MAILBAG/CHARO AND THE TV GAME SHOW HALL OF FAME

I received a very entertaining letter from the Charo camp after I joked about her in an Oct. 19 column, which was about the new TV Game Show Hall of Fame in Vegas. In the column, I imagined roles at the museum for various game show figures of the past, including Charo, who once was a regular on “Hollywood Squares.”
Here’s the delightful letter I received, from David Nash, and my response to him …

Hi John,

Your article about the new “Game Show Hall of Fame” is a hoot! I sure hope the exhibit finds just the right permanent home.
The story popped up on my “Google Alerts for Charo”, which I monitor as a friend and fan of Charo’s. I try to help her keep in touch with the on-line world among other things…

Your quote and comment:

“At the ‘Hollywood Squares’ exhibit, guests will sit in stacked vertical grids and trade quips with a Charo robot.

Oh, wait, maybe that’s the real Charo. She’s pretty available these days.”

So funny, so true — and not something I am very happy about.

And yet it is not quite accurate….

Charo is actually not as available as I would like her to be…

Charo spent about 4 months this year with Andy Williams in Branson at his Moon River Theater where she still is, as I write to you…. or out at sea with Royal Caribbean or hopping around the country from one Indian Casino to the next.

Sadly this “on the road” schedule makes it often impossible for Charo to accept TV offers.

She recently had to pass up a guest spot on the Tonight show spoofing
her Geico ad with the previous night’s “American Idol” loser.

I did get her booked twice on the Martha Stewart show last year…
but a follow-up appearance on the Today show went instead to Barry
Manilow. Again Charo was tied up in Branson with Andy Williams… so they got
Barry Manilow instead.

It is a tough call for Charo — and bugs me big time — that she is so
tied up here and there bringing home a paycheck — which sets in
motion a “catch 22.”

Too often lately Charo is not very available or visible on the Tube
– where she needs to spend a lot more time. So many people under age
35 or 40 are becoming less and less aware of who or what a Charo was
and still is!

A conversation and touchy subject that, as a good friend, Charo and I
recently rehashed.

I will forward your article to her sister Carmen.

She will get a big laugh… and a few things to think about.

Then hopefully Carmen will shred the copy of your story before Charo
returns from Branson and reads it. You so hit the nail on the head.
It might hurt Charo a bit to see it in print.

Otherwise, Charo is doing great! She has not gained a pound in more
than 30 years. Her sister absolutely will not adjust the patterns
for her costumes — so Charo has no choice but to go with the program.

Charo’s awesome guitar playing, her comedic talents, wit and energy
continue to amaze and delight me.

I hope hearing from me may at least slightly amuse you.

Good work John…!

Please keep Charo in your thoughts!

David Nash

David: Thanks for your very endearing and entertaining letter. I thought a long time before I chose Charo for that joke. My first intention was to use Charles Nelson Reilly, but I remembered he is no longer with us. Many, in fact, of the old guard of stars who appeared on “Hollywood Squares” have passed on to that great game show in the sky. Many others are little-remembered. I finally chose Charo because she is very much still with us, and because EVERYBODY knows who she is.
That’s what I call true fame.
I hope she won’t cry if she reads my column. I hope she will be at least a little bit flattered.
If people are still joking about you, you’ve still got it goin’ on.
I’m glad to hear about all the work she still is doing. Next time she performs in Southern California I’ll try to catch her show.
And maybe I’ll be able to give her an out-and-out plug the next time I mention her in print. I will be happy to do so, not only because of who she is, but because she has such a valiant champion looking out for her. I am speaking, of course, of you.
Thanks again for writing.
John.

HANNAH MONTANA/THE FULL STORY

Space is tight these days in Go! magazine. My Oct. 26 column on Hannah Montana and the high price of concert tickets was trimmed to fit. Ouch. Here’s the full version …

Its awful, just awful, this whole Hannah Montana situation.
But it might turn out to be a good thing, after all, for our nations young people.
Its an opportunity for them to learn a hard lesson about real life.
Namely, concert tickets are hard to get, and they cost a fortune.
Get used to it, kiddies.
Miley Cyrus, the 14-year-old singing star of the sensationally popular Disney Channel series Hannah Montana, has just begun a national live concert tour that comes to Southern California during the first week of November.
At venues across the country, demand for tickets is so high that brokers and scalpers are charging anywhere from $300 to $3,000 apiece.

Thats like an arrow through the little hearts of millions of disappointed fans.
Believe me, I feel their pain.
I, too, enjoy going to pop concerts. And I, too, find the process of buying tickets to be a frustrating ordeal.
In fact, I go to far fewer concerts than I would like. And, when I do go, I pay a terrible price.
I saw the Eagles and Dixie Chicks last week at the new Nokia Theatre in L.A. The tickets were $265 each.
I saw the Rolling Stones at Hollywood Bowl. Tickets were about the same.
I saw Bob Dylan at Staples Center. About the same.
I saw U2 at the Sports Arena. About the same.
Thats more than a thousand bucks for concert tickets. Its a good thing those concerts were spaced out over several years.
Let me tell you, it hurts this guy to pay that kind of money for concert tickets. Why? Because Im the same guy who used to go to shows at the old Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, when tickets cost only a couple bucks.
I saw the Doors for a couple bucks. I saw Jefferson Airplane for a couple bucks.
I saw Eric Clapton, the Grateful Dead, the Grass Roots, Deep Purple and Steppenwolf. All for a couple bucks a pop.
In 1966 I splurged. I saw the Beatles at Dodger Stadium. Those tickets were $4.50 each. Ouch.
Well, those days are long gone. Concert tickets dont cost a couple bucks any more. In fact, they can cost 100 times that amount now.
Thats a rate of increase that far surpasses the rate of inflation, Im afraid. Bread doesnt cost 100 times as much as it once did. Cars dont, either. And neither do houses.
I try to be understanding. Pop stars cant sell records any more, because fans keep ripping off their music on the Internet. So pop stars have to make up the shortfall by ripping off their fans at the concert hall.
Fairs fair.
Also, I have to admit, astronomical ticket prices add a certain mystique, a certain prestige, to an event.
Wow, if people are willing to pay $300 to go to a concert, it must be an awesome show, right?
And bragging rights definitely are included in the purchase price of tickets. Eyes widen when people hear you went to see the Eagles. Eyes pop right out of their sockets when people hear what you paid for it.
You know, up until now, I havent been swept up in this Hanna Montana-mania that is going on. But now that Im hearing that tickets are selling for $300 to $3,000 apiece, I dont know … I cant help myself … I may be getting interested.

MAILBAG/PUBLIC SERVANTS

My Nov. 21 column about insensitive, unresponsive public officials earned the following emails:

From Gipper1: I happen to be a public servant who takes offense to your column regarding “public servants need to do a lot more serving.”
I work in the department of San Bernardino County that takes the complaint phone calls for health and safety issues which is the Code Enforcement Division of Land Use Services Department.
Before something like this is written I guess it is not necessary to get both sides of the story?
I have worked in public service for over 18 years and the last few years with the county. The public never feels that we do enough, fast enough and that we are their servants, therefore they can say anything, anyway they would like to us.
It is daily that we get yelled at, cursed at, belittled and stomped on and yes we do have to take it because yes, we are public servants. The public expects to call and we will respond without due process. Believe it or not there is a process that we must follow because everyone has rights.
I know my job is important and I know that the staff in my office understands our importance. We are concerned with the health and safety of the community. We would love to run out and take care of things immediately—we know there is no excuse but we must follow the rules.
I am very disheartened that we are never portrayed as important in the community, only that we are lazy and unresponsive. I would like you or a member of the public to sit with us for a day and see how we are treated. It’s not good and it’s sad that ‘servant’ means jump when I say jump whether it’s something I can do or not do.
I will continue to do my job to the best of my ability giving my 100% to the communities that I love whether the public feels this is true or not.
I just wish that things like this didn’t have to be the highlight of the Sunday Sun Newspaper.

From Dennis Bell: Greetings, there IS an “insidious virus” that afflicts public servants at all government levels: it’s called laziness and having job protection from demotion and firing. That’s why good people who work for government leave. I know, I used to work for San Bernardino County.

From Ken DeHart: Your article was right on and I hope these public servants take heed.
To date I have sent e-mails to the city council, the mayor, city administrator and his assistant, the director of development services, the supervisor of code enforcement and city clerk and haven’t heard a word back from any of them.
Friday I sent another e-mail to my congressman regarding a property that I reported last March, that was in violation of our local RMC and no response thus far. I have been trying to get updates on this property, but only get BS from our local code enforcement. It’s now Oct and this property remains in violation. The last update I requested from code enforcement was last week — NO REPLY. I am very tired of being ignored by these self-centered morons.
Is there a source that you know of where complaints can be sent regarding these slackers?
Thanks for writing the article. Who knows, it may have done some good.

From Michael Young: I read your article on Public Servants this morning and I must say, you seem to be a tad upset.
Good for you, so am I. Although I don’t have many opportunities to contact public servants, those few times I have, were not encouraging. Here is an example of one.
I was recently given a “fix it ticket” . I was working in my office on a Sunday morning As I left around 10:00 am, I hadn’t gone a block when I was pulled over by one of Beaumont’s finest. I had pulled into a shopping area instead of parking on the street.
I don’t have a lot experience with police procedure but apparently I did a no-no by stepping out of my car. The officer (very young) yelled at me to get back in my car. Now I’m not an expert on profiling but my guess is that a white male over 50, short gray hair and no beard in a late model car, is not exactly a model of anarchy. What prompted his overly energetic response beats me.
He asked me for my registration, proof of insurance and D.L. I responded with Ok, but you first, why did you pull me over? We volleyed this back and forth a couple times and he finally tells me, I have a tail light out. I respond that couldn’t be possible since I didn’t have my headlights on, nor was there a need to have them on. I knew what he meant, but I couldn’t resist the response after his rudeness.
He stuttered a little and corrected himself by telling me it was a brake light. Really, I said, which one? He replied, the right one, I think. Naturally, again I couldn’t resist, so I remarked “you think?”
The whole time we are exchanging barbs, he is writing. When he presented me with the ticket, I asked him, couldn’t you just tell me about it instead of writing up an infraction. His response was, “he was doing his job.”
Again I couldn’t resist. This guy was leaving himself wide open. Yeah, I said, I can see how this would endanger the public, and you are here to serve and protect, right ? I also asked him, how could I possibly know a brake light was out unless someone told me about it? Since this was a company car which he knew at this point, I guaranteed it would be fixed promptly.
All this dialogue was useless, he was determined to write it up.
Here’s the kicker. I went directly to an auto parts store, purchased the bulb and went home to repair it myself. I returned to the Beaumont police station on Tuesday the following week, to have it signed off. I then went directly to the Banning court to submit the signed-off ticket.
First off, there is a $10.00 processing fee, even for a non-moving violation ! This is ridiculous. I’m already paying for this guy’s salary. What would he be doing if I didn’t have a ticket for him to file?
Oh yeah, guess what, I can’t even pay the illegal $10.00 (tax), because my violation isn’t even in the system yet. What a crock! If my actions were so outrageous that a ticket had to be written and society protected from my presence, you would think they could record it in a timely manner.
I was told to come back in another week, and it would be on file. They’ve actually given me a month before my court date to have the repair done. Can you imagine, here’s a violator of undetermined danger roaming around our highways and byways with a burnt tail light. This is so severe, surely we must record this infraction and collect a fee.
The monetary value isn’t going to break me. My issue is the principal. How can they arbitrarily assess a fee when the state doesn’t require a fine? With modern computers available, why would it take a week to get the information to the court? Not only is there the cost to me ($10.00 ) but now they’re telling me I must reschedule my life to fit their calendar!
Like I said, I don’t have many if any contacts with public servants. However, this situation just seemed to be so consistent with the bureaucratic ineptness we often hear about.
Besides that, if you had time to read this, you might get a chuckle out of it. It’s all true.

MAILBAG/WONDERFUL TERRIBLE FALL

After my Oct. 24 column, “Fall — the most wonderful, terrible time of year,” I received the following email from reader Linda Rau. I’m thinking I should hire her as my press agent …

Because you are the FUNNIEST MOST LAUGH INDUCING newspaper comic in the Inland Empire, you deserve to be elevated to that Royal position of EMPEROR WEEKS of San Bernardino County!!!
Who knows, you may even have ambitions to become Emperor of California and you may increase them beyond that. EMPEROR JOHN WEEKS, who keeps us laughing WEEK after WEEK after WEEK!!! After all, we need not just a few, but many laughs – continually.
Shall we call it comic relief?
Speaking of which, we need lots of relief living here in the most WONDERFUL, most TERRIBLE part of the United States – not to mention the world!
What if, just what if, the world had an Emperor that actually made us laugh all the time, instead of feeling mad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, suspicious, not to mention tax and economy fatigued, WEEK after miserable WEEK.
That is why we should have a world-wide election for the funniest most laughable, tax and fatigue free Emperor of the entire world, maybe the entire galaxy. The contenders would have to appear on Laugh-In, or other comic venue and be elected by the highest rating on a laugh meter. Of course they would have to travel every day to new villages, states, territories, countries etc. and that would take a lot of campaign money, so we would have to pay dearly just to get a lot of good laughs.
But it would be worth it, because we would all feel better all the time and we’d be celebrating Hallow e’en, by instead of being scared out of our wits from all the scary kids trying to get treats – or else – we would be so busy laughing we would be handing out jokes along with all that candy to the kiddies.
Then, at Thanksgiving, we would all be thankful for the jokes and laughs during the year.
At Christmas, we’d be exchanging comics and other funny things as gifts, just so we could all make each other laugh, and save lots of money at the same time, and what a relief that would be! To heck with Scrooge, and then even he couldn’t resist laughing!
And, after Christmas, on January first, there would be floats in the Rose Parade representing all the funniest authors and newspaper columns and comic books of all time. And by the way, the Grand Marshall would of course be, JOHN WEEKS, EMPEROR OF THE INLAND EMPIRE, and of the World and Galaxy!
But then comes the 10th and 15th of April…Aaaargh!!! But then, after all, we would all know we could depend on EMPEROR WEEKS for a lot of good laughs!!!

BETTER SHOP AROUND

True story. My car broke down in another city, about 20 miles from my home in San Bernardino. I had it towed to the nearest Honda dealership. The next day, I got the verdict. A “coil pack” around one of my spark plugs had burned and damaged the cylinder head. The damage was irreparable, so the cylinder head would have to be replaced. The repair would take a week and would cost about $6,500.

When I regained consciousness I called Spreen Honda in Loma Linda. That’s where I purchased the car, and that’s where I always take it for service and maintenance. In fact, the car had been there barely a month ago for major service. I asked Spreen’s service manager, Greg Done, if an impending catastrophe in my cylinder head is something that should have been detected during a major service.

He told me no. In fact, the spark plugs in my Honda are not even subject to inspection until the car reaches 120,000 miles. But he wanted to look at the car, anyway.

So I had my car towed from the other Honda dealership to Spreen. Greg Done had his people look at it. He looked at it himself. He took me to the backshop and showed me what they were looking at, and what they were thinking. They were thinking that the damage could be repaired after all. They fixed me up with a rental car, and told me to wait a day.

Here’s what happened. The car was fixed in a day. It cost me $360.

I’m not crazy about spending $360 I wasn’t planning to spend, but I’ll tell you what. It sure beats $6,500.

Moral of the story: Before spending big money, try a little comparison shopping.

STEROIDS: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

Hey, if film directors can release expanded versions of their movies, with restored footage, why can’t humor columnists reissue expanded versions of their columns, with restored passages?

Sounds good to me.

My entertainment column in the Oct. 12 edition of GO! magazine underwent some cuts because of space limitations. Hey, it happens. It’s part of the business.

The cuts weren’t of the amputation variety, where the whole ending gets hacked off, or a big chunk of the middle. No, these were nip-and-tuck cuts. Nice, neat little excisions here and there.

The result was OK, I guess, but I mourned the loss of some good lines.

I thought they were good, anyway.

And so I am proud to present a “director’s cut” version of the column, with all the deleted material restored. There are no space limitations in cyberspace. Why not take advantage?

Here’s the column in its entirety:

Headline: Steroids muscle their way into the arts

Evidently, it aint over, anymore, until the pumped-up lady sings.
Yes, sadly, opera singers now are being questioned about their use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Good grief. Is the steroid scandal going to spread through the arts and entertainment world, as it already has done in the sports world?
Weve been shocked to the point of numbness by reports of steroid abuse in baseball, football, cycling, and track and field. Gold-medal champion sprinter Marion Jones, who recently confessed to doping up before the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, is just the latest example.
But who knew that opera singers were bulking up, too?
As reported in September by the Associated Press, opera insiders say many singers, feeling the pressures of stardom, competition and sponsor demands, are using alcohol and narcotics to relieve stress, and steroids to strengthen their vocal cords and increase stamina.
German tenor Endrik Wottrich told reporters, Soloists are taking beta blockers to control their angst, cortisone to push their voice, and alcohol is everywhere.
The allegations give new, twisted meaning to the old phrase, It aint over until the fat lady sings.
I mean, how can we be sure, anymore, that the fat lady is even the real thing, and not some unnatural freakazoid inflated with dangerous drugs?
In fact, anything and everything about opera stars is now open to question. Is it suspicious, for example, when they hold those long notes an unusually long time? Are their gestures just flamboyantly theatrical, or are they abnormally flamboyantly theatrical?
Come to think of it, opera stars do sweat very profusely. And their veins bulge. And their voices quaver.
Its all starting to make terrible sense.
And you have to wonder if this plague already has spread to other artistic fields.
Sculptors, for example, certainly are turning out bizarrely misshapen objects these days. And the painters are doing just crazy, shocking things on canvas.
If its true that artists only depict whats inside them, we must speculate darkly about what really is inside them.
Ballet dancers definitely have bulges that leave us shaking our heads.
Movie stars, especially actresses, have been behaving awfully erratically these days.
And has anyone noticed that novels are getting huger and more swollen all the time?
When J.K. Rowling was a young, fresh-faced talent, she wrote economically and to the point, but those Harry Potter novels of hers just got more and more enormous as she went along.
You know, maybe us humor writers are the only true artists left who are untainted by the steroid scandal.
And maybe were just a bunch of dopes, after all.
Maybe we should be taking steroids, too.
I mean, I have to wonder what I personally might gain or lose.
Would my words burgeon and bloom with new strength and vigor? Or would they merely bloat and wobble with no real purpose or even effect, other than growing elephantine, gargantuan and Brobdingnagian?
Would my jokes crackle and spark with new incandescent brilliance? Or would they merely wallow and fester and mutate into malignant deformities notable only for their obfuscation and obliquity?
Would my columns gain new potency and force? Or would they simply grow longer and more meandering and misbegotten with no clear objective other than stretching the boundaries of turgid excess, and establishing new grotesque benchmarks for elongation, protraction and longitudinousness?
On reflection, I guess I will continue to say no to performance enhancing substances. I want my work to be free of taint. I want no stain or shadow on my reputation and legacy.
Most of all, when I become the first humor columnist in history to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, I dont want it to come with an asterisk.

john.weeks@sbsun.com

MORE ON THE NORCONIANS

The discussion continues on my Sept. 25 column about Norco and the Norconians. Here’s an entertaining note from Kevin Bash, author of the superb new book “The Norconian Resort” (Arcadia Publishing, $19.95).

“Thank you for the mention of our new book, ‘The Norconian Resort.’ An interesting note from a Norconian, or maybe only interesting to a Norconian: Norco in 1922 was known as Orchard Heights. The development company that held the land was known as the North Corona Land Company. NCLC had a baseball team known as the North Corona Land Company Coyotes. To make a long story short, some unknown writer of box scores for the Corona Independent shortened the name to Nor Co Coyotes. The eldest son of Rex Clark (developer of the Norconian Resort) suggested the name Norco to his dad and history was made. Norco is actually named after a baseball team. If not for that last-place team we would today be known as Orchard Heightians or perhaps just plain Orchs.” Kevin Bash

Thanks, Kevin. I’m still chuckling. Orchs! They were the enemy horde in “The Lord of the Rings.” Let’s hope they don’t get loose in the Inland Empire!

WHERE ARE THOSE T-SHIRTS?

After my Oct. 3 column on San Bernardino cops and their killer T-shirts, a lot of readers wanted to know how to find and buy the shirts.

Sample letter: “Hello Mr. Weeks, I really enjoyed your article on the sb police shirts. I have lived in San Bernardino my entire life, and I am regularly beset by my colleagues (who live in Redlands) on the shootings and crimes of San Bernardino. Jokingly they tease me about getting shot. Therefore, I would love to get one of those police shirts as a joke. I would be very grateful if you knew of a place I could buy one. Sincerely, Tyler Harp.”

As I told Tyler, and the others who have called or written, it is my understanding that the shirts are only being sold by off-duty cops to other off-duty cops, and are not available to the general public. If someone finds out differently, let me know and I’ll post the info. One number to try: San Bernardino Peace Officers Association, (909) 889-0661. That’s the union that represents San Bernardino police officers.

Good luck, and may the force be with you.

MAILBAG/GARBAGE

Emails from readers in response to my Sept. 30 column, which posed the warm, fuzzy question: “Are you garbage?”

From P.J. Smith: I appreciate your comments in your column in the Sunday (September 30) edition of the Sun about Garbage in the form of people . However, you failed to address the issue of people using cell phones in public. Do you not consider them to be Garbage also? I can think of three reasons why not. First, you simply forgot them. Second, you approve of the practice. Third, you use your cell phone in public and cannot risk being seen as a hypocrite.

From Ken DeHart: I agree with all your examples of garbage and I would like to add to the list. People who say they will do something and then never do it. Elected officials who never respond to concerns of the public, even after sending several e-mails. I love your column.

From Judy Meyers: Dear Emperor…….Your column on getting rid of garbage was most outstanding. Thank you and keep up the good work.