The Bottle Is All Empty

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 9:07 am
By: Doug Lund

Whenever I’m out and about, people ask how my old Keloland News sidekick, Steve Hemmingsen, is doing these days. Well, Steve popped over to the house the other day for a visit. We talked and laughed for a couple hours; mostly about the perils of obesity, our latest travels, (a lot of which involve trips back and forth to the doctor’s office) the news of the day and how its reported and old friends who are dead or dying.  Of course, I always encourage Steve to write more and today he sent me a sample of his always interesting prose. He didn’t say I couldn’t or shouldn’t share it with you so for the first time, Lund at Large will have a guest blogger. Take it away, Steve.

sids bldg

I figured it would come to this, the end of an institution. 

Sid’s Crown Liquors in downtown Sioux Falls is closing.  Sid’s marks the end of an egalitarian era in Sioux Falls when it was s city with no real class distinctions.  It was a melting pot.  You would see bankers elbow to elbow with street people.  People buying cigarettes searching their pockets for that last desperate penny, a coin the same color as the nicotine halo on their fingers.  The clerk and the line patiently waiting.  Sid himself greeting customers and bouncing some evil doers before they even got through the door, throwing them out on a first name basis. 

Sid was one of those World War II army radio school leftovers who found a local girl, Judee, and stayed after the war, this man of the world from New Jersey or someplace.  That radio school in its time was quite an attraction, thanks to the WWII draft.  Even Phil Graham who later ran the Washington Post and was a confidant of LBJ passed through when duty called.  Sid Epstein was, of course, Jewish which didn’t matter a lot in those days.  He hit the till for every charity that came along, Jewish or Christian, probably even Muslim.  Once during one of those Middle East flare-ups, Sid told me: “We should just stay out of it.  It’s a fight among cousins.”  You have to add a New Jersey accent to that to get the effect.  He was probably right, but what world power listens to the wisdom of a guy who owns a liquor store. 

sid_bigWhat brought people to Sid’s was…money.  He had the cheapest prices in town, maybe the world.  You could always get 10 percent off if you bought a case of wine or whiskey.  I was practically a rum runner for friends at the lake.  He used to sell side brand beer for less than pop.  One of my favorites was something called “Nude Beer.”  If you scratched the label, the lady lost her clothing.  I never had to pick up one of those bottles on the lawn. 

One of my favorite episodes was a Friday night.  There used to be a gay bar up Phillips Avenue a block or so from KELO, across the street from the one that’s there now…last I heard, anyway…right across a parking lot from Sid’s.  One Friday night after the news I’m stocking up for the lake, waiting in the usual eclectic line.  There’s a guy at the front of the line in full drag.  The guy next to me says: “Hey, I used to go to school with him…her!”  Today, who would notice?  Sid’s son-in-law has been running the place since Sid died five years ago, pretty much run out of business by a liquor store on every corner and in every supermarket.  

Thanks, Steve.  By the way, Steve is returning to his first love, Radio. Well, sort of. He’s started a pod cast on the internet in which he’ll be doing interviews and commentary on a variety of subjects mostly having to do with people and events in and around his beloved Hendricks, Minnesota but I have little doubt he’ll be able to resist the temptation to offer observations and critiques from just about anywhere. The link to his  website and first interview is here. 

Next week..the story of a Woonsocket, South Dakota farm girl I found out about who became a corporal in the Army during World War II and played a significant role in the D-Day invasion.

Spring

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm
By: Doug Lund

I believe it was about a year ago on an unusually warm March day like this one that I snapped a couple photos of our flooded back yard as evidence that another miserable winter had given up the ghost said C’est la vie and I started daring to dream of golf games, convertible rides and fresh corn on the cob for every meal. Ah..but then fate stepped in, as she usually does, throwing a lasso around Winter’s neck just as he was leaving ordering him to return for one final blustery blast in April ordering him to bring along plenty of ice for the party.
So, I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. In fact, fate already fired a warning shot over my bow this morning as I decided to start up the Camaro following her long frigid nap in the garage. The plan was to get her washed and take my bride for a convertible ride on this lovely spring-like day.
But from the moment I turned the key, it was clear I should have listed to Linda’s suggestions throughout the winter that it might be a good idea to go out and start the little car once in a while and warm her up. Because when I deposited my ample ass in the driver’s seat today, rather than hearing the usual mid-summer enthusiastic spin of the engine, the battery and starter had all they could do to muster up enough strength to crank over the motor enough to raise it from the dead. Ah, but once that Chevy Lt1 did catch fire she was rarin’ to go..at least as far as the car wash about six blocks away.

Poor Camaro in desperate need of a wash and, apparently, a new battery.

Poor Camaro in desperate need of a wash and, apparently, a new battery.

Now, I had forgotten over the long winter that the Camaro has, over the years, become sensitive to water. That is, water splashing up from beneath the car comes in contact with something that tends to short out that magnificent motor killing it dead as Lazarus which is precisely what happened when I entered the automatic vehicle wash bay at Food and Fuel right after depositing 7 dollars worth of quarters I fished out of the change jar at home which made my sweat pants so heavy I had to hold them up with one hand to keep them from falling to my ankles.
I knew the car would restart after a few minutes drying but the stupid automatic sprayer kept spraying. When it finally stopped I cranked and cranked on the engine but she refused; finally putting a period on her denial with the sound of a few clicks. So it was up to me to try push her back out of the bay by hand over the hump and get it parked someplace. I couldn’t very well leave it blocking the entrance on such a nice day when people were lining up to wash their cars. I managed to get it shoved clear and decided to call Linda, who was shopping, to bring the jumper cables, but discovered I’d left my phone at home on the charger. I had to borrow one in the convenience store because I didn’t have any quarters left. Went out to put the hood up so people wouldn’t wonder why I was parked so goofy. Gave the starter one more try and she roared to life. Damn..now what? No phone to call Linda off.    She was nice about though when she came to my unnecessary rescue. I’m making it up to her by going to the casino..which will probably cost me the price of a few dozen car washes.
And people wonder why I don’t go out much.
I do hope we have nice weather next month, Linda and I are traveling with the Graves to Texas to a Nascar race and to visit family and friends in Dallas and Austin. Linda says I need clothes but it’s the same old deal about finding something decent in my size. I don’t care what anybody says about clothing in the seventies..and people who lived through that decade say a lot..most of it bad..but not me. Of course I was a 42 long and a 36 waist back then and didn’t mind the long collared shirts, sweater vests, flared pants, platform shoes..even some of the loud patterns and colors.

Come on guys, admit it..we wore these with bells on.

Come on guys, admit it..we wore these with bells on.

 

Put a little color in our lives. Better than those tight black 50's throwbacks of today.

Put a little color in our lives. Better than those tight black 50′s throwbacks of today.

That’s just the men’s styles. I know some of you are gagging right now but I thought women’s fashions from hair to clothing were absolutely
fetching. I loved them.

seventies women short skirts sweater vests

 

But there were more. Much more.

Short or Long..gorgeous either way.

Short or Long..gorgeous either way.

Okay, Okay..these folks are either models or athletes and maybe all the guys who wore polyester sports jackets weren’t necessarily “plaid stallions” like former mayor Rick Knobe.

knobe

Or…yours truly during his first TV gig at KSOO TV.  An ill-fitting red and white plaid number that they must have let me wear on the air only a time or two because I have no memory of it other than this photo taken by friend and KSOO/KSFY colleague Pam Horn. That’s my cousin Grouse on the far left.

doug grouse ksfy checked jacket

Okay, now that I think about it and see more personal evidence, maybe the perceived appeal of 70′s fashion has been somewhat distorted by years of excessive exposure to Winstons and Windsor.

Now let’s see, where did I hang those sweat pants. It’s time to reload with quarters and take my honey to the casino. I should probably run the car through the wash first though.

 

Mary’s Day With Dillinger

Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm
By: Doug Lund

I’ve always loved history and every once in a while my TV job allowed me the opportunity to have some close brushes with it. I was reminded of one such case this week on the 80th anniversary of John Dillinger’s unscheduled withdrawal from the Security National Bank at 9th and Dakota in Sioux Falls and my interview with a lady bank employee taken hostage by Dillenger that day and lived to tell the tale.

The old Security National Bank. This photo courtesy "Greetings from Sioux Falls"

The old Security National Bank. This photo from the 60′s  courtesy “Greetings from Sioux Falls”

It was “Public Enemy Number 1’s” first hold-up since escaping from an Indiana jail three days earlier using a hand-carved wooden gun and then stealing the sheriff’s own car to make his get-away. Dillinger high-tailed it to the Twin Cities where he quickly assembled a gang including the infamous killer, Lester Gillis, also known as Baby Face Nelson. They needed cash and sped off in the direction of Sioux Falls in a brand new Packard to get some.

John Dillinger about the time of the Sioux Falls robbery reportedly holding the fake gun he used to escape jail in Indiana.

John Dillinger about the time of the Sioux Falls robbery reportedly holding the fake gun he used to escape jail in Indiana.

I’d known about the Dillinger bank robbery in Sioux Falls long before the historical marker went up on the side of the old Security National building. I think it was Sioux Falls historian, Carol Mashek, who showed me damage to the structure believed caused by wayward Tommy Gun bullets fired by the robbers that day and there were plenty..both inside the bank and out.

One of the reported bullet holes from the Dillinger robbery.

One of the reported bullet holes from the Dillinger robbery. photo: Chad Coppess

What I didn’t know, however, is that one person directly involved in the whole ordeal was still alive and on the 70th anniversary of the robbery was going to receive an honor from the Mayor of Sioux Falls for her heroism so many years ago. When Bill Hoskins of the Old Courthouse Museum asked if I’d like to meet and visit with Mary Lucas Hawkins, I couldn’t wait.

Mary Lucas was born in Estherville, Iowa in 1909. Her dad worked for the railroad and in 1921 his job brought the whole family of nine to Sioux Falls where Mary attended Cathedral High School then Nettleton Business School. By 1934, Mary was putting her business skills to good use working as a bank teller and excited about her upcoming marriage to Dale Hawkins.

Mary Lucas about the time of the robbery.

Mary Lucas about the time of the robbery.

When we sat down to visit in the Old Courthouse Museum three blocks away from the Security National Bank, I asked what she remembered about that morning 7 decades earlier.
“I saw this big green car coming down 9th street. We happened to be looking out the window. I made the remark that it looked like a bunch of bandits.”

She was right and moments later Dillinger and four of his gang members wearing overcoats and brandishing Thompson Machine guns burst into the bank screaming orders. One of the employees managed to trigger the alarm which also set off the bell just outside the building which riled the robbers to no end. Mary said she was sure they were going to kill everyone..especially when Baby Face Nelson jumped up on a table, looked out the window and spotted motorcycle cop, Hale Keith, running to the scene. Nelson fired through the plate glass and put four slugs into Keith who somehow survived.

Baby Face Nelson

Baby Face Nelson

In spite of guns firing and people screaming, cooler heads prevailed and after scooping up some 49 thousand dollars in cash, Dillinger ordered a retreat to the get-away car using five bank tellers, including Mary Lucas, as shields. “They were in the middle and we were around them to keep anybody from shooting at them.” She said.  When the gangsters jumped inside the Packard, the hostages were told to get on the running board and hang on. It wasn’t a real hot pursuit, though because one of the officers in front had managed to put a bullet through the big car’s radiator slowing their escape South out of town. I asked Mary why weren’t the police right behind?  She said, “Well, they tried to but they(Dillinger gang members) were throwing out all these big carpet tacks. Anyone that came along had a flat tire.”  Not to mention that every so often a gangster would hold a machine gun out the window and fire right past the hostages heads at anyone who came close.

This is a 1934 Packard like the one Dillinger used. Nice long running boards for carrying human shields.

This is a 1934 Packard like the one Dillinger used. Nice long running boards for carrying human shields.

Eventually, around what would be 43rd street, the Packard gave out from overheating so the gang forced a farm couple from Canton to pull over and confiscated their Dodge..taking along the loot and some extra cans of gas but leaving the shivering hostages standing by the road. That’s when a fellow drove up in his car. “And he stopped and said, what in the world are you doing out here in this weather with no coats? We promptly told him what happened so he brought us back to the bank.” Mary told me.

It was a much relieved bank president when he saw his girls back safe and sound shaking from cold and fear but alive. Mary says, “And he gave us a shot of something. I don’t know what but it was probably the first drink I ever had.”

Front page news.

Front page news.

Mary Lucas Hawkins got married shortly after the incident and eventually settled with her husband, Dale, in Billings, Montana where they found great success and became highly respected contributors to the arts and philanthropic causes.  Mary died in December of 2009 at the age of 100. She was known as a Grand Dame of Billings for all her service and devotion to so many organizations especially the Western Heritage Center.

Mary Lucas Hawkins 1909-2009

Mary Lucas Hawkins
1909-2009

All possible because she survived that harrowing experience clinging to the window of John Dillinger’s Packard on a chilly March morning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The FIRST Captain 11

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm
By: Doug Lund

Hardly a day goes by that there’s not news of another celebrity biting the dust. This morning it was Jim Lange who died of a heart attack in California at the age of 81.My first thought wasn’t so much about this St. Paul, Minnesota native whose claim to fame was as the longtime genteel host of “The Dating Game” on television.

capt. lange in tux host

No what initially popped into my head was..had it not been for Jim Lange, there wouldn’t have been a Captain 11.

Back in the early 50’s when television was just getting off the ground, local stations, including WMIN Channel 11 in Minneapolis, were scrambling to find programming to fill all the air time not covered by the networks..which included time in the afternoon when kids got home from school. That gave birth to all kinds of local characters to host kids’ TV shows. They varied from clowns and cowboys to rail engineers and rocket rangers; the latter being the concept for Captain 11.  Young Jim Lange was selected to portray the Captain in 1954  a  uniform was designed and taylor made and a special set constructed with all types of electronic gadgetry surrounding a captain’s chair from which Captain 11 would direct the audience into the past or future with the push of a button and sell Bosco chocolate syrup during the commercials.

That's Lange as the Captain who apparently sat at his time controls rather than stand in front of them.

That’s Lange as the Captain who apparently sat at his time controls rather than stand in front of them.

 

Here's Lange again as the Captain along with Steve Cannon (Longtime grouchy radio host of the Cannon Mess on WCCO) who was Wranger Steve on WMIN and Roger Awsumb was Casey Jones

Here’s Lange again as the Captain along with Steve Cannon (Longtime grouchy radio host of the Cannon Mess on WCCO) who was Wranger Steve on WMIN and Roger Awsumb was Casey Jones

 

They did some personal appearances too but nothing like Dedrick ended up doing.

They did some personal appearances too but nothing like Dedrick ended up doing.

By 1955, it was clear that WMIN’s sister station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; KELO Channel 11, should have a Captain 11 of its own.  It was “literally” a toss-up between Murray Stewart and Dave Dedrick as to who would fill those Wellingtons. Company president, Joe Floyd, tossed a coin and Dedrick wound up on his way to Minneapolis to be fitted for his first uniform and to undergo basic training with the “other” Captain, Jim Lange.

In all our years on the golf course or just sitting around talking, I don’t recall Dave saying very much at all about that meeting with Lange other than he wasn’t sure the show would last long under the format they were using. And he was right, within a couple years, Jim Lange had moved on to Hollywood and two other guys who were assigned to wear the uniform for WMIN didn’t work out. So that was it.

Chris Wedes replaced Lange

Chris Wedes replaced Lange

 

Jack Rebney replaced Lange

Jack Rebney replaced Wedes

Dedrick was determined to give his Captain 11 staying power and realized the best way to do that was to have an audience in the studio; a “crew” as he called it. How do you do that? Why not invite kids to celebrate their birthday party with Captain 11 on live TV?

Our Captain 11 in one of his first promotional photos.

Our Captain 11 in one of his first promotional photos.

It was ingenious and every weekday at 4,  no matter the weather, the Keloland lobby smelled like Bazooka bubble gum and was filled with the sound of anxious little voices until the studio door opened and they rushed in to find a seat on the bleachers and then hold their breath as that larger than life figure dressed in dazzling blue with the number 11 embroidered in gold on his  pilot’s hat walked up to the giant time converter machine..turned his magnificent face to the camera and when the little red light came he’d salute and say “Captain Eleven reporting for duty.” Then he’d turn to ask that familiar question, “How’s my crew today?” To which the young audience’s answer FINE would explode from their little bodies whether they actually felt fine or not. Ah, but who could be anything but when in the presence of a hero to three generations of kids.

capt montage

And just think..none of it would have happened if a guy named Jim Lange hadn’t accepted that first assignment. It just took another guy named Dedrick to complete the mission.

May you both Rest In Peace.

Heavenly Days

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm
By: Doug Lund

I sneezed this morning and there was no familiar “God bless you.”

That’s when the realization hit me that my sweet Linda has left me.  Oh, don’t worry, she’ll be back in a fortnight. At least I hope she doesn’t find her stay in the Phoenix area with her sister Renee and our desert daughter, Christy, so appealing that the thought of returning to life back here with snow, cold, and Doug’s dirty underwear in need of laundering too repugnant.

Well, I feel pretty good about writing my blog here at Dunn Bros. Coffee shop this week..only because I know I’m in good company..and I do mean GOOD company. I’m pretty sure the guy sitting next to me is a young minister working on this week’s sermon. I suppose he could be a seminary student but looks too old for that. Perhaps a professor of religion but..no, I think from the way he was counseling a young family sitting off to his right a few minutes ago, he’s a minister all right. I dare not look at what he’s writing on his laptop and have tried to avoid listening in on his numerous phone conversations by putting on my headphones and tuning in to one of the web stations playing free big band jazz music which, I guess, if you put my feet to the fire insisting on knowing, would be my favorite. “Night and Day” is currently in my ear.

Anyway, the reverend is also surrounded by several religious books including a very well worn Bible and he’s intensely taking notes both written and on his computer.

I’d like to strike up a conversation with him.  “Does the Lord speak to you more clearly here in a busy coffee shop than in the solitude of your office too?”  But  I don’t dare ask, of course. I’d need more than coffee for that kind of nerve.

Oh, man, “Time after Time” is playing now. I adore that song especially when performed by a big band.  I started singing the words forgetting I had headphones on and was a tad embarrassed when I apparently broke the silence of our serene surroundings and sensed a few eyes glancing my way.

I wonder if God talks out loud to this guy or just sends thoughts and signs his way leaving the interpretation up to him but clear enough to leave no doubt that his God is as real as the sun, moon and stars and that any and all questions about life and its complications can be answered in the scriptures..or better yet in a clear voice. I’d like to ask him why this old hypocrite is so miserable in his faith or lack of it and as he grows “nearer my God to thee” is not all that convinced that his baptism, confirmation, regular confession of  sin, declaration of faith and holy communion is enough for that golden ticket through the pearly gates.  It’s a question doubters have been asking for generations and, unless the Lord should decide to give me a special audience to clear things up before the big dirt nap, I’ll just have to hope I encounter the Jesus who showed mercy to the repentant thief on the cross..not the Jesus who talked a lot about the wide road to Hell and narrow way to salvation. .

My mysterious padre has broken his silence again..not with me but the guy who sat next to him. Since I had to visit the men’s, I couldn’t help but overhear him preach what he’s been practicing to the fella. Maybe he’s a Jehovah Witness who works neighborhood coffee shops instead of just neighborhoods. Nah.. don’t they usually travel in pairs?

“All the things you are.” A beautiful classic from Jerome Kern. Love it.

Yup, I’m almost certain this chap is a chaplain. He just stepped out to his car and came back with what appears to be a hymnal; a Lutheran hymnal, I think..the red one. He must be closing in on the end of his sermon if he’s picking out the tunes.

I guess I better be going too.  Maybe I should ask where he’ll be preaching on Sunday perhaps  I’ll come for a visit.

Nah..don’t want to bother his studies.

It sure would be nice though if the Lord would send a clear sign my way once in a while..maybe one of his own special envoys.. just to let me know He’s really out there and ready to visit any time.

Ah, Artie Shaw’s “Stardust”..heavenly.

Doug, Come Away From The Dark Side

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm
By: Doug Lund

As is often the case, I find myself here at Dunn Brother’s Coffee which has historically been a pretty good source of inspiration when my writing idea light bulb seems to be set on dim. There is no reason for me to think this. Maybe I fancy myself to be one of those cerebral college professor-types donned in a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows sitting alone in the corner amid gunny sacks of beans marked Brazil, Columbia and Guatemala consuming huge quantities of strong coffee staring at the computer keyboard convinced that the next profound words of wisdom that will turn the world on its ear are about to appear on the screen. The truth is, however,  I’m a fraud; not a deep thinker at all..just a procrasting Norskie who likes the coffee in this place. I like it even better since Linda and I got to visit a coffee plantation in Hawaii last Fall. It turns out I didn’t know squat about selecting the best, most flavorful variety. I had been under the apparent misguided assumption that the darker the roast the richer the taste when, in fact, dark roasting a fine coffee bean is akin to ordering a filet mignon well done. On the other hand, light roasting of the beans, according to our Kona Coffee plantation guide, allows the full flavors to come through rather than going up in smoke out the chimney.  Now, as you might expect, in the world of coffee connoisseurs there is a considerable difference of opinion on this point. Many people, including me, have associated a light roast with that Lutheran Church basement, sour tasting, gas station swill that was little more than brown hot water. The experts say, though, that has more to do with cheap beans and brewing methods than to the amount of actual roasting time.

I don’t really want in the middle of a coffee squabble. Drink what you like, for heaven’s sake. I’m just not going back over to the dark side when ordering up a cup.

Oh, I did get recognized here at the coffee shop.  That’s happening less and less these days. Dunn Bros owners, Doris and Emily aren’t here today but another nice lady behind the counter could see beyond my goatee and remembered the fella who used to be on the news. She even instructed her younger co-worker to make sure the half and half container was filled for me. Such celebrity perks still coming my way.

Even though the espresso machine was making a wooshing racket, I couldn’t help but overhear my senior admirer explaining to her junior colleague how that old guy sitting in the booth gnawing on a chicken salad sandwich was actually a pretty big deal on local teevee years ago.

Done my heart good.

Any good news would be very welcome these days. It’s sure been a mixed bag from family in Omaha lately.

No sooner did Linda’s niece, Gigi, finally seem to have cleared the final hurdle in her long battle with breast cancer than Gigi’s little sister, Chauna, is diagnosed with the same disease.
At first it appeared as though Chauna might not have to undergo Chemo…but, after further review, doctors thought differently. Poor thing had her first treatment this week with several more to come. She is such a sweet person of faith who accepts this as a challenge to be overcome.

I just want to kick something.

A few years ago, two of my cousins. also sisters; Leslie and Amy, received that awful diagnosis…breast cancer.  Leslie survived. Amy..who, by the way, was one of the founders of Caribou Coffee, died.

I don’t know what has to be done to eradicate breast cancer but probably more than sports figures wearing pink outfits or racers driving pink cars on a weekend or two to call awareness to the problem. We’re all too aware of it…put that money and a few billion more dollars into finding a cure..NOW.  If Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates wish to use their billions to leave a legacy. I can think of nothing better than using it to challenge the greatest minds on earth to the greatest medical challenge in history; eradicating cancer in the next ten years.

South Dakota broadcasting legend, Tom Brokaw, is the latest to get the bad news. He’s been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Doctors are optimistic about treatment. I hope so.

Damn cancer.

I suppose I shouldn’t curse. I guess it’s for dramatic effect although that’s such a mild curse by today’s standards it has little or no effect at all. It’s even okay to use that expletive and the H.E. double toothpicks word in TV commercials now. You know the credit card ad with Samuel L. Jackson. (Or is it, Laurance Fishburne? I get those two mixed up.)   As for cable networks like A&E, USA, SPIKE, Comedy Central and most of the others..just about any of the George Carlin once-forbidden words you can’t say on TV are being said pretty much bleep-free in prime time now.

But, that’s a  topic for another day.

Well, my free refill is empty and the nice lady who recognized me has left for the day so I dare not expect a third cup..but, hey, this place worked its magic again

Wally Wingert: Life After Leno?

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm
By: Doug Lund

When Jay Leno closes out his long career as host of the top rated Tonight Show, it also brings an end to a dream job for guy whose roots run deep in South Dakota.  But don’t feel too sorry for Tonight Show announcer, Wally Wingert, he’s still got as much work as his versatile  voice box can handle.

wally and jay

I happened to catch up with Wally by phone on his way to NBC in Burbank for the second to last Tonight Show rehearsal before the studio is shut down and the entire production moves to New York City where Jimmy Fallon takes over after the Olympics. It was pretty clear that Wally had already rehearsed his answer to my first question about what he was going to do now because he’s been asked it a lot. “Well, I’m a voice actor, Doug, and while I’ve been able to continue some of the work I was doing prior to the Leno show such as commercials for “Old Navy,” “Spam,”  “Nike” plus cartoon and video game characters, a lot of stuff has had to be curtailed or put on hold because of the demands the Tonight Show puts on my time.”

“Wait a minute, demands on your time? You go in and open the show, announce the guests and introduce Jay..how demanding can it be?”

“Well, it was that way in the beginning, but then they discovered all these voices I do so most every day I’m called in by the writers to record several comedy bits. I can sometimes record them in my home studio but usually I’m on call to drive to Burbank.. My voice pops up quite regularly during Jay’s monologues.

I’ve got to be honest, when I first met Wally Wingert it was after he was hired as a very young disc jockey on Kelo radio whose studio was right next to our TV newsroom, I didn’t know what to make of him. He was incredibly outgoing and friendly but slightly nuts. As he’d walk by to grab news copy from the teletype or change the Weatherball, he might slip into impersonations of Elvis or Kermit the Frog or anyone of a hundred different characters. Don’t get me wrong, he was very good at them but it was a little disconcerting at first. Not everyone was so accepting of Wally’s zaniness but, as a genetically predisposed to be shy Norwegian, I admired his willingness to face up to criticism, laugh it off and try something else. He was hired to entertain at a Kelo Christmas party one year and brought the house down with his dead-on impersonation of the Andy Kaufman character, Latka from the Taxi TV series.

When the movie about Andy Kaufman, "Man on the moon" came out, Wally  went down to the Hollywood premier dressed in costume and was interviews by the ABC affiliate.

When the movie about Andy Kaufman, “Man on the moon” came out, Wally went down to the Hollywood premier dressed in costume and was interviews by the ABC affiliate.

wally elvisWally also had an Elvis jump suit made and hired a band to record a series of songs by the King of Rock and Roll. It was so good; the local school channel played it on cable for years. That was followed up by Wally’s impersonation of Paul McCartney. Not only did he create the physical illusion perfectly but his talents as a singer shocked a lot of doubters.

By the late 80’s it was clear that if Wally was going to make a living acting like other people he was going to have to shake the dust off Dakota and go where those dreams are fulfilled..or crushed..Hollywood. With the help of fellow lunatic, Dr. Demento, Wally got a job with Westwood One radio in Los Angeles and wrote a parody song about his childhood hero Adam West, the original Batman. It went number one on the Dr. Demento radio show, was featured on “A Current Affair” and “Rolling Stone.”  In 1993, Wally left radio to pursue acting, singing and especially voice-over work full time and it wasn’t long before he landed a shot on the hit CBS TV series “Murphy Brown.”  Although Wally himself is never seen, his voice and puppet skills made for a hilarious exchange with the star that’s still talked about today.

http://www.wallyontheweb.com/wallyvision/videos/murphy.swf

That appearance was followed by a four year gig portraying Beetlejuice in the stage production at Universal Studios Hollywood.

wally beetlejuice

He left after the demand for his voice became so great there was little time for much else. A nice problem to have.

wally jon arbuckle Since then, you have heard but not seen Wally Wingert as Jon Arbuckle in the Garfield cartoons, as well as characters from  “Family Guy,” “Space Chimps,” “King of the Hill,” “Bleach,” “The Simpsons,” “Invader Zim,” “The Fairly Oddparents,” “Scooby Doo 2,” “Astro Boy,” Harvey Birdman,” “Rugrats,” “Transformers; Robots in Disguise” and countless others. Not to mention voicing dozens of video games including the Riddler in the award winning  “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”

Wally’s success has allowed him to indulge his passions as a lifelong fan of the same Hollywood he’s now such a big part of. His home is like a museum filled with  collections of movies and TV memorabilia including several life-size mannequins of childhood heroes that  rival Madam Tussauds in quality and attention to detail.

wally batman and robin

“It’s corny, but dreams really do come true.” Wally tells me. “God delivers. I’ve had the chance to meet and become friends with so many people who I idolized growing up; Adam West, Paul Michael Glasier and David Soul. I gotta tell you a story, when I was a kid, my pal Steve Hatt and I were big Starsky and Hutch fans; dressing up and wearing our hair the same as them.

wally_steve

When I started doing okay out here, I was able to find a Starsky and Hutch Grand Torino. It’s been perfectly restored. Then I met Paul Glasier who was recording audio for his book. I was able to give him a few pointers and we became friends. Again, God’s timing.

Paul Glaser (Starsky) poses with Wally's clone of the car used in the TV series.

Paul Glaser (Starsky) poses with Wally’s clone of the car used in the TV series.

Well, that led to my emceeing a Starsky and Hutch reunion last summer in which people who donated to a charity could get a ride in the back seat with Starsky and Hutch using MY Grand Torino.  I flew my pal Steve out here from South Dakota to not only meet our childhood idols..but take a ride with them.

wally starsky hutch with car

Starsky and Hutch..Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul pose with Wally, Steve, Wally's Grand Torino and some other friends on a day they'll never forget.

Starsky and Hutch..Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul pose with Wally, Steve, Wally’s Grand Torino and some other friends on a day they’ll never forget.

The experience was surreal. No one can tell me hard work and a lot of faith can’t work miracles.”

As we talked, I kept checking my watch hoping I wasn’t keeping him from rehearsal but he assured me there was time.

“Okay, I said, would you go back if Jay got another gig, needed an announcer and gave you a call?”  “I really don’t think that will happen, Doug. But, I probably would..yeah. Jay has taken a lot of heat from some of his competitors that I think is unfair. He’s going out still number one in the ratings.  He’s been a great boss and a good role model to me and I’m really going to miss not only him but everybody involved with the show.”

A lot of people will be on permanent hiatus now. That's Jay Leno in the middle. Wally is a few folks to Jay's right in the bowling shirt, of course.

A lot of people will be on permanent hiatus now. That’s Jay Leno in the middle. Wally is a few folks to Jay’s right in the bowling shirt, of course.

“You have one of the most loaded websites out there, Wally, filled with stuff including a weekly diary or blog about what’s going on in your life. Your cat, Spooky and especially your Cocker Spaniel, Roxy, are a big part of it apparently.”

“That’s for sure. I got Roxy a couple years ago after my longtime pal, Sassy died. She has a pretty interesting pedigree. Her grandfathers have all been Lassie (the REAL Lassie from TV and film) and her brother is the current Lassie. Roxy sure gets lots of attention when we go for walks in the park.”

Wally's beautiful Collie not only looks like Lassie, she's directly descended from her..or him. Plus if  Wally ever falls down a well, Roxy can lead rescuers right to him.

Wally’s beautiful Collie not only looks like Lassie, she’s directly descended from her..or him. Plus if Wally ever falls down a well, Roxy can lead rescuers right to him.

“Forgive me for getting a little personal here Wally, but in your blogs you divulge just about everything that’s happening in your world but even though you post lots of pictures of you surrounded by beautiful women you never…well…ummm..I guess I just was wondering if you’re..you know.. happy.”

wally with ladies

(Knowing laughter on the other end of the line) “I get your drift Doug and let me say I don’t write every thing down on ‘Wally’s Week’ and yes, I’m happy…very happy.”

You can check out Wally Wingert’s webside here but be prepared you can spend a lot of time there.

Continued good luck, old friend, and thanks for proving what our mutual friend, Dave Dedrick AKA Captain 11, always said, “Growing up  is not always the right thing to do.”

A Love Story To Be Shurr

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 5:41 pm
By: Doug Lund

I don’t turn directly to the obituaries in the paper each morning..but I do tend to linger over them longer than I used to; probably because I’m astounded at the growing number of people younger than me who have met their demise.

You can learn a lot about people in the obituaries..or very little..depending on how much money the surviving families are willing to shell out for the paper to print the long version of their lost loved one’s life history.

Occasionally, there are people with the same last name appearing in the obits which usually means some sort of tragic accident has occurred. But when I saw this in last Friday’s Argus it appeared as if John and Bernita Shurr..both 95 and having spent 73 years of their life together, died because they just couldn’t go on living without each other.

shurr obit

Throughout his long life, John Shurr was proud of his Irish ancestry and loved the fact that he was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 1918.  He probably was also proud of being the heir apparent to Lone Tree, the farm homesteaded by his grandparents, near Ellsworth, Minnesota..although he may have been considering another career when after high school he enrolled in Mankato State College. It was there he met and fell in love with fellow student, Bernita Bell who was born on a farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota about 60 miles Northeast of John also in 1918. They were married in 1940 and moved to a small house on the homestead where John continued working while he sorted out his future and Bernita continued a family tradition of teaching school that went back five generations. When World War II broke out, John wasn’t called up because as the only son, he was needed at the farm. Then in 1943, his father died suddenly..leaving no choice about what John’s lot in life would be. So, for the next 69 years he and Bernita ruled the roost that was..and is.. the Shurr family farm called “Lone Tree.”

They had two sons, George and Robert, became actively involved in their church and community, read profusely, and were loved and admired by family and friends.

When tough decisions had to be made about moving into assisted living..then to an Ellsworth nursing home, John and Bernita accepted it gracefully as long as they could be together.

Dying a week apart, then, wasn’t all that unusual.

Still, I thought, there might be something more to their story so I took a chance this past week and gave the Shurr’s son, George a call and discovered that yes, of course, there’s always more.

By all accounts, John Shurr did well in his 91 years at Lone Tree. He was a good farmer who worked hard and played hard too..especially baseball and softball in his younger days. George says his dad was a quiet, friendly and humble man who loved studying and talking about history, philosophy, religion and, of course sports..especially his beloved Minnesota  Twins and Vikings.

That's John and Bernita Shurr on the right at the wedding of their son, George to his wife Margaret in 1965

That’s John and Bernita Shurr on the right at the wedding of their son, George to his wife Margaret in 1965

“Mom, on the other hand, was one of the first ‘women’s libbers’.  She was one of the first to take up the cause of fairness for Native Americans. Her intellectual curiosity was insatiable.” George said. “She was always reading up and taking a stand on various social issues including opposition to the Vietnam War when U.S. involvement began growing during the Johnson administration.”

John and Bernita had personal reasons for concern. Their  son, Robert was high on the draft list so he chose to enlist in the U.S. Army. That was in 1969.

On April 13th  1970, Specialist 6 Robert J. Shurr was killed instantly by an enemy grenade in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.  He was 24.

shurr robert vietnam 1970

Robert J. Shurr  

When the news reached Lone Tree farm, Bernita was inconsolable suffering from a mixture of devastation and rage. “Eventually, George says, Dad came around to dealing with Bob’s death but I don’t think Mom ever did and, all her life, has continued to bend politician’s ears about war and other government pursuits she didn’t agree with. She really had high hopes for President Obama.”

“They’ve tried to make the best out of being off the farm and having to live in a home,” George told me. “Mom was still plenty feisty,” but when dad’s hearing aids went bad, she became frustrated when he couldn’t be her sounding board about things she’d read or was thinking and she started to drift into dementia. But she seemed to perk up some once he got the repaired hearing aids back.”

John and Bernita with two of their great grandchildren.

John and Bernita with two of their great grandchildren.

King and Queen of Valentine's Day at Parkview Manor 2012

King and Queen of Valentine’s Day at Parkview Manor 2012

This past Christmas with son George who along with his wife Margaret have been faithful visitors and helpers at the home taking care of mom and dad.

This past Christmas with son George who along with his wife Margaret have been faithful visitors and helpers at the home taking care of mom and dad.

Both John and Bernita were pretty good at Christmas but after the first of the year, it was clear that time was running out. And, so it did for John on the 14th.

I don’t know what..if anything..was said as she held his hand at the end.  I would imagine they’d talked about this very moment before.  I’d like to think it was something like, “Wait for me dear, I’ll be right behind you.”

Because it was going to take awhile for all the family members to get home, John’s funeral was delayed.  As it turns out, that was meant to be because 8 days later, Bernita joined him on the other side.

They’ll be laid to rest together following a 2:30 p.m. service on Friday January 31st at the Jurrens Funeral Home in Rock Rapids, Iowa.

I was curious about whether or not it was possible that Bernita just decided she didn’t wish to live on without John and let go. Their son, George believes it to be true.

I thought I’d ask someone who might not be so emotionally invested in the issue so I talked with Mike Werner the longtime administrator of Parkview Manor. He basically said the science says no but the romantic in him says sure..why not?

He did say this though: “Doug, did you happen to count the days both John and Bernita actually lived on this earth? They’re EXACTLY the same 95 years 9 months and 28 days.  Now what are the odds of that? That seems a little beyond coincidence doesn’t it?”

 

On The RAZR’s Edge

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm
By: Doug Lund

My trusty old laptop is in the shop; a victim of my clumsy attempts to make her run better. A pox upon that British guy on Youtube and his quick fix video that resulted in me firing some longtime guardians he claimed were unnecessary and slowing me down. In following his instructions, I apparently left myself open to strangers who were only too happy to exploit my computer ignorance and vulnerability..leading me down dangerous paths where only the experienced should dare to venture.

"Old Faithful" I hope the injuries I caused are not mortal.

“Old Faithful” I hope the injuries I caused are not mortal.

The HP laptop was a parting gift from Keloland at my retirement 7 years ago and has served me well for both writing Lund at Large and recording Voice of Keloland assignments when we are out of town. I have left it in the capable hands of the Keloland I.T. guy in hopes it can be salvaged at least enough for me to retrieve stuff from my hard drive and maybe apologize for allowing her to be violated because of my selfish choice to seek speed over safety.

The laptop incident has not been the only sobering reminder of how little I really know about communication technology.

For the last several months it was clear that a trip to the Verizon store would be necessary. After three years, the lid on my flip phone had cracked to the point it wouldn’t stay open when answering or during a call which led to numerous unintentionally rude hang-ups on people when my hand would accidentally let go of the top causing the lid to slam shut. It was time for Linda and my free upgrades. Now, we’d been thinking about getting smart phones like most everyone else on the planet but really couldn’t justify the cost. (Double what we’re paying now) Plus, we don’t text..nor care to. And, (the main reason really) I’m afraid we might be too dumb to learn how to operate a smart phone. So, it was pretty much settled, we’ll get our new flippers and be out the door.

Two hours later, however, we were exiting the building with puzzled looks on our faces carrying a bag containing two Droid RAZR smart phones wondering aloud “what in the hell did we just do?”

I had been wooed into submission by the clever young salesman I guess.

 

It’s not the first time people have tried to intimidate me technologically. Newspapers had been using computers for quite a while but by the mid 1980’s everybody in TV news realized it was only a matter of time before they’d be invading our territory too. We got to see it first hand in 1987, when Dan Rather took the CBS Evening News on the road for a week of broadcasts on the farm crisis from our Keloland studios in Sioux Falls. Rather was only here a couple days before dashing back to New York but, to our good fortune, Charles Kuralt was brought in to finish out the week…which is a whole other story. The point is, we got to see, first hand, how reporters and producers utilized computers and how it would forever change the format and speed in which news is assembled and presented.

It still took a couple years before the inevitable happened; ours was to be the first local TV newsroom to bid the old typewriters adieu and become  totally computerized.  Of course, all of our younger colleagues were overtly and covertly convinced that Hemmingsen and I were too stuck in our ways to ever adapt to the new system which only made me more determined to outshine all of ‘em.  I paid close attention during our ten day orientation classes and was as ready as any of them when we hit the air live after a few test runs. Hemmingsen did too..although he refused to give up his old Olympia typewriter, keeping it under his desk for several months in case of emergency. We actually did have a couple computer malfunctions in those early days  in which the typewriters were dragged out of storage and brought brought back into temporary service. I don’t think that’s even an option today and I don’t know anyone who would have the finger strength to operate a manual typewriter or change a ribbon.

So now, I sit here and stare at this ..or one just like it.

I wonder if we'll ever be friends.

I wonder if we’ll ever be friends.

It’s been over two weeks since we got our RAZR’s..well past the point of going back on our commitment and even though I’m learning a little bit more about them every day, the process is slow and, considering the lapse in judgment that sent my laptop to the hospital, I’ve tried to be extra careful about what I touch.  The trouble is, many errors are unavoidable because my fingers are too fat or arthritic or something. Even though I widen the keyboard to maximum, a simple request for my email address comes out something like dlu@#dorkmufl .  I have sort of figured out how to avoid typing by using the voice commands for both Google and the phone but sometimes I get a rather ass-chewing electronic reply like “Are you still there?”  or “Next time try..blah blah..”   In frustration, I have..and I’m not proud of it..occasionally..talked back to my Droid using expletives that would make them think twice about asking me to narrate the Christmas Cantata at church ever again.

Well, I see a little green light flashing on my phone.  There was a time when that meant a change in weather foreseen. Now I think it means I’ve got a message of some sort. Guess I’ll turn her on and start pushing some of those tiny little icons with my Incredible Hulk hands and see what happens.

Wish me luck.

I’m Just Winging It Here

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 10:50 am
By: Doug Lund

(It should be noted that this blog, like chicken, should be taken with a grain of salt)

When you spend as much time as I do sitting in a big old recliner chair with a computer in your lap looking out the window waiting for the winter to end but not really caring all that much because you rarely venture out in the cold and snow anyway, you have lots of time to think. Today, I’ve been thinking about chickens and how I might get rich off of them in my old age just like Colonel Harland Sanders did when he started KFC at the age of 65.

Colonel Douglas. I kinda like the sound of that. I can picture it too:big guy with a goatee as white as his suit shilling fried chicken wing franchises nationwide. That’s right, its wings only baby.

wing platter

Wings are where the money is; or must be since so many places that feature them are taking flight across the country especially in Sioux Falls where in just the past couple weeks it was announced two new restaurants were opening; Buffalo Wild Wings will expand with a third location on the East Side.    Plus a franchise, new to this market called Wingstop, will be locating on Minnesota Avenue. Chicken wings are a specialty at most every sports bar in town..not to mention their popularity at parties..especially with the NFL playoffs going on and Super Bowl coming up. The National Chicken Council estimates that last year 1.25 billion chicken wings were eaten on Super Bowl Sunday, and that 23% of people who watched the game ate wings — a few, or perhaps a few dozen, each.   Of course you can’t have chicken wings without the whole chicken which got me to wondering; what are they doing with all the other truly delicious parts of the bird whose lives have been sacrificed to harvest those useless..yet tasty..limbs?  I picture that scene from “Dances with wolves” when prior to the buffalo hunt, Costner and the Sioux come across hundreds of bison carcasses rotting in the sun stripped bare by white hunters interested only in the valuable buffalo hides.

Are they finding enough outlets and uses for processed chicken meat sans wings?  Or are there piles of once prized breasts and thighs tossed out the door to become elegant dining for wild animals?    I see some fast food places offering “boneless wings!”  No such thing people. It’s probably a desperate attempt to disguise and dispose of the former prime cuts.

Let’s see, where was I?

Oh, yeah..getting rich off chickens.

I’ve done considerable research on the subject of meat efficiency ( a few Google searches) and have decided that it is quite possible to genetically engineer these birds to grow a pair…an extra pair of wings, that is. Listen, it’s already being done ON PEOPLE.

 

It's possible to grow a nose on a forehead.

It’s possible to grow a new nose on the forehead of this chap who desperately needs one.  Once it reaches sufficient size it will be surgically removed and implanted in the less gross  normal position.

 

And a replacement ear on an arm.

Or a replacement ear on this guy’s forearm.

So here’s my prototype  for a four winged chicken.

 

It would appear that aerodynamically, a 4 wing chicken would be no better at flying than the two wing variety.

It would appear that aerodynamically, a 4 wing chicken would be just as flight challenged as the two wing variety easing fears of them flying the coop.

Double the profits right out of the chute. Plus the PETA people will be happy (well, nothing short of global veganism will make them happy) by cutting the chicken slaughter in half. Plus, imagine the friendly bar competitions over who gets the more tender and tasty bottom wings in the basket.

I suppose I shouldn’t be letting the chicken out of the henhouse without first getting the process patented but I plan to put Hemmingsen on the case. He’s in daily contact with some of the greatest minds in agriculture who meet each afternoon at Cedrics in Hendricks, Minnesota to exercise those minds playing Jeopardy on the bar TV. I’ll bet that after a few beverages and a basket of wings, they’ll have both the genetic challenges and a marketing strategy all figured out.

Me, I’ve got a couple of white suits on order and a pretty good start on a goatee.

A rather stern blurry selfie but shows my Col Douglas Goatee progress  since the New Year.

A rather stern blurry selfie but shows my Col Douglas Goatee progress since the New Year.