Is it Ebola or a Bad Hangover?

Is it Ebola or a bad hangover?

   A. Have you been to Liberia or Texas recently?
   B. Were you out drinking last night?

If you answered YES to A but not B, you may have Ebola.

If you answered NO to A, but YES to B, you probably have a hangover.

If you answered NO to both questions, and you still feel sick, you may have that other virus that’s killing people in America, but no one talks about because EBOLA. Boo!

Goodbye Eileen Brennan

Eileen Brennan and Karen 001

by John Smith

Eileen Brennan, the Oscar nominated actress/comedian, always makes me think about my Aunt Karen, a former dancer on the old Mitch Miller TV series who got her start in theater touring with Eileen Brennan in summer stock.

While Eileen Brennan went on to win Emmys and an Oscar nomination for “Private Benjamin”, Karen retired from the business to marry legendary jazz drummer Frank Garisto, who was then the drummer on the “The Tonight Show” – as well as the bongo player heard on the original Star Trek TV series theme song!

Having a successful dancing career was nice, but Karen got more pleasure raising babies on Long Island, living in a fancy home next door to Bill LaVorgna, Judy Garland’s Carnegie Hall drummer and Liza Minnelli’s long time conductor.

Karen wasn’t really my aunt – but she was my very own Auntie Mame growing up in rural, redneck, homophobic Ohio Her years-ago stint on a famous TV show gave her an unbelievable glamour factor to me as a child. She was also a great beauty.

When I met Karen, she had divorced her drummer husband and moved back to her parents home in Akron, Ohio with two boys in tow. She found a job and became a co-worker of my also divorced Mom in the Photocopy Department of the United Rubber Workers Union. The two divorceés quickly became close friends. And I instantly developed a crush on Karen from the moment I met her as an impressionable 5th grader.

Karen once took me to audition for a part in “The King and I” at our local equity theater company called the Carousel Dinner Theater. For kicks, Karen decided to audition too. She knew she couldn’t accept a part due to her work schedule. (The concept of flex schedules hadn’t caught up to the Rubber Workers that would have allowed Karen time off for Wednesday matinees.)

It was magnificent seeing her glide across the stage like the pro she was – still. I couldn’t believe it. She owned that stage and the producers were visibly impressed. Later, it was hard not to be jealous when Karen got offered a part and not me!

You would think after years of living a storied life among New York’s show biz elite, the transition to the photocopy room at the United Rubber Workers would be a bummer, but she never let on around me. She was the most upbeat person I’ve ever met.

I loved hearing Karen’s show biz stories. She had worked with a lot of famous people . She was also good buddies with Liza Minnelli’s conductor, Bill LaVorgna, and that got me backstage for a one-on-one meeting with Miss. Minnelli.

Actually, I got her reunited with her old pal. I was 20 and had just moved to Chicago when I read that Liza Minnelli was playing the Chicago Theater. When I told Karen I bought tickets for Liza, she suggested I send a note bakstage to Bill dropping her name. Which I eagerly did.

At intermission, I checked with the stage doorman, who informed me Mr. LaVorgna had not responded yet, and suggested I come back after the show. When I returned, there was a huge crowd gathering at the stage door waiting for Liza to exit. I made my way thru the throng of people back to the doorman, who sadly informed me there was still no response.

Dejected and feeling sad for Karen as well, I made my way back thru the crowd to go home, when suddenly two security guys came running after me calling my name! They escorted me back thru the crowd and thru the stage door to meet Bill LaVorgna, who was thrilled to hear from his old friend he hadn’t spoken to in 10 years. I was then taken upstairs to the green room to meet the legendary Liza Minnelli! She couldn’t have been nicer, though I was a nervous wreck.

Afterward, I made my way back out the stage door where a large crowd was waiting for Liza. When the door opened, I heard a “There she is!” Followed by a collective groan of disappointment when they saw it was only me.

Karen would talk wistfully about her early days when she performed with Eileen Brennan as a dancer in a touring theater company. It sounded like the most fun a person could have. I also remember Karen being really upset when her old buddy, at the height of her “Private Benjamin” success, was hit by a car and critically injured while crossing a busy Los Angeles street. We both sent get-well wishes to her and Eileen responded back to me with a sweet thank-you note quoting the “Irish Blessing” with a message “love to Karen”.

It sucks that awesome people have to leave us – Karen died a few years back from cancer. I was so angry at the universe for taking her. The world needed more people like her, not fewer. But I’d like to think that Karen – and now Eileen – are dancing again in the heavenly equivalent of summer stock.

Eileen Brennan and Karen on-stage crop
Eileen Brennan (left) and my very own Auntie Mame, Karen Conner (right)

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Eileen Brennan 2nd from right and Karen on the right

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Karen was also a gorgeous model!

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Karen Conner (her inscription: “An Aardvark in the making!” was an inside joke)

Eileen Brennan autograph

What’s Killing Old People?

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    Something or someone keeps bumping off the Oldest Person in America.

The death of 113  year old Elsie Thompson, of Clearwater, Florida, marks the second time this year that the person certified as the “Oldest Person in America” has died while in office. This seems very suspicious. Yet the liberal media is silent. So it is up to me to ask:

What was the 2nd Oldest Person in America doing at the time of Elsie’s death?

I tried to raise the alarm about this back in January with the mysterious death of Besse Cooper (116). Back then I suspected Elsie, who had the most to gain as the runner up. But now I suspect 3rd runner up Jeralean Talley, 113 of Michigan – who now leapfrogs to the title.

IKEA Swedish Horse-meatball Scandal or: What REALLY Happened to Secretariat

by John SmithSecretariat 2

At first I thought this ad for an IKEA secretary was a typo – but then I heard about the IKEA horse-meat/meatball scandal. Now I have to wonder: is this stylish and affordable writing desk the final resting place of that beloved race horse Secretariat?

I‘m also starting to wonder about those IKEA Sea Biscuits.

Republicans Suck, Gay Republicans Swallow

This is an old column of mine from Gab Magazine. Despite the intervening years, Republicans still suck and gay Republicans still swallow. The names of the homophobes may have changed, but not their hate. So, when you read the name Pat Buchanan, just switch in Rick Santorum. Bob Dole=Mitt Romney, etc.                      

Don’t forget to take the online poll at the end: Do Republicans Suck?


 

My Last Listing: The True Story of Hellish House

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by John Smith

  “Hellish House – a dark mansion with a checkered history of murder, suicide and polyester.” my associate George read aloud to me as our Mercedes sped down the lonely highway en route to my newest real estate listing: the legendary haunted DeCamp Manor – otherwise  known as Hellish House.

   With a reputation like that, it was no wonder the house had sat unsold all these years.  “I REALLY should change that sales brochure,” I made a note to myself.

                                                                ******************

   The ink was barely dry on my real estate license when my Century 21 sales manager handed me the listing for DeCamp Manor, a gray granite, six bedroom mansion sitting on 25 acres of wooded isolation. Any agent worth his salt would have salivated over this plum property, yet somehow all my colleagues were too busy. I accepted the assignment with glee, silently calculating what I thought would be an obscene commission.

   “By the way – it’s haunted.” my manager said, cackling as he walked away.

   The joke was on me. It turned out that DeCamp Manor had been on the market for over 30 years. Rumors of strange happenings always prevented the estate from being sold and so all new agents were given DeCamp Manor as a sort of initiation. I was determined to sell this house and have the final laugh.

   Actual details of the supernatural phenomenon associated with DeCamp Manor were hard to come by, but the locals referred to the property as Hellish House. Even thieves were too frightened to venture inside and thus the former owners possessions remained intact and undisturbed all these years. Hearing these rumors of ghosts terrorizing caretakers, I wondered, “Is this something I’m required to disclose?”

   My determination to sell this house meant that I would have to personally visit DeCamp Manor. So I called upon my old college chum, Dr. George Charleton, who, as luck would have it, was a major force in the field of parapsychology and aromatherapy. We once roomed together at our alma mater, St. Martin de Porres School of Cosmetology and Paranormal Studies. We had remained friends even as our respective careers took us in different professional directions.

   As a noted paranormal expert, George was already familiar with the strange history of DeCamp Manor.  He couldn’t wait to get a look and insisted that we leave immediately. George packed my car with sound and video recording equipment in hopes of documenting any supernatural phenomenon we might encounter. He also brought along his “assistant” Hector, a hunky Latin youth, who, by coincidence he had hired just the night before. At first I mistook Hector for the strong and silent type until I realized he didn’t speak a lick of English.

*****************

   It was late in October and the Fall  had sparked the country foliage into beautiful golden and brown hues. I spent the two-hour drive admiring the scenery and scouting the pristine countryside for possible locations for a strip mall, while George was spread out in the backseat studying the file he had assembled on Hellish House and its previous – now deceased – owner, Trevor DeCamp.

    As our little band drew closer to DeCamp Manor, my apprehension grew stronger. Noticing my fear, George pulled from his travel bag a small bottle containing a thick, greenish liquid, “This Oil of Spearmint will soothe you. Take a whiff.”

    I inhaled the sweet, fresh aroma and was reminded of chewing gum, which reminded me I had just quit smoking, which reminded me I wanted a cigarette; so I bummed a smoke from Hector, which immediately soothed my frail nerves.  I handed George back his bottle. “It worked!”

    At dusk our Mercedes pulled into the twisted driveway of Hellish House, the stately mansion but shadows in the twilight. Seeing in person the graceful granite façade and stone turrets I was overcome by a sense of doom. “What if can’t unload this elephant?”

    Hector made himself useful by unpacking the car while George and I made our way up the stone steps to the intricately carved wood front door. I fumbled through my ring of keys, inserting one after the other into the rusted old lock to no avail. “No, that’s to a lovely condo,” I said aloud, moving to the next key, “No, that’s to a gorgeous townhouse with 3 bdrms,  w wbf,  new apps, close to pub trans…”

    “Why don’t you try the skeleton key with the Satanic head and writhing serpents?” George suggested impatiently.

    I don’t know why I didn’t try that old skeleton key first – it did sort of jump out, but before I could insert the key into the lock, the door creaked open on its own.

    “Madre de Dios!” Hector cried, dropping our luggage on the ground before jumping into my Mercedes and peeling rubber back down the long twisted driveway.  George looked on passively as if this experience were not alien to him.

    “Rough trade.” he mumbled.

    Gingerly, I took a few steps into the pitch black foyer of DeCamp Manor. Electricity hadn’t pulsed through these walls in years, so I made my way with an electric torch. The furniture was covered with dusty sheets, the windows mostly boarded over and the interior was cold and stale with a pervasive moldy odor that caused George to reach for his aromatherapy bag for some incense, which he placed in an ornate silver ball on a chain and began waving around the musty room.

   “Your purse is on fire,” I teased. But George, like most aromatherapists, lacks a sense of humor about his profession and gave me a withering look.

   “We must refresh our environment with positive energy.” he lectured.

    “I brought some Glade Plug-ins.” I helpfully offered.

    “Bah!” George sputtered, walking past me. I followed him from room to room as the bobbing glow of his burning incense lead the way.

    We explored the ground floor first, finding that each of the spacious rooms still contained the full furnishings and artwork of the manor’s late last owner. George preceded me into one of the rooms just off the foyer as I lagged behind admiring an abstract sculpture that on closer inspection turned out to be a giant ivory phallus. Then, out of the silence came a horrible shriek – it was George! I ran to find him in the library, his flashlight beaming on a curio cabinet.

    “Look!” He panted, “The entire pre-1979 collection of Precious Moments figurines!”

    After regaining a normal heartbeat, I warned George that the house was likely filled with all sorts of collectible knick-knacks, and if he screamed like that again there would likely be another spirit joining the residence.

    We decided to make the library our base camp for the night, as it had a fireplace and was close to an exit. Plus it contained a pornography collection to rival Clarence Thomas’. We gathered wood from outside and in no time we had a roaring fire. Only after the fire was lit did we notice that hanging above the mantel was an over-sized oil painting depicting two men decked out in vintage 1970’s formal wear. One was decidedly older, distinguished and aristocratic with salt and pepper sideburns; the other was boyish, with a thick mop of jet black hair and a muscular physique.

    “That must be Trevor DeCamp and his young lover Chadwick Thornside,” George mused as he studied the painting, “Even in oil, leisure suits look tacky.”

    Just then, like a whisper or the wind seething through the trees, we heard a voice, “Biiitch.”

    “What was that?” I asked, terror creeping into my throat.

    “YOU called me a bitch,” George replied, “Rather rude seeing how I came all this way to help you.”

   I denied calling him any such thing. But he was right, it did sound like someone or something had used that unfortunate word. I began wishing that Hector hadn’t taken off with my car and his pack of cigarettes.

*********************

    DeCamp Manor was built during what was known as America’s gilded era, when the wealthy garishly flaunted their prosperity and millionaires like the Vanderbilts and the Hearsts were busy building their castles on both coasts. Though more modest, DeCamp Manor rose to the sky in three floors, each boasting 15 foot ceilings. The heating bill must have been enormous.

   After unpacking our equipment, we headed for the upper floors. According to George’s files, much of the strange happenings occurred in the master bedroom. We hunted about in the darkened house for a  short time before finding what George felt certain was the right room. “Are you sure this is their bedroom?” I asked.

    “You will notice the handcuff marks on the bed posts.” George replied with confidence.

    “Were they into rough sex?” I queried.

     “Notorious leather queens – you saw their porn collection. Plus,” George continued, “they died in an amyl nitrate explosion – put two and two together.”

    We set up the recording equipment in the bedroom and waited. The engulfing silence suddenly cut by the startling chimes of a grandfather clock echoing from a distant room below. We counted along. Bong…bong…bong…Twelve chimes. George’s brow furrowed as he glanced at his watch.  “Shocking, did you hear that?” He asked.

    “Yes,” I whispered timorously, “and I too find it odd that a clock in a long abandoned mansion should be chiming.”

    “No, no, no!” George bellowed at me for missing his point, “That clock is 4 minutes slow.”

    “You’re so fucking anal.”

    As we waited for evidence of the paranormal to occur, my fatigue overcame me and I nodded off. It seemed only minutes later I was awakened by a frantic shaking. It was George, with his finger pressed to his lips, “Shhh…” Listening intently, his head cocked like a Labrador, George turned on his recording equipment. In the distance we could hear two distinct male voices. And they were coming closer! It was impossible to discern what they were saying, only that they sounded agitated.

    “What does that sound like to you?” George asked in his softest voice. I listened for a moment before venturing a guess.

     “Bickering?”

    George nodded in agreement. The voices grew louder as they came closer and closer until finally they were in the same room! I threw my hands over my ears in terror as George closed his eyes and sank to the floor. “These spirits are angry.” he said.

    “But why?” I asked, “Is it because we’ve invaded their home?

    “They are upset…with each other,” George replied haltingly, as he appeared to go into a trance-like state.

   “Trevor feels…he feels…” George’s sentence trailed off and his face began to contort in an odd manner as if he were trying to resist some power greater than his own. Suddenly his eyes opened and out of his mouth came a deep voice that was definitely not his. “You are a common whore! I should have left you in the gutter where I found you!”

    A disembodied voice answered back, “Fuck you, asshole!”

   “We’re through – get out!” the phantom controlling George yelled back.

    The two spirits continued to argue, back and forth, one voice emanating from George, the other seemingly coming from the air. After about twenty minutes of listening to this, the bickering became tedious and I grew bored. So I went in search of a snack. After polishing off a sandwich (and some chips), I thought it prudent to check back in on George.

   As I made my way back upstairs, I discovered George half-naked atop the staircase in a state of quivering dishevelment, his faint hair matted with sweat and his pants tripping around his ankles. “What happened?” I cried.

    “They made up!” George moaned, collapsing in my arms with a sweetly satisfied smile on his lips. Suddenly my fear vanished.

    “MY TURN!” I exclaimed as I bounded up the remaining stairs to the master bedroom.

Postscript

George and I decided to  pool our money and buy DeCamp Manor ourselves to turn into a bed and breakfast. George says people will pay big bucks to stay in a genuine haunted house. Although the ghosts of Trevor and his lover continue their nightly bickering, with an i-pod and some headphones, you can barely notice. We plan to charge guests extra to stay in the master bedroom – the epicenter of the hauntings – that is, if I can ever coax George out of there.