There are a few celebrities in the news these days for making profane, threatening tweets against the President. I usually ignore these stories because I have enough kids and grandkids to know that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it; and these spoiled children are desperately seeking attention. The worst punishment you can mete out to them isn’t criticism, it’s ignoring them. So instead of rewarding them with undeserved attention, I thought I’d shine a spotlight on a few celebrities who are using their fame to make a positive difference.

First, how about a hand for Matthew McConaughey? He’s the spokesman for Lincoln Motors, and he convinced them to donate 110,000 face masks to rural hospitals and first responders in his home state of Texas. Then he loaded up his pickup, and he and his wife Camilla Alves hit the road to deliver them personally. Allright, allright, allright!...

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is part of an effort to provide free meals for front line health care workers and first responders at Santa Clara, California, hospitals. One day, he not only helped make and hand out 1200 boxed lunches, he put a personal thank-you note inside each one.

Last month, country superstar Brad Paisley opened a grocery store in Nashville for people struggling to feed their families. It’s just like a regular grocery, except the food is free. It even delivers to the elderly. Brad has also launched an online song series with music stars performing to thank health care workers, and he recently recorded a personal thank-you for the nurses of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Finally, a big Huck’s Hero salute to a celebrity who does more for veterans than just about anyone I know, Gary Sinese. His foundation is donating 20,000 meals to health care workers at VA medical centers around the nation.

I’m happy to give these celebrities some recognition because what they did was meant to help others, not to get themselves publicity. Social media might be a lot more civil if all media outlets would simply adopt the same policy of not giving attention to people who only do things to get attention.

Story of the day

April 28, 2020

A big Huck’s Hero salute to New Jersey newspaper deliveryman Greg Daily. When an elderly customer asked if he could throw the paper closer to the garage, it made him think that if she couldn’t walk that 20 feet, how could she go out for groceries during the lockdown?

So he put a note inside every newspaper, offering his services to shop for and deliver groceries free of charge to his elderly customers. He’s now busy helping nearly 100 people, some of them not even on his paper route. One grateful 85-year-old widow called him “one of the finest people in the world.” Daily said the seniors appreciate the help so much, he’s decided to keep doing it even after the lockdown ends. He said, “There’s something about being able to do something really nice for people.”

There sure is! Our thanks to Greg Daily for reminding us all that “social distancing” doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to the people around you who really need your help.

And on that subject, here’s another story that could have gone a very different way, if it weren’t for the kindness and compassion of a grocery store owner in Ontario.

RIP Troy Sneed

April 28, 2020

I am saddened to report that the coronavirus has taken another talented musician from us. Grammy-nominated gospel singer Troy Sneed died Monday in Jacksonville, Florida, of complications from the virus. He was only 52.

Sneed started his career with the Georgia Mass Choir, which appeared in the film “The Preacher’s Wife” with Whitney Houston. He then formed Youth For Christ before launching a gospel record label with his wife Emily and releasing seven solo albums. His hits include “Work It Out” and “My Heart Says Yes.” Our deepest condolences and prayers for his wife and family. Here are some samples of the inspiring musical legacy he left us here and here.

Bergen-Belsen Anniversary

April 16, 2020

Wednesday, Germany observed a national moment of silence in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus shutdown, the memorial was closed, survivors who had planned to attend were forced to stay home, and events to mark the date had to be postponed to 2021.

Bergen-Belsen was one of the first camps to be liberated by the Allies. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 people died there. British troops found it riddled with disease and more than 13,000 unburied corpses. They freed about 60,000 prisoners who were in shockingly bad condition, sick and starving and in desperate need of medical care. The victims included Anne Frank and her sister Margot, who are now believed to have died of typhus about two months before the Allied troops arrived.

Even though current circumstances have forced the official commemoration to be postponed, you can learn more about this horrific chapter in history online at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum site. Once you read the story of Bergen-Belson, and the other concentration camps, you’ll understand why we must pass it on to future generations so that it is never forgotten and never allowed to happen again.

Huck's Hero Kurt Kruczek

March 22, 2020

I wrote recently that I seem to live in a very different America from the dog-eat-dog Zombie Apocalypse described by the media. In the America where I live, people are dealing with the current pandemic scare by trying their best to stay calm, keep on keeping on, and helping each other as much as possible.

One great example of a Huck’s Hero in this situation is Kurt Kruczek, owner of Naples Pizza in West Hartford, Connecticut. His business is down 50%, he had to close one location, and he’s struggling to keep paying all his workers. But when he saw the doctors at the local hospital on TV in their “space suits,” working so hard to deal with the coronavirus, he knew he had to help. So he called and asked if they’d like some free pizzas. The gift was greatly appreciated by the overworked staffers and worried patient family members. So he’s now making a weekly delivery of free pizzas to the hospital, one during the daytime and another at night, for the night shift people who tend to be forgotten.

Kruczek appeared Wednesday on “Fox & Friends,” where he urged people to please support their local restaurants that are struggling to survive by ordering good to go or to be delivered. And here’s a great idea: he said if you can afford it, consider buying gift cards and either using them when the pandemic is over, or else donate them as thank-you gifts to your local hospital, police or firefighters.

There’s even a website now that can help you find a restaurant near you that’s offering gift cards, to help your local businesses survive. To learn more, go to www.RallyForRestaurants.com.

Several very influential people have passed away in recent days, so I thought I’d take a minute to pay last respects to them...

One of the most brilliant and visionary scientists of our time, Freeman Dyson, died Saturday at 96. Dyson made enormous contributions to physics, math and quantum electrodynamics, despite never even bothering to earn a Ph.D. He also never won a Nobel Prize, even though his ability to understand things that others could not imagine led to fundamental advances in science and technology. As Mark Steyn wrote, you can get a sense of his importance just by the number of things that bear his name: “the Dyson sphere, Dyson series, Dyson graphs, Dyson number, Dyson operator, Dyson conjecture, Dyson tree, Schwinger-Dyson equation, Dyson's transform, Dyson's eternal intelligence” and so on.

https://www.steynonline.com/10094/cover-story

As Steyn notes, toward the end of his life, other scientists not nearly so brilliant turned on him for casting doubt on their apocalyptic climate change predictions. Dyson believed in manmade climate change, and said he was a Democrat through-and-through and loved Obama, but he thought Obama was on the wrong side of climate change and the Republicans on the right side. He believed that the effects of CO2 on climate were vastly overstated and the benefit of more CO2 outweighed the negatives. Also, that the alarmists were too attached to their own computer models that had been proven wrong again and again. As Steyn quotes Dyson:

“A model is such a fascinating toy that you fall in love with your creation... Every model has to be compared to the real world and, if you can't do that, then don't believe the model.”

As happened so many times in his life, Dyson saw and stated a fundamental truth that his fellow scientists were oblivious to. Here are some testimonials from those who knew him:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615305/freeman-dyson-by-the-people-who-knew-him-an-unusual-visionary/


Commentary continues below advertisement


Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch died Sunday at 84. One of the most successful businessmen of the late 20th century, Welch’s hard-driving style and willingness to dump unprofitable companies and lay off workers brought him both admiration and criticism. He oversaw GE’s acquisition of RCA (and later NBC) and got the company into finance with GE Capital. That brought in massive profits, but seven years after his retirement, the 2008 mortgage crisis nearly destroyed the company. Welch said he gave himself an A for execution but an F for his choice of successors. You can read more about this controversial and influential man at the link.

https://www.foxbusiness.com/money/jack-welch-dead-former-ge-ceo

James Lipton, the longtime host of the award-winning interview series “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” has died at 93 after battling bladder cancer. What you might not know about him: he served in the Air Force in World War II and came to New York after the war intending to become a lawyer, but instead fell into movie and TV production. On radio, he was the voice of the Lone Ranger’s nephew Dan Reid. He wrote a novel, choreographed a ballet, wrote for several soap operas and spent 10 years acting on “The Guiding Light.” Our condolences to his wife of nearly 50 years, former model Kedakai Mercedes Lipton.

https://www.westernjournal.com/inside-actors-studio-host-james-lipton-dead-age-93/

Late last month, computer scientist Larry Tesler died at 74. He spent two decades at Apple, helping make human-computer interactions easier. His most famous contribution: while working at Xerox, he created the copy/cut/paste commands that allow computer users to move text around in documents and between different programs. In his honor, Twitter users are creating endless threads by copying and pasting the link to his obituary.

https://www.newsweek.com/larry-tesler-copy-paste-twitter-thread-chain-1488442

A final Huck’s Hero salute to a true American hero: Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Donald Stratton passed away in his sleep at age 97. The Navy veteran was one of the last survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack on the USS Arizona. 1,177 of his shipmates were killed when Japanese planes bombed the USS Arizona. But he and at least five other sailors survived when another sailor threw them a lifeline from a nearby ship. They struggled hand-over-hand for about 70 feet, with the other sailor calling, “Come on, sailor! You can make it!”

For decades, Stratton never knew the identity of his rescuer. But during a reunion of Pearl Harbor survivors in 2001, he learned it was Chief Petty Officer Joe George, who had died in 1996. Stratton and fellow USS Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner then took on another urgent battle: to get official recognition of George’s heroism. They even traveled to Washington to meet with President Trump. Thanks to their efforts, in 2017, the Navy finally awarded George a posthumous Bronze Star with valor.

There’s more at the link, including photos and video I know you’ll want to see. Rest in peace, George Stratton. A grateful nation thanks you for your duty and sacrifice. And our prayers and condolences to his family and his wife of nearly 70 years, Velma Stratton.

https://www.foxnews.com/us/donald-stratton-pearl-harbor-uss-arizona-died

By “Huckabee” writer/pop culture historian and lifelong Monty Python geek, Pat Reeder (http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodhifibook)

We are saddened to report that Terry Jones of the massively influential British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus passed away Tuesday evening at 77 with his wife by his side. Jones had been fighting a long battle against FTD, a rare form of dementia. He was quietly slipping away over the past few days as his children, friends and family gathered to say their final goodbyes.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/terry-jones-dead-monty-python-founder-british-comedy-icon-was-77-963478

A throwback to the era of really intelligent humor, Jones studied English at Oxford, where he met his lifelong friend and collaborator, Michael Palin. The two worked on other comedy projects and shows before joining Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and the late Graham Chapman to form Monty Python. In addition to writing and performing, Jones also directed TV shows and movies, including Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and “The Meaning of Life.” With Gilliam, he co-directed “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” often cited as one of the funniest and most-quoted movies ever made.

He wrote a number of acclaimed books, both humorous and non-fiction. He also created and starred in several TV documentary series about British history, earning a 2004 Emmy nomination for “Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.” (Maybe that's why, for all its crazy jokes and plot elements, "Holy Grail" was praised for looking more authentic than many serious movies set in the Middle Ages.)

A biographer once said that if you spoke to him "on subjects as diverse as fossil fuels, or Rupert Bear, or mercenaries in the Middle Ages or modern China…in a moment, you will find yourself hopelessly out of your depth, floored by his knowledge."

But with all that on his resume, he will likely be best remembered as Brian's mom who scolded him for being a naughty boy, or Prince Herbert who lived in a swamp and just wanted to sing, or the wise knight who can tell someone’s a witch because she weighs the same as a duck. I like to think he would be perfectly happy with that unparalleled legacy.

Buck Henry, RIP

January 9, 2020

By “Huckabee” writer/pop culture historian Pat Reeder (http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodhifibook )

As a fellow comedy writer who greatly admired Buck Henry, I’m sad to report that he has died in a Los Angeles hospital at 89 with his wife Irene by his side.

Henry was a familiar face to the public for his many movie and TV comedy roles as a bespectacled, unassuming everyman, but he was most known to fans of the early days of “Saturday Night Live.” It became tradition that he hosted the final show of each season. His ten shows held a record finally broken by Steve Martin. In his most famous sketches, he played the customer trying to get some product or service from John Belushi’s Samurai butcher, tailor, etc.  In one notorious sketch, Belushi’s wild sword swinging accidentally nicked Henry’s forehead on live TV.  He had to do the rest of the show with a bandage on his head to stop the bleeding. 

But Henry was actually best known behind the camera.  He wrote or co-wrote a number of movies, including “Catch-22,” “What’s Up, Doc,” “The Day of the Dolphin,” and a terrific black comedy with Nicole Kidman that you should definitely check out called “To Die For.”  In his early days, he wrote for such classic TV comics as Steve Allen and Garry Moore, and the pioneering topical humor show, “That Was the Week That Was.”  His most famous gigs were his Oscar nominations for co-writing “The Graduate” and co-directing Warren Beatty’s “Heaven Can Wait,” and to me, the thing that will forever cement his place in comedy history: he co-created “Get Smart” with Mel Brooks. 

Rest in peace to one of the genuine major multi-talents of 20th century entertainment.

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/buck-henry-screenwriter-of-the-graduate-co-creator-of-get-smart-dies-at-89

Last Respects of 2019

January 3, 2020

By “Huckabee” writer/pop culture maven Pat Reeder (http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodhifibook )

During our brief holiday break from the daily news, a number of prominent people passed away.  We’d feel remiss if we didn’t take a moment to tell you about them and pay our final respects.

The beautiful actress/model Sue Lyon passed away in Los Angeles at 73. She first came to fame in Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film “Lolita,” then appeared in many movies and TV shows throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s before leaving show business in 1980.

It seems somehow sadly appropriate that TV animation producer Lee Mendelson died on Christmas Day at 88, of heart failure after a long fight with cancer. He was remembered by many who worked with him as one of the nicest and most honorable men in a sometimes disreputable industry. Mendelson and partner Bill Melendez won 12 Emmys and 4 Peabody Awards for their work, mostly for all the classic “Peanuts” specials.  Those include the first, and still the greatest Christmas special in history, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” for which Mendelson wrote the lyrics of “Christmas Time is Here.” CBS nearly refused to air it originally because it broke every rule in the then-book, from using real kids as voice talent to the Vince Guaraldi Trio jazz score.  But what they most objected to was Linus explaining what Christmas is all about by quoting the story of Christ’s birth from the Bible.  Charles M. Schulz refused to budge, CBS caved, and the rest is history.  Can you even imagine being able to do that today, when networks cringe in fear that some triggered atheist will complain on Twitter?

One of Broadway’s greatest composers and lyricists, Jerry Herman, died at 88 on the day after Christmas (ironically, he wrote one of our most beloved Christmas songs, “We Need a Little Christmas.”)  Sometimes derided by critics for his crowd-pleasing shows and catchy melodies, he gave the world such timeless hits as “Hello Dolly,” “Mame” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”  Even his rare flops, like “Mack and Mabel,” are fondly remembered for their great scores. For some reason, his trademark became songs in which the male chorus hailed the female lead as she entered down a big staircase.  Songs like “Hello, Dolly,” “Mame” and “When Mabel Comes in the Room” became known in the biz as “staircase numbers.”

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jerry-herman-dead-broadway-composer-lyricist-hello-dolly-was-88-1141052

Two days after Christmas, radio legend Don Imus died at 79 of undisclosed causes.  In his long and tumultuous career, he was a DJ, stand-up comic, and eventually, one of the most listened-to interviewers and commentators in the worlds of politics and pop culture, with a caustic, uncensored style that sometimes got him in trouble with the PC set. His career covers too many interesting corridors to explore here, so check out the link for more.   

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/don-imus-legendary-imus-morning-host-dies-at-79-1265052

Also on December 27th, trumpet master Jack Sheldon passed away at 88.  He worked with many jazz and pop greats, from Stan Kenton to Frank Sinatra.  But he was best known to the public as Merv Griffin’s wisecracking bandleader/sidekick on his TV talk show, and of course, to a generation of kids for providing the gravely vocals on “Schoolhouse Rock.”  That’s him singing the iconic and often-parodied lyrics of “I’m Just a Bill” (“…and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…”

https://youtu.be/cd4fVFwE4j4

https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2019/12/31/jazz-musician-jack-sheldon-known-schoolhouse-rock-dies/2788216001/

Finally, I’m sorry to report that Neil Innes died at 75 on December 29th.  His mixture of music and surreal comedy in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band helped inspire such influential British comedians as the Monty Python troupe.  He later contributed music to Python’s shows and records, and with Eric Idle created the best pre-Spinal Tap fictitious rock band, the Rutles (a parody of the Beatles.) 

I’ll leave you with my favorite Neil Innes quote.  He sometimes performed as a parody of a Bob Dylan-style folk protest singer, and before launching into an off-key song, he would tell the audience:

“I’ve suffered for my music…Now, it’s your turn.”