Archive for the ‘Jim Taylor’ Tag

Passing The Baton   Leave a comment

January 1, 2019

The start of a new year is always a demarcation line. It’s the most obvious moment—aside from our birthdays—where each of us knows another year has passed. Carl Reiner was quoted as saying “Each morning when I wake up I check the obituaries. If I don’t see my name I already feel better.” Yes we’re all a little older, but that’s how things work.

I looked at the list of all the “notables” who’ve passed and wonder how each of these famous—or infamous—people have affected, touched, or otherwise changed my life. It’s always surprising to me that I can find a personal connection to many of them. So here are my thoughts on those we lost in 2018.

What did you think about when you heard the name—nothing else, just the name—Stephen Hiillenburg? It didn’t mean anything to me. It turns out he was important to me for the simple(?) fact that he created the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. My daughter Caitie and I—Caitie was about 10 years old at the time—were driving to Indiana (from Connecticut) to visit family. After a long day on the interstates we were entertaining ourselves by watching TV in our motel room, and that was the moment SpongeBob came into our lives. We laughed for a couple of hours and both became huge fans of the underwater hero. Thanks Stephen.

Robin Leach died last year. In some ways he too was a character worth remembering. In the end, almost all of the overstuffed, vacuous, self-important wealthy people he interviewed became laughable, at least to me.

Nancy Wilson MI0001416007.jpg

     On the musical side we lost some greats, both household names and lesser-knowns. Before getting into the music business I had heard South African musician Hugh Masekela’s hit single “Grazing in the Grass”. Little more than a year later I was promoting the Friends of Distinction, an RCA act who did a vocal cover of Masekela’s hit, creating a hit of their own. Years later I met Hugh when he recorded an album with my former boss Herb Alpert. Small world indeed.

Another music icon I had the pleasure of meeting was Charles Neville. I was in New Orleans and at Tipitina’s for a performance by the Neville Brothers. It was 1988 or ’89 and that band of brothers were amazing.

Lorraine Gordon died. She kept the flame of New York’s Village Vanguard alive after the death of her husband Max. I made many stops at the club to see some of the greatest live music acts in a somewhat intimate setting.

Joe Jackson, father of, yes, those Jacksons died in June. I recall meeting Joe in the late 1980s as A&M Records had increasingly amazing success with Janet Jackson. In business meetings or casual settings Joe had the ability to smile and scare the hell out of you simultaneously. Clearly a dysfunctional family at times, but they changed the music business.

Aretha Franklin died. I could only smile when I saw the photographs and video of the line of pink Cadillacs lining up to pay tribute at her funeral in Detroit.

Bluesman Otis Rush, founding member of Jefferson Airplane Marty Balin, jazz great Sonny Fortune all died. As did Morgana King, and Nancy Wilson. I first heard Wilson’s 1964 recording of “How Glad I Am” while in high school. It’s a great record a half-century later.

And ABC’s Keith Jackson died. His voice was one of the most comfortable ways of listening to a sporting event. I noticed the passing of disc jockey Dan Ingram. He was one of those Top-40 radio voices that transcended the music. Ingram was, like Casey Kasem, Larry Lujack, the Real Don Steele, and others who came to us as if from the ether. Cousin Brucie is still with us (on Sirius XM) thank goodness.

     Hollywood gave up some significant names in 2018. Penny Marshall became a successful film director but I will always remember her as Laverne DeFazio on television’s “Laverne & Shirley”. Lyricist Norman Gimbel died. He wrote the lyrics to the “Happy Days” TV show theme music. It’s more likely he’d like us to remember another set of lyrics he wrote: “The Girl from Ipanema”.


     Burt Reynolds died. His epitaph should read something like “He did it his way”. Clint Walker died. A classic ‘bigger than life’ actor in many westerns, I remember him a little more for two small things he did. First, he starred in a made-for-TV movie titled “Yuma”. A small screen film but he helped make it memorable. The other thing was his Christmas recording of “Silver Bells”.

Clint dollarkgrhqng0e1fwr7.jpg Yes, Clint Walker sang, and I had the single on my jukebox to prove it. Margot Kidder died. I attended a John Anderson for President fundraiser in Los Angeles in 1980, and ran into a friend who was dating Margot. In typical fashion I didn’t realize who she was.
Steven Bochco gave us “Hill Street Blues”, “LA Law” and more. Taylor 5bc24ef9708ec.image.jpg

Jim Taylor died. He was one of the most formidable running backs in the NFL during the Lombardi years with the Green Bay Packers.

Stan Lee. He single-handedly changed the comic book industry. Carl Kasell died. He spent years at NPR doing the news with absolute professionalism. Then, semi-retired, he became the perfect comedic companion to Peter Sagal on radio’s news quiz “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”. And Tom Wolfe died. He wrote “The Right Stuff”. That’s all I need to know.

Stephen Hawking died. He outlived and outlasted many others not so severely afflicted as he. And as Penny said to Leonard on “Big Bang Theory”, “He’s that really smart guy, right?” Right!.


     My Friend Russ Solomon died. He only created Tower Records. I wrote a column a few years ago decrying the fact that Russ was not in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He reinvented music retailing. And others followed.

There were, obviously, many more famous and near-famous deaths in 2018. To those I met, worked with, never met, and worshipped from afar, you touched my life and so many others. Let’s all raise a glass to them.

David Steffen

©2019 David Steffen

Photos from top to bottom: Nancy Wilson; Clint Walker; Jim Taylor; Russ Solomon.


November 20, 2011: Almost Perfect Sports   Leave a comment

November 22, 2011

Symbolism of Perfection (and almost Perfection.)

Part 2: Sports

Contrary to the rhetoric, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are not the only team to go through an NFL season undefeated. The 1929 Green Bay Packers were undefeated. They were, however, tied in one game leaving them with a 12-0-1 record. [full disclosure: I’m a lifelong Packers fan.] This season of Green Bay’s perfection—at this writing they are 10-0-0—moves on to Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, and will be a true test of their potential for perfection.

I like the Packers, I like their story, and I like their history. I don’t bleed Green and Gold, I don’t have an Aaron Rodgers (or Brett Favre) bobblehead doll in my house or in my car, I don’t wear a Packers jersey on gameday, and I don’t crave to have a cheese hat to wear at any time.  But I appreciate the talent that has built the historic team in a variety of ways: as owners, coaches, managers, and players. The NFL Hall Of Fame includes 21 Packers: Earl L. (Curly) Lambeau, Robert (Cal) Hubbard, Don Hutson, Johnny (Blood) McNally, Clarke Hinkle, Mike Michalske, Arnie Herber, Vince Lombardi, Tony Canadeo, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Paul Hornung, Willie Wood, Henry Jordan, James Lofton, and Reggie White; plus another 5 players who spent a limited amount of time with the team: Len Ford, Ted Hendricks, Walt Kiesling, Jan Stenerud and Emlen Tunnell. And soon to be added is Favre, and at some point names like Woodson, Driver, and others.

I was fortunate to be a teenager during the Lombardi era, so I witnessed—on TV or in person—Lombardi, Taylor, Gregg, Starr, Nitschke, Adderley, Davis, Hornung, Wood, Jordan, and in the post-Lombardi years, Lofton, and White, and so many more who did not make the Hall of Fame.

I bring all of this up because last Sunday afternoon, November 20, the Packers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that should not have been quite as close as it was. But the win continued Green Bay’s status as the only unbeaten team in the NFL, with a record of 10-0. And tomorrow they’ll be in Detroit to play the Lions in the annual Thanksgiving Day game. This contest will be the best test of Green Bay’s ability to go untied and undefeated in 2011. The Lions always seem to surprise the Packers on their home turf. And this year, they’ve proven that they have the talent to challenge Green Bay on the field, head-to-head, mano a mano, a fact not in evidence during the Matt Millen “era” of Detroit incompetence. So I’ll be rooting for the Packers, but have no illusion that they’ll end the day undefeated in a rollover.

And I can’t close this out without mentioning the San Francisco Forty-Niners. They started the season with a win, lost to Dallas in week two, and have won eight straight games since then. To paraphrase the late great Phil Ochs, There but for Dallas, goes perfection. The odds are that Green Bay and San Francisco will both make the playoffs, and maybe even meet each other during the post season. Whether Green Bay is still perfect going into that game or not, it’s been fun to watch two franchises who’ve overcome transitions in players and coaching, and are sitting atop their respective divisions with perfect and almost perfect records. A high spot in a week with plenty of less than high spots.

Addendum: The Packers beat the Lions in Detroit 27-15. Their record is now 11-0-0. San Francisco lost to Baltimore 16-6, and are now 9-2-0.

David Steffen


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© David Steffen 2011

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