Friday, January 30, 2009


Well, the beard is making a comeback. I was recently asked by the drummer I work with on my recordings—Glenn sidelines as an actor and director for stage productions—to audition for a part in the Lehi Arts Commission’s production of “Smokey Joe’s Café.” If you are not familiar with this Broadway Production, it is a collection of live performances of 50s and 60s acclaimed songwriters, Leiber and Stoller. They penned such classic Rock & Roll songs as: Jailhouse Rock, Treat Me Nice, Little Egypt, Youngblood, I’m A Woman, Trouble, Searchin’ On Broadway, Saved… well, you get the picture. There are about 40 songs in the show, featuring 5 men and 4 women singing and dancing, with an onstage backup band of around 6 or seven pieces. The musical has no real storyline or dialog apart from the lyrics in the songs. If you have seen the Broadway version, either live or on DVD, you will appreciate the task ahead for this community theater group.

If you are able to see our production, you may well appreciate the challenge placed before me: all of the other singers are in their mid twenties or younger. OUCH! Why, you might ask yourself, would they want ME on board? And, you might also ask yourself again, why I, a guy knocking on 60’s door and who couldn't’t dance his way out of anything, including a rather large paper sack, let myself be talked into exposing myself to sure embarrassment and open ridicule? The answer is: I have no earthly idea! The truth is: I like to perform, or at least sing. The idea of broadening my horizons is, perhaps, a possibility as well. When I said I would come to the audition, I had no idea, really, of what I was getting into.

A while back, not long after moving to Utah, my friend, Dave, who also plays bass and sings with me, asked me to take a part in the same organization's production of “The Sound of Music”. They needed some one to play the Admiral who comes to the Von Trapp home to give Captain Von Trapp his orders to report to the German navy—this character does not appear in the movie version. I had just a few lines and I did not have to sing or dance—a piece of cake. I would get a chance to spend some time again with Dave, my old performing partner, after many years apart. Although I only had to deliver a few lines in a German accent—the accent was brilliant, of course—I had a hard time remembering my lines. I guess it was nerves, or maybe the onset of Alzheimer's. In every performance, except the last one, I would give a variation of my lines, giving the general idea. I got a little closer to perfect each performance, until the last one when I "nailed it". The only problem was my microphone failed me and no one in the audience heard my triumph.

It had been a long while since I had done any “acting.” I had done a play when I was in my teens and had been roped into doing a couple of church “road shows”. When I first came to Utah to live, back in the 70s, I got a non-speaking part in a European movie production set in 19th century Utah about a Mormon convert from Iceland who settled near Spanish Fork—my Icelandic and German language talents precluded me from a speaking part. But I had "the look" they liked and they used me most every day they shot on location in Utah. It was great fun and I decided I would give it a try again. I auditioned for a Church film about Josepfh Smith and the Lost Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and though the casting director told me I did really well, that she was putting me at the top of her list, we moved to California before they started filming. I later saw the film and am sure they didn't miss out on too much by my move away. The opportunity came again after moving to Tennessee. I got a part in a CBS made-for-TV-movie called "The Conviction of Katie Dodd". It starred Victoria Hammil, of "Hill Street Blues" fame, and Kevin Dobson, of "Knots Landing" and "Kojak" fame. I played a friend of Kevin Dobson’s character. Again, it was fun. A while later, I was given a small non-speaking appearances on a CBS pilot for a series to star country singer Lorrie Morgan as a Nashville police detective captain who night-lighted as a country singer—it is amazing what kind of money gets spent for ludicrous ideas in the television industry. About that same time, our Franklin Stake (geographical church organization or unit) decide to do a big show featuring each ward (smaller church units or congregations within the stake) doing 20 to 30 minute vignettes of their choice of Broadway Shows. Our ward chose “Fiddler on the Roof”. I had always thought that I could play the "Tevye" character well, so I auditioned for the part and got it. As it turned out, only two wards out of nine were able to put shows together, but we performed them and were pleased with the results. My wife, Karen, played the oldest daughter—I was already looking a lot older than she was by this time. A few months later, I was asked by the Stake Relief Society (a women's organization within our church) to reprise the role in costume for a presentation on "relationships", I think, singing a few of the numbers from "Fiddler" with my wife in the "Golde" role. I really enjoyed it, but the opportunities to pursue acting dried up and we eventually moved to Kansas.

So, it had been more than fifteen years since I had exposed myself to
“acting” and the little part in “The Sound of Music” got my juices flowing again. Though that stage appearance was anything but glorious, I decided I would try it again, especially if an opportunity came up to do the Tevye part. I passed on auditioning for “Oklahoma” when it came up, because I was obviously too old for anything other than smaller roles and there were no Tevye-type parts, but when Glenn told me about "Smokey Joe’s Café" and that it was just singing a bunch of songs that Elvis and the Coasters had made famous, I thought “this might be fun" and it would give me an opportunity to see if I could do a stage that would not be too difficult. After all, I cut my teeth on such musical material and had played and sung my own stuff in nightclubs for most of my life. How hard could it be?

Well, it could be very hard, especially if dancing comes into the equation. My afore-mentioned inability to dance kept me from taking a part in a local production of a dinner-mystery-musical-farce about a year ago. When it became apparent that there would be some dancing involved in the “Smokey” production, I began to be reticent. When I watched the DVD of the Broadway version, I almost started to cry. However, Glenn promised me that I would not be expected to do much real dancing, just moving around to the music. We’ll see about that. I was the first man to be cast and the only man to be cast after the initially-scheduled auditions and Glenn was thinking that, if they could not find four more guys who had quality voices in a reasonable hurry, they would have to cancel the show. I began to breathe a little easier. Maybe I had been too hasty and this was God's way of protecting me from having a heart attack. Then I get a call later in the week from Glen and he says he has the guys and the show can go on. Imagine my added horror when I found out that all of the other singers in the cast were less than half my age. And, they looked like they could dance too. It was at our first rehearsal that I suggested that we could interject some hilarious comedy relief into the performance by having me perform in a wheelchair, with a girl in a nurse costume pushing me around the stage for the dance routines, while I snapped my fingers and sang with a straight face. The laughter my suggestion elicited was as far as the hilarity and the idea went.

So, I am somewhat conflicted about this opportunity. "The show must go on", as they say, and trooper that I am, I agreed to do it, but if they were to tell me they had a younger and spryer fellow to take my part, I might do a tripple somersalt like Little Egypt. It could and should be fun though, if the audience can suspend reality enough to imagine me at least 30 years younger, and if I am able to remember the lyrics to the songs, AND I don’t trip and fall into their laps, AND they don’t make disparaging comments or cat calls, if I don’t do the former and do do the latter.

Oh yes, I almost forgot about the return of my beard and the reason for this blog. When I auditioned for the musical, Glenn and his assistant asked me if I would mind growing the beard back—you see, he has seen me both ways. When I enthusiastically said “YES", they added that they might want to color it for the performances.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Well, history was made yesterday. The first African-American was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. Let me say here that I loath the politically correct term “African American” to describe people who have distinguishable Negro blood and are citizens of the United States of America. Not all people who live on the African continent or are descended from ancestors who lived there are of Negro blood. I know people who are extremely Caucasian in appearance, who hale from South Africa and whose antecedents there go back for many generations. For the most part, my ancestors were Europeans—our genealogy claims lines through most of the royal courts—with a smattering of indigenous American blood through the Sac and Fox tribes. Note that I did not use the silly and inaccurate term “Native American”. Anyone born in America is a Native American; black, white, red, brown or yellow—Sorry, Rev, no rhymes here. But I digress…

Yesterday, Barak Hussein Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. I did not vote for President Obama. I would have liked to vote for the first “black” man to hold the office of President, but I disliked Obama’s policies, for being too liberal, and I was extremely suspicious of his numerous past associations with radicals. It was, however, cool to see a major milestone passed in American race relations. I doubt that it will mean much to some people, both black and white, because they have so much invested in their race-based hatred and mistrust. I honestly did not care for the Republican party’s nominee this time around either. He, like Obama, had bought into the man-made-climate change hysteria and was unwilling to embrace a logical energy policy, was not very reassuring on tax cutting, and joined in enthusiastically on the government financial bail-outs for Wall Street and the banking and automotive industries. Only my fear of a weakened American war on terror under an Obama and the assured reign (or perhaps rain) of more liberal federal judges made me enthusiastically vote for McCain. But, Obama won. He is my President, and I wish him well. He won the election and he deserves a chance to fail and, perhaps, learn from mistakes. I suspect that the liberal media, the Hollywood loonies, and the angry left cut him a lot of slack for a very long time, because he is their man and they really want him to succeed. I too want success for our country and I will support him when he makes the right choices, however, I will surely moan and complain and say “I told you so” when and if he does fail. I liked President Bush very much for his desire and willingness to take on our country's enemies and do the hard lifting and take hateful and ignorant criticism leveled at him by the liberal media, Hollywood nuts and the liberal fascists without complaint. I also praise him for two pretty conservative Supreme Court nominations. I moaned and complained, of course, when he let spending get out of hand; tried too hard to appease the likes of Kennedy, Reed, Shumer, and Pelosi; and decided that Wall Street and the loan institutions needed to be bailed out with tax-payer money, but I believe he was a good and honorable man who did his best in very trying times, just not a Ronald Reagan conservative.

History tells me to have great doubts.

Much like today, FDR replaced an economically liberal Republican President Herbert Hoover and continued some of his more liberal initiatives and randomly tried to come up with even more liberal solutions to the country’s economic ills. His efforts actually stalled a recovery from the world-wide Great Depression in the United States, making it worse, while Europe, with a more hands-off conservative approach, was digging itself back to prosperity. If not for World War II and the need for American labor products abroad during the war, we would have suffered even longer. For an education on this subject you might like to read the following books: “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes; “1920: The Year of the Six Presidents” by David Pietrusza; and “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning” by Jonah Goldberg. The fact is the scenario we find ourselves in is scarily similar. As FDR did, I can easily visualize Obama trying to fix the economy by one wrong-headed liberal program after another.

Ronald Reagan’s approach to fixing economic woes was to get government out of the way. The problem we have at the moment is that government was too much involved. They had oversight of banking and loan institutions, but they neglected, or chose not, to do their duties in that regard. As I stated in an earlier blog, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started the ball rolling for our current housing and banking woes, while congress, especially the democrats had their hands all over it. Reagan would have let the institutions fail or go into bankruptcy. Like the airline industry did, the auto industry would have come back leaner and stronger, and our banks and lending institutions would have eventually come back, though some would have failed. The economy would have righted itself in a shorter time than it likely will with all of our government’s assistance. The pain would have been acute but relatively short. Under big government intervention, the pain will likely be long-term and chronic. I wish President Obama well, but I expect that I need to get use to disappointment.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Ghosts of Christmas Cards Past

Every Christmas we try to be creative with our Christmas Cards/letters that we send out. If you have received one of our cards over the years, you may wait in anticipation of the next "Mundy Family Christmas Card", wondering if it will be as good, or at least as interesting as "last year's". Also, if you've just recently gotten on our mailing/emailing list, you may wonder what you've been missing in the past. So, I had Karen scrounge around and find representatives of past Christmases that I might share with you on this blog site. We started trying to do humorous cards when the kids were younger, more than ten years ago, I think. I honestly can't remember if we were able to pull it off each year, but I think we did. However, we were not able to come up with one from each year. But, we found a bunch and so I am including them below in order of the year they were presented from earliest to most recent, with some explanation. You can click on the images to enlarge them for better viewing.

Last year, Christmas, 2007, was fun to try to get all of us in the picture again, plus Mom Preece and Connie, the new additions to our household. Celebrity mug shots that we had seen around that time, of Mel Gibson and others were the inspiration for this one and I eventually came up with a workable and humorous caption. The individual mug shots turned out pretty good, with Tyler's photo shop work putting in the background. The monikers were mostly funny too.

Christmas 2006 has to be my favorite so far and it set the bar pretty high. I actually had the idea of a Super Hero based card for a couple of years, but either wasn't able to get the other family members to think seriously--right word?--about it, or I wasn't exactly sure weather to do it in costume or go the comics drawing route. It finally made sense to me to do the drawings and I asked Tyler to do the drawings--most of my kids, Karen or myself could have done respectable jobs, but Tyler liked the idea and ran with it, doing a great job. To elaborate on the joke, I insisted on having written discriptions of our character--super powers, or lack there of, weakness, etc. I think most everyone came up with their own super hero identities with some suggestions of my own and I did the bulk of the writing giving edtting power to the family members. This of course made the card a bigger deal than the others thus far and since, but it made it more entertaining and memorable.

Christmas 2005 was a particularly creative one, I thought. It consists of sculptured busts of all of our family members which I had done the year prior--I was just getting back in to sculpture after almost 37 years--with Santa hats we purchased for the occasion and a caption refering to Christmas busting out all over. Clever, if I do say so.

Christmas 2004 was one of our better ones. The theme, of course, is "Movie Characters" and the heading, "Merry Christmas, Coming To A Location Near You". The fun part, we thought, would be for our friends to guess which film character we were presenting. The harder ones were Jesse as "Ash" )Bruce Campbell's character from the "Living Dead" movies)and Heidi as "Laura Croft, Tomb Raider". Ingrid, of course, is "Marilyn Monroe";Tyler is "James Bond" (Connery's); Dylan is Harry What's-his-name; Karen is Mary What's-her-name; and I am Tevye, from "Fiddler".

Christmas 2003 was our nod to the Brady Bunch opening. Karen wrote some lyrics to be sung to the Brady Bunch song. Cute, if nothing else. Tyler was actually serving in a church mission in Chile at the time, so we opted for the different frames idea. Note: The sculpture is one Tyler did earlier of Weezer (Tyler's favorite band)front man, Rivers Cuomo--we were short one family member to fill all of the frames.

I think Christmas, 2002, was a year when we knew we would not have everyone around near Christmas, so we took an early picture in a park. We had no "Big Idea" for a card but we thought that if we put thought baloons with our individual Christmas wishes, it would be humorous. You be the judge.

Christmas, 2000, found us during our stay in Kansas and we chose to do the card based on our "Old West" picture of our family taken at "Worlds of Fun", in Kansas City. The caption, "Have a Merry Christmas, or Else", seemed appropriate.

Christmas 1999 was our year to do a motorcycle-related card. My brother had a bike and Jesse owned the small one that Dylan is sitting on and he later bought one of the bigger bikes from his cousin, Tommy, and sold the smaller one to tyler. The other bikes belonged to friends from work. The card was mildy cute and the Happy Hogidays caption was good, if not hilarious.

Christmas 1998 was also a good one and a popular one with card receivers. We paid homage to my love for the "Blues" and used the mental image of the Mundys as the BLUES BROTHERS BAND, with black suits and black pork-pie hats with the Caption "It'll Be A Blue Christmas Without You."

Christmas 1997, I think, was our first Christmas after moving back to my hometown of Topeka, Kansas, fro Nashville, TN. I think Karen and I thought it would be cute, since we were now living in the countrified farming and ranching state of Kansas, to do a card based on the famous painting, "American Gothic". We found a bunch of pitchforks, threw on our overhauls, scouted out a farm near our home and went to ask if we could take a picture in their yard. The people weren't at home, so we went for it any way. It was funny to learn later that people who received our card thought we had actually moved on to a farm.

I think that 1990 was the first Christmas card we did, where we tried to be creative. "The Simpsons" was ver popular at the time, so I drew us as the Simsonesque Mundys. This was before Dylan was born and we had two "Barts" to make our family fit. I thought it was a fun Card. I had to put my old mole--I had it removed a few years back--and a heavier beard on Homer and a dot on the end of Marge's nose and non-bufant big hair to identify her as Karen--that freckle is no longer there these days, which makes me wonder...

Anyway, this card got the tradition started. We'll try to keep it up. I don't know what our kids plan to do as they go their separate ways, but I don't suppose the apples will fall to far away from the tree.