memories, music, nostalgia, TV, YouTube

The Price is Right had some truly amazing music and musicians…

It’s 8:45 AM on a fine Thursday morning, and I’m just now starting today’s blog entry. I didn’t sleep particularly well last night, as I had to get up a few times to visit the loo. I also went to sleep kind of late, because I was reading that book I mentioned in yesterday’s post. As shocking as it was yesterday, it was more so last night, so I read until well after 11:00 PM. When I started noticing my iPad falling backwards, I decided to put it away and go to sleep. I also took a nap yesterday, which I seem to do after lunch. The funny thing is, I fell asleep while watching a vintage episode of The Price is Right. I’m surprised I could sleep through that, with all of its bells, buzzes, beeps, and music.

Ever since Bob Barker died at the end of August, I’ve found myself watching old episodes of The Price is Right. I find them oddly comforting, especially when I happen on an upload that has original commercials. If you were born in the late 60s or early 70s, you came of age during the golden age of game shows, and The Price is Right was at the pinnacle! The funny thing is, the incarnation of the show most of us know is actually a revival version. There was an earlier version of The Price is Right that aired from 1956-65, and the newer version, which began in September 1972, was based on that show. Who would have thought a spinoff would be so much more successful than the original! The Price Is Right has been airing for almost my entire life, and I am now 51 years old. I was two months old when the first episode aired in September 1972.

I suppose one of the things that makes me feel so comforted by The Price is Right is the music. People love to talk about the announcers, the hosts, and the models, but for me, the music is everything. And for so long, they used the same cheesy 70s era music they always used, even when the show had been airing for decades! I haven’t watched a new episode of The Price is Right in a long time, since I’m in Germany. I did read that they just opened a brand new studio, finally retiring the familiar stage in Television City where it was set since 1972.

According to Distractify.com, the lot where the Bob Barker Studio was located was sold to Hackman Capital Partners. The sale necessitated the relocation of a number of television shows, because Hackman Capital Partners is now renovating the lot. I don’t know if Bob Barker’s recent death had anything to do with the timing of the move… I would imagine this was planned well before Mr. Barker’s demise. Maybe it’s a good thing he passed before he could see the show he made famous moved to a new studio, located in Glendale, California (where many Armenians live).

The renovations being done by Hackman Capital Partners are slated to be finished by 2028. Does that mean The Price is Right will be back? Who knows? I’m sure it all comes down to money, and a lot was likely invested in the new studio. I read that the new studio is eerily similar to the old one; it’s just in a new location.

Anyway, since I don’t watch new episodes of The Price is Right over here in Germany, the new studio is neither here nor there to me. I do actually like Drew Carey as a host. I think he’s more respectful than Bob Barker was. As folksy and entertaining as Bob was, he did have a tendency to be kind of sexist. Sometimes he was even blatantly rude! But he was always rude with a friendly smile on his face, which is a special talent. πŸ˜‰ In fairness to Bob, it couldn’t have been easy to be so friendly and folksy all the time. People can be truly exasperating. That’s why I never tried to be an entertainer myself.

I do, however, think I might have really enjoyed getting to know the people who composed music for The Price is Right during the Barker years. A few weeks ago, I got so enthralled by the 70s era music that I went looking for information about the composers. It started when I heard what many of us of a certain age associate with another game show, Family Feud. On early episodes of The Price is Right, you’ll sometimes hear this very same tune played when they offer a car as a prize.

Yeeee haaaaa! A nice country melody, complete with horns, bass guitar, drums, and a banjo!

The Family Feud theme song sounds very Nashville, but it was composed by a man who was born in New Jersey and played in big bands. Walt Levinsky was a clarinetist who was tutored in New York City and later attended the Music Conservatory at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. He also played saxophone, flute, and keyboards. After he finished music school, Levinsky played in several well known orchestras and served in the Air Force. When he was finished with his military service, Levinsky joined the NBC orchestra, then started playing music for commercials. He played with Doc Severinsen for The Tonight Show, and the CBS Staff Band.

Walt Levinsky made the most of his woodwind skills and worked with some of the biggest and best known musicians of a bygone era. But it’s probably his game show music, which he composed when he was working for Score Productions, that really endures. Levinsky’s work in television music includes the Family Feud theme, among other things. I was marveling at the complexity of the Family Feud theme, and what it took to compose and arrange it. And then I realized how I felt when I listened to it. It’s a piece of music that conveys excitement and optimism, but most of all, it’s FUN. Who wouldn’t want to be a contestant after hearing that musical introduction?

Walt Levinsky was just one of the amazing musicians who made The Price is Right so indelible in so many people’s memories, especially for those of us with a music bent. Edd Kalehoff, who has the distinction of being Broadway singer Andrea McArdle’s ex husband, also wrote a lot of memorable music for The Price is Right. Andrea McArdle, for you young folks, was the very first person to be cast as Annie in the musical by the same name.

A very entertaining clip of different Annies, circa 1982.

Kalehoff was born in 1942, making him a bit younger than Levinsky, who died at age 70 in 1999. While Levinsky was a woodwind master, Kalehoff is a master at keyboards and synthesizers. When you hear the main theme song on The Price is Right, you are hearing Kalehoff’s work, even though the tune is officially credited to Sheila Cole. Kalehoff composed and played the piece, but due to money concerns on the part of the production company, neither the official credit nor the royalties went to Kalehoff. That’s pretty shitty…

Classic theme song… it’s a work of genius! The whole thing is a masterpiece.

Imagine what it took to come up with that arrangement, with all of the different instruments… the melody, the synthesizer, the jamming bass line, rhythm, and Bossa Nova flavor. It kind of blows my mind, actually… and when I hear it, I’m reminded of the rare condition of being home from school in the late morning, watching people in California winning prizes. It’s a treasured childhood memory! Of course, it’s funny to watch 70s and 80s era episodes today, especially when they offer cars with that super exciting music. Most of the cars are kind of shitty. I’d rather win a trip!

A really excellent compilation of cues from The Price is Right. I wonder how many budding brass players practiced to some of these musical interludes.

Edd Kalehoff composed music for a number of other shows besides The Price is Right, to include the theme song for Double Dare, which was an 80s era staple for Nickelodeon. But I am most impressed by his work on the game show, as it’s endured for so long, as still makes me smile, even though so much of it sounds like it’s straight from 1976.

This particular piece sounds very much influenced by Herb Alpert…

Of course, The Price is Right was also famous for its many familiar sound effects… I was always amazed by the sound technicians on that show. They really had to be on their toes to react very promptly, depending on what happened on the show.

The sound crew had to be ready with the loser horns or the bells and whistles! They almost never missed!
The musicians really had to be on top of their game to play this without messing up. Such complicated rhythms and intricate melodies were not for amateurs! And then they had to inject the bouncy, sunny, lighthearted mood into the tempo, too.
The bass line on this is killer! I hear a little Brady Bunch and Carpenters in there, too…

Yesterday, as I was making the bed after washing the sheets, I actually wondered if Amazon Alexa had these very motivating cues available. Alas, Alexa let me down… so I had to make my bed to Keb’ Mo’, instead. I still marvel at how these bouncy, sunny, cheerful musical creations so perfectly inspire optimism, happiness, excitement, and hope. And when someone lost, there was a little flatulence…

It’s unmistakable and unforgettable, and will make you laugh…

I think I’ll close this post with a true classic…

This one was usually played during the Showcase Showdown.

Of course, I’m mostly crowing about the music today, but honestly, the whole show was pretty amazing. Even the models had a challenging job. Somehow, they always managed to look cute and friendly, even when they were showing off Preparation H or some other boring product. They mastered the faux look of disappointment when someone lost, and the equally faux excitement when someone won. And even though Dian Parkinson, Janice Pennington, and Holly Hallstrom were on the show for years, they all managed to stay beautiful, yet relatable. They were always so graceful and poised, even when Bob Barker made some kind of snarky or sexist remark. I have to admire their poker faces. For so many reasons, I definitely would not be good at that job! Especially given some of the ugly clothes they had to wear.

I know most people don’t stop and think about the mechanics of game show music, but to me, it’s marvelous stuff. The imagination and talent it took to come up with the music– it’s unmistakable and unforgettable, but it also manages to influence, shape moods, and inspire people to do things they might not otherwise. That is truly amazing, if you think about it… it’s the stuff of psy ops. I guess that’s pretty much what commercials have always done, too… especially back when commercial productions were so much more produced than they are today. I don’t remember the last time I heard a good jingle hook, for instance. The people behind The Price is Right managed to turn an hour long commercial for mundane products into something a lot of us loved to watch, and continue to watch, even 50 plus years later.

Anyway… that about does it for today’s post about The Price is Right and its awesome 70s era music that endures today, even though it also sounds dated. I love 70s music, though, so that dated sound is a huge plus for me. It’s Thursday, so that means it’s vacuum day. I guess I’d better sign off and get to it.

I hope some of you have enjoyed this look at my all time favorite game show. Please remember to help control the pet population by having your pets spayed or neutered. πŸ˜‰

Standard
celebrities, lessons learned, music, musings, obits, TV

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but “failing is a big part of ultimately finding success…”

Good morning, y’all. It’s a very rainy Tuesday here in Wiesbaden (ETA: the sun is now out). I was remarking to Bill this morning that this weather seems more like what we usually get in September, as autumn approaches. In Germany, summer has a tendency to end abruptly. One day, it’ll be hot, then there will be some rain and all of a sudden, you need a jacket to go outside. On the other hand, in recent years, the weather has been such that jackets aren’t always necessary even in the “ber” months…

This morning, I was looking at my Facebook memories and noticed a couple of photos from August 1 of prior years that show our backyard(s). They’re usually brown and parched on August 1. Not this year, though. This year, the grass is very green and my “bee bomb” wildflowers are flourishing. My rain barrel is now overflowing, because we’ve had rain consistently for the past week or so. For the most part, I’m glad. It keeps the temperatures from getting too oppressive and prevents the creek from getting too low.

Aw shit… another one gone.

Last night, I learned the Paul Reubens, aka “Pee-wee Herman”, passed away after six years of fighting cancer. I wasn’t a huge fan of Pee-wee Herman’s work, but I do remember his hilarious 1981 HBO special, which was definitely not made for kids… and his “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” Saturday morning show, that definitely was made for kids. I remember that Pee-wee Herman was very much a staple of 80s humor. He appeared in movies, commercials, and PSAs.

He even made an ad in Japan…
Pee-wee says “Say no to crack.”

This morning, Bill was reading about Pee-wee’s career, and he said that Paul Reubens had tried out to be on Saturday Night Live. He was rejected. He also auditioned for several big name colleges, hoping to study his craft at places like Julliard and Carnegie Mellon University. Again, he was turned down, and he ended up attending California Institute of the Arts and Boston University. Then, one day, he got his big break, and became world famous.

A lot of people seem to be genuinely sad that he passed away at age 70, in spite of his infamous run in with Sarasota, Florida police at an adult movie theater back in 1991. He was caught masturbating, along with several others. The incident led to him becoming the butt of many jokes and temporarily derailed his career. But, that incident blew over, and he was eventually back in many people’s good graces.

“God” loves Pee-wee Herman.

As I was listening to Bill talk about Pee-wee’s life, it occurred to me that in his case, failing was a good thing. What would have happened if Pee-wee had gotten on Saturday Night Live as a regular cast member? Would he have ever had his own show? Would he have been in movies? The man was clearly a pop culture phenomenon. If he’d been part of the SNL ensemble, I don’t think he would have achieved all he did in his life.

Failing is part of trying, and many of the most awesome successes come after a person tries and fails and takes another approach. Yesterday, I mentioned Taylor Swift in my blog post. When she was still a young girl, she knew she wanted to be a star. Her family moved to the Nashville area and she started submitting demos to record labels. They all turned her down, because she was like all of the other girls trying to be stars. Taylor was undaunted, and she realized at the tender age of twelve or thirteen that if she wanted to make it, she needed to stand out and be original. So she started doing things differently. She came up with her own style, and wrote songs that struck a chord with the masses. Now, her show is the hottest ticket in town.

Even Madonna failed before she hit it big. Back in the early 80s, before she became a cultural icon, Madonna tried out for the role of Doris Schwartz on the TV show, Fame. She didn’t get the part. It went to Valerie Landsburg, who was much more appropriate for the role of a cute, motherly, Jewish girl who could sing. I don’t know what possessed Madonna to try out for the role of Doris. Maybe it’s because back in the 80s, she bore a passing resemblance to Maureen Teefy, the actress who played the role of Doris Finsecker in the 1980 film version of Fame. Anyway, she clearly wasn’t the type the casting agents were looking for when they were casting that show. Thank God she didn’t get the part. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I loved the Fame TV show, cheesy as it was. But Madonna wasn’t meant to be on that show. She was meant to be the Queen of Pop!

This was not a role for Madonna…
This is…
“She is a star.”
This is definitely NOT Doris Schwartz.
Neither is this.

But she sure gave her audition a good try…

Even my own destiny was altered by failure. When I decided to go to graduate school, I applied to two programs and was accepted by both. I had wanted to be a Peace Corps Fellow, because I was worried about how I would pay for my education. Well… as things turned out, I didn’t get my wish. There was a big misunderstanding regarding the program at Western Illinois University, where I would have spent 2.5 years earning one Master of Science degree. The powers that were there determined my career goals weren’t a good fit for the Fellows program, even though I got into the degree program itself.

At the University of South Carolina, where I ended up going to school, the Peace Corps Fellows program I had applied for was defunded and changed drastically. Honestly, I can’t even really explain what happened, except to say that the whole thing was completely screwed up and backwards. I ended up having to do my dual master’s degree program out of the usual order. I then had to be accepted by the graduate school to be accepted to the MSW program, even though I was already in the MPH program, and had obviously already been accepted by the graduate school for that more challenging and competitive program.

In the end, it was actually a blessing that I wasn’t a Peace Corps Fellow, because that program would have required me to stay in South Carolina for four years after graduation and work for the state. It would have meant I probably couldn’t have married Bill in 2002… or it would have required us to live apart for awhile. Everything worked out, anyway. My education is now completely paid for, too, even if I don’t really use it in the way I had intended.

Bill and I were talking about this “failure phenomenon” over breakfast, and he said that when he was a captain, overseeing new recruits, there were some people that kind of wanted to push them through and avoid having them experience failure. Bill said that was the wrong approach, since training is where people are supposed to fail. That’s how they learn.

I can remember being a student and feeling shame and dread whenever I got an F on my schoolwork. By the time Fs were a more common experience for me, my parents had pretty much stopped caring about my grades, anyway. But I still felt ashamed. Wouldn’t it have been better if I’d had a caring mentor in my life who told me that as long as I tried, and had done my best, there was no shame in a failing grade. It was just a sign that I needed help with understanding the material, and not a personal failing or sign of poor character. Imagine how much mental distress and suicide could be avoided if we simply allowed people the freedom to fail, and reminded them that many very famous and successful people have failed repeatedly. But they kept trying, and eventually went on to succeed, and we lesser known beings can do the same.

Life is meant to be lived. Experience is a good thing, even if it involves failure. We can learn a lot from people who haven’t made it (yet)… or have failed and eventually gone on to achieve. I’m glad Pee-wee Herman didn’t get a spot on SNL. I’m happy for Taylor Swift that she had the wisdom to try a new approach and make another attempt. And I’m so relieved that Madonna wasn’t cast as Doris Schwartz!

Anyway… I hope Paul Reubens is at peace, now that he no longer has to worry about fighting cancer. He was a role model to so many people… like this guy.

You know this character was based in truth. How many kids of the 80s loved Pee-wee Herman?
Standard
home, love, narcissists, relationships, TV

“I know he loves me… but…” (it’s not enough)

Happy Thursday, everybody. I’ve been waiting all week for today. It should be the last day of the home invasion. Once they’re out of my house, I can clean up the last of the mess and get back to a somewhat normal life. Tomorrow, we’ll be visited by a carpenter who will do some minor work, and then I can go back to being my usual, cheerful, plucky self, free to pursue all manner of happiness and spiritual fulfillment. Edited to add… I caught the invaders sitting outside with their feet up on my outside chairs, today. Maybe I should have learned a trade instead of going to college. Clearly, they aren’t expected to be professional or have basic manners when they work.

I’m being silly, of course. I’ll always have a gripe about something. It’s my nature. πŸ˜€ But, there’s one area where I have few complaints, and that would be in my choice of spouses. I truly adore my husband. No, he’s not perfect, but he’s pretty damned excellent. I often can’t believe how very fortunate we were to find each other. But I know I’ve mentioned it plenty of times in this blog, so I won’t go on with that topic today. There ain’t no need for that.

Today, I want to write about Ex. It’s been awhile since I last upbraided her, and we’re long overdue… and besides, writing about her will keep me from complaining about the window guys. I do know they’re working hard, and they do good work. I just get freaked out by strangers in my territory who step on boundaries. In that manner, I’m not unlike our recently departed beagle mix, Arran… however, I do manage to do my business where it belongs. The hot weather this week is reminding me that Arran never was the best at peeing outside.

Ex was recently on Twitter, posting once again about the wonders of Outlander, and its male star, Sam Heughan. Someone had uploaded a clip of the show, gushing about how romantic and beautiful it was. I didn’t watch the scene myself, because I don’t follow that show. However, I did take note of Ex’s comment, which was this:

“To have hubby stroke my face and love me with his eyes just like that… would be a dream come true! I know he loves me… but this is just pure tenderness and genuine intimacy!!!”

Mmm’kay… Now, I don’t pretend to know how deep the love and commitment levels are between Ex and #3. I’ve heard stories, though… and I kinda doubt that what they have is a love match. Whatever. That’s between the two of them. What I do want to comment on, however, is Ex’s tweet about a clip from the show, Outlander, and her declaration that her real life husband loves her… but what she’s seeing on a television show is “genuine intimacy”. She declares that she wants what she sees on TV, claiming that’s “genuine intimacy”, but the man who has, in real life, spent 21 years with her, dealing with her many, many financial, emotional, and mental health issues, does not show her his love in the way she wishes he would.

An appropriate song by The Who… “It’s Not Enough”. Nothing will ever be enough for Ex.

The above comment Ex publicly made to the masses on Twitter– expressing starry eyed admiration and appreciation for an actor’s depiction of “genuine intimacy”– is very familiar to me. You see, I’m married to Ex’s second husband, and he’s told me many stories about how nothing he did for her was ever enough. She was never satisfied with his efforts to please her, and, in fact, her requirements for happiness would change on a daily basis.

I’ve mentioned before that when she was married to Bill, Ex used music, books, and movies to try to “train” him on how to behave in the approved way. She weaponized other people’s creative pursuits in an attempt to mold her spouse into her perfect partner. Because Bill is neither an actor, nor perfect, he inevitably failed. Add the pressure of performing to Ex’s standards to the stress of working, paying the bills, raising the kids, and just basically living life, and you have an untenable situation. I wasn’t there when this was going on, but I can imagine that it must have been very, very stressful and difficult.

Ex often pontificates about who she wants her perfect partner to be and how she wants him to behave. Based on what I’ve seen– her choices in movies, books, TV shows, and music– Ex wants a sensitive, romantic, kind, caring man toward her, who is also strong, sexy, edgy, handsome, hard working with a large paycheck, but having plenty of time to lavish attention on her… until she gets tired of his attention and wants to be left alone. Then, if he doesn’t immediately turn off and go away, he’s “abusive”.

She wants a man who will be tough and rugged, with an exciting edge in the bedroom expertly mixed with tenderness and sweetness. But he can never threaten her in ANY way. He can be strong and edgy, but only to the exact point at which she still feels comfortable and safe. Beyond that, he’s an “abusive bastard”, and she will find some way to punish him. And that point of when she feels safe enough, from what I’ve seen and heard, changes daily with Ex’s moods.

In order to be Ex’s perfect husband, her partner has to be a great performer in all ways… but especially in acting. He must be Oscar worthy… but he can’t have ever actually won an Oscar, or any other award, because that would threaten Ex. She doesn’t like it when people around her overachieve or otherwise show her up in some way. She wants the trophy husband, but he can’t have any trophies… and he can’t be disloyal in any way, although she will proudly try to show him off, even as she cuts him down on a daily basis.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Ex considers a scene on a fiction TV show to be an example of “genuine intimacy”. I don’t think she’s ever actually seen or experienced anything akin to genuine intimacy. She just knows what she’s seen depicted on the big screen. Bill told me that he often tried to behave in ways that he thought Ex would appreciate. Sometimes he would get it right and she’d praise him, even effusively so. More often than not, he would somehow fall short in some way, and she’d be disappointed and try to punish him. Or she’d get a hair up her ass and decide to offer him a “training session” on how he should behave, using a song like “Have You Really Loved a Woman” by Bryan Adams to make her point. UGH… I’m sure #3 has suffered similarly, only with scenes from Outlander as Ex’s muse.

Acting is basically the process of presenting a false image in a convincing way. Acting is the opposite of “genuine”. For something to be genuine, it has to be real. Great actors cause people to believe something is real when it’s not. So how can a televised love scene between two people on TV be called “genuine intimacy”? I doubt Ex has ever really stopped to consider this point. In fact, it seems to me that she’d like for real life to be like it is on TV or in the movies. And as I write that, I actually feel a little sad for her… because it means that off screen reality can never be enough for her. Since real life will never be enough for her, Ex can never be contented with what she still has.

Yesterday, younger daughter told us about her middle child’s reaction to the birthday gift we recently sent to her. A couple of months ago, we sent the kids little gifts we picked up when we visited Hohenzollern Castle near Stuttgart. While we were visiting the gift shop, I noticed a “princess dress”. It was purple and white and had a metal hoop in it that made the dress splay out voluminously. She loved the dress. So, although I kind of hesitate to push the “princess” persona on girls, I decided to send her a little purple tiara for her birthday, along with a new copy of a book I had loved when I was a kid (the main character was a princess who finds a unicorn who needs her help).

Younger daughter said that when her daughter received the present, a couple of days after her actual birthday, her face lit up with joy. She and her siblings, like Bill and I, had been suffering from a cold. But she overcame the heaviness of the cold and said, “For me?!” There was no video to prove it, but it sounds like she was truly grateful for what she had received. It was “enough”!

I’ve been with Bill for going on 21 years myself. I’ve seen him “love me with his eyes” plenty of times. The first time I really noticed it was when we got our wedding photos. The photographer, who was a little eccentric, had snapped a picture of Bill listening to me sing. It wasn’t even a particularly good performance, as my nervousness that day had cursed me with a cough and the constant need to clear my throat. Nevertheless, the photographer had captured the look of sincere love and appreciation in his eyes, along with my late Aunt Betty resting her head on Bill’s shoulder with her eyes closed. I’ve seen that look of genuine love from Bill many times over the years. All it takes to receive it is a dose of reciprocal love, regard, and appreciation from me.

Granted, our relationship is different than Ex’s was when she was married to Bill. Bill and I are simply a better match on all levels. The fact that I’m more compatible with Bill than she was isn’t Ex’s fault. But I know Bill, and I know she complained about him not giving her enough love and attention. I know she wasn’t satisfied with anything he tried to do to make her believe that he loved her and was committed to making her happy.

I don’t like #3 at all, but I have some compassion for his situation. It’s an impossible thing to try to do, appeasing Ex’s bottomless pit of need for unconditional positive love, regard, adoration, and what she thinks is “genuine intimacy”. To unlock that achievement is to do the impossible. She lacks the skill– the concept– of being contented and satisfied with what she has, and the efforts other people make to please her.

Maybe it’s time someone used music to “teach” Ex a thing or two…

Here are the lyrics to “It’s Not Enough” by The Who…

It’s not enough
Whatever you give

A little bit more
You always need
A little more man
A little more seed

It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’s never enough

I gave you cash
I gave you love
All that I heard
Was “It’s Not Enough”

I work so hard
It gets so tough
Whatever I give
Never feels like enough
It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’s never enough

When I’m on my knees
I keep taking your stuff
Make sure that you know
It’s never enough

You said you’d go as far
As to turn to my friend
Who once warned me of you
Said you’d hasten my end
Because I have lent
Every ounce of my juice
My essence is spent

You’ll always want
A little more pink
I’ll always need
A little more ink

It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’s never enough

However I praise
However I puff
Though you may smile
It won’t be enough

Right at the end
When I start to bluff
An’ the lift’s going down
An’ I start acting tough

It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’s never enough

I’ll find someone else
To finish filling me up
I’ll smile and admit
You were never quite enough

Like Brigitte Bardot
In Godard’s Les Mepris
I can’t love you enough
To make you complete
You appear in my dreams
With some new courtier
You need me there to see
What you need to convey

It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’ll never be enough

No hysterical scene
You will never play rough
I’m the one who will scream
But it won’t be enough

It’s never enough
It’s never enough

It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’ll never be enough

I’ll never hold you
How can I scold you?

It’s not enough
It’s not enough
Whatever I give
It’ll never be enough

Standard
law, true crime, TV, YouTube

Jared Fogle… a passenger on the Subway straight to Hell…

How’s that for a Monday morning headline? Well, that’s all I can think of, as I reflect on the three part series I watched on iTunes yesterday. As Bill was packing his bag for the rest of his TDY trip to Bavaria, I stumbled across a special called Jared From Subway: Catching a Monster. As regular readers know, I find criminals interesting, which is why I read books and watch television programs about them.

Jared Fogle in 2004.

I remembered Jared Fogle from his many ads for Subway. For fifteen years, Fogle was the spokesman for the chain restaurant after he lost 245 pounds in under a year eating two Subway sandwiches a day. I think I heard them say that Jared ate a turkey sub and a Veggie Delite every single day and walked a lot as the pounds melted from his morbidly obese frame. When Subway got wind of Jared’s big losses, they asked him to promote their company. For fifteen years, Jared– who was once an outcast in school– was the face of Subway. He became very rich and famous, and people “loved” him. Or, they loved his story, anyway.

Jared Fogle in 2006, before the truth came out about him.

Now, I am not actually a fan of Subway. I don’t remember the last time I ate at one. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten at Subway. But Jared Fogle’s ads were everywhere for fifteen years, so of course I’d heard of him. Still, I was surprised and disgusted when the news came out about his penchant for molesting middle school aged children.

Suddenly, that winning facade fell apart, and Jared’s mansion was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He had married and had two very young children with his second wife, Katie McLaughlin, when his bubble burst. Currently, he is incarcerated at FCI Englewood in Jefferson County, Colorado, where he’s serving a sentence of fifteen years and eight months for traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and distribution and receipt of child pornography. When he is released, he will be compelled to submit to supervision for the rest of his life. He also had to pay $175,000 in fines, forfeit $50,000 and $1.4 million in restitution.

Lots of people emulated Jared Fogle and also lost weight.

If and when Fogle is released, I suspect he will reoffend. Most sex offenders do. Hell, sex offender Josh Duggar is currently in the news because he got caught with a cell phone, causing him to lose some of his “good time”, and get sent to the special housing unit (SHU). Sex offenders, unfortunately, have a tendency to reoffend once they have the opportunity. They have problems with impulse control. In Jared, it’s obvious in many ways, even though he did manage to lose a stunning amount of weight by trading burgers for light sub sandwiches.

In one sitting, I watched Jared From Subway: Catching a Monster on iTunes, and learned the story about how Jared Fogle was caught. He’d made friends with a single mother of two and radio, Rochelle Herman, from Sarasota, Florida. In 2006, Herman had been asked by representatives from the American Heart Association to interview Fogle. At the time, no one knew about his dark impulses. The two became acquaintances. Initially, Fogle had been very personable and flirtatious. Rochelle told him about her children, mentioning that her daughter had wanted to meet him.

Just before their on camera interview began, Jared Fogle leaned over to Rochelle and told her how “hot” he thought middle school aged kids were. Naturally, Rochelle was flabbergasted. She did independent research to try to find out if there were any hints of what a deviant Jared seemed to be after he said those words to her. She found nothing.

For some reason, Rochelle Herman then decided that she–herself– needed to get him on tape saying those words, instead of simply reporting him to the police and letting them handle it. So, even though he made her skin crawl, Rochelle kept talking to Jared Fogle. However, she never told him she was taping him, so what she was doing was actually illegal, and would have been inadmissible in a court of law. She found this out later, when she did get Fogle on tape, talking about his attraction to children.

FBI agents told Rochelle that in order to avoid prosecution, she needed to work with them and say the “right” things so that the evidence could be used to bring Fogle to justice. So, at great personal cost, Rochelle Herman did just that. She recorded Fogle, as he grew more and more comfortable with telling her things. What he said was more and more disturbing, and Rochelle had to act like she was just fine with it all.

The special actually featured some of the recordings, which were pretty stomach turning. I’m sure they didn’t share the worst of what Fogle ever said to Herman. He spoke of doing things like going to supposedly more permissive Thailand to satisfy his desires, but he also wanted to offend at home. At one point, Herman even tried to set up a “sting” of sorts, using the guise of a fake birthday party for her son as a way to draw him out. Fogle even asked about “cute” friends her kids had. Unfortunately, the operation couldn’t happen, because Fogle’s schedule wouldn’t allow him to attend.

Piers Morgan interviews Jared before his fall from grace. I’m amazed by how very “normal” he seems.

Herman said that she’s suffered a lot because of Fogle. She developed health problems that caused her great physical pain, forcing her into a wheelchair. She now requires strong painkillers to deal with her illness. Her daughter became very angry and alienated and, it seemed from the special, that her daughter is now estranged. Rochelle’s son still talks to his mom, but he moved to Taiwan. And Rochelle says she’s “haunted” by the awful conversations she had with Fogle, and the strain of trying to act like she was okay with what he said and did.

Aside from Jared Fogle, there was another player in this drama. Fogle started a foundation for promoting healthy eating. He hired a man named Russell Taylor to run the organization. Taylor, and his wife, Angela, were raising Angela’s daughters from a previous relationship, Christian and Hannah. It turned out that couple was just as slimy as Jared was, as Russell had set up secret cameras all through their home, spying on Angela’s daughters and their friends. Taylor was also sending material depicting bestiality. The couple were producing illegal materials which they were sending to Fogle. Russell Taylor and his now ex wife, Angela, are in prison, too.

I’ve really just scratched the surface of this story, which I know will be too triggering and “gross” for many people to stomach. I thought the series was very well done and compelling, but I also suspect that a lot of people will find it very distasteful viewing on many levels. I’m just glad that Rochelle Herman had the courage to speak up about Jared Fogle. In fact, as of 2010, she and Fogle had lost touch, and she grew impatient with law enforcement. She went to the local police department and threatened to air the story on her radio show if something wasn’t done about him. It was another five years before Fogle was finally busted.

Aside from his time behind bars– albeit in a low security facility– and all of the money he had to pay, Jared Fogle’s second wife, Katie, divorced him. He paid her about $7 million in their divorce settlement.

A few years ago, someone named Steven beat the crap out of Jared in prison.

As revolting as I find Jared Fogle now, there’s a part of me that feels a little sad for him. Here was a guy who had been very fat from his childhood days. I don’t know why he got so fat, but my guess is that he might have also been abused as a child. He grew up a social outcast, even though he seemingly came from a good family. Something amazing happened to him, when he managed to lose weight by walking and eating Subway sandwiches. Suddenly, he was doing something good– and had become a role model to millions of people, some of whom emulated him and also lost weight. He had money, fame, and power. But because he had these dark impulses and deviant urges, he lost it all. Now, he’s completely disgraced, and his life is mostly ruined.

Jared’s last commercial for Subway… the real ending is not this happy at all.

This doesn’t mean I don’t think Jared Fogle is exactly where he belongs. Clearly, the man should be in prison. He certainly can’t be trusted around children. But I do wonder what in the world happened to him when he was a child. Maybe things could have been different for him. As repulsive as Jared Fogle’s crimes are, I hate to see wasted potential in anyone. I think his story is absolutely awful, but it’s also so tragic on many levels, not just for him, but for everyone who believed in him. And, of course, I also feel sad for all of his victims, and his own two children, who have to live with the stigma associated with Jared Fogle.

On another note… there are some absolutely terrible memes about Jared Fogle. People can be so sick and twisted!

You can read more about the series I watched here.

Standard
movies, true crime, TV

Lifetime’s The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story…

Yesterday, I watched yet another Lifetime movie. I hadn’t been planning to do that, since I’ve found Lifetime’s takes on certain true crime stories to be overly watered down, too campy, or even disrespectful. However, the subject matter of The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story was especially interesting to me on a personal level. Lifetime has also been upping their game lately in their made for the network movies.

I just recently watched Lifetime’s take on the story of Gwen Shamblin Lara, the late Christian diet guru who was killed in a plane crash in May 2021. Lifetime did a fairly good job with Gwen’s story– even recruiting Jennifer Grey to play the starring role. Lifetime has also been scoring the talents of legitimate 80s and 90s era movie stars to star in the network’s films. Judd Nelson and Moira Kelly both come to mind as people who have been on the silver screen and took roles in Lifetime movies.

When I saw that Lifetime had made a movie about late sex pest and serial killer, Richard Marc Evonitz, I was interested in seeing how Lifetime would handle that story. I previously mentioned, in my earlier article about Evonitz’s horrific crimes against then 15 year old Kara Robinson, that Evonitz and I had both lived in two of the same areas. I grew up in Virginia, and from May 2002, briefly lived in Fredericksburg, a city very close to where it was later confirmed that Evonitz raped and murdered three teenaged girls in the 1990s. He was also potentially linked to at least two other rapes and abductions in the Fredericksburg area.

I also lived in Columbia, South Carolina for three years, as that was where I attended graduate school. Evonitz was born and raised in Columbia, and in 2002, had just recently moved back there from the Fredericksburg area. So we could have potentially crossed paths at some point, although I highly doubt Evonitz would have posed much of a danger to the likes of me. He was clearly interested in young girls, whom he obviously thought wouldn’t challenge him. He was dead wrong about Kara Robinson, who famously outwitted him and escaped, then helped the police solve what had been cold cases in Virginia.

Evonitz had a habit of approaching young, unaware girls in their own yards and swiping them. That was how he’d come into contact with Robinson on June 24, 2002, when she was visiting a friend’s house. While her friend was taking a shower, Kara was watering the flowers in the front yard. Evonitz pulled up in a car, addressed her in a friendly way; then he grabbed her, and pulled a gun on her. Within a minute, Evonitz had stashed Kara in a Rubbermaid container, while Kara’s friend remained completely oblivious. For the next eighteen hours, Kara was held captive by a man who very likely would have killed her, if she hadn’t kept her wits about her and managed to escape.

I already knew the story that Lifetime was going to be presenting in The Girl Who Escaped. Since I wrote a blog post about the crime in 2021, I was fairly familiar with most of the actual facts of the case, too. I didn’t have especially high hopes for the Lifetime treatment of this story, since I have noticed that Lifetime movies are usually pretty simplified due to time constraints and the apparent trend of giving serious topics a snarky twist. I am somewhat surprised and pleased to report that I think Lifetime did an okay job with Kara Robsinson’s story.

The Lifetime movie trailer for The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story.

Kara Robinson is played by 24 year old Canadian actress, Katie Douglas. It blows my mind to think that Douglas, who was not even four years old when this crime occurred in June 2002, is playing someone nine years younger. However, I think Douglas mostly pulls it off, mainly because she appears to be tiny, and very young. Brown haired and brown eyed Katie Douglas doesn’t otherwise really bear much of a physical resemblance to Kara, who has blonde hair and green eyes. But I suspect most people who watch this movie won’t really know that much about the real case, so the fact that Douglas doesn’t look that much like the real Kara probably won’t matter to them.

As I mentioned before, I knew about this case because, when it happened, I had only just moved out of the Columbia, South Carolina area, to Fredericksburg, the place where Evonitz had just moved from. I thought the coincidence was very creepy. The summer of 2002 was a really bad year for crimes against young girls, anyway. June 2002 was also when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, as well as a number of younger girls who, sadly, did not survive their attacks. In October of that year, the Beltway Snipers were on the loose, and they struck Fredericksburg. I was definitely on high alert regarding true crime in 2002.

Kara’s mother, Debra, is played by New York City bred Cara Buono, an actress of whom I am unfamiliar. Debra, and Kara’s father, Ron (Paul Essiembre), were separated at the time of Kara’s abduction. When Kara suddenly vanishes and Debra calls Ron to ask him if Kara is with him, Ron is initially annoyed and tells her to just have Kara tell him anything he needs to know. But then Debra tells him what happened, and he says he’ll be right there. I may be mistaken, but I think that might have been the only time Ron is shown. I know– time constraints are an issue– but as usual, Lifetime focuses heavily on the mother-daughter connection, as we see Debra sitting by the phone, wringing her hands over her daughter’s disappearance.

The role of Marc Evonitz (he went by Marc rather than Richard in real life) is played by Canadian actor, Kristian Brunn. I had never seen Brunn before, but I thought he did a good job playing Evonitz– although again, he didn’t really look much like the real person. One of the things I’ve noticed in Lifetime movies is that the men who play the criminals who prey on young girls aren’t always convincing. Brunn is very creepy and menacing. I could see him realistically as a predator, although he doesn’t really do that much in the role, except to force Kara into the Rubbermaid container, tie her to the bed, and threaten her with a gun. He also watches her in the bathroom.

Again, since this is a Lifetime movie, there isn’t much realism in what actually happened. The movies always begin with a trigger warning (a good thing, I think), but most of the triggering events are more implied than explicitly shown. In this movie, we see some light bondage gear that is very briefly used. So Brunn had to come across as menacing in the way he spoke and moved. I thought he managed to convey those qualities pretty well. Imagine if he was in a movie in which he could really demonstrate those menacing qualities with realistically portrayed violence. I’d probably have nightmares.

The rest of the cast mostly consists of actors portraying police officers. Robert Nahum plays Richland County Sheriff Jim Price. He reminded me of a much kinder and gentler Lou Gossett Jr. The Lexington County Sheriff, Dale Stephens, was played by Santa Claus clone, John B. Lowe. Kara Robinson lived in Lexington County, South Carolina, but Evonitz lived in nearly Richland. Therefore, both sheriffs were involved in this case, but according to the movie, they treated Kara differently. Sheriff Price treated Kara like an adult, with respect. Sheriff Stephens, conversely, treated Kara like a little girl and made a point of calling her a victim.

This movie made a point of showing that Kara Robinson was a heroine on many levels. First off, from the very beginning, Kara made a point of staying as calm as possible and keeping her wits about her. Viewers see her contemplating escape, then catastrophically imagining what would happen to her if she failed. Still, she made a point of remembering everything she saw. When she was in Evonitz’s apartment, she noticed things like hair in the hairbrush, magnets on the refrigerator with the names of Evonitz’s dentist and other healthcare professionals, and the many critters who were Evonitz’s pets. She stored all of that information in her mind until she managed to free herself from the restraints Evonitz had placed on her at bedtime. He made a surprisingly dumb mistake in the way he secured her, thank God.

Because Kara had remembered so many details, a custodian at Evonitz’s apartment complex was able to tell the police exactly which apartment he lived in. The police searched the premises and were able to uncover information that led to Spotsylvania County police in Virginia connecting Evonitz to the rapes and murders of 15 year old Kristin and 12 year old Kati Lisk, as well as 16 year old Sofia Silva. Meanwhile, Evonitz was eventually cornered in Florida, where he cowardly shot himself in the head rather than face justice for what he did. Evonitz ultimately denied Kara her day in court, but at least he will never rape and murder again.

Elizabeth Smart was one of the several executive producers of The Girl Who Escaped. I remember she interviewed the real Kara Robinson, now known as Kara Chamberlain, and a mother to two boys. Kara was a police officer for some time before she got married and became a mother. She is now a public speaker who has a very impressive Web site. Below is an interview she did with E!.

An interview with the real Kara Robinson Chamberlain.

I do think it’s interesting that some women who are victimized by men eventually turn their experiences into careers. Elizabeth Smart probably wouldn’t be doing what she does if she hadn’t been abducted by Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Kara Robinson might have been attracted to law enforcement regardless, but I see that now she makes a living speaking about her experiences. Then there’s Katie Koestner, who was date raped at the College of William and Mary in 1990 and makes a living speaking at college campuses. Those are just a few women who have used the crimes perpetrated against them as springboards to their life’s work. I don’t judge them for doing that. It’s one way of taking back their lives and not allowing criminals to take more from them.

One other thing I’d like to mention before I close this post. They never really mention that this case happened in South Carolina. You don’t hear the southern accents from that area, nor was it filmed in the Columbia area. They do show a very shabby apartment complex that would have been like where Evonitz lived, but the interior of the apartment was much too “Pottery Barn” and upscale. I think if the set had been less posh– even if it was just Evonitz’s apartment matching the exterior– that would have made the movie more realistic and less campy.

Overall, I think The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story is pretty decent for a Lifetime movie. I’ve definitely seen worse by them. On the other hand, it IS a Lifetime movie, so it’s pretty formulaic, and there is a slight element of camp. But at least they found a guy who is convincing as a villain. So, if you’re inclined to watch this flick, I hope you will… and let me know how or if you liked it in the comments!

Standard