Archive for December, 2006

December 21, 2006

This is the second year for a celebrity -studded Nutcracker.. A great idea by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and great fun for both the local celebs and the dancers. ( I am arrogantly assuming that they enjoy rank amateurs wandering around on the stage during the performance.) I did it last year, and this year, Janelle Hall joined me. Hines Ward and Mayor Luke and his wife Erin were among a host of folks squezzing into Victorian costumes, gliding around during the two-week run. It’s becoming immensely popular. Janelle had never been to the Nutcracker before, and she brought her handsome husband and her parents.
We has a ball backstage, dodging the props and dancers as they move on and off the stage. Only prpblem was Janelle’s agony of da-feet. Her slippers were too small—CINDERELLA, CINDERELLA–and she was in pain. She still smiled beautifully, and it was a delight to share the experience with her.

Speaking of sharing,we all shared lots of laughs, music and holdiay cheer at the taping of the WDVE Christmas Show December 14th. Here are four ladies (yes…that’s right!!!!) taking a break from all that frivolity. It’s Janelle, FSN’S Trenni Kusnierek, WDVE’s Val Porter, and I. I was late because I was at the Carson Scholars Fund benefit, hosted by Jerome Bettis and Joey Porter. Ben and Brett Keisel had been there, with a lot of other Steelers, signing autographs for the charity that recognizes academic excellence in kids, grades 4-11.

As you can see, they then shot over to the Southside to perform on stage at Diesel–where the show was taping. I think they did a skit about Ralph the Cat.—see Jimmy Krenn there? BTW, these are Trenni’s photos..I am sorry I missed it. Ben performed in a skit last year, and is actually quite good.

Here’s the whole WDVE gang–Mike Prisuta, Val, Jimmy,and Randy on key board. He also accompanied this— I am really sorry I missed it. Jon Burton, surruounded by Santa’s helpers… beltin’ out who knows what . I love his voice! Saw him later,

when we all piled on stage with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers for “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” I sing so badly, I should be arrested, among other things. But I wasn’t the only one wailing like an alley cat.. Hey, it’s the Holidays, and WDVE’s Christmas Show—we’re allowed!!!!!
May your Holidays be safe,and full of love, peace, and joy!


December 13, 2006

“Thumbs, Toes, and Tears, And Other Traits That Make Us Human.” If you missed the piece, last week on the 5 o’clock news, it is the title of a book about the characteristics that separate us from all other creatures. The author, a local guy, has worked for CNN, made documentaries in Africa for PBS, and written television screenplays. Chip Walter now works for UPMC and teaches science writing at CMU, having written for magazines like “Scientific American,” and “The Economist.” Quite the resume.

I confess, it was his idea to use the zoo as a setting for the interview. Frankly, any chance to go to the zoo, especially to see the elephants, is fine by me.
So we found a way to weave Tash and the gang into the story. Willie Theison, the Elephant Manager there, is a wizard with them, and a veritable font of information about animal behavior. Do elephants shed tears that are tied to emotion? Both Willie and Chip say there are no studies that conclusively prove it. We seem to the be the only animals that do cry.

And if you have been weeping about your toes, give them a break. That weird thing you stub in the middle of the night while you stumble to the bathroom, that you paint, and squeeze into under-sized shoes, that grows those little tufts of hair— THAT is one of the attributes (if you saw mine, you would not call it that) that separates us from other animals, and enabled us to walk upright. Which leads me to Zuza. Or walks me to him…chuckle,chuckle. (bad, bad). I am not sure I am spelling

Zuza correctly, but I am sure we were all positively spell-bound by this hulking silverback, whom the lead primate keeper calls a “sweetie.” He is so breath-taking, don’t you think? And this ominous-looking gorilla loves to dance for Karen Vacco, the keeper. She says he twirls around making laughing noises..and as Chip and I did the interview, at the exact momemt Chip mentioned that Zuza can walk up right, but not for too long, and not comfortably, Zuza ran down the tree behind us —upright!!! Almost as if to say ,”Hey, don’t get too arrogant..I can do this..sort of!!!” We tried to freeze the video here to show

him between us, in the background. Next time you go to see the polar bears, check out the elephants and gorillas..So much separates us as species. But it is also fun to contemplate about the qualities we share..

December 7, 2006

The saying goes,”The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” It is certainly a truism when you look at Jerome Bettis, and his late father, John.It didn’t seem appropriate to write about the death of John Bettis in some tag paragraph of a blog. So I just wanted to say, again– because you can’t say it enough—our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bettis family. John and Gladys had just been in Pittsburgh in October. Gladys was demonstrating her sweet potato pie and macaroni and cheese at the Convention Center Cooking show. The two were always together, at Jerome’s games, at the multitude of events that honored him, at his debuts. And that is why this has to be enormously hard for Gladys Bettis.

When I saw them at the show, John had talked about the whirlwind the year had been since the Super Bowl. Disney World.The Winter Olympics in Italy. A golf tournament with Tiger Woods. If they tired of the travel, they never showed it. They had become celebrities in their own right, but never lost the common touch, and that wonderful sense of humor that we see in Jerome. And as they were beseiged by people wanting to know them, talk to them, get THEIR autograph, they never showed irritation or impatience. Jerome learned so very well.

Gladys would say, as she did in October, that she was the talker, and John was the quiet one. But when he spoke, it was full of wit and wisdom. He knew so much about football, and was an insightful student of the game. But most importantly, he was a force in keeping his famous son from being eaten alive by what can be an unforgiving business.

Jerome told me in an interview last year that when he finished his rookie season in Los Angeles, with the Rams, his parents told him to come home to Detroit, and live with them. He said he told them,”I am a grown man, I can’t live at home.” But he did what he was told, and John made him take out the garbage, and do chores. Jerome said it was the best thing that could have happened to him..He was a star even then..Rookie of the Year (I think). Jerome said it kept him from succumbing to all that is bad about notoriety in the NFL.

At the Super Bowl, during Media Day, everyone was talking about Jerome being home in Detroit. I asked him if he had had the chance to see his parents and he laughed. He said,”I see them all the time!” and added it was a chance for them to do their own thing that week.

You think now of how hard it will be for him, his mother, and his brother and sister….When someone is such a huge presence, the adjustment to the loss is enormous. John Bettis was so young, only 61..And he was enjoying his new retirement..He had watched this Pitttsburgh Steeler,his son, (and he loved the Steelers) win a Super Bowl, and settle into a new career and life, with a new wife and child.

This last week , John Bettis’s words in Jerome’s new book,”Driving Home,” have been quoted often. But they bear repeating. He said them as Jerome was getting ready to leave for Notre Dame. “I took him aside and told him this: Son, I don’t have
much to give you except a name, but it’s a clean name. It’s never been on a police blotter, and it’s never caused any trouble. See that you take care ot it.”

For the entire Bettis family, our love and sincerest condolences this Holiday Season.

December 4, 2006

Finally. Think the Steelers could win out? With all these injuries,it seems unlikely.
Selfishly, I am so delighted the Pittsburgh defense stepped up, since I stuck with them this week on my fantasy team. I was a little torn there at the end. Wanted the shut-out for the fantasy points, but you couldn’t help but hope Bruce Gradkowski would complete that pass in the end zone with his family watching. It seemed everytime the cameras sought them out, he threw an interception. They still have to be so proud.

Later, Fox made quite the production of the BCS annoucement.You just knew they would not leave Michigan at #2 and allow a re-match. GIVE US A PLAY-OFF SYSTEM! But it doesn’t help that no one has seen MIchigan play since Novbember 18. Now watch USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl..I am sure Max Starks is pretty happy..He went to Florida, and roomed with Bears QB, Rex Grossman. Max is great, but I gotta cheer for those Buckeyes. It makes MIchigan look better if OSU beats them soundly. And Demetrius will be delirious. Yes, he studied his weather in Columbus.

Have you seen that Heisman commercial with the mascots running down the street? Incredibly well done. There is something that looks like a huge boulder careening along. IT’S A BUCKEYE! . There is a wolverine, but you can barely see him.

Speaking of commericals, remember the series of Southwest Airline commericals with the slogan,”Need to get away?”. My very sentiments the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Some friends had invited me to the Penguins game against the Rangers. My friends were invited into the owner’s box, so I got to go along. The still-injured Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone were there, along with some other players..We just said hello, and settled into our seats to watch. The Pens were leading 1-0, when my friend sat down next to me. I turned to speak to her, just as Jagr put the puck in the net. In that moment, when my head was turned, my mind turned off, and all I saw was the red light..Not o