Sunday, 10 August 2014

Air ways to get into the USA

I flew to New York, USA in 1971, on a Varig plane. Varig was the Brazilian carrier then. It is no more today. All flights to the USA and Europe started from Rio de Janeiro. As I lived in São Paulo I had to take a 'domestic flight' from Congonhas Airport to Galeão in Rio. It took around 9 hours to get to JFK in NYC. 

As time went by and I settled in the US, I realized that most people I met from South America arrived in the US through Aerolineas Peruanas or Braniff International Airways. Here are some 1950s ads I got from Brazilian Reader's Digest. 

In the late 1950s, the flight from Rio de Janeiro to New York City took 'only' 25 hours and 3 minutes, according to this Braniff ad. One would take off from Rio on a DC-6 and fly over the Andes to Lima. From Lima would fly to Guayaquil (Ecuador), Panama, Havana (Cuba) and then New York.

Braniff and Aerolineas Peruanas run more or less the same route from Rio de Janeiro to New York City in the late 1950s.

Rockefeller Center on 5th Avenue off 50th Street with Varig Brazilian Airlines offices on the right in May 1962.

12 February 1961 - 10 years before I flew to New York it looks like the air-fares were a lot cheaper. Look at these Varig prices. I paid more than double those prices in 1971. 
19 February 1961 - Braniff also advertised their low prices at Estadao a week later.

Real - Aerovias Brasilia - flew from Rio de Janeiro to Mexico and Los Angeles twice a week. They don't even say how long the trip took not to frighten their travelers. They only extolled the virtues of their food and the excitiment of visiting such marvelous cities. The planes had stops at Manaus, Bogota (Colombia), Mexico City and finally Los Angeles.

6 May 1960 - ad in S.Paulo's daily OESP - Loja para brasileiros em New York.

9 April 1961 ad in S.Paulo daily OESP from Victor Appliance Co. on 22 Albany Street, catered for the Brazilian middle class that had their shopping done in Manhattan. Note that Victor is 'soon moving to 46th Street' where Brazilians of all persuasions congregated since then.

Victor Appliance Co. had been selling TVs, radios, stereos, lingeries, linen, nylons to Brazilians for 15 years. They had a van-service Brazilians could use just ringing them up.

9 May 1965 - See this reel-to-reel Sony portable tape-recorder? This is the kind of stuff Brazilians bought in New York when they visited the city in 1965. New York World Fair was still on in May 1965. Victor International was now relocated at 46th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues (Avenue of Americas). 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

No man's land - New Jersey Meadowlands

New Jersey Meadowlands land fill.
New Jersey Turnpike on flooded Meadowlands.
Newark Bay Bridge - North Bayone Park.

Pulaski Skyway...

Blue Moon day seen from New Jersey - 31st July 2015.
Blue Moon day - 31s July 2015.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40'

Casey Kasem in Hollywood.

I went to live in the USA in 1971. I made Newark, N.J. my American town and I used to listen to New York City's radio stations. WABC was Brazilians' favourite radio stations but I listened to all of them and preferred FM stations because the sound was clearer. I don't know exactly when but I found out about Casey Kasem's program 'American Top Forties' on a Sunday morning in the 1972 Fall when I was searching the dials for my favourite songs. 

WPIX FM 102 was the radio station in which I listened to 'American Top 40'. I had been a fan of Hit Parades on the radio since I was a kid of 11, when my family moved from a small town to São Paulo. I was extremely happy to find a Hit Parade show on WPIX on the Sunday morning exactly as I was used to do it in the early 1960s in Brazil. 

I used to tape parts of the show to be able to listen to Casey later. My English was not very good and I had to listen to the same thing sometimes up to 10 times to understand what had been said. I could easily say that Casey Kasem was one of my best teachers of English-as-a-foreign language. I still have a cassette tape where Casey Kasem announces the Number One single of the week: 'Baby don't get hooked on me' by Mac Davies. Michael Jackson's 'Ben' was the runner-up. 

When I came back to Brazil, I kept listening to the tapes I had recorded in 1972-1973 so I could keep English in my consciousness. I kept on increasing my understanding of the language through listening to the same tapes over and over. In Brazil there is a law enacted during WWII that bans foreign-language radio programs, so 'American Top 40' was never beamed in our shores.

Next time I listened to Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40' was in mid-1975 when I returned to the USA. Captain & Tenille's 'Love will keep us together' was #1

When I went to live in Sydney, Australia, in 1981, I was surprised to find 'American Top Forties' on 2UE on the Sunday morning too. I was in heaven again, even though I thought the 1980s were not so glamorous as the 1970s. But still, it was so good to be able to listen to Casey and the information he provided about new and old acts in the countdown. Olivia Newton-John was #1 with 'Physical', that went to be the song with most weeks a #1 for the longest time.

I don't remember when I stopped listening to 'American Top 40'. Probably by the late 1980s when I sort of lost my interest for pop music in general.

I'm really sad to know that Casey Kasem passed away on 15 June 2014. I've read a few articles about his death, but I'm more interested in his life than his death. Everyone will die one day, anyway. So here's some facts about the life of such a wonderful guy:

Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40', which first aired in the summer of 1970, was a weekly 4-hour feast of homey sentiment and American optimism that ran headlong into the prevailing spirit of rebellion in the music culture of the day.

At the height of his career, Casey Kasem was among the best-known D.J.'s in the country. His weekly 4-hour show defined middle-of-the-road radio taste in America at the time. The show gave new life to the Top 40 format at a time when the popularity of the 45 rpm record was waning and FM disc-jockeys were experimenting with more personal formats, creating playlists from their favourite long-playing album cuts.

Mr. Kasem, instead, featured only the singles that Billboard magazine had ranked as the country's most popular in the past week, based on its analysis of airplay - a playlist, in effect, based on the national pop consensus.

Building a radio show on the notion that such a consensus existed was considered a risky proposition in the culturally splintered time. As Time magazine put it, 'He embraced corniness as Vietnam-era cynicism peaked.' But the format struck a chord.

Only 5 radio stations carried the debut of 'American Top 40' on 4 July 1970. But within a year more than 100 did, and by the mid-1970s it had reached nearly 1,000 outlets 'coast to coast', as Mr. Kasem liked to say, making him one of the best-known DJs in the country.

He had modeled the show, he later told interviewers, on the old NCB radio program 'Your Hit Parade' (also known as 'The Lucky Strike Hit Parade'). 'I thought we'd be around for at least 20 years,' he said. 'Because I knew the formula worked'.

'American Top 40' became a mainstay of American radio, offering a crowd-pleasing menu of hits seasoned with Mr. Kasem's heartfelt readings of listeners' song dedications, wholesome anecdotes about the lives of the pop stars, and an endless store of solid, if cringe-inducing, pieces of advice, like his touchstone signoff: 'Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars'.

Not all the dedications were necessarily feel-good, however. A pregnant teenager addressed her boyfriend in prison, for example, and a mother begged her runaway daughter to come home.

Mr. Kasem also hosted a syndicated TV version of the show in the 1980s. But his relationship with 'American Top 40' ended in 1988 because of a contract dispute with his syndication company. The next year, 1989, he started 'Casey's Top 40', a competing radio program on another network, bringing most of his old audience there with him.

About 10 years later, 1999, after acquiring the rights to the name, he was again hosting a show with the title 'American Top 40' (for a time he hosted both that and the competing 'Casey's Top 40'). He ended his three-decade run in 2004, handing the hosting duties to Ryan Seacrest, who continues in that role. Mr. Kasem retired in 2009.

Mr. Kasem, who had a financial interest in his shows, had a net worth estimated by several sources at $80 million. Last year he put his house in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles on the market for $42 million.

Rock'n'roll was never Mr. Kasem's passion, he told interviewers. He knew his subject, and kept up with it in a professional way, but when home, he told Billboard, 'I find myself just wanting to sit in my office and make it as quiet as possible'.

'If I were doing a real rock show,' he told The New York Times in 1990, 'then it would matter to know how I felt about what I was playing'. But, he added, 'I'm just counting them down as they appear on the chart, 1 through 40. What really matters is what I say between the songs'.

Between the songs Mr. Kasem managed to herald the newest of the new with a broadcast style that felt comfortingly old. He set the tone with a neighbourly but precise 1940s-style diction, honed to amiable perfection in a second career as a voice-over artist. With plain-spoken warmth and a partiality to sentiments and phrases ('coast-to-coast' and 'sweetheart' were his favourites, hands down), his delivery evoked another time.

'Hello again, everybody', he said to open most of his shows. 'I'm Casey Kasem, and welcome to 'American Top 40'. I'm all set to count down the 40 most popular songs in the U.S.A.'

When he used biographical teasers to introduce songs ('a high school dropout and a runaway, with a mother who was married six times - coming up,' referring to Cher), Mr. Kasem echoed Paul Harvey on his folksy, long running news broadcasts. But he told NYT that the technique harked back to his childhood in the Middle Eastern immigrant neighbourhood of Detroit.

'I was drawing on the Arabic tradition of storytelling one-upmanship,' he said. 'When I was a kid, men would gather in my parents' living room and tell tales and try to outdo each other. I couldn't understand the language, but I was fascinated.'

Kemal Amen Kasem was born in Detroit on 27 April 1932. His parents Amin and Helen Kasem, were Lebanese immigrants who owned a grocery store.

After graduating from Wayne State University in Detroit, he worked in local radio, produced broadcasts for the Armed Forces Network during a stint in the Army and landed in Los Angeles, at KRLA, where he developed his trademark of introducing records with historical tidbits about the artists and their songs. For a time he also had a local television dance show.

In 1970, along with Don Bustany, a Hollywood movie producer and childhood friend, Mr. Kasem came up with the idea of a countdown radio show modeled after 'Your Hit Parade' and proposed it to the syndication company Watermark Inc., which was later bought by ABC Radio Networks. Mr. Kasem had always wanted to be a movie star, he told interviewers, but never had much success beyond cameo roles in films like 'New York, New York' (1977), in which he played a 1940s disc jockey, and 'Ghostbusters' (1984), in which he played himself.

Casey Kasem's biggest role off the radio was in the TV cartoon series 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are you!' as the voice of Shaggy, the canine hero's goofy companion. In the 1970s and 80s his voice was heard on TV commercials for Sears, Ford, Chevron, Oscar Mayer and Heinz.

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Mr. Kasem, whose parents belonged to the Druze sect in Lebanon, an offshoot of Islam, became a vocal advocate for Middle East peace and Arab-American causes. In later years he was active in promoting Arab-Israeli dialogue, making personal appearances at mosques and synagogues around the country.

Mr. Kasem, with an audience of 10 million listeners in his heyday, made politeness and decorum hallmarks of his broadcast. His courtly voice seemed capable of rendering the most raunchy song titles in appropriate-sounding phonemes, and when not able, to swerve around the problem effortlessly.

He would no say 'I want your sex' when that was the title of a 1987 hit song, for instance. Instead, Mr. Kasem introduced that one as 'George Michael's latest'.

Given the audicence he imagined for himself, Mr. Kasem could hardly do otherwise. 'I picture people in a car, with Mom and Dad in the front seat, a couple of kids in the back seat, and a grandparent as well,' he told Billboard.

In another interview, he said: 'I feel good that you can be going to synagogue, mosque or church and listen to me, and nobody is going to be embarrased by the language that I use, the innuendo. Quite frankly, I think we're good for America'.

Casey Kassem compering TV show 'Shebang' in the 1960s. 

Casey Kasem, wholesome voice o pop radio, dies at 82.

by Paul Vitello for The New York Times
15 June 2014.

Casey Kasem, a disc jockey who never claimed to love rock'n'roll but who built a long and lucrative career from it, creating and hosting one of radio's most popular syndicated pop music shows, 'American Top 40', died on Sunday, 15 June 2014, in a hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington. He was 82.

His death was announced by Danny Deraney, a spokesman for Mr. Kasem's daughter Kerri. Mr. Kasem had Lewdy body dementia, a progressive disease of the body's neurological and muscel cells.

In addition to his wife, who played the tall, blong, dimwitted character Loretta Tortelli on the sitcom 'Cheers', and their daughter, Liberty, his survivors include his 3 children from a previous marriage, which ended in divorce: Julie, Michael and Kerri Kasem.

In 2007, after he learned he had Lewdy body dementia, Mr. Kasem gave his 3 oldest children legal authority to act as his health care proxy at whatever point he became unable to make decisions himself. The agreement stipulated that he did not want to be kept alive with 'any form of life-sustaining procedures, including nutrition and hydration', if he lost all cognitive function and was given no hope of recovery. Differences between the 3 older children and Mr. Kasem's wife played out in increasingly bitter courtroom clashes in the final months.

In his final months, Mr. Kasem, who had lived in Beverly Hills, California, was at the centre of a family legal battle over the terms of his death, pitting his wife, the actress Jean Kasem, against his 3 adult children from a previous marriage. Ms. Kasem removed her husband from a Santa Monica nursing home on 7 May 2014 and took him to stay with friends in Washington State. By courd order, he was moved to the hospital on 1 June.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Montclair, N.J. 1970s

Mountclair, N.J. 

Mountclair, N.J. in the 1970s.

at the Two Guys parking lot in 1977 - Mountclair, N.J.

Mountclair, N.J. in the 1970s. 

PHILIP ROTH in Newark, 1968

author Philip Roth at Franks Burgers in Newark, N.J. in 1968. Photograph: Bob Peterson-Time Life Pictures.

excerpts from 'Goodbye, Columbus' edited in 1959:

I shall never forget the heat and mugginess of that afternoon we drove into New York. We were heading throught the Lincoln Tunnel which seemed longer and fumier than ever, like Hell with tiled walls. Suddenly we were in NYC and smothered again by the thick day. I pulled around the policeman who directed traffic in his shirt sleeves and got up onto the Port Authority roof to park the car. 

On the way back to Jersey: Brenda, I discovered, was asleep on a couch in the hotel lobby. It was almost 4 o'clock. It was almost dawn when we came out of the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel. I switched down to my parking lights, and drove on to the Turnpike, and there out before me I could see the swampy meadows that spread for miles and miles, watery, blotchy, smelly, like an oversight of God.

Philip at home, a few years earlier...
George Tice phograph of Junked Cars in Newark, N.J. in 1973. George Tice was born in Newark in 1938. He began photographin in 1953.

It's August 1970 and Car 20 of  the Newark City Subway Line is crossing Orange Street en route to Penn Station. (photo: Bill Mosteller).
Hackensack River turns its way throught a New Jersey marshland...
Newark at the Passaic River...

Market Street. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

MAD magazine

Al Feldstein, soul of MAD magazine, dies at 88

by Bruce Weber
1st May 2014

Al Feldstein, who took over a fledging humour magazine called MAD in 1956 and made it a popular, profitable and enduring wellspring of American satire, died in 29 April 2014, at his ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana. He was 88.

His wife, nee Michelle Key, confirmed the death. In recent years, he was a wildlife and landscape painter in Montana, outside Livingston.

Al Feldstein had been a writer and illustrator of comic books when he became editor of MAD four years into its life and just a year after it had graduated from comic-book form to a full-fledged magazine.

The founding editor, Harvey Kurtzman, established its well-informed irreverence, but Mr. Feldstein gave MAD its identity as a smart-alecky, sniggering and indisputably clever spitball-shooter of a publication with a scattershot look, dominated by gifted cartoonists or wildly differing styles.

Sources disagree about MAD's circulation when Mr. Feldstein took over; estimates range from 325,000 to 750,000. But by the early 1960s, he increased it to over a million, and in the 1970s it had doubled.

He hired many of the writers and artists whose work became MAD trademarks. Among them were Don Martin, whose cartoons featuring bizarre human figures and distintive sound effects - Kattong! Sklortch! Zazik" - immortalized the eccentric and the screwy; Antonio Prohias, whose 'Spy vs. Spy' was a sendup of the international politics of the Cold War; Dave Berg, whose 'The Lighter Side of...' made gentle, arch fun of middlebrow behaviour; and Mort Drucker, whose caricature satirized movies like Woody Allen's 'Hannah and Her Sisters' ('Henna and Her Sickos' in Mad's retelling).

Another hire, George Woodbridge, illustrated a MAD signature article written by Tom Koch: a prescient 1965 satire of college sports, criticizing their elitism and advocating the creation of a game that could be played by everyone. It was called 43-Man Squamish, 'played on a five-side field called a Flutney.' Position players, each equipped with a hooked stick calle a frullip, included deep brooders, inside and outside grouches, overblats, underblats, quarter-frummers, half-frummerts a full-frummert and a dummy.

'The offensive team, upon receiving the Pritz, has five Snivels in which to advance to the enemy goal,' Mr. Koch wrote, part of a nonsensical and hopelessly complicated instruction manual that nonetheless inspired the formation of squamish teams on campuses across the country.

In his second issue, Mr. Feldstein seized on a character who had appeared only marginally in the magazine - a freckled, gap-toothed, big-eared, glazed-looking young man - and put his image on the cover, identifying him as a write-in candidate for president campaigning under the slogan 'What - me worry?'

At first he went by Mel Haney, Melvin Cowznofski and other names. But when the December 1956 issue, No. 30, identified him as Alfred E. Neuman, the name stuck. He became the magazine's perennial cover-boy, appearing in dozens of guises, including as a joker on a playing card, an ice-skating barrel jumper, a totem on a totem-pole, a football player, a yogi, a construction worker, King Kong atop the Empire State Building, Rosemary's baby, Uncle Sam, General Patton and Barbra Streisand.

Neuman became the symbol of MAD, his goofy countenance often intruding, Zelig-like, into scenes from the political landscape and from popular TV shows and movies. He signaled the magazine's editorial attitude, which fell somewhere between juvenile nose-thumbing at contemporary culture and sophisticated spoofing.

MAD made fun of itself as well. The staff was referred to on the masthead as 'the usual gang of idiots,' and the magazine warned readers not to take it seriously even as it winkingly promoted its importance. Its irreverence made it especially popular with teenagers - many comedians have confessed to slavering over issues in their adolescence - and in its tone and fearless targeting of sacred cows it anticipated social satire vehicles like The Harvard Lampoon, National Lampoon, 'Saturday Night Live,' 'The Simpsons,' 'South Park' and The Onion.

Albert Bernard Feldstein was born in 24 October 1925, in Brooklyn-NY, to Max and Beatrice Feldstein. His father made dental molds. Attracted to drawing as a boy, Albert won a poster contest sponsored by the 1939 New York World's Fair.

He attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan and, after graduating, took classes at the Art Students League. He also worked part-time for a studio that produced comic books. During World Waw II, he served stateside in the Army Air Forces.

After the war, Mr. Feldstein was a freelance writer and illustrator before going to work for William M. Gaines, the publisher of EC, short for Educational Comics and, later, Entertaining Comics. At EC, Mr. Feldstein created Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales From the Crypt and several other horror and suspense titles.

Mr. Gaines also published a comic book, full of irreverent and sometimes juvenile humour, called Mad, the brainchild of Mr. Kurtzman, and a second humour-based comic, Panic, an offshoot of Mad, edited by Mr. Feldstein.

The early 1950s were a grim time for comic books. Moralizing newspaper columnists and eventually Congress attacked them as having a corrupting influence on America's youth. When Mr. Feldstein's horror books were singled out, EC nearly went out of business, and in 1955, Mr. Feldstein temporarily lost his job.

MAD began to flourish under Mr. Kurtzman, but he and Mr. Gaines clashed, and when Mr. Kurtzman left in 1956, Mr. Gaines hired Mr. Feldstein to replace him. He was its editor until 1985.

By then MAD was a victim of its own success. With its brand of satire increasingly available in many other publications and on TV, its circulation had been in decline for a decade. Mr. Gaines, who died in 1992, sold the magazine in the early 1960s to the Kinney Parking Company, which went on to buy Warner Brothers and the company now known as DC Comics as well.

Today, MAD, published by the DC Entertainmente division of Warner Communications, has a much lower circulation than it did at its peak, but an active and popular website.

After his retirement from MAD, Mr. Feldstein pursued a painting career in Montana and had exhibitions in galleries in the West.

His first marriage, to Clair Szep, ended in divorce. His second, to Natalie Lee Sigler, ended with her death in 1986.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by 5 children, a step-daughter, 3 grandchildren and 2 step-grand-sons.

As editor of MAD, Mr. Feldstein had a palpable influence on popular culture at large. To cite just one example, in 1965 MAD published letters and photographs from college students who said they had been inspired by the squamish article to field team. (Whether this was true or not is difficult to prove.) One letter writer, from Marquette University, said the school had its own squamish team and that 'at last tally, we have lost 2 Deep Brooders and 1 Dummy, who were suspended for sportsmanlike conduct during the course of play.'

Al Feldstein  (1925 - 2014)

Dave Berg (1920 - 2002)

Dave Berg, created Mad's 'Lighter Side' strip, dies at 81

LOS ANGELES, May 24 (AP) — Dave Berg, who affectionately spoofed what he called "the human condition" in the pages of MAD magazine for more than 40 years, died 16 May 2002, at his home in Marina del Rey, California. He was 81.
Mr. Berg created the magazine's enduring "The Lighter Side of" comic strip. He began working for Mad as a freelancer in 1956, introducing "The Lighter Side of" in 1961.
"They were satirizing commercials, movies and TV programs," he once told Contemporary Authors. "I added something new: people. That's when `The Lighter Side' was born. It was more than just gags, it was a psychological and sociological study of the human condition, and truth in humor."
He often put friends, family members and colleagues into his cartoons, among them William M. Gaines, the publisher of MAD, whose head appeared mounted, like a deer's, on a wall.

He also drew himself into the strip regularly as Roger Kaputnik, an Everyman with an always-present pipe.
Mr. Berg "saw the American scene as a wonderful example of our culture, our society and our life, and did comments on that," said Nick Meglin, co-editor of Mad.
Dave Berg was born in Brooklyn, NY in 2 June 1920Berg attended the Pratt Institute when he was 12 years old and later Cooper Union School of Art in New York, landing a job inking backgrounds for the newspaper comic strip "The Spirit" when he was 20. In 1940 he joined Will Eisner's studio, where he wrote and drew for the Quality Comics line. Berg's work also appeared in Dell Comics and Fawcett Publications. In the mid-1940s, he worked with Stan Lee on comic books at Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics), ranging from Combat Kelly and The Ringo Kid to Tessie the Typist. He also freelanced for EC Comics and other before moving on to MAD, which he described as "the main attraction, the big event, the grand opening."

During World War II, he was a member of the Army Air Corps and served as a war correspondent in Iwo Jima, Guam, Saipan and Japan.
In addition to his magazine work, Mr. Berg wrote and illustrated 17 books for Mad, including "Mad's Dave Berg Looks at Living," "Mad's Dave Berg Looks at Things," and "Mad's Dave Berg Looks at the USA."
He also produced two humorous books on religion, "My Friend God" and "Roger Kaputnik and God."

by The Associated Press
published 25 May 2002.