Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Day Wish For All!

Photo--Michael Manning
For as many different friends that I have, I find it interesting how our individual plans differ for the Holidays. This begs the questions, 'How will you be spending your Thanksgiving?' and 'Will you be traveling anywhere special?' As Thanksgiving approaches, as you can see from the photo above, this is also decidedly a car theme week. But I digress.   
Photo--Marshall Terrill
Mel Haber
From the time that I had the pleasure of interviewing Mel Haber, proprietor of the Ingleside Inn of Palm Springs on these pages, I'm surprised I haven't taken Mel up on his offer to drop by. The Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's are an experience I look forward to sharing in a future post. Two years ago, in fact, I was in Palm Springs, but chose to make it a casual Thanksgiving date. After dinner, I drove downtown to look at some beautiful vintage cars that were for sale. Incidentally, for those of you who may not be familiar, the downtown Palm Springs area has enjoyed a spectacular renaissance in recent years. The variety of shops and restaurants are magnificent. For me, it was well worth the four and a half hour leisurely drive there from my home in Scottsdale. 
Following up on a 2005 suggestion from my eldest brother, I enjoy engaging people in local coffee shops or hotel restaurants to discover what part of the country they're from, and what their impressions are in any given town I happen to be visiting. Invariably, I've always come away learning much from the impressions that are shared. Wherever I go for Thanksgiving, two things are certain. I won't be cooking, and I'll be back here to blog about my adventure! 
Happy Thanksgiving to all who stop here. Your visits are very much appreciated, and I hope you'll be spending the day somewhere nice with wonderful family and friends!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts on Vintage Cars and Another Look at Neil Young's New Book Coming Soon!

 All Photos Except Where Noted--Michael Manning
We've all experienced getting a song stuck in our head at various times of the day. After my workout last night, I fast-walked two miles and Neil Young's 1975 song, "Like A Hurricane" would not leave me. Friends who know me will tell you that I get some of my best ideas during year-round walks at night. The song aside, I thought about my recent scant review of the exciting new book I've added to my collection by Neil Young, "Special Deluxe"--the second installment of his memoirs. Yes, I know that Kindle books are all the rage. But there's really nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. The connection between the author and reader with this age-old tradition is inescapable!
During my walk, I decided to re-read the Young book and provide a more in-depth review in a future blog post. Like Jay Leno, Neil Young and many of you, I love vintage automobiles.
For the uninitiated, Young begins each chapter featuring a colored pencil drawing of an actual car he owns. Some have been parked in his junk yard, while others are fully restored and operational.  
Penguin Books
Coincidentally, yesterday I was asked to provide a book review online of "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors". This 1979 book was written by the late automaker John DeLorean with J. Patrick Wright. As I've previously noted on these pages, DeLorean was born and raised in a neighborhood near my grandparents in Detroit, Michigan.
In my online review, I noted that his chapters on Chevrolet and GM's decline were so jarring, I can only hope that newly-installed General Motors CEO Mary Barra has read it.
Relative to the Neil Young book and automobiles, I sincerely feel that Chevrolet would probably not be in existence today if DeLorean had not applied financial triage and overhauled the division. At the very least, Chevrolet would be marginalized. The General Motors that DeLorean knew was so dysfunctional and incapable of change that he resigned.
You may ask, "What does DeLorean, General Motors and Neil Young's love of cars (including a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette) have in common?" My answer is: a passion for engineering excellence. Vintage cars have personality and generally speaking, they were created with more imagination, style and class than what passes for an automobile today.      

Strong words, but it's true. I even associate many of my late relatives and neighbors where I grew up in Ohio with cars they either owned or rode in quite a lot. A personal hero of mine drives a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Entertainers are often associated with the cars they drive. Elvis enjoyed a 1971 Stutz Bearcat. Sonny and Cher once owned identical customized Ford Mustangs. The list goes on forever, but I enjoy cars very much.  

 A new week is underway, with Thanksgiving just around the corner. This is a fitting place to sign off...for now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Belated Happy Birthday to One of Music's Greatest Living Legends!

"My name's Gordon Lightfoot. I'm a singer/songwriter. I'm also a performer. I play a lot of concerts. And I've made 20 albums, 14 for Warner Brothers / Reprise and 5 for United Artists before that, I was doing pretty well there and I got moved over to a bigger label, and my latest album I released last year independently. The songs I would be best known for would be "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Plus "Carefree Highway." Many of my songs are really well-known because other people have recorded them, including Peter Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, and others. I do a fair amount of charity work here locally where I live, in the city of Toronto. Most of the time I am very low-profile though. I did a lot of stuff earlier on with David Suzuki in the environmental movement years ago, and Sting was also really involved in that. Almost on the other side of the country!"
---Gordon Lightfoot from a recent Reddit interview online.
It speaks volumes when the People of Canada push for--and receive--a postage stamp bearing the likeness of Gordon Lightfoot. He is truly a living legend, and he celebrated his 76th birthday yesterday.
One of the greatest singer-songwriters of our generation, I've posted quite a bit this year about his North American Tour celebrating "50 Years on the Carefree Highway". This humble troubadour came to mind just this afternoon as I sat in my car at a stop light. I spotted a young man sitting near a water fountain preparing to play his guitar for tips. Lightfoot's career began in a manner just as humble, playing small clubs.
Throughout 2014, his sets have been two-hours in length, with a brief intermission. The set lists change nightly to keep the show fresh, and I've admired the depth of the this tour as among the best planned and executed in recent memory. Last February, I was fortunate to catch his show in Mesa, Arizona--in an RV Park Ballroom--which itself should stand out as a unique feature of this tour! Long-time bassist Rick Haynes has captured photos of every venue the band has visited on his Facebook page, and the theaters on this coast-to-coast tour have all been magnificent. Some venues are welcoming back Lightfoot for the first time since the late 1990s, and a few even dating back to the late 1980s.
I feel fortunate to have met him years ago. He's a Canadian treasure, and still ranks as one of the finest songwriters on the planet. His hit songs are unforgettable, formidable and well worth a search if you're a new fan. With the tour now winding through his native Canada, I raise a toast to the incomparable Gordon Lightfoot!
 Here's a brief sampling of artists who have recorded music by Gordon Lightfoot:
Ian and Sylvia, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Johnny Mathis, Richie Havens, Harry Belafonte, The Replacements, Waylon Jennings, Jim Croce, Glen Campbell, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sandy Denny, Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray, Eric Clapton, Toby Keith and Sarah McLachlan.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

St. Jude's Thanks and Giving Campaign: Let's Respond!

 Image--St. Jude
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital began as a dream of the beloved American entertainer Danny Thomas. Danny felt quite correctly that children are our future, and that no family should be charged for medical care services, regardless of their ability to pay.
Photo--Todd and Melinda Tredaway 
This is a photo taken by my good friends Todd and Melinda Tredaway of their son, Trevor, just last week in St. Jude's ALSAC Pavilion. Trevor Tredaway was 2 when his Mom and Dad were told that he had an infiltrating astrocytoma cancerous brain tumor. I first met this little boy when he was still in diapers back in 2008. Today Trevor is 9 years old.

Last week his surgeon removed the remaining portion of the tumor. In the past two years, many of us have seen Trevor playing baseball and enjoying  his younger sister, parents and many friends by just being a kid! Remember when you were 9? Boy I do! And I was as rambunctious as I am today as a "big kid".

When other doctors told Trevor's family nothing could be done, Todd and Melinda stayed strong and reached out to St. Jude. Today, Trevor is on the healing path at home and he is a hero to all of us. Please join me in considering a donation to St. Jude in any denomination by clicking the link HERE.

You can also "click onto" the rotating banner located at the lower right hand portion of this BLOG Page. It will do your heart good as the approaching Holidays will soon be upon us!

I'd like to express a special Thank You to all visitors I receive on this site worldwide. I hope that along the way I've posted something either humorous, heartfelt or interesting. Either way, thank you for your visit and have a nice week ahead!



Friday, November 14, 2014

Preparing Early for the Holidays!

Photo--Michael Manning
Years ago, I boarded a Delta Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 "Tri-Star" jet from Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport for a flight to Miami, Florida. I was working my first assignment as contributing editor for a now-defunct airline magazine that had at least two visits to bankruptcy court, and seven editors in five years. Fortunately, I only worked with them for a couple of issues. After sending a letter to the magazine editor suggesting that they cover the "behind the scenes" action of a bankruptcy trustee--the first in U.S. commercial aviation history--I was shocked when the editor responded with a letter to me asking, "Would you like to cover the story?" I nervously accepted the challenge and spent over $1,500 of my own money on that flight, including a hotel room and meals. It became my first big interview as a reporter with an airline executive who was charismatic and bigger than life. Today, I understand how Deborah Norville felt when she wrote about capturing an interview early in her career with then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
In Miami, I spent the day watching the airline executive (who transitioned from an operating trustee to a liquidating trustee) work. I interviewed him on audio tape, walked through the hallways of the airline's former world headquarters on the outskirts of Miami International Airport, and visited with two other  key executives and three staffers--among the 80 people left now liquidating what was once the third-largest airline in the United States.
While my plane was in the air en route to Miami, the trustee announced to the press that he planned to resurrect the airline with what assets remained from several large auctions held in Atlanta, Miami and Las Vegas. I had stumbled into a bigger story! As I've explained on these pages in the past, I was driven as much by the personalities at airline companies as I was the lead story on my journalism assignments. As a general assignment and financial reporter, I'll never forget a quote from Robert Reich of the Kennedy School of Business at Harvard University.

"When the dust settles, when the sun sets, there is one big question with which we are left. What, after all, is the meaning and purpose of the American corporation? Is it just a bundle of financial assets to be moved around to their highest and best use? Or is a corporation a network of mutual obligations, mutual responsibilities--a compact between people to produce wealth for the future? Can we have it both ways? The Eastern (Airlines) story suggests 'No'". Ultimately, he was correct.

I spent many rainy Saturday afternoons in the Reference Library in Richardson, Texas reading Annual Reports. When I later told this to Jeff Erickson, former CEO of Trans World Airlines (after interviewing him in the airline's downtown St. Louis headquarters), he replied, "Gads, that had to be boring!" But what I was reading was really a formal explanation to investors relating why a business year either turned out well, or ended very badly. What followed next was usually an outline of strategies that management had designed to turn things around. And this was either convincing, or a poor excuse to keep investors and their capital in place.
Eventually, I became a news anchor and then a host of a cultural affairs magazine, along with hosting many black tie events around Dallas--all of which was exciting.
Photo--People Express
In an amusing turn of recent events, Jeff Erickson retired to Arizona after a 40-year career in the airline industry. His retirement was short-lived, however, when a group of entrepreneurs and investors decided to resurrect an airline with a name that is closely associated with the 1980's: People Express.
Photo--Michael Manning
My story on the new People Express appears in the January issue of Airways magazine that will be hitting newsstands and bookstores worldwide soon. It's an early kick off of sorts to 2015, with many projects in the New Year ahead for me.
Hearing Christmas music at a sporting goods store last night reminded me of how we Americans prepare early for the approaching festive Holidays. In July, retail stores out here in Phoenix, Arizona were setting up Halloween displays! 
It's never too early to spread some good cheer. In that spirit, have a great weekend!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Airline "Rhapsody in Blue" Story!

Photo--United Airlines
Continental Airlines' Highly Regarded CEO Gordon Bethune
Over the years, I've had plenty of opportunity to study airline advertising campaigns in print, television and radio. If National Airline's "Fly Me" campaign raised a few eyebrows in the 1970's, United Airline's use of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"  has to be the most ubiquitous. As you might expect, there's a fascinating story behind this composition. It was written in 1924. However, it's safe to say that millions of people associate the opening clarinet glissando as the beginning of a United Airlines radio or television commercial. In fact, the musical score was presented as "The Experiment in Modern Music" by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra in a New York concert on February 12, 1924.
Believe it or not, the musical selection that United began using in 1987, along with a variation of the slogan urging the public to "Fly the Friendly Skies", can be traced--at least in part--to an event that occurred 90 years ago. George Gershwin began writing "Rhapsody in Blue" during a train ride to Boston. Responding to the repetitive rhythms of the rattle and bang of the train on the tracks, Gershwin stated, "I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise. And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance". 
Attending the debut of Gershwin's work (created in part to challenge the belief that classical music was restricted to limited social circles in America) was none other than John Philip Sousa and Sergei Rachmaninoff. If the nature of 26 musical movements, divided into 2 parts and 11 sections bearing individual titles and shifting tempos wasn't complex enough in 1924, who could have foreseen the amalgamation of two entirely different airline competitors in 2010?

In a somewhat amusing occurrence for this author, a post-merger and worrisome-sounding article appeared in The Wall Street Journal in 2011 suggesting that "Rhapsody in Blue" might be dropped entirely from the newly-merged airline's advertising campaign! I'll admit that even I winced at the suggestion when I read it, considering the powerful marketing connection this musical selection has with the flying public.   
While Paul Whiteman commissioned the composition from Gershwin, and Ferde Grofe' orchestrated it several times for larger orchestra's (as did Michael Tilson Thomas in 1976) "Rhapsody In Blue" was completed in just three weeks. The title was suggested by George's brother, Ira Gershwin. Clearly, "Rhapsody in Blue" established George Gershwin as a serious composer. It is one of the most popular of all American concert works, and is an influential favorite of Brian Wilson, leader of The Beach Boys and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. I'd say that's keeping good company!   
I'm told that you can hear "Rhapsody in Blue" as you pass through the walkway connecting concourses at Chicago O'Hare's Terminal 1. When and if you do so soon, you might remember this blog post, and maybe even consider that a magazine article on the airline industry can turn out to be a very cool subject too! 

Remembering our Men and Women in uniform on this Veteran's Day.


Sunday, November 09, 2014

United Airlines: Part 1-The Continental Years is in Bookstores...

Airliner World
A couple of unrelated projects, albeit, they both involve communications. Yesterday we had an amazing film crew on a broadcasting project that will see the light of day in 2015.
By the evening, I managed to drive into central Phoenix where I located my current magazine article. It runs over two issues. Whether you have a care in the world about commercial aviation or not, this particular issue centers on an airline that had at least two brushes with death before making a remarkable comeback--and let's face it--we all love to see a well deserved comeback story!  Continental Airlines was the "Rocky Balboa"of the industry, and the subject of Continental CEO Gordon Bethune's New York Times Best Selling book, "From Worst to First".