooke department stores.

Satchel, the fourth brother, moved to Chichicastenango, where he headed a bizarre Kabbalahistic cult that was known for brutal sacrifices of grasshoppers.
Growing up, the Blodgetts spent summer night dreaming up their future in show business and remembering their great- uncles' mantra, "Be sure to get a good agent."
That's why that the moment they arrived in St. Louis, they went to the office of T. Everett "Buddy" Aronow. Buddy had a reputation of not suffering fools lightly. He was gruff and tough, but he was the most savvy agent between the Mississippi and the Rockies, and once he took you under his wing, your future was set.
Buddy's fortunes had never been riper than right now, thanks to his management of the La Croix Sisters who had recently relocated from Montreal to St. Louis. It was an open secret that buddy was grooming Genevieve (second from left) for a solo career, and there was already a subtle shift with the recent rebranding of the act as Genevieve and the Sisters La Croix. It was obvious that Genevieve was a beauty, but critics and audiences alike agreed that it was Florence La Croix that was the one with real talent.
But Buddy seemed to be blind to these realities, and he was already investing in a major movie career launch for Genevieve, the first Technicolor musical featuring a French Canadian poodle to be shot in Missouri. Elaborate sets, including a castle in which Genevieve would perform the opening number "I've Got a Bone to Pick with You", were being constructed in Florissant.

It was into this tense and dramatic fabric the Blodgetts entered as they walked up the five flights of stairs to Buddy's office where they entered and he snarled, "So what makes you kids think you've got the stuff for show biz?"


Sunday, August 07, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: The Truth About Letha

The markets may be sinking and jittery, but we've got our Magpie Tales to ground us.

"Dorene, we need to talk." She always hated it when Clifford said that. His family was always trying to talk things out, and it always ended badly.

Dorene's family never talked about things, preferring to take their secrets to the grave.

"Well, go ahead and tell me. What has that sister of mine done now, Clifford?
Letha Clemons had always been the embarrassment of the family. Always showing up at the wrong time and in the wrong attire and disappearing when she was needed.
She had followed quite a different path than her brother Wade who was now traveling the tent circuit and had a very popular radio broadcast each Sunday and Wednesday nights from WRFW in Toledo.
Wade took Letha's daughter Adele under his wing a couple of years ago, and she was doing quite well with her own children's ministry. But everyone wondered what had happened to Rusty.
"Well, out with it Dorene," told Clifford. "What do you know about Rusty?"

"He's doing just fine. Very fine, actually. Working in Dallas as a husky boy jeans model and the mascot for a vegetable company. He's done quite a few public appearances under the moniker of 'Johnny'. He's the leading husky boy model in the Southwest, though they airbrush his silhouette for the vegetable ads."

"And, of course, he's supporting Letha while she does nothing except honky tonk and loll around in bed until noon," Dorene fumed.

"But it puts a roof over their heads and food on the table."

"More food than Rusty needs. I know he's just having fried chicken and gravy and none of the Wonderbread he needs to build a healthy body. You know it builds strong bodies in eight ways. Eight ways, Clifford!"

"I know, I know....but what can we do, Dorene."

"As usual -- nothing. I told you I didn't want to talk. Talk always leads to nothing but this sort of disappointment."
Just then, Cousin Clara called them in for dinner as she put the needle on for a gorgeous Julie London album and a scrumptious supper.
To no one's surprise, Letha met a horrible fate two years later on her way home at 3 a.m. from the Ebb Tide Lounge in Glendale, California, where she and Rusty had moved as his modeling career had spun off into bit parts on Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. He would end up under the care of Clifford and Dorene where he would be a National Merit Scholar and culinary master in his "Bachelor Living" classes in high school.
This would lead to him living his dream and opening a small chain of restaurants headquartered in Grand Rapids where he lives to this day with his significant other of 35 years, Sheldon Dreysdale of Dreysdale Dry Cleaning Service.

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