Friday, January 21, 2011

Jan-Feb 2011

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What will this new year bring? 2011 is an empty canvas and with each new year we look toward to achieving our particular goals.

I start every year with a motto...From the day after Thanksgiving to the beginning of the new year I get all of my thoughts and goals together in preparation for the following year. It is a solitary time of focus and introspection… It remains my personal way of remaining grounded and focused on the goals that are ahead of me. For us as real school people, time is not something that we see as something to waste. As we become more actualized in who we are, we take stock of those things that mean us the most good. All of us have our personal goals and as we move through each year, we understand the ultimate value of time…In our youth we saw time differently and how we worked within its framework. As the years roll forward and we look back, we have an invaluable consciousness when it comes to memories, goals and future. So what is my motto for 2011? Drum roll, please….. “NOW is the time.”    Whatever goals we have put off, NOW is the time to actualize them. Remember, we’re not growing old, we’re growing up…Pursuing our life’s dreams when we’ve got some living on our pallet feels really good. You appreciate it…It’s a new way of smelling the roses. 

So to all of you, I wish you a most prosperous new year, because NOW is the time! 
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Real Moves Into 2011
Jan Kain

No one exemplifies my 2011 motto more than my friend, Jan Kain. That's Jan gracing the cover for this issue. She talks the talk and walks the walk! It came as no surprise when this former nurse whose mission is nurturing in health and fitness, took the bull by the horns and opened her own studio: People’s Yoga Health and Dance in Southern California. Her diligence  for over five years  towards her own studio reality paid off. 

“The People’s Yoga, Health & Dance” may be my dream, but it is a collaboration, a collective of many," Jan says. "No man is an island and there is no way I could have accomplished this project without the support from my fantastic students, clients, instructors, family & friends. Without you, “the people”, People’s Yoga, Health & Dance could not exist! You have inspired me to be a better person as well as a better teacher & athlete & have been with me through so much!  

Her life’s passion is dance, choreography, movement, fitness and exercise…She's been performing, (dancing, singing and acting) since she was 6 years old. By the age of ten, Jan became a professional performer. Among many of her accomplishments, she's danced with the New York City Ballet as a child and has appeared on and off Broadway… Among the classes that Jan teaches are Kettlebells, Zumba, Yoga, Pilates and dance classes. 

The mission statement for People's Yoga Health and Dance is warm and wonderfully inclusive for fitness novices to professionals:

Our mission is your health & well-being. At People’s Yoga, Health & Dance we strive to make the world a healthier place one person at a time. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be proactive in his or her desire for good health & quality of life. Therefore, we open our hearts & talents to “the people” regardless of their ability to pay. We encourage all “the people” regardless of age or resources to bring friends, hang out, & try new ways to have fun while promoting a healthy & fit lifestyle. Everything is possible; age is just a number; it’s not too late to be & do your best.

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Memories
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Real School icons make a comeback 

YOGI BEAR

The fact that they’re reincarnating Yogi Bear to a new generation reminds me that I really need to write a blog about remakes. This isn’t the Yogi we remember and whether I ever see the Yogi Bear movie remains questionable. But at least when I do my joke about not hiking in the woods because I don’t want to meet Yogi and Boo Boo, the younger generation will get it.  

Hanna-Barbera’s Yogi Bear was born in 1958, a sidekick in the Huckleberry Hound Show. This “smarter than average bear” became so popular from  The Huckleberry Hound show, that he got his own TV gig in 1961. By 1964 he hit the big screen with animated version, “Hey There. It’s Yogi Bear.”  One of his major goals was getting a “pickanick basket” with his sidekick Boo-boo, hanging out in Jellystone park and avoiding Ranger Smith with his own game plan.

A little interesting, “it is said trivia”: mannerisms are said to have been inspired by the character Ed Norton on "The Honeymooners. Ya know, when you think about it….



 ALKA SELZTER'S SPEEDY

Alka Seltzer has been around since February 21, 1931 and has been going strong ever since. Speedy, the product's Mascot starting out as "Sparky" who first appeared in women's Magazines in 1952. 

Speedy gained more fame when he hit TV in the 60s. He left the scene in 1964. I guess an early retirement. But now the 57 year old is back on the advertising circuit and he hasn't changed a bit.

Not only has he made a comeback, but there's also an online game on the Alka Seltzer website called "Where's Speedy?"

 Trivia: According to Advertising Age magazine,
When Speedy retired, Alka-Seltzer was investing $8.5 million in him. The original Speedy statue was lost on a trip to the Philippines in 1971 and wasn’t recovered until 5 years later.
  
I know we all remember this vintage Speedy commercial. Some of us may even be singing this jingle from the holidays.


 

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MUSIC
Jester Hairston


Sometimes when we see older actors in sitcoms, we fail to think that they have a history that creates legacy…The wonderful fascination comes with the discovery of who they really are and the legacy they left behind. Such is the story behind Jester Hairston. Now some of us may remember him as Rolly Forbes in the 1980s sitcom “Amen”, but in 1956 he wrote the famous Christmas song, Mary's Boy Child. He was an accomplished songwriter, choral director and vocalist  who's passion is so clearly reflected in his contributions to American music it absolutely touches the soul.

  

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Below in this 1993 special, Tom Jones, accompanied  by David Foster sang a rendition of Hairston's song.

Yes, Jester Hairston was a pioneer who paved the way for the black actors in Hollywood.  He  also brought the racial and  cultural divide together in his infectious melodies. Did he run naked through more Tarzan movies than he cared to remember? Yes. Did he lose a Boston accent to win long running roles on the radio and TV versions of Amos and Andy? Yes. Did he ever make apologies for his portrayal of black stereotypes? No.

Hairston was adamant about the preservation of negro spirituals. He was a choral director who worked for over 50 years, organizing Hollywood’s first integrated choir and composed and arranged over 300 spirituals. 

Hairston was the embodiment of the black actor’s struggle in Hollywood.  "We had a hard time then fighting for dignity," he once said of his early roles. " . . . We had no power. We had to take it, and because we took it the young people today have opportunities."

Jester Hairston conducts the choir to his left Dmitri Tiomkin
Hairston, a Tufts University graduate was born in 1901 and  arrived in California in 1935. His break into Hollywood came when he was hired  by Russian composer Dmitri Tiomkin to conduct the choir in the film “Lost Horizon” (1935). The film was nominated for an Oscar for best score. Hairston continued to work with Tiomkin for twenty years. 

Hairston maintained an active  role in the history of black music . He formed the first integrated choir used in the films, "Red River," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Land of the Pharaohs." Before coming to LA, he went to New York where Hairston  met the noted conductor Hall Johnson. He became Johnson’s assistant, but it was not without getting a lesson into the true meaning of black spirituals and his cockiness took a beating from Johnson. "You don't have the right attitude toward these songs," Johnson said. "We're singing ain't and cain't and you're singing shahn't and cahn't and they don't mix in a spiritual."

Hairston got it together and lost his cahn'ts and shahn'ts. He began to gain a new insight into the music through his mentor. He thought back on the stories and songs of his grandmother, who was born a slave. In his humility and enlightened outlook he dedicated himself not only to preserving the music of the slaves, but memorializing the legacy of the conditions that gave birth to it. He shared his knowledge in college workshops to younger generations. He told students, "You can't sing legato when the master's beatin' you across your back."

After working as an African native yelling “Bwana, bwana” in so my Tarzan movies, in 1955 during casting for "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle," Jester got the role of witch doctor. He would recall his reaction years later: "Good gracious, I've been promoted!"

Jester Hairston worked on "In the Heat of the Night," "Lady Sings the Blues" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." He also worked on such TV shows as That’s My Mama, Harry O, Rawhide and The Virginian. There were many times his work was uncredited. Were it not for the many Jester Hairston’s in the industry back in the day, the status of future black actors would not have changed and opened the doors of equality. This is a legacy that needs to be pronounced in history books. 






His best known work was his arrangement of "Amen" which he also wrote. It was Jester Hairston's singing for the physical presence of Sidney Poiter in the 1963 film ‘Lilies of the Field”. I remember so well my mother talking me to see this film. I was 7 years old.





Jester Hairston as Henry Van Porter in Amos & Andy

In this rare video below, Jester Hairston is introduced as part of the cast of  The Amos & Andy Show. I never personally saw this show as a negative in the history of television. It was a part of the process of making in-roads and was merely a sepia version of The Honeymooners. The show opening looked almost the same and both shows ran began in 1951. The  Amos & Andy Shows ended two years before The Honeymooners. The Flintstones in my opinion was an animated version of The Honeymooners.




Jester Hairston made a huge contribution to the legacy of music in America. He traveled with his culturally diverse group, The Hairston Chorale world-wide. He was a captivating songwriter and performer who engaged his audiences in the telling of the background behind the music he  wrote and performed.

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Tommy Thomas
The real bridge between traditional and contemporary gospel



If anyone asked me if I ever met an angel, my reply would be, “At least one.” This experience I will treasure for the rest of my life…I never knew someone who could give so much love to so many and still have more love to share…I believe that Tommy Thomas accomplished the impossible by that and more.

His loss was sudden… His uniquely incredible legacy in black history was his ability to write the most beautiful spiritual music of our lifetime…The uniqueness in his work was his natural skill of keeping the flavor of the black spiritual while interweaving a contemporary style to gospel music. It was a gift that many of us will treasure and that few could ever compare to.

When many of the contemporary "gospalists", hit the scene, my reaction was "And?" because Tommy Tee was ahead of his time. He had pioneered the territory of Contemporary Gospel with precision back in the 70s in his teens. I had the wonderful pleasure of working with him when I joined Tommy Tee & Company in late 79…It was an experience that brought with it a great treasure trove of memories and friends that would become a wonderful extended family throughout the years…

I still don’t think of him as gone, but just away…Sometimes I wake up thinking that he may call me any minute and then sometimes I cry.  But I know that I am better for having shared so many wonderful memories with him and writing music with him…

We tend to think of super stardom as names that are well known among the masses, but Tommy’s star was the brightest in the galaxy because of the integrity he brought with his music and the stirring lyrics that he wrote…From gospel, to r &b, jazz, country, rock…He did them all and he was extraordinary in any musical genre…When you hear his work, you will be moved…



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 BLACK HISTORY
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A Real Look at Past Present and Future


Carter Woodson
Black History Month began its history in September 1915. Harvard historian, Carter Woodson with minister Jessie G. Moore founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. By 1926 the group sponsored a National Negro History Week recognized in the 2nd week of February, to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. This event became a success and groups celebrated by organizing history clubs, performances and lectures nationwide. 

By the 60s and with the birth of the civil rights movement, the celebration became a month long and was officially recognized   by President Gerald Ford in 1976 throughout the United States. Thinking back in elementary school history books there was at least one page of history about black Americans and it was usually, George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglas. 

Garrett Morgan
Every time we drive our cars and stop at that traffic signal, we must credit Garett Morgan. It was his witnessing an accident between an automobile and horse and carriage that prompted him to design the traffic signal. While other inventors had experimented with, marketed, and even patented traffic signals,  Garrett Morgan was one of the first to apply for and obtain the U.S. patent for an inexpensive to produce traffic signal. The patent was granted on November 20, 1923.
 
He sold the rights to  his design for what at that time was an incredible sum of money, 40,000.00 to General Electric. Our traffic signal system today is based on Morgan’s design.

It is my hope that in future studies of expounding on legacy and history, black history will not be relegated to just one month of recognition. None of us can look at the history of this country without seeing the imprint of black history. The history of future study should be called Real History and be inclusive of all of individuals of African descent who were a huge part of making this nation.


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 Meeting David Wilson
Meeting David Wilson is an incredible journey that changes the consciousness of a young man who journeys  from  his home in New Jersey to North Carolina to trace the history of his family and meet the descendant who owned his family during slavery. 


His journey does not stop there. He proceeds to  Africa (Ghana) where he relives the holding areas before the passage on slave ships...David A. Wilson begins his trek to North Carolina, an embittered angry young man, who in meeting the descendant of the slave owning family  who happens to have the same name: David Wilson. 

You see the transformation of a young man seeking answers, introspection and growth as he understands  and bonds with the reality of humankind. This is a must see documentary. David A. Wilson is an individual who had questions, sought answers and took action. 




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MEDIA
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REAL FILM 

A MAN NAMED PEARL
 


I didn't know anything about Pearl Fryar until I got Netfliks and decided to check out some of the documentaries for research for RSP.  I started watching and I was hooked.

This film about a self-made topiary artist in Bishop, South Carolina was so moving in the way that he inspired all those who come to his gardens. Once you see this documentary, you will be moved to plan a trip to Bishop to meet this extraordinary man who created a vision that moves every soul with an element of an ultimate sense of peace and positive consciousness.







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JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK


I absolutely loved this "in your face," real, sometimes heartbreaking but honest behind the scenes look at Joan Rivers. At 75, Joan can still handle her game and keep it on point. I admire her tenacity and courage as she continues to forge ahead in her career. Her spirit is impenetrable. She is going to ride this career until the wheels fall off.

She's quite good at what she does. Many of us remember when she started in the business of comedy. It was a time when there were few comediennes.  She's worked hard and still remains contemporary and upbeat...You have to admire a woman who can make fun of herself, keep it light when the entertainment business seems so brutal for a woman as she ages. But Joan pushes through any adversity and challenges and continues to make her mark. Good for her.






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ELEGY




Wow! This film is based on the book, "The Dying Animal" by Phillip Roth. I loved reading Roth's work back in the day. 

This film addresses many issues about maturity, friendship, tragedy, fidelity, loss and reality. I didn't know what to think at first. I thought maybe this was going to be just another, older man younger woman story with nothing to it, but it blew me away. It features Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper and Penelope Cruz.




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BEEN RICH ALL MY LIFE
Fay Ray who danced with the Harlem dance group in the 30 and 40s.

from left: Marion Coles, 91; Cleo Hayes, 91; Elaine Ellis, 88; and Fay Ray, 86.in 2006


This documentary about the Silver Belles, the dance troupe who danced in the 20s  and 30s, is an inspiring look  at the Harlem dancers'  legacy and their journey as they continue to celebrate fame.

I was really moved by this film...It is wonderful look at the dancers who were as popular as their headliner star performers...By World War II, live shows lost their popularity to film. The Silver Belles would regroup in 1985 to become an integral component of the new Harlem Renaissance.





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REAL TV

MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE

I love this show about  men coming of age: older age. About three college buddies, now in their late 40s/early 50s. The show was canceled last year but made a comeback.  In it's second season on TNT it seems like these guys get more disappointments in their realities, but there is somewhat of a balance of things working, but then not quite working... It's a little different. But that's why I like it because things don't happen the way I want them to.





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REAL LEGACIES
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As we leave 2010 behind, we look back at the great losses of many talented individuals that we grew up with: creative people who seemed immortal, but have crossed the threshold of the living and made their journey to the other side. As I have said many times, the immortality is in the creative works and legacies we leave behind.



 














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Thanks for sharing the journey!   





















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Real School People, P.O.Box 756, San Gabriel,CA 91778-0756

2 comments:

  1. You've done it again!!! From start to finish RSP has become for me a MUST READ. "Now is the Time" couldn't have come at a better time. Truly there is personally confirmation in your motto. You are the vessel confirming the message. "Fantabulous" work my friend. A five-star edition for sure. Thank you for keeping Real School memories alive for us Real School People. Continue doing what you do best!!! Giving you a standing ovation while applauding you loudly. BRAVO!!!

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  2. Thanks so much...I hope that this medium of newsletter helps us share with the younger generation what we are all about...Please share RSP with your friends! Thank you for enjoying and sharing the journey with me...

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