Drug Raid – The Cupboards Were Bare

Drug Raid - in Dudley, United Kingdom

By Judy Berman

Minutes after an undercover police officer made a drug buy from the back window of a house, I heard him over the police radio.

“It’s a go. There are three people in there.”

Then, six police officers, dressed in black, ran down a city street and around the corner.

With guns drawn and two mighty whacks with a battering ram, they knocked down the door and ran in.

The suspect tossed $350 and 12 baggies of crack cocaine out the window. Investigators said the suspect had 11 baggies on him, and he’d just sold three.

It was like the movies. Only, this time: no guns blazing or suspects jumping out of windows to avoid arrest.

This is from the way-back files when I was a cops reporter in Utica, New York.

It was a rare behind-the-scenes look for me at what goes down during a drug raid. Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo gave the go-ahead to me and to one of the Observer-Dispatch’s photographers to join the investigators.

We wanted to be in on the action from the get-go. But they were overly cautious – and with good reason. What if something happened?

“You never know what’s behind that door,” said Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, the department’s senior investigator of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Liability concerns and safety are the reasons why many police agencies hesitate to grant this kind of access to reporters and photographers.

I told the police chief that a story I was working on – about 7 ½ years of drug arrests by SIU – would look a lot better if it was tied to a drug arrest – with me and a photographer along.

Rotundo was a savvy man. He agreed.

Once inside, the investigator, who wore a Stetson, smoked a huge cigar as he searched for evidence. He wore plastic gloves because “these places aren’t the cleanest,” and to protect himself if one of the suspects was bleeding.

He’s hearing nothing but polite denials and excuses from one of the women in the house.

“No, officer, I just came here to see my cousin, Angel,” she claimed.

The officer disagrees.

“You’ve been seen coming to this drug house several times and were inside when a drug buy was just made,” he said.

Then, he starts singing “Angel in the Morning.”

In the kitchen, there’s a box of baking soda on the counter. A cigarette butt is out in the drain.

I gingerly open a fridge door by using my pen on the handle until one of the investigators gives me plastic gloves. Inside, there’s only a can of Sprite.

Utica drug bust - UPD Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Berman)

Other than salt-and-pepper shakers, the cupboards are bare.

After the raid, Deputy Chief Nick Yagey joked that I was a con artist and had hoodwinked investigators into letting us go inside the drug house.

“You weren’t supposed to take any photos identifying SIU members,” he said.

Yagey claimed he could ID one who was bent over searching thru a couch for evidence.

“You couldn’t pick that face out of a crowd,” I challenged, knowing that SIU had vetted the photos before publication so no undercover officer was put in jeopardy.

“His butt, maybe,” I laughed.

Fortunately, Yagey was laughing, too, when I left his office a few minutes later.


Kudos to the police officers in the Utica Police Department who often assured my safe passage as a cops reporter at some very dicey scenes – especially Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo, who died in 2010, and Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, who died in 2001.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Trailer: The French Connection (1971) – Undercover cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) in his famous high speed chase in pursuit of a criminal – great film. But this is reel life – not real life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP_7ZopT6oM  

Music Video: Bad Boys (1992) by Inner Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVBB2upbVys&feature=kp  

Video: Dragnet (1951) – TV show starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday. The just-the-facts ma’am detective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj-qhIGTXdU  

Main Photo: Drug Raid – in Dudley, United Kingdom – taken Feb. 22, 2013 by West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg/640px-Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg

Photo: Utica Drug Raid – Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Manzer Berman) at the scene of a drug bust in Utica, New York.


Grapes of Wrath

Migrant Mother - Florence Owens Thompson - 1936

By Judy Berman

My role model is a paroled prisoner, an unrepentant killer.

After four years in prison on a manslaughter charge, his concerns were only for “today.”

Time and life’s experiences shifted Tom Joad’s focus from selfish self-interest to helping others in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

He is one of the reasons I root for the underdog – personally and when I was a reporter.

The politics and social injustice that existed when the book was written have changed. But the book still resonates 75 years after its publication on April 14, 1939.

Like many families in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Joads are forced to leave Oklahoma. A drought turns their land into a “Dust Bowl” and renders it useless to grow crops and to make a living.

Landowners and banks evicted tenant farmers. Some homes are torn down by tractors, leaving residents with nowhere to go.

They’re told that there are jobs in California. Before they can get to the Promised Land, they are taken advantage of by crooked car salesmen and dishonest pawnbrokers when they try to sell their belongings to pay for transportation and for their trip.

Migrant worker's family, Nipomo, California

Defeated, they pack what possessions they can and drive down Route 66 in rickety cars and trucks to California where they – and thousands of others – head to migrant camps in search of work.

Life on the road is hard and fraught with danger. The Joads and others are treated with hostility because so many Okies are flooding into California and there’s not enough work for them. Some are starving.

Ma Joad, the family’s strength, believes that helping others will be rewarded. While there is greed, she has also witnessed kindness from strangers. She repays that by feeding some of the starving migrant children at the camp.

Early on, Tom Joad and Jim Casy, a family friend and ex-preacher, begin to wonder why the tenant farmers aren’t organizing a union to fight the injustices of poverty wages and harsh treatment at migrant camps.

They’re told that if they do organize a protest that they will be black-listed from the camps. That means they’ll never find work.

When the Joads settle in at the Weedpatch camp, a government-sponsored place, it appears their luck has changed for the better. But trouble still follows them.

A Farmers’ Association plans to sabotage the camp. They fear that the Okies are a threat to their way of life.

Work is again hard to find. The migrant workers are paid far less than promised and it’s not enough to feed their families. Casy urges them to strike.

Their protest is met with violence and motivates Tom to work for the community’s good. He’s on the run.

Ma Joad fears she won’t see him again. Before they part, Tom comforts her and vows to continue to fight injustice wherever he finds it.

Grapes of Wrath - Henry Fonda - DVD cover

“I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ – I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry ‘n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll be there.”

My colleagues at the Observer Dispatch in Utica, New York, paraphrased that quote to reflect on my career at the paper.

It’s a comparison I’ll cherish always.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie clip – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Famous “I’ll Be There” speech in the movie by Tom Joad (Henry Fonda)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2JR3FmvVAw  

Video – John Steinbeck and Grapes of Wrath – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqaTv8cCWeg  

Photo – Migrant Mother (1936) – Florence Owens Thompson – (Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California.) Photo by Dorothea Lange, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg/461px-Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg

Photo – Migrant worker’s family – Photography of Florence Owens Thompson, known as “Migrant Mother”, Pea-Pickers Camp, Nipomo, California.  Photo taken 1936 by Dorothea Lange http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg/754px-Migrant_agricultural_worker%27s_family%2C_Nipomo%2C_California_ppmsca03054u.jpg

Photo – Grapes of Wrath (1940) – Henry Fonda as Tom Joad – DVD cover



The Ultimate Irish Wake

Weekend at Bernies - main charactersBy Judy Berman

Going out on your own terms is exactly what Walter George Bruhl Jr. did. He wrote his own obituary, and it’s hilarious.

“There will be no viewing, as his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, so he would appear natural to visitors,” according to CapeGazette.com.

This reminded me of Bernie Lomax in the movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” (1989).

An Irish wake is an occasion for both sadness and merriment. In this movie, death is a dark comedy.

Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) had it all: a cushy executive job at a New York-based insurance company, a flashy sports car, hot babes and a beach house with endless parties.

He was the ultimate host. Just one problem. He’s dead.

Despite that, he is still the life of the party.

No one seems to notice that the party-guy is a real stiff.

That wasn’t the ending Bernie had in mind when two of his employees – Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) – discovered someone ripped off the firm for $2 million.

Hoping this would lead to a promotion, they couldn’t wait to tell Bernie. He lured them to his beach house for the weekend with the promise of a fun getaway.

Weekend at Bernie's - screenshot - Bernie Lomax arranging hitInstead, Bernie turns to his Mafia partner, Vito, and asks him to knock off Richard and Larry because they discovered his scam. The mobster, however, decides Bernie’s the one who’s got to go because he’s been getting greedy.

Having an affair with Vito’s girlfriend was the final nail in the coffin.  The mobster orders a hitman, Paulie (Don Calfa), to rub out Bernie.

Before Richard and Larry arrive at the beach house, Paulie kills Bernie. When they find his body, their weekend plans appear to be dead in the water.

Then, the partiers arrive. Richard and Larry prop Bernie up. With his sunglasses on and perpetual goofy grin from the fatal drug overdose, no one notices that he’s shed his mortal coil, and the party goes on.

Richard insists on calling the cops until he sees his office crush, Gwen Saunders (Catherine Mary Stewart), walk in.

The next morning, Richard and Larry discover a taped phone message that Bernie had accidentally recorded. On it, Bernie tells the hit man to kill his two employees and make it look like a murder-suicide.

That’s when they realize that their best bet for staying alive is to make it look like Bernie is still around.

Larry has rigged it so that Bernie appears to be waving as friends pass by. They also tie his shoes to theirs so it appears he’s walking with them. And Bernie keeps popping up in all the wrong places.

The sightings of Bernie convince Vito that Paulie has botched the job. So Paulie’s ordered to return and take care of Bernie permanently.

That’s a tall order for a guy who just won’t stay dead, and it’s driving Paulie crazy.

So, Bernie is having the time of his life death. But, I would rather have the last word like Walter George Bruhl Jr., who died March 9 in Punta Gorda, Florida, and wrote his parting shots in his obit.

For years, I’ve told my husband, Dave, that I want an Irish wake with me standing in the corner with a glass of wine. Also, a ticker-tape parade.

He assures me that he’s working on this as we speak. I’ve asked my friends to nag remind him of my final wishes.

That would be the ultimate send-off.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer: Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) – starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCTgcZ6ImsQ 

Photo – Weekend at Bernie’s – http://www.stumpedmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Weekend-at-Bernies.jpeg

Photo – Weekend at Bernie’s – screenshot – Terry Kiser as Bernie Lomax – arranging hit

Walter George Bruhl Jr.’s obituary. http://capegazette.villagesoup.com/p/walter-george-bruhl-jr-dupont-co-retiree/1139838

The Mob Built This City

Las Vegas - Flamingo Road

By Judy Berman

Did the mob once run Las Vegas? Some dispute that, but few would quibble about the explosive growth in Sin City as a result of the Mob’s presence.

This reputation is one that The Mob Museum in Las Vegas capitalizes on. The $42 million museum opened two years ago on Feb. 14, 2012.

That date is probably no coincidence. One of the artifacts on display on the third floor is the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

A Chicago Tribune newspaper clipping reported that gunman dressed as policemen lined seven men of George “Bugs” Moran’s gang up against the whitewashed wall and gunned them down.

“It was the most infamous of all gangland slayings in America, and it savagely achieved its purpose – the elimination of the last challenge to Al Capone for the mantle of crime boss in Chicago.”

Mob Museum - Las Vegas - Wall of Mobsters

The way the museum tells it: “This is truly the underworld uncovered.” It’s billed as “An authentic exploration of the endless tug-of-war between organized crime and law enforcement.”

Last July, my husband and I spent more than two hours in the museum and, truthfully, we could have spent much more time there if we didn’t have a pressing engagement. (No. Forget the scene in Goldfinger when James Bond referred to a dead mobster who was entombed in a crushed car.)

On the second floor of the museum is the courtroom. This is the same federal courthouse where the 1950-51 Kefauver Committee hearings were held to expose organized crime. Here, you can see film clips of those hearings.

Las Vegas - Mob Museum - July 2013 055

Longtime locals are fond of saying that Vegas was better when the Mob ran the casinos. They felt there was less crime and the mob took care of – policed – their own.

The tour quickly dispels that notion by showing some of the innocent bystanders who were rubbed out by those “connected” to the Mob – along with a few of the bad guys, of course. The focus is not just on the Mob that infiltrated Vegas nightlife, but on major cities throughout the U.S.

Some of the exhibits aren’t for the faint-hearted. There are gory ones that show what happens when you run into the wrong end of a gun. For example, you can see the barber chair that mobster Albert Anastasia was murdered in on Oct. 25, 1957, in Manhattan, New York.

You can listen in on authentic Mafia Omerta induction ceremony or to actual FBI surveillance tapes on wiretapping equipment.

For a more glamorized look of the mob, sit a spell in the theater room and watch clips from gangster movies.

Parting words from philosopher/mobster Al Capone, “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” This quote is just one of the souvenirs I picked up from the gift shop at the Mob Museum.

Hey! They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. But I took an oath not to reveal it.

Not to be a Wiseguy, but you can get the total scoop on the cost of admission, hours and attractions at The Mob Museum’s web site: http://themobmuseum.org/

Movie Trailer: Casino with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBjmiE1kf_Q 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: 60 Years: KLAS-TV Documents Mob’s Rise, Fall in Las Vegas     http://www.8newsnow.com/story/22881346/60-years-klas-tv-documents-mobs-rise-fall-in-las-vegas

Main Photo: Las Vegas – Flamingo Road – Taken April 24, 2012, by curimedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/50/Flamingo_road%2C_Las_Vegas_%287314950038%29.jpg/640px-Flamingo_road%2C_Las_Vegas_%287314950038%29.jpg

Photo: Mob – The Skim at the Flamingo – my photo collection

Photo: The Mob Museum – Las Vegas – Wall of Mobsters – Taken Feb. 14, 2012 by Kremerbi http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/Las_Vegas_Mob_Museum_Wall_of_Mobsters.JPG/640px-Las_Vegas_Mob_Museum_Wall_of_Mobsters.JPG

The Beatles Pleased, Pleased Me

The British Invastion - The Beatles - Kennedy Airport - February 1964

By Judy Berman

Motown’s soul music and surfer music had me in its grasp. But like any fickle teen, my heart soon belonged to a shaggy-haired mop-top group from Liverpool: The Fab Four.

Parents had no sooner stopped gnashing their teeth over the swivel hips of Elvis Presley and his effect on their children’s morality when their attention shifted to a new threat: The Beatles.

When asked how long he thought the Beatles would last, John Lennon said at the time: “About five years.”

Even Dr. Billy Graham thought the group was just a blip on the screen. “The Beatles … they’re a passing phase: of the uncertainty of the times and the confusion about us.”

Both underestimated the staying power of The Beatles.

For me, it’s been a lifelong love affair. I loved their wit and mischief. But the closest I’ve ever gotten to them was watching their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 8, 1964.

Their upbeat love songs with harmonicas, guitars and drums morphed into complex orchestra arrangements with deeper messages.

Years later, we visited their Abbey Road Studios when we were in London. We walked over the zebra crossing as The Beatles did on their album, “Abbey   Road” – their last recorded album released in September 1969.

This album cover added to the rumor that Paul McCartney had died following a car accident in 1967. That speculation was fueled by his limited public appearances after he married his first wife, Linda, and while he was contemplating a solo career.

I thought it was a hoax, but I was caught up in the mystery. I honed my sleuth-like skills and examined the evidence.

On the radio, a DJ (disc jockey) claimed, that when the lyrics were played backwards, it proved that Paul is dead. Some suggested that in the song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” that band-mate, John Lennon, uttered “I buried Paul.” McCartney later revealed that the actual words were far less sinister. He said they were “cranberry sauce.”

Then, there was the album cover itself. Some interpreted it as a funeral procession. John Lennon, in white, symbolized the preacher. Ringo Starr, in black, was viewed as an undertaker or mourner. George Harrison, in denim jeans and shirt, symbolized the grave digger, and McCartney, barefoot and out of step with the other band members, symbolized death, according to sources quoted in Wikipedia.

Fortunately, they were wrong. But the demise of the group took place the following year in 1970.  They went their separate ways and onto successful solo careers.

From my teen years to motherhood, The Beatles were part of the fabric of my life. I recall playing (poorly) the song, “Good Night,” (1968) written by John Lennon and sung by Ringo Starr, to our girls when they were young.

In December 1980, I awoke to the heartbreaking news of John Lennon’s murder on the classic rock station (WAQX-FM, where I worked at in Manlius, New York). His death was devastating, to say the least.

George Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001. Paul and Ringo continue their musical careers. I thank all four for the fun, creativity, thoughtful and musically diverse offerings they played for me, my family and all their fans. They did “Please, Please Me.”

Music Video: “Love Me Do” – The Beatles ’62 

Help – The Beatles – movie trailer (1965)

All My Loving – The Beatles – 1964

Please, Please Me – The Beatles (1963)  

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main Photo – The British Invasion – The Beatles – KennedyAirport – February 1964 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Beatles,_Kennedy_Airport,_February_1964.jpg

Lennon and Rev. Billy Graham quotes from: “The Beatles an Illustrated Record,” by Roy Carr and Tony Tyler (1975).

North by Northwest

North by Northwest - Cary Grant - plane - 1959By Judy Berman

Mistaken identify, darkness, light and double cross play significant roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s (1959) movie, “North by Northwest.”

In diabolical plot twists that even Cary Grant found difficult to follow, he is confused by the rapid-fire events that happen to his character.

He plays advertising executive, Roger O. Thornhill. Yet he winds up in a labyrinth of mystery and murder when an enemy espionage group mistakes him for George Kaplan, an undercover agent who really doesn’t exist. Or, does he?

“Cary Grant came up to me and said, ‘It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture, and I still can’t make head or tail of it,’ ” Hitchcock confides in Francois Truffaut’s book, “Hitchcock.”

Without realizing it, Hitchcock said Grant was using a line of his own dialogue from the movie.

It’s not the only deception going on in the film.

The spies believe that Thornhill is Kaplan. They kidnap him and take him to a Long Island country estate owned by Lester Townsend. He meets who he believes is Townsend, Philip Vandamm (James Mason), and his personal secretary, Leonard (Martin Landau).

His captors keep peppering “Kaplan” with questions. When they fail to get any information from him, Vandamm’s goons force whiskey down Thornhill’s throat.

They put an extremely intoxicated Thornhill in a car. Their scheme is to have the ride and Thornhill’s life end after the car goes over a cliff. But, as drunk as Thornhill is, he manages to escape. A police car pulls up, and the bad guys quickly drive off.

No one, not even his mother, believes his story.

North by Northwest - Eva Marie Saint shooting Cary Grant

Thornhill attempts to unravel the lies. He learns that Townsend is at the United Nations. At the U.N., Thornhill discovers that Townsend is not the man who held him captive. Enemy spies kill Townsend and frame Thornhill for his murder.

On the run again, Thornhill hops aboard the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago. There, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him hide from the authorities.

When they arrive in Chicago, Eve tells Thornhill she’ll call Kaplan for him. Then, she gives Thornhill instructions to meet Kaplan at Prairie Stop, which turns out to be in the middle of nowhere. He waits in the harsh, hot daylight. Another man waiting for a bus at the same stop notes that a crop-duster plane is dusting where there aren’t any crops.

After the man boards his bus, Thornhill realizes that the crop-duster is flying his way and zeroing in on him. Again, the bad guys fail to eliminate him.

Thornhill returns to the hotel. He finds out that Eve works with the spies and is Vandamm’s mistress.  When he discovers later that Eve is an undercover agent, he realizes his actions have put her life in jeopardy.

He warns Eve and helps her escape certain death. The spies are hot on their trail as Thornhill and Eve scale the shadowy heights of the Mount Rushmore monument in an effort to elude them.

As the pair scramble back down the face of the stone carvings, Thornhill tells Eve that if they get out of this alive they should get back on the train together. He’s talking marriage.

North by Northwest - movie trailer screenshot - climbing Mt. Rushmore

As they hang from Mount Rushmore, Eve asks why his two previous wives divorced him. “I think they said I led too dull a life,” (Grant) Thornhill says.

“The genius of Hitchcock lies in how he gets the audience as well as Thornhill (Grant) to believe in the existence of George Kaplan, until by the end of the film, it is Kaplan who survives, while Roger Thornhill simply ceases to exist …,” says Marc Eliot, author of “Cary Grant.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie (trailer): North by Northwest (1959) with Alfred Hitchcock  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfmTpmIUwo  

Main Photo: North by Northwest – Cary Grant – plane (1959) http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/2500715/North-by-Northwest-1959_gallery_primary.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – Eva Marie Saint shooting Carl Grant  – movie trailer screenshot http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/07/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – movie trailer screenshot – Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint climbing Mount Rushmore  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg

Feeling Happy – New Attitude


By Judy Berman

One Sunday, as I was leaving church, I turned on my iPhone and started dancing in the parking lot.

One man smiled as he left the parking lot. A woman, however, seemed to be hurriedly walking past me as she ushered her child to her car.

Probably thought I was crazy. It made me smile.

For anyone who knows me, this is not my usual behavior.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que owner, John Stage once described the way I threaded thru his restaurant/bar crowd in Syracuse, New York, as “cautious as a hemophiliac in a razor-blade factory.” I always found that to be dead-on and hysterical.

What prompted the change? Rapper Pharrell Williams’ very upbeat song, “Happy.” I definitely caught the vibe. Every time I listen to it, I want to burst out singing or dancing.

Pharrell Williams - Happy

As the song says, “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof … because I’m happy.” It’s a feeling I wish that everyone shared.

The song comes from the film, “Despicable Me 2,” which Pharrell helped create the soundtrack for, according to hollywoodreporter.com.

The song is 4 minutes long and plays in a loop 15 times an hour on 24 hourlong videos found on the website 24hoursofhappy.com. I watched two one-hour segments. Some feature celebrities like Steve Carell. It also includes extras, your average Joe or Jane on the streets of Los Angeles, who just wants to dance and have some fun.

That number might get a little old for some folks. Maybe their ears are bleeding after the first 1 ½ hours.

Despicable Me - Minions

But, not for me. It was a quick pick-me-up.

Depending on your perspective, you might dance and sing along as well.

How we look at things and how we react to things can make or break our day. Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude” (1984) in the movie, “Beverly Hills Cop,” sums it up well.

So, if you see some woman rockin’ out to a music video you can’t see or hear, try not to freak out. She might appreciate it if you dance and sing along.

Happy, Happy New Year!!!

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music Video – Pharrell Williams – “Happy” (2013) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM  

Main Photo: Dancing – taken by Jesus Solana, Madrid, Spain – April 6, 2009 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fa/2010_-_A_year_plenty_of_Hopes.jpg/640px-2010_-_A_year_plenty_of_Hopes.jpg

Photo: Despicable Me – Minions – figurines from movie – taken  by Sonny Abesamis on June 24, 2013 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c8/Despicable_Me%2C_Minions%2C_Agnes%2C_Gru%2C_Figurines.jpg/640px-Despicable_Me%2C_Minions%2C_Agnes%2C_Gru%2C_Figurines.jpg

Photo: Pharrell Williams – Happy http://cdn.baeblemusic.com/images/miscvideos/pharrell_williams/pharrell-happy-586.jpg

Music Video – Patti LaBelle – “New Attitude” (1984) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWfZ5SZZ4xE

No Place Like Home

The Wizard of Oz - Haley, Bolger, Garland, Lahr - 1939By Judy Berman

Sometimes, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

That thought comes to mind when I consider a little girl who’s swept away with her best friend to a very strange land. She spends the bulk of her time trying to return to a place of comfort and love.

I’m talking about the ultimate road trip movie, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

This movie might seem an odd choice for a Thanksgiving offering. But it has it all: a buddy movie/road trip made up of an odd cast of lovable characters.

Just like many of us gathered around the table this holiday, each has a different personality and a personal quest. For some, it’s the drumstick. For others, it’s something much deeper.

For Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), an orphaned teen, she’s trying to avoid a nasty neighbor, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). The cranky woman, upset that Toto bit her, threatens to have Toto put to sleep. Dorothy runs away with Toto to protect him.

She didn’t get far when she ran into a phony fortune-teller, Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan). The Professor tells Dorothy that her Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) has fallen ill worrying about Dorothy.

Dorothy returns home, but the family is hunkered down in the storm cellar trying to avoid a tornado. Dorothy darts into the house with Toto and is knocked unconscious. When she awakes, her home drops right in the middle of the Land of the Munchkins.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says as she surveys the neighborhood.

Good news. They’re OK and the little people – the Munchkins – are welcoming. Bad news. Her house fell right on top of the Wicked Witch of the East and she’s deader than a doornail.

The Wizard  of Oz - Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland - 1939

Her mean sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), is not too happy about this. She warns Dorothy: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”

Before she can carry out her threat, Glinda (Billie Burke), the Good Witch of the North, comes to Dorothy’s rescue. Glinda quickly transfers the dead witch’s ruby slippers onto Dorothy, telling Dorothy that they have powerful magic and will protect her. Dorothy and Toto go skipping off down the Yellow Brick Road in search of the Wizard of Oz who will surely help her get back to Kansas.

On the road, Dorothy runs into a talking Scarecrow (Ray Bolger). When he finds out where Dorothy is going, he asks if he can go along. He hopes the Wizard will give him a brain. Soon, they spot a rusted out Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) and oil him up. He’s in search of a heart. The last one to join this little group is the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who confides that he’d like the Wizard to give him courage.

Wizard of Oz - 1900

In their travels, they encounter the nightmare that most of us do. Flying monkeys. (Hey! We’ve all been there. Right?) Fatigue. For us, it’s the long road trip and the big meal. For them, the witch casts a spell as they’re running thru a field of flowers.

“Poppies … poppies will put them to sleep,” she cackles.

Eventually, Dorothy turns the tables on the old bat. When the witch tries to set the Scarecrow on fire, Dorothy throws a bucket of water to douse the fire … and drenches the witch … which proves her undoing.

“I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!” the witch screams … and, then, she is no more.

In a road movie, the main character grows as the story progresses. Such is the case with Dorothy and her friends. They find that they had it within them all along to achieve the things they went in search of.

Glinda tells Dorothy that she’s always had the power to return to her family.

Dorothy clicks her heels together three times, repeating the magic phrase that will take her home, “There’s no place like home … There’s no place like home.”

Soon, Dorothy and Toto are back with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. And that curmudgeon, Miss Gulch, is no where to be found.

Now, if only a turkey wishbone had that kind of magic.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer – The Wizard of Oz - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg8PrPVqCd8 

Main Photo: Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, Bert Lahr – The Wizard of Oz (1939) – MGM film http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bd/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg/635px-The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg

Photo: Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland – The Wizard of Oz (1939)  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Margaret_Hamilton_Judy_Garland_1939.jpg

Photo: Wizard of Oz – Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. Illustration by W.W. Denslow (d. 1915)  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cb/Cowardly_lion2.jpg/459px-Cowardly_lion2.jpg

The Big Night

Judy - birthday - California Pizza Kitchen - Nov. 2013By Judy Berman

Memories are made of this – family get-togethers. Any misty-eyed moment doesn’t last for long. That’s just our family’s way.

Last weekend, we gathered at Buca di Beppo’s to celebrate my birthday. For me, the kitchen and dining area reminded me of a scene out of the movie, “The Big Night” (1996). My family gave me a memory book of my life in pictures with brief stories attached.

It made me feel like I’d received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars. Before I could blurt out (Sally Field style), “You like me. You really like me,” the jokes began.

Danielle, my eldest, pulled out a copy of a newspaper clip from The Syracuse Post-Standard’s editorial page. In it, my story, “Surviving the Summer With Teens.”

I shudder as I recall the final straw that summer. Our daughter’s car, and the tree in front of our house, is swaddled in toilet paper, and the paper hangers leave cackling loudly and squealing their car’s tires from here to the state line in the dead of night.

That mental snapshot and others emerge. From the moment our children are born, we gasp in amazement and wince with every milestone they pass. Their hesitant first steps across the floor, riding a two-wheeler unassisted for the first time, leaving home and going off on their own.

Buca di Beppo

Then, Danielle handed me a letter I’d written in 1991, just days after she moved to Florida to go to college. Their furniture was sitting somewhere in a moving van that apparently had taken a detour. She told me she’d converted the Faberware box that their electric fry pan came in into a makeshift kitchen table.

So, I did what any loving parent would do. I wrote offering to send her “my empty Faberware box. That way you can have matching tables. Kim (our neighbor) says she may send you some empty boxes, too. You can use one for the end table – one for the nightstand.”

I talked around the edges of things. I didn’t ask if she was homesick. I tried to keep it light. She toughed that out, as well as a number of other hurdles, and did us proud.

Just like our youngest, Jenn, did when she was on her own in Oklahoma in 1999 and an EF5 tornado slammed thru just miles from her apartment. She’d heard from others at college that when there’s a sound like a freight train, head for a closet. She did with her hamster, Thumper, until the danger passed. Dave and I were in Florida interviewing for a job when we saw TV coverage at our hotel of a monster tornado (winds in excess of 260 miles per hour) and a smaller funnel cloud. The tornado pummeled Moore, Oklahoma. It was several days before we could reach her and learn the reassuring news that she was safe.

It turns out that our daughters, however, were more worried about how we’d handle the empty-nest syndrome. In a photo with Dave and I posing next to an SUV I’d flipped in Alaska, Danielle noted that I’d “forced Dave into her mid-life crisis with crazy hair days. Eggplant and violet for Judy, and blue and pink for Dave! Maybe they would be better off with some supervision.” (NOTE: I did not “force” Dave to dye his hair. I URGED him to. Family joke dating back to the movie, “L.A. Story.”)

In the memory book, I saw myself as my children see me. They viewed my early start in life, as a preemie, as an indicator that I was a fighter – as one who considers setbacks as challenges to be overcome and forges ahead.

The Big Night - Stanley Tucci

Fortunately, my Big Night turned out much better than it did for the brothers (restaurant owners) in the movie. They were struggling to make a go of it. Another restaurant owner offers to call a friend, a popular jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) prepares his specialty, a gourmand’s delight, for the big night. But things don’t go as planned.

Maybe, they turned a negative into a positive. That’s the outcome I hope for – for myself and others. Cheers! Here’s to a wonderful year ahead.

Do you have a favorite family memory? Please share.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video Clip – “The Big Night” (1996) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvDb_OVbju0  

Main Photo: Dessert with the family at California Pizza Kitchen, Orlando

Photo: Buca di Beppo, Orlando – let the party begin! http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=buca+di+beppo+orlando+florida+mall&FORM=HDRSC2#view=detail&id=23E12796091F3014F6EF19A7CAF328F960C58BFA&selectedIndex=48

Photo: “The Big Night” with Stanley Tucci   http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/stanley-tucci/images/34074283/title/big-night-photo


Into the Wild

Alaska - big bull mooseBy Judy Berman

I was just 17. Mad at my folks because they wouldn’t let me go on an end-of-the-year school picnic.

It was 5:30 in the morning. I stepped out of my bedroom window onto the back porch. No packed bags. No money. I got as far as turning the corner of our ranch-style home by our front porch.

Dad always said I thought seven steps ahead. Sure enough, I begin to fret on how I’d make a go of it with no money, no skills, not even a high school diploma.

Then, I turned around and entered the house the way I’d left and went back to bed. I never mentioned this to my folks.

But, what if? What if I’d left? Forget the gender ramifications. In all likelihood, like “Alex Supertramp” in Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” I probably would have starved to death.

“Alex’s” real name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. On the book’s cover, we learn that, in April 1992, this “young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mount McKinley.”

“He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.”

I read Krakauer’s book after we returned from Alaska years ago, and Alex’s experiences haunt me still.


It’s odd how I can relate to a character that I have little in common with. What intrigued me about Alex is that he did what I’d wanted to do for decades – just run off, on my own and see the world. The difference is I thought about the ‘what if’s’ and how I wouldn’t want to hurt my family.

Alex was a likeable guy, intelligent, musically talented and well-read. But it seems that any time people got close to him, he’d pull another vanishing act. He’d bummed around the country for about two years, doing odd jobs and living with people he met along the way.

He aimed for Alaska, a place he’d dreamed about since he was a kid. Alex/McCandless told a friend “about his intent to spend the summer alone in the bush, living off the land.” He wanted to be alone in the wilds and “wanted to prove to himself that he could make it on his own, without anybody’s help,” said Gaylord Stuckey, a trucker, who drove Alex to Fairbanks before they parted ways.

Jim Gallien was the last one to give Alex a ride. He thought Alex’s “scheme was foolhardy and tried repeatedly to dissuade him.“ When Gallien couldn’t, he insisted that Alex take “an old pair of rubber work boots.”

The only food Alex carried from Gallien’s truck was a 10-pound bag of long-grained rice he’d purchased, “plus two grilled-cheese-and-tuna sandwiches and a bag of corn chips” that Gallien had contributed. Alex’s backpack also contained library books that included Thoreau and Tostoy.

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park, Alaska

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park, Alaska

Some 20 miles into the wild, “he stumbled upon the old bus beside the Sushana River. It was “outfitted with a bunk and a barrel stove” and other provisions left by previous visitors.

In time, he missed the companionship. In his remaining days, he noted: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Perhaps, Alex discovered some truth in Henry David Thoreau’s quote: “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Young moose, Alaska

Young moose, Alaska

In August, “McCandless penned a brief adios: “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!”

“Then he crawled into the sleeping bag his mother had sewn for him and slipped into unconsciousness. He probably died August 18, 112 days after he’d walked into the wild, 19 days before six Alaskans would happen across the bus and discover his body inside,” Krakauer wrote.

No longer that starry-eyed teen who once fantasized about running away, I now look at Alex’s journey thru a mother’s eyes. I wish he’d been able to say good-bye to his parents, as well as others who missed and loved him.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer, “Into the Wild:”      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAuzT_x8Ek 

Photo: Alaska – big bull moose. Photo was taken in 2005 in Chugach State Park, Alaska.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Bigbullmoose.jpg/622px-Bigbullmoose.jpg

Photo: Denali – Grizzly Bear, picture taken by Jean-Pierre Lavoie in 2004.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Grizzly_Denali_edit.jpg/640px-Grizzly_Denali_edit.jpg

Photo: Alaska – Young moose near Point Woronzof, Anchorage. Taken: April 2008. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Young_moose_with_the_munchies_near_Point_Woronzof%2C_Anchorage%2C_Alaska.jpg/526px-Young_moose_with_the_munchies_near_Point_Woronzof%2C_Anchorage%2C_Alaska.jpg