Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Big Star Light, Big Star Bright

Still the #1 Record in Radio City

On Saturday night, Amy and I went to see "Bopp Does Big Star," at WTMD's Olympic Studio in Towson.

"Bopp Does Big Star"


Andy Bopp and his band - which included guitarist Warren Boes (Almighty Senators), Nick Bertling (Bertling Noise Laboratories), and a bassist (Eric?) who read "Big Star for Dummies" in between songs - played all the songs from Big Star's 1972 debut album #1 Record as part of a fundraiser for the radio station that used to be called WCVT back in my college days. (WCVT lasted until the advent of the '90s, which is around the last time I saw Andy Bopp play - back when he fronted a band called Love Nut, who were briefly on Joe Goldsborough's Merkin Records label)


"Bopp Does Big Star" at WTMD's Olympic Studio

Primary Source for Big Star fans


The in-studio album-length performance was broadcast live over WTMD (89.7 FM, as if you didn't know), with an intro and outro courtesy of local music show announcer Sam Sessa. It was a great idea for a great record - and here's hoping the tradition continues next year with Bopp's boys perhaps performing the second Big Star album, the post-Chris Bell follow-up Radio City (1973). On this night, they actually did play a few nuggets from Radio City ("September Gurls" and maybe "Back of a Car"?), as well as "Thank You, Friends" from Big Star's Third: Sister Lovers, Chris Bell's post-Big Star single "I Am the Cosmos" and Alex Chilton's pre-Big Star Box Tops hit "The Letter."

All the in-the-know, cool kids were there: Jim Maher, Gayle and Mike Maxwell, Cindy France and Greg Dohler, Chris Hartlove (with his son Wynn), Janet Little Jeffers, Joe Goldsborough, Susan Selway, and so on and so forth. Many more would have posted if not for the Stanstock Festival going on at the same time across town in Parkville.

I was really looking forward to this show because, well, Big Star is one of those bands - like the Beatles, like Buzzcocks, like the Who - that comes around once in a lifetime and is a game-changer.

Straight Outta Memphis: Big Star

"I never travel far without a little Big Star" as Paul Westerberg sang in The Replacements' homage, "Alex Chilton."

Big Star was clearly influenced by the Beatles and other British Invasion bands, and would go onto influence countless others. Indeed, they came Straight Outta Memphis to critical acclaim but commercial failure and relative obscurity - until rediscovered in the '80s and '90s by fellow troubadors (R.E.M., Replacements, Bangles, Game Theory, Wilco, Matthew Sweet, Posies, Teenage Fanclub, Gin Blossoms, Andy Bopp, et. al) and rock cognoscenti alike. Hopefully, Big Star will continue to influence future generations of musicians.

And on this night, Bopp's popsters did a most admirable job of showing the audience what all the fuss was about.

"They nailed it!" enthused Jack Nicholson clone Mike Maxwell.

"Well played sirs, well played!" Andy Bopp applauds his band

Indeed, there were only a few glitches along the way, which is understandable given that the record was a true studio production and not at all easy to play live.

"Oh, no, no; definitely a studio record," laughed Andy Bopp when Sam Sessa asked if it was meant to be played live. "All those crazy chords!" Warren Boes exclaimed with added emphasis.

"The Ballad of El Goodo" was slightly out of tune and during a later number a speaker started to act up, but other than that it was a masterful display, especially during a post-broadcast rendition of "September Gurls" from the Radio City songbook. On the record, Alex Chilton got his layered guitar sound on the song by playing a Fender "mando-guitar" on the breathtaking solo. (This hybrid between a mandolin and a guitar replicates the top four string pairs of a 12-string guitar capoed at the 12th fret, raising an entire octave above a standard tuned guitar. Chilton got his from his former Box Tops bandmate John Evans, and rumor has it George Harrison had one that he used on "Words of Love.")

The twin guitar interplay between Boes (lead) and Bopp on the solo was extraordinary, given that they had no mando-guitar (few do) to try and replicate this classic solo.

Boes & Bopp do Big Star


Listening to Bopp and co. playing those beautifully melodic, alternately poignant and rocking songs, made me think back to college days...back when I first heard, and fell in love, with the cult of Big Star. The Digital Age has evened the playing field and made virtually everything available, but back in the '70s, well, even then #1 Record was hard to come by. And Radio City. And all Big Star, for that matter.

But during my undergrad daze at Towson State University (circa 1975-1980), my friend Bernie Ozol had the vinyl platters of both #1 Record and Radio City and made me a cassette tape of them. Like Dylan turning the Beatles on to marijuana, Bernie Ozol was the Gateway Drug to my Power Pop Enlightenment.

Bernie Ozol: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mentor (painting by Stuart Stein)

Bernie also made me a tape of the also-hard-to-to-find Tommy Keene LP, Strange Alliance (I think it helped that Bernie was Tommy's roommate at the University of Maryland, College Park, during Keene's brief tenure as a Terrapin!). Oh, and Bernie also turned me on to NRBQ, specifically a mixtape of the great NRBQ at Yankee Stadium album, plus some bonus NRBQ hits.

For these three random acts of rock 'n' roll kindness, I will always be in The Bern's debt. Bernie's tape got me through the digital dearth of Big Star until the late '80s, when Big Star's 3rd: Sister Lovers finally surfaced on CD thanks to PVC Records circa 1985. I have the second PVC edition from 1987, which added "Downs" and "Dream Lover" to the original version. Rykodisc later released its remastered, corrected-running-order version of 3rd, called Sister Lovers, in 1992, but I never upgraded - even though they added bonus tracks like "Nature Boy," "Till the End of the Day," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."

Big Star - "#1 Record" LP (Ardent Records, 1972)


Big Star - "Radio City" LP with cover by William Eggleston (Ardent Records, 1974)

"Big Star's 3rd: Sister Lovers" CD (PVC Records, 1985, 1987)


And it wasn't until 1990 that the #1 Record/Radio City double-CD came out, first on Ace and then on Stax (Ardent)/Fantasy in 1992. (I think my copy is that '92 Stax/Fantasy release.) What a bargain! What a release, every bit as significant to me as Apple releasing the Mac in 1984! (Of course, now you can buy a used copy for under $3 on Amazon...times change!)

Big Star - "#1/Radio City" CD (Stax/Fantasy, 1992)

To lovers of melodic pop (or "Power Pop," if you insist - though most bands labeled by this descriptor, like Tommy Keene, don't care for it), these two albums were like the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Scriptures all rolled together. They saw us through times both high and low, and flavored many a customized mixtape over the years.

Listen to Big Star's #1 Record in its entirety:


Listen to Big Star's Radio City in its entirety:



Then came the delightful downer mess that is Third/Sister Lovers. But that's another story for another day, a melancholy masterpiece on par with Lou Reed's Berlin that I and countless rock critics adore. Some other time. For now I am basking in the afterglow of Pure Bopp for Big Star People.

Related Links:
Album Covers Referencing Big Star's "Radio City"


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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It's a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World!

Bang a Gong: The Beat Goes On

Smalltimore, MD: So Amy and I took a walk tonight to get out of the house (we were getting migraines from listening to our next door neighbor's power drilling; same neighbor has the perpetually barking beagle) and, on our way to Tunes, Amy noticed a bunch of drums in the window next to The Raven Inn.


The owner, Keith Larsen, saw us gawking and poked his head out the door. "You're welcome to come inside," he beckoned. This charming craftsman not only gave us a tour of his store, a former copy machine center, but showed us the drum sets he custom builds himself (he also rents out other musical gear around town for various bands and businesses).


Though the sign outside on Loch Raven Boulevard still advertised the copy machine shop, the drum store is actually called Keith Larson's MAD, the latter acronym for Mid-Atlantic Drum (www.midatlanticdrumshop.com).

Mirror, Mirror on the Boulevard: Who's the fairest drum shop of them all?

MAD is a full-line drum shop featuring new, used, custom, and vintage drums and accessories.

"Bopp Does Big Star" at WTMD's Olympic Studio

Having just seen Andy Bopp's band play the night before at the WTMD "Bopp Does Big Star" live radio broadcast event, I asked him, "Have you ever heard of a drummer named Nick Bertling?"

Nick Bertling Bopps Big Star

"Have I?," Keith replied, "He worked here for four years and I really miss him. I loaned out all the equipment for his WTMD show last night. In fact, I have his CD right up front."

Bertling Noise Laboratories: The Flehmen Response

I told Keith how impressed I was by Nick's drumming and was ready to buy the CD from him when he waved me off and said, "No, you take it. I'm gonna text him right now to tell him about this; he'll get a kick out of that!" He pulled out his iPhone and took a pic of Amy and I holding the CD and sent it to Nick.

On the CD, Bertling Noise Laboratories, Nick sings and plays everything. Not surprising, given what we saw the night before, when Nick sang Chris Bell and Alex Chilton songs and played acoustic guitar on several songs (including an impressive "Thirteen"), in addition to his drumming duties. He also had the snappiest in-between-songs banter.


Nick Bertling channels Alex Chilton on "Thirteen"

"Isn't he [Nick] from Chicago or something?" I asked. "Actually he's from right around here in Loch Raven," Keith replied. Small world! "He moved to Chicago when his wife got her PhD and a job out there."
We asked him if he knew any drummers we knew and he name-checked Joe Manfre (Ludwig kit purchaser), Jack O'Dell, Andy Small, Kelly Bell Band's drummer, and so on. Later, we found out Saxton White and Denny Bowen (Double Dagger) were also satisfied customers.

When we mentioned we went to Stanstock Fest on Saturday, Keith informed us that he loaned the Stanstock organizers all the equipment the bands used. (Way to represent, MAD!)
He then mentioned that he really liked the last band that played inside McAvoy's on Saturday night because "They didn't sound like everybody else doing the same kinda '70's and '80's cover songs. They sounded kinda punk but also kinda like Mott the Hoople and that era." That's why Keith liked the guitarist with the "really long hair," Fernando, "because you could tell he was really good but also not afraid to sound a little rough around the edges," like Mott the Hoople guitarists Mick Ralphs and Pete Overend Watts.

Chelsea Graveyard, Stanstock Festival 2016

We told Keith that was our friends' band, Chelsea Graveyard. (Are your ears ringing, David WilcoxMike Milstein, and Henry Lingenfelder? You have a new fan!) Technically, their full name is Chelsea Graveyard and the Screams at Midnight - and they damn well came close to literally living up to their name, but the festival organizers had them go on at 11:15 instead of Midnight. (Close enough!)

I mentioned how good their drummer, Mighty J,  was and Keith agreed. "He was really solid, played to the songs and didn't overplay anything like a lot of drummers do. Really solid, strong drummer."

The Mighty J
We told Keith that if he really liked Chelsea Graveyard, he should check the schedule next door at The Raven Inn, where the band have already played twice before.





And there you have it, skin pounders! Get over to Keith Larsen's Mid-Atlantic Drum for all your percussive needs or just to shoot the shit with a guy who loves music! And to think, we'd never know he existed if not for our annoying neighbor's cacophonous home repairs at dinnertime!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Sheer Heart Attack? Real Cardiac!

Yes, Love Can Break Your Heart - And in 17 Places!


Love will tear us - and our hearts - apart. That's the heartburn-inducing news about "Broken-Heart Syndrome," according to a November 2015 report published in the American Journal of Cardiology, as reported in today's Wall Street Journal ("Don't Call It a Heart Attack," by Lucette Lagnado, WSJ, January 5, 2016). The disorder was first isolated by Japanese researchers 25 years ago, who named the condition takotsubo cardiomyopathy, "takotsubo" being the Japanese term for "octopus trap," which resembles the ballooning shape of a heart during an attack.

 
Heart-break can be a painful cardiac episode that mimics a heart attack, but typically without blockage of coronary arteries. It most often affects women in their 60s or older, and can be triggered by strong emotions (grief, anger, anxiety, intense joy or excitement) or physical stress. And how, as the Brothers Gibb once pondered harmoniously, can one mend a broken heart? According to Dr. Harmony Reynolds, one of the report's six authors, recommended prevention strategies including yoga, meditation, guided relaxation and breathing techniques.

"This is the Big One...Elizabeth, I'm coming to join you!"
"It's a romantic notion, but you really can get this from heartache."
- Dr. Harmony Reynolds, American Journal of Cardiology

Here's the WSJ article:
Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, recently led a study that subjected 20 women to a host of tests designed to bring on physical and mental stress.
The study looked for possible reasons some of the women had suffered a mysterious ailment known as broken-heart syndrome, which mimics a heart attack but generally doesn’t appear to be due to coronary artery disease.
In seeking a common thread among the 10 women in the group who had experienced an attack of broken-heart syndrome over the past several years, Dr. Reynolds and colleagues came to suspect they each suffered from an impaired parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for helping the body calm down.
The study led to strikingly different conclusions from what other researchers had previously believed might be behind the unusual malady. It also led Dr. Reynolds to believe that breathing and other relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation should be tested for preventing broken-heart syndrome.
Experts say broken-heart syndrome, which most often affects women in their 60s or older, can be brought on by strong emotions, such as grief, anger and anxiety, or by physical stress. A common trigger is a loved one’s illness or death, while for some patients there is no clear-cut cause for an attack. “It is a romantic notion, but you really can get this from heartache,” says Dr. Reynolds, whose study was published online in November in the American Journal of Cardiology.
Roberta Silver, who participated in Dr. Reynolds’s study, recalls driving in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2007 when she suddenly felt her heart pounding. She pulled over to a cafe, where she became intensely ill. An ambulance took her to a hospital, and she was told she had suffered a heart attack. But a series of tests, including an angiogram, all turned up negative, she says.
“I had no blockage, nothing,” recalls Ms. Silver, who was visiting California from her home in New Jersey. After several days in the hospital, doctors concluded she had suffered broken-heart syndrome. Ms. Silver, who is 70, still isn’t sure what caused the event, and she hasn’t had a repeat episode. But she was ill with an upper respiratory infection and under stress at the time: A cousin she had been close to had died and Ms. Silver was planning to attend his funeral in San Francisco. And preparations for her son’s wedding were proving upsetting.
Continue reading "New Clues Why Women Get Broken-Heart Syndrome" online at Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com).


Heart-Break Syndrome - A Partial Hit List:

Bonnie Tyler - "It's a Heartache"


Neil Young - "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"


Tracey Ullman - "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places"



Queen - "Sheer Heart Attack"


Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achy Breaky Heart"


Bee Gees - "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"


Godley and Creme - "Cry"




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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nostalgia for an age yet to numb

The September of My Years: A Weekend Trip Down Memory Lane at the Nostalgia Convention


"Come meet Hollywood celebrities & get their autograph!"


(September 17-19, 2015) - It was the best of times, it was the Fest of times. After a mentally grueling week at the social services factory (aka, The Public Library), I came home Friday night longing for escape from the harsh realities of the Here and Now. Maybe it was the words of one of my library regulars, a Beatles-obsessed middle-aged recluse, ringing in my ears. "I don't care much for the Modern World," she explained, when I asked her that day why she loved the Beatles so much. "Those were happier days back then [when the Beatles were together]." (Hmmm, maybe minus the Vietnam War, the Manson Family murders, and the MLK rioting. I'm just saying, everything's relative...) So it was that I similarly sought solace in a blast from the past, and what better way then to head out for a late-night run through the 10th annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (MANC) being held at the Hunt Valley Wyndham, Thursday through Saturday.

Nostalgia Con merchadise: anything and everything from the past!

Amy and I made a preliminary "recon run" Friday night on the upstairs (free admission, free-range vendors) level of the Wyndham, where a similarly Beatles-obsessed Amy bought 31 (!) Fab Four buttons and guitar picks and a Yellow Submarine postcard from one elated nostalgia vendor. "I have to get Ringo buttons to wear when we go see his All-Star Band at the Lyric in October!," Amy rationalized. (Point taken!)

Fab fare at the Memory mart

Neither Amy nor I go to these conventions to get autographs or selfies with the celebrities in attendance. It's just not our thang. Plus, it's expensive. We leave that to friends like Dave Wright, who took advantage of this year's cinema and TV Land celebrity bounty - Lee Majors, Richard Anderson (89 years old!), and Lindsey Wagner (a youthful-looking 66!) of The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman series; Hammer-and-Bond Babes Martine Beswick and Caroline Munro, as well as Hammer Horror Honeys Veronica Carlson and Suzanna Leigh; and Barry and Stanley Livingston and Tina Cole of My Three Sons, among others (Angela Cartwright, Dean Stockwell, Tempest Storm, et. al) - by bringing his Hammer Glamour book to get signed by the well-preserved, still-sexy starlets.

Marcus Hearn's "Hammer Glamour" book

Of course, Dave couldn't resist the "hands-on" experience of also posing with his film femme favorites, as well (that Dave is such a poseur!):

Caroline Munro & Dave Wright

Martine Beswick & Dave Wright

Dave Wright & Suzanna Leigh


Likewise, fanboy Tim Finnerty (erstwhile drummer and current bassist of Middle River rockers The Krudz) and his fanboy-in-training son Patrick were also there, with Tim scoring a much-coveted selfie with Lee Majors and Richard Andersen. "I had to, because I always kick myself for missing these opportunities," Tim confessed, adding that he missed the chance to get "a Polaroid sitting in the Batmobile with Adam West for just $15!" a few years ago when he unwisely decided to catch an Ace Frehley concert instead. (He's never forgiven himself.)


Bionic fanboys Tim & Pat Finnerty with Six Million Dollar celeb Lee Majors

The Finnertys have Richard "Oscar" Andersen's back


89-year-old Richard Anderson  is still rocking the Celebrity Nostalgia Trail!


The Bionic Man and Woman were definite highlights of this year's MANC, with special edition program guides for sale and some fans ever donning costumes in homage to their idols.

Bionic fans do the Robot Dance

Dave Cawley & Gina Houten get ironic with the Bionics


Steve Austin edition guide


Jaime Sommers edition guide


No, Amy and I prefer posing (for free!) with our fellow nobodies, peeps like Dave Wright (for once not wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt)...


Dave Wright, Tom Warner & Amy Linthicum

...and  Big Dave Cawley, King of Memorabilia (who made sure that he stepped away from the table selling Jerry Lewis memorabilia so that he wouldn't be asked for autographs!)...


The Gruesome Twosome: "Men about town" Tom Warner & Dave Cawley

But Amy and I do love looking at all the toys, games, books, comics, magazines, records, DVDs, movie posters, and assorted memorabilia from our youth that are on sale. For instance, Amy spotted a Shari Lewis and Lambchop word descrambler toy she remembered playing with as a toddler. It was called the Shari Lewis' Magic Answer Cards, though Shari and Lambchop have nothing to do with it except appearing on the box cover.

Shari Lewis Magic Answer Cards

The game asked questions and if you couldn't guess the answer, you placed a cheap piece of plastic with holes in it over the Answer Board to reveal the answer, as shown below:

Automatic Answer Board

It's...it's magic! Oh, the games people play!

And speaking of magic, dinosaur-loving Dave Cawley was amused to see a vendor selling a vintage Strange Change Machine, the late '60s Mattel toy that heated up blobs of goop in a "Time Machine" and turned them into miniature dinosaurs. Or not. "My dinosaurs always came out as blobs!" Dave admitted.

Mattel's Strange Change Machine toy


The Strange Change "Time Machine" created these creatures

Of course, no one needs to create dinosaurs anymore. They're all over the place now - but today we call them "Republicans"!

Watch a 1968 Strange Change Machine commercial.



The same vendor also had a box of "Banned Dukes of Hazzard Confederate Flag Zippo Lighters." Since the Hazzard boys and their General Lee wheels are now politically incorrect, I didn't see any takers. (He'd probably fare much better at the  Dundalk Heritage Festival, where a vendor quickly sold out of Confederate flags this summer!)

Amy looks for good-value rock & roll items at these conventions, like the aforementioned Beatles merchandise, or anything to do with retro music formats, like the Vinyl Forever vendor who "repurposed" records as candy bowls and album covers as handbags.

Vinyl Forever!

I tend towards dumber fare like a bootleg of the 1975 Golden Harvest-Australian Film Development Corporation kung-fu co-production The Man from Hong Kong, starring Jimmy Wang Yu and one-time Bond George Lazenby (who also starred in Golden Harvest's 1974 martial arts movie, Stoner, opposite Angela Mao), and comic book collections like DC's Blackhawk - the latter an ill-advised purchase, as it was the later edition of the racially stereotyped flyboys battling Commies in the 1950s rather than Nazis in their '40s glory days).

"The Man from Hong Kong" was the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production

Blackhawk & Co. battled Commies and killer whales in the '50s


Did I mention that Blackhawk was somewhat racially insensitive? Early version of Blackhawk team member "Chop-Chop"


We spent quite a bit of time chatting with first-time vendor Jennifer Vanderslice of MoonGlow PR and Beatles Freak Reviews, who brought a half-dozen interesting Fab Four books to the convention. I ended up getting the latest book by "Beatles scholar" (doncha just love that term? Who knew in 1964 that one day scholarly tomes would be written about the lovable Liverpudlians?) Robert Rodriguez, Solo in the 70s: John, Paul, George, Ringo, 1970-1980.



Rodriguez's previous critically acclaimed books include Fab Four FAQ, Fab Four FAQ 2.0, and Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll. (Like I need another Beatles book - I still haven't gotten through Mark Lewisohn's Tune In - The Beatles: All These Years! - but, hey, it's an easy and fun read!). Rodriguez's book picks up where FFF 2.0 left off, detailing John Lennon's fight to stay in America against the forces of the Nixon administration, the lawsuits against the Beatles' business associates and each other, unreleased recordings, the promo films, covers of Beatles songs by other artists, bootleg releases, and whatever else is left to say or ponder about the Fabs.

Jennifer Vanderslice with Scott "Son of Dennis" Wilson

Right next to the Beatles Freaks table was another first-time vendor. There, a friendly couple from South Jersey was manning a booth selling books about old-time radio and television stars. I wish I could remember the husband's name, because he was the author of several books about radio stars like Jack Benny, George Burns, and Bob & Ray. We talked about Jersey beaches, Jersey-style hoagies, and even my t-shirt depicting the Dundalk waste treatment facility known affectionately to locals as the "Golden Eggs." (They had never seen such a beautiful shit plant!).

The Golden Eggs

The wife commented that I looked like Matt Smith from Doctor Who.

"Spot on, mate!" Matt Smith approves of the Tom Warner comparison

"Really?" I exclaimed, not used to getting compared to anyone other than Martina Navratilova or Bill Maher. "I think I love you!" (I should have bought all their books just for that compliment alone!)

Jennifer Vanderslice recommended going downstairs into the big dealer's room to talk to Scott Wilson, son of Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who was there to promote his memoir, the quite sensibly named  Son of a Beach Boy: My Dad, Dennis Wilson. (See Jennifer's review at her blog Beatles-Freak's Reviews.)


The Legendary Chick Veditz


Also downstairs in the big dealer room was Harry "Chick's Legendary Records" Veditz. Chick was once again manning his massive sports and memorabilia trading cards table, ably assisted by his wife Arlene and their son John.

Chick's Legendary trading card table


The recently retired Chick is a true sweetheart. He gave us two "Buying Records Cheers Me Up" Peanuts t-shirts, as well as lady-sized tee for Amy commemorating Chick's Pre-Retirement Party at The Ottobar (see "Of Chick, Coddies & Camaraderie").



Adam Turkle-designed tee commemorating Chick's August 31, 2014 Ottobar Party

After spending way too much time looking over seemingly every item on offer in the dealer's room, we headed back upstairs to head out. But on my way to the exit, I overheard a familiar voice. I'm horrible when it comes to recollection, but something in the voice rekindled memories of my days as a tech writer in suburban Cubicle Land. Looking up I recognized a familiar-looking face.

"Are you Bill?" I asked. "Didn't I work with you at..."

"Tom Warner! How you doing man?" said the familiar face, now recognized as none other than Bill Horn, my old friend and co-worker from the mid-'80s when we worked  for Display Data and, later, Convergent Dealership Group, in Hunt Valley. This was back in the pre-Regal Cinemas, pre-Wegmans, pre-everything era of the Death Valley Mall, when the mall was as dead as vaudeville and you could almost imagine tumbleweeds blowing through its lonesome corridors. Back when Convergent had enough money to hire the Pointer Sisters to sing the "Convergent Theme Song": "We work for Convergent/And the times are urgent...and I think I like it, like it!" No, really. I was there.

Amy looked surprised and I blurted, "We used to work together at a computer company..."

"Display Data," Bill chirped. "Right across the parking lot here at Executive Plaza."


Display Data dudes Bill Horn & Tom Warner

Bill was an IT guy who has since gone on to get two graduate degrees in creative writing. He was helping a buddy out with his table on this fortuitous day. Long story short, we caught up best we could and made plans to get together for a Tech Throwback happy hour with former co-workers at Display Data/Convergent. I miss those days in Hunt Valley. I hadn't seen Bill since I left the company in 1992.

I remember Convergent had a newsletter and one issue had us both getting shout-outs in the "Dubious Achievement Awards of 1989." Bill's 1974 Dodge Challenger got him the nod for "Worst Wheels," while I snared "Too Cool for Words." No, really.






Like I said, it was a weekend of nostalgia for happy days past. Maybe not as far back as the Beatles spinster' lady's "happy days" but good enough for me. Thanks for the memories, Nostalgia Con!

My only regret is missing a special appearance by Jerry Beck, the celebrated Animation Historian and author of such critically acclaimed books as The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994) and The Animated Movie Guide (2005). Beck presented a history of the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons at the convention, a talk I'm sorry I missed!

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