The sadness of watching the devastation from Hurricane Harvey on the news was softened somewhat by seeing Good Samaritans come forward to help rescue friends, neighbors and absolute strangers – along with their beloved pets. That’s Texas for you. Nowhere is that inspirational spirit more evident than in Beaumont and Port Arthur. I know it first-hand.
It was just over 30 years ago that I spent some time there on location for a film with longtime friend Paul Sorvino, Abe Vigoda, Lorne Greene, Ina Balin, June Wilkinson, John Moskoff and many others.
I still have such fond memories of the warm hospitality and gracious welcome we received from the good folks of Beaumont while we lived, worked and played there for several weeks.
Ironically, as we were heading back to Los Angeles after weeks in Beaumont, the town was hunkering down against another major storm – Hurricane Bonnie – scary then but, by comparison, just a little sister to Harvey.
Now, as we all send prayers and pitch in to help (in person or via the Red Cross or your preferred charity), there’s still room (and a need) for a smile — so, with love, here’s a little snippet from the comedy we filmed there on location back in 1986.
Frantic and eccentric … Rockin’ and Rollin’ twenty years before Elvis, Harry was a true master of boogie woogie piano — and every other musical style, too!
Julliard trained, he blazed his own musical trail and was popular during the mid-1940’s during the heyday of the “Zoot suit with the drape shape and the reet pleat.” Today, Harry is often remembered for the dubious distinction of being arrested with jazz pal and drug buddy Billie Holiday.
After a relatively short time in the spotlight, Gibson drifted into obscurity, only to be rediscovered thirty years later by a small but devoted contingent of fans from new generations.
His decades of living in the fast lane, however, had reached its peak (or valley) — and his self-destructive lifestyle finally took its tragic toll in 1991, when Harry took his own life.
Jazz radio legend Chuck Niles was a good friend of Harry’s and, when I recorded “Stop That Dancin’ Up There,” a wild Gibson trademark tune, (see link below), Chuck was the first to give it repeated air play and invited me into the studio several times to talk about it. Niles commented on the air that, aside from Harry himself, I was the only other singer to ever do Gibson’s music justice — and that’s a badge of honor I still wear paradoxically — with both pride and humility.
HARRY “THE HIPSTER” GIBSON(Harry Raab)
27th June 1915 – 9th May 1991
When we moved production from Hollywood down to Texas for the second season of “13 East” (NBC), the folks in Dallas were so warm and welcoming in so many ways – even presenting me with a Texas flag which had flown over the capital in Austin.
They really made us feel right at home – and, of course, I had to show my appreciation by getting into the Texas spirit.
Here I am arriving for a public appearance at a rodeo – complete with Tony Lama snakeskin boots & matching belt w/sterling buckle set, a 7x Stetson and a brand new Cadillac Eldorado with my “preferred vantage point” parking spot adjacent to the women’s restroom! Is it any wonder that producer Scoey Mitchlll introduced me as “Wayne Powers – that Big Butter and Egg Man.” Yeehah! What great fun we had!
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “Big Butter and Egg Man,”CLICK HERE for a wonderful YouTube video Doc Cheatham & Carrie Smith performing this classic tune in a tribute to the great Louis Armstrong.
Ironically, this jazz festival performance was from 1990 – the same time as the photo!
The Cult Entertainment Icon Celebrates Spring – and Wayne Powers!
Not unlike Soupy Sales and long before Pee Wee Herman, Floyd Vivino took New Jersey – and later the country – by storm with his cult “Kiddie TV Show” for adults, which ran for an amazing 24 years, spawning a record album and many singles.
TODAY WOULD HAVE BEEN HENRY MANCINI’S 93rd BIRTHDAY.
I can’t let today go by without acknowledging one of my greatest mentors and benefactors, never to be forgotten.
Upon arriving in L.A. back in 1976, I was greatly blessed to work for Henry, eventually administering all his music publishing for a short time before moving on to build my performance career – the original purpose in my relocating to the west coast.