You never stop learning

One of Elvis Presley’s early tunes, on Sun Records, was Good Rockin’ Tonight, which had been done in the late ’40s by two rock and roll pioneers, Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris.

Have you heard the news?img_0118-1

The musical answer was, there’s good rockin’ tonight but in general terms the response today is often people don’t want to know, couldn’t be bothered to find out or mistrust every reporter, editor and publisher on earth…you know…the “mainstream media.”

We lost my Dad, Joseph O’Mara, over a decade ago. We looked everywhere. And my father, who loved the clever, sarcastic works of Oscar Wilde, would have appreciated that joke. He was fond of telling and retelling the tale of a man…not sure if it was a relative or just someone in his Manchester neighbourhood…who informed his wife that he was going out for cigarettes.

And never returned.

Not a nice thing to do but who knows, maybe they all lived happily ever after. But…”I’m just going out for cigarettes.”

“Okay, dear.”

Father’s Day has passed and it made me think of what my Dad instilled in me. Curiosity. The desire to know and understand things. To never stop learning.

The O’Maras in Scarborough, late ’60s

Dad subscribed to Newsweek and while he celebrated his Irish roots far more than his English upbringing, he did take pride in the newspaper produced in Manchester. Still one of the world’s finest, The Guardian. He also watched the MacNeill-Lehrer report on PBS, and Mom still watches the news on that station.


And, when I was a journalism student, and Dad had passed on buying the new family car that I fancied (too sporty), his consolation gift to me was a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s collection, The Great Shark Hunt.

So, the end result has been, I want to know things. Sure, in the Facebook and Twitter world it’s so convenient to repost stories we haven’t even read and add a comment of “OMG, check this out!” So easy to hear things, like Trump does (stop hearing things, Orange Man, and read…oh, what am I thinking? He’s too busy winning and living the life we’ll never come to close to seeing, playing golf and making Robin Leach’s caviar dreams seem pale by comparison).

I get it. We have jobs, bills to pay, kids to feed. In my case, a cockatiel named Ringo.

Who has time to read a newspaper or magazine piece, let alone a book? And they’re so biased, aren’t they? Twisting people’s words and making stories up, pushing their own agendas.


No, most of them aren’t. Give your head a fucking shake. Fox News is opinions. Newspapers and major magazines, whether left or right leaning or somewhere in the middle, enploy reporters who actually talk to their sources. That’s followed up by fact checkers, corroboration and more fact checking and even more corroboration. Read Robyn Doolittle’s book about Rob Ford and you’ll know the time and effort it takes to get the story.

To get the story right. Do they get it wrong? Occasionally. Do they invent stories to win awards? Sometimes. But those are the exceptions. It’s human nature. In all walks of life, people lie and cheat.

So, a salute to everyone that wants to discover the truth and isn’t satisfied with second or third-hand coffee shop ramblings and is always ready to call bullshit. Hunter S.  Thompson. Woodward and Bernstein. HL Mencken. Matt Taibbi. Tabatha Southey. Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post (I subscribe to it) and, if you think I’m only mentioning big or small L liberal publications, I also get MacLeans, which is regarded as conservative.


And a challenge.

Try to find a writer on the other side that makes you reconsider your views so you can experience shades of grey instead of black and white. Most won’t. It’s so easy to follow and repost articles that reinforce your opinions. David Frum (son of Canadian broadcasting legend Barbara Frum) was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. I’m liberal leaning but I enjoy David’s pieces for The Atlantic.


And thanks to my Dad (that’s us in Florida in the mid-’70s) for encouraging me to keep learning. In 2007, because he read Newsweek and watched PBS, my father was following the career of a young senator from Illinois and, a year later, wasn’t surprised when Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and went on to become President of the United States.

Hillary had it in the bag. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

I am still learning, still curious, and still calling bullshit when I see it, and I always will.

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Abe Vigoda wants to know if you want another beer

I’ve spent a few hours…okay, many, many hours…in sports bars, clubs and beachfront bars but back in my college days I was not served by lovely young ladies named Chelsea, Kelsie, Jordon, Taylor, Emilie, Megan, Meaghan, Brooke, Leah, Jenna, Joy, Samantha, Victoria, Evita, Debbie, Dakota or Nicole.

No. Most of the servers looked like Mel from the TV show, Alice.

Or Abe Vigoda from Barney Miller.


And I was okay with that. I had paid a cover charge at The Knob Hill Hotel, The Rondun, The Queensbury Arms, Tony’s East, Tony’s West and The Gasworks (though, correct me if I’m wrong, The Gasworks did not usually have a cover) to see Santers, Lee Aaron, Anvil and Goddo.

The price of admission was around $5 though I got to know Lee (aka Karen Greening) and she often put me on the guest list to save me the entry fee. Five bucks bought you at least one beer in those days.


Though my childhood friend Alfie Petitti had always said, you gotta see Goddo live and I wasn’t that impressed. Then again, when we were paying 0ur cover charge on that night  at the Knob 35 years ago, some guy ran out into the hallway and puked in front of us.

Kinda set the tone for a less than wonderful evening and I’m sure my friend Gord Howard recalls Greg Godovitz introducing “Under My Hat” as a song we all should know because they’ve been playing it so fucking long.

Yeah, now I’m in the mood!

But the fact that Mel or Abe Vigoda served us didn’t matter in the slightest. We were there for the music and, if you read my last blog about an outrageous $30 mid-afternoon cover for an “all white” party at Bananas…and thanks for doing so…you know I want value for my club dollar.


Not some guy playing tunes off a laptop and moving turntables forward and backward. Does that require some talent? Perhaps. Does it compare to playing a barre chord or maintaining a steady 4/4 beat? Umm…no.

Abe Vigoda was in his mid 50s when he played Dectctive Fish on Barney Miller though even then he seemed ancient. I’m 55.


In my previous blog I referenced Field of Dreams…my all-time favorite movie…and the scene in which Ray Kinsella travels back to 1972 and meets Archibald Graham, aka Doc, or Moonlight Graham.  Doc, as portrayed by the great Burt Lancaster, says he’d love to go back and stare down a big league pitcher. And, as the pitcher goes into his windup, wink as if he knows something the guy on the mound doesn’t.

I’d just like to see a live rock band at the beach. At The Dardanella, if at all possible and the grand old lady of the beach…she’s 99 years set to open at the end of June.

If the server is a college kid named Brittany, Courtney, Ashley or Tiffany, fine by me. And if it’s Mel or Abe Vigoda, the answer will still be: “Yes, I’ll have another one.”





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The price of a club DJ

This afternoon, around 3:30, I climbed the stairs to Bananas Beach Club. The temperature on this Victoria Day Monday was 14C and the skies were cloudy. The beach, which would have been packed,  had it been sunny and a bit warmer, was deserted.

I was met at the door by a muscle-bound bouncer who informed me that there was a $30 cover charge.

“You’re joking, right?”

He wasn’t. Turns out it was an All White Party (though they were willing to let me in with my mostly black attire) that began at 3 pm on a holiday Monday.

On this dreary end to the May 2-4 weekend, the only Wasaga bar open today, with a lofty patio view, had decided to host a VIP party with, I’m guessing, a guy playing songs off a laptop, mixed with turntables to create his “mix.”

I Googled Toronto club DJs and, please correct me if this figure is way low, but they make $250 to $500 a night.

Okay. I’m gonna go into old fart mode and say I will only pay a cover for a live band. Musicians.  Guitar, bass and drums, maybe a sax and, if you’re really lucky, a maraca player.

I wouldn’t pay  $5 for a computer operator masquerading as a DJ but I will set that aside and say hey, there may be thousands of clubgoers who think that’s well worth the price of admission. Fair enough.


From what I’ve been told by club owners, young folks…especially here in the tourist town of Wasaga Beach…will pay $25 to $50 to get into an establishment like Bananas and only purchase one drink and that may only be a bottle of water. They did their drinking at the campground or motel so why bother paying for a $10 beer?

Today, I was only looking for a few $8 Stella tall boys. Well, $8 plus 13 percent GST. Cheers to my fiend Enzo who included the tax in that $8 price the past two summers. Enzo is not managing Bananas this summer and it seems the current managers have boosted the liquor prices.


Ahh, but the beachfront gods have smiled upon yours truly beause my beloved Dardanella, which is 99 years old, will be open at the end of June. I plan to down more than a few beers on the Dard patio.

I should also salute the Sand Bar which, in previous summers, has been the only bar standing on more than a few occasions due to poor managment of Bananas and the Dard btweeen 2007 and 2014. Danny and his staff have been the only constant in a decade or more of turmoil, shady practices and people who didn’t know what the fuck they were doing, or figured they could fuck people over.

And, if you want a voice of reason from a guy who’s seen a bizarre parade of bar owners, managers and staff come and go during the past 25 years, talk to my friend Fred Char at the Burger King below Bananas. A straight shooter with a capital S times two.

I moved to Wasaga in March of 2007 and one of my biggest disappointments was finding out The Dard which, since the ’70s has hosted a who’s who of Canadian rock, from April Wine and Max Webster to the Tea Party and Colin James, was no longer a live rock venue.

The pic above is from the ’40s, when Dardanella patrons dances to the big bands.  Sadly, the dance hall at the rear of the bar has been closed for over a decade and needs major repairs.


My friend and tennis buddy Rick Lazaroff said that his band, Santers, played the long-dormant downstairs room at the The Dyconia in Wasaga and if I could wave a magic wand and bring live rock to the beach, well….in the words of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham from Field of Dreams…

Is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?

Then again, a few reasonably priced beers at the Dard, with that wonderful beachfront view, will be enough for me.

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Movie dialog that’s Effed Up

My Father was offended by foul language.

He considered it low class and was fond of quoting Cole Porter’s lyrics from Anything Goes: Good authors too who once knew better words now only use four-letter words, writing prose.

Anything goes.

My Mother, who is less put off by cursing, spent the weekend at my place because her condo was being painted. We watched several movies on Kodi/Exodus and Netflix and it was on the latter that we found Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

Mom was familiar with Zac Efron. I mentioned Anna Kendrick had been Oscar nominated for Up in the Air so we settled on what critic Leonard Maltin might have called an “okay time waster.”

And every second line of dialog seemed to be, “We fucked up” or “fuck that shit.” Or some variation on those not-so-better words.


I’m no fuckin’ prude and, while I will cut the screenwriters some slack, it came across as very lazy script writing. Maybe Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (who penned the 2014 comedy Neighbors, with Efron and Seth Rogen) imagined the characters as illiterate lowlifes. That’s they way those people talk, I can hear Cohen and O’Brien saying.

And maybe Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates was marketed to teens and millennials, and the writers and producers figured clever dialog and somewhat realistic characters weren’t necessary to get that demographic into theatres.

I have a feeling audiences of any age want more. Tell me I’m right. Please.


Four decades ago, I sat in the Elane Theatre to watch The Bad News Bears and, of course, many lines from that film would be considered very un-PC today. Shortstop Tanner Boyle complained the Bears were laughing stocks because all the team had were Jews…Hispanic word, N word and a booger eatin’ moron.


And, when Amanda Whurlitzer is introduced as the new team pitcher, Tanner repeats the same list and adds, “And now a girl!” Amanda shuts Tanner up by striking him out in batting practice.



Mike & Dave and their dates had their moments, and the movie was amusing at times, thanks to the charisma of Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. My dear Mother has a female friend who often refers to her ex husband as a “mindfucker.” Mom sat through Borat, in a theatre, with an older, now deceased male friend. My nearly 91-year-old Mother also has Wedding Crashers on DVD (she likes Vince Vaughn).

Even so, her reaction to Dave, Mike and friends was, “Why do they have to swear so much?”

I didn’t have an answer for that. I curse more than I should, mostly out of anger and frustration (I’d love to chuck my work computer out the door and see it flattened by a steamroller). But expletives are most effective when used sparingly. They have more sting that way.

Every Quentin Tarantino film is loaded with fucks, motherfuckers and such, but those bad words punctuate entertaining monologues. It’s almost poetic.


George Carlin and Richard Pryor turned the use of profanity into an art form and if you’re old enough, you can rhyme off the “7 words you can never say on television” (back in the ’70s, some are uttered today)…

shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.


Every generation becomes more permissive and less offended. I get that. I have zero problem with that. Even though Fast Times at Ridgemont High…

Phoebe Cates, pool scene…

Where was I? Oh yeah, Fast Times was pretty racy for 1982, but it would have been unimaginable for surfer dude Jeff Spiccoli to make jizz jokes. Today, semen is mentioned frequently in the routines of Amy Schumer and Whitney Cummings and is no longer a movie taboo.

Back to Mr. Cohen and O’Brien. There’s Something About Mary featured a memorable jizz scene, and The Hangover set new levels of  R-rated movie raunch but both had original stories and well-written characters.

The less than dynamic duo’s next film is The House, with Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell and another Oscar nominated actor, Jeremy Renner. Guys, please give them more to say than “We fucked up.”




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