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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Sunday, July 31, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: The Inventor's Curse

This week's elevated contribution to the Magpie Tales.

And it all began with a windmill...
Hosting friends in their Malibu split level with Les Baxter playing on the Hi Fi, Chauncey and Camille Souder seemed a world away from that windmill that inspired Chauncey's grandfather more than 70 years ago, but it was his inspiration that brought them both their elegant privilege...and paranoia.
That paranoia wasn't evident the following morning, as Chauncey served grand marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade.
There were surely hints of the family trauma as little Leamon IV played with his erector set as he stayed at home with the house keeper. Leamon, of course, was named after his great-grandfather the founder of Souder Vertical Transportation, and generally credited with inventing the escalator. The Souders were set for life with Leamon I's invention, but they were also haunted by the "founder's curse".

They were not the first wealthy family to be haunted by the guilt attached to a family fortune. The most famous of those was Sarah Winchester, widow of the inventor of the rifle, who was forever haunted by the ghosts of those who perished by the bullet flying from her husband's invention and piercing their flesh. While Otis would often claim to be the inventor of the escalator or the "moving staircase" it was Iowa immigrant Leamon Souder who truly invented it, later selling his patent to Otis at a tidy profit. Souder claimed that he got his inspiration by seeing windmills on the plains and had a vision for wheels that would take people "into the clouds".
He would soon be able to make a plush life for his young bride Clarisse. While she greatly enjoyed the privilege, trips to Europe and stable of servants, she was plagued by guilt. As was common among wealthy women, Clarisse hired an alienist to address her manic episodes. When both Leamon and Leamon II died from yellow fever in 1901, she suffered from a series of hysterical episodes.
It was shortly after this that she hired her first alienist, Mr. Schnoopers, and his "interpreters" Frank and Edna Kern. Schnoopers advised her to invest $1.3 million dollars in a real estate scheme that was a rouse by the Kerns who disappeared with the cash and Mr. Schnoopers and were never heard from again.

Two months later, another four-legged alienist in a top hat appeared, Count Black Leg Johnson, who spoke to Clarisse directly instead of through human "interpreters".

Cautious but not cynical after her episode with the Kerns, Clarisse entered into her relationship with the Count slowly. He was patient and respectful, asking for nothing from her in return beside an occasional slice of bacon and a bowl of water.

The Count used birch twigs and ash to do readings about what he saw in the future, not just Clarisse's future but the future of humanity. He was very sad to reveal to her that because of the escalator and elevated transport in general, humanity would become fatter and more sedentary into the 20th and 21st centuries. Though elevated transport alone could not be blamed, it was iconic of society being asked to move faster, and jump higher and become less in touch with their bodies.

This was devastating for Clarisse who would become a vegetarian and strong advocate for exercise among the nation's youth. She would travel around the world with the Count where the two would give lectures on the importance of exercise in diet in the industrialized age.
Souder Mansion in Des Moines, would reflect Clarisse's growing eccentricity, and she built an entire wing just for the Count.
Though Otis would eclipse Souder as the elevated transport industry reach greater heights, but the spirit of Clarisse and The Count is surely there each time circulating stairs raise a pair of legs to the next floor.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

MAGPIE TALE: Bicycle Thieves

This week's take on the Magpie Tales.

When the elegant Cycles Sirius line was introduced in 1891, it brought an elegant new means of recreation and transportation to the world. Unfortunately, this coveted vehicle also introduced a brand of criminal more vile than horse thieves. Here are a few of them.Ferdinand Freund stole more than 300 bikes from upscale families in Vienna. It so traumatized them that Dr. Freud identified a new psychological condition, "the bicycle bereft".
Kadlec "Snookers" Prager terrorized Prague for over six years, reportedly stealing over 1,300 bikes even though he could have afforded to buy them himself since he came from the wealthy Prager steel fortune. Snookers would enter the priesthood just before the Nazis arrived and found redemption through his service in Jamaica where he is said to have given about more than 3,000 bikes to peasants.

Alfonzo Bronstein of Montevideo had a fetish for unusually crafted, odd bikes. Although his haul was rather small at a couple of dozen bikes, these typically hand-made bikes were beloved by their owners who often fell into deep depression.
The Lovoti-Hauschner gang of Washington D.C.'s Adams Morgan district patrolled the Capital Mall and took standard bikes that they retooled into their trademark "stretch" models that they tend sold on the black market.
Mysterious Mikey of San Bernadino, California, was sometimes referred to as the invisible bandit since he was never captured, and there are no photos of him. Especially fond of Stingrays, he managed to nab them as if they vanished into thin air.
Belfast's O'Reilly brothers are still folk heroes, stealing bike that they sold to help fund the IRA. "The Ballad of Cian and Ryan" is still a popular tune in many an Irish pub around the globe.
Jumpin' Jimmy Jernigan was one of the most heartless and brazen of thieves. He would skate into a playground until he gathered a small audience of thieves, and then would wheel away with five to seven bikes at one time. He was finally apprehended in Utah in 1934.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shaka and Audrey Are Sad to See Their Dad Head Out on a Plane

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Audrey's Daddy Shamelessly Lures Her with Greenies

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