The Michael in the title is Michael Moore. OK, so I don't know him and all we share is a Flint, Michigan
connection. Pretty important for both of us. It can't hurt to toss out the name of somebody famous. Michael got famous for "Roger and Me, " his film about General Motors' part in the near death of that once great city.
I got famous in Flint ... alright maybe not that famous... as a hotshot deejay in Flint Radio. That was 1950. Was I cute, or what? Another famous Flint name is William "Billy" Durant. He founded General Motors in 1908. There was a Durant Hotel. I don't know if it's still there. And a Durant auto, too.
Flint was still a big prosperous GM town when I was there. That's where I met my wife, a radio fan and our first child was born there. Relatives and in-laws worked at the auto plants. I would not have met my wife but for the great migration of Southerners who came North for good factory jobs.
I'm not a great fiction reader but I'm glad my wife was a John Grisham fan. I took a look at her copy of his 2001 novel, "A Painted House." It was a tale of an Arkansas family and their trek to Flint for work. My wife was born in Newport, Arkansas and they moved to the Flint area when she was three years old. When somebody mentions John Grisham I always ask if they read that one.
My wife, young son and I left Flint in 1954, the year that Michael Moore was born, in my big beautiful white 1951 Dynaflow Special just like this one. Actually, the "Special" was the low end Buick model. But I felt like I was driving a Roadmaster when that Dynaflow transmission wound up and she started to move. We listened to Gisele MacKenzie sing "My Buick, my love and I," the theme song of "Uncle Miltie" Milton Berle's TV show. Chevrolets went by, families hearing Dinah Shore's theme music, "See the USA in your Chevrolet." It was still a good time for Flint and General Motors and it got even better into the 60s. One of the several radio jobs that I left, not exactly voluntarily, was at WTAC. That stood for "The Auto City." A sign at the North end welcomed all to "Buick Town." A few years ago a long mothballed arch was dug out and re-erected over Saginaw Street. It originally proclaimed Flint "TheVehicle City."
By the time native son Michael Moore grew up, his town had fallen on terrible times. GM closed most local plants and moved to Mexico. Moore's documentary, "Roger and me" showed him demanding to see GM CEO Roger Smith to give him an earful about what he had done to Flint. Someone painted the sign when Flint was named one of the country's five most dangerous cities.
What got my nostalgia juices flowing about all this history is a 1923 Durant that showed up in the Muskegon shop of friend Phil Schugars, a professional restorer of classic and antique cars. It's owned by Ken Brink, a member of the Durant owners club. His e-mail address even makes reference to the Durant name.
Durant's company built other cars including the Flint. Here's a classy 1925 Flint Touring Car. Wouldn't it have been the cat's meow to take your best girl for a ride in this baby! Or the whole family.
The first words I spoke into a radio microphone were "Going Forward With Flint." It hasn't worked out well for Flint or the Buick. She wasn't even 10 years old when the junkyard gave me twelve bucks for her. Oh well, I have great memories. I won't forget the town where my son and my Buick were born.
Monday, July 07, 2014
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Come every Saturday Night I am about to bust out of my geriatric skin from needing to express high praise for those old Lawrence Welk shows. Laugh at them if you will, and I know you will, but the fellow with the funny accent hired world class performers for his musical family. I am awed at the talent, training, musicianship and showmanship in those shows. OK, so it's corny and hokey by today's showbiz standards. What's new ain't always better.
Posted by PaulBarbour at 8:06 AM
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
That song, first recorded by Billie Holiday, might be the first social commentary protest song. Most unusual for 1939 when Ella Fitzgerald did her jazzy version of "a-tisket a-tasket, the old nursery rhyme. Today's generation and probably at least one before it grew up with "message" songs about some social issue. No so for me. Songs were for fun and romance. "Strange Fruit" is about a lynching. The word doesn't appear but but the meaning is there.
Posted by PaulBarbour at 7:38 AM
Random Harvest. A sweet amnesia story. Maybe a bit predictable but who cares. I watched it because TCM host guy Robert Osborne and guest programmer Gene Wilder said it had two great speaking voices, Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson. It wouldn't be real hard to work up a tear over the Smithy and Paula tale. Wilder said it does it for him. Too bad I could not stay up for the next TCM oldie, "The Merry Widow" from 1934.
Posted by PaulBarbour at 7:17 AM
Monday, April 14, 2014
Another Doris Day film I must see again. "The Glass bottom boat." Arthur Godfrey was her father. Like many broadcasters of my era, I was a huge Godfrey fan and admirer. Once a powerful radio and TV performer, so popular that he could have been elected to high political office if he had chosen to go that way, he became a victim of cultural and media change when folksiness no longer worked.
Posted by PaulBarbour at 1:00 PM
Friday, March 21, 2014
Have I yet popped off about the quirky town of Night Vale and its community radio station? At my age, who can remember what got me sufficiently excited to write about it. But oh there is excitement of a strange, peculiar and weird kind in that town. It ain't Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Nobody, including the people who live there, whether above or under the streets, knows just where it is. Or if it is. Attempting to describe it is pointless. You must experience Night Vale in a way that only a podcast can do for you. You will love it or scratch your head and mumble "What IS this? Night Vale is for persons of some perspicacity. Are you perspicacious enough? Did I spell that right?
Just enter "Night Vale. You will be taken there. Oh, one more thing. You might not return.
Posted by PaulBarbour at 5:29 PM
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I guess I should start a blog or sub-blog called "How could I not know." How could I not know about Nancy Lamott. I discovered her on Jonathan Schwartz's wonderful Great American Songbook channel on WNYC on the internet. Nancy, from Midland in my home state of Michigan, was called the greatest cabaret singer since Sinatra. I can't listen to her recordings and think of her story without getting goosebumps, chills, a tear or two and all kinds of strange feelings. She had terrible health problems, had an ostomy, continued to sing through it all, was told she needed a hysterectomy. Put it off, died from cancer at 43. From her deathbed she asked her boyfriend to marry her. A priest performed the wedding 45 minutes before she died. That was ten years ago. She is still revered by many. Jonathan Schwartz ends his shows with one of her songs. How could I not know.
Posted by PaulBarbour at 8:11 AM