New Year's Eve, for many of us who remember Guy Lombardo's orchestra's annual iconic rendition of "Auld Lang Syne", first on radio, then on television from the late 1940s onward, this evening most always conjures a mix of melancholy and mirth. In my opinion, and the opinions of many of us living in advanced years, the melancholy of New Year's Eve is being reminded yet another year has passed, along with many of our friends and some relatives. The mirth arises when that ball drops atop the former Times Building at the south end of Times Square and optimism for a fresh start in a new year reigns. Having written in this space once (last year) about my two New Year's Eve's among those in the crowd in Times Square, circa 1953 and 1954, at ages 16 and 17, respectively, I can assure you survival was more on one's mind than mirth, but it was, let's face it, bizarre fun, at the very least.
REMEMBERING: To add to this day's melancholy, the literally millions of listeners, including yours truly, who looked forward to Joyce Lamont's first-class radio broadcasts on WCCO, and then KLBB, learned the sad news of her passing two days ago, at age 98. She was broadcasting quality and warmth personified. Her reassuring voice and delivery, from the heart, without ego, were perpetual reminders there was still dignity afloat, deservedly propelling Joyce to the top of the popularity charts. Not bad for a girl who was a radio commercial and promotional writer and didn't ever want to be on the air, but we're so glad her WCCO bosses recognized the warmth and charm in her voice and convinced her to convey that to millions of listeners for decades. I met Joyce in person only once, very briefly, but for all of us who had the joy to experience the quality of her on-air work, I think it would be safe to surmise she was considered a personal friend of every listener. Blessings to one who blessed us with her talents.
HOLIDAY COMMERCIALS: Mirth might not accurately describe the fact several of this year's television commercials were once again relying on older music "standards" as either a direct part of the message or in the background, and, if not mirth, they brought smiles. Target chose "It's A Marshmallow World" for their holiday theme. The first spots this year stuck to the original sound and tempo. Subsequent spots were "jazzed-up" to the degree one could barely understand the words or legitimately identify the music. Regardless, those latter "jazzed up" choices obviously didn't hurt Target's bottom line, garnering their highest share prices ever, announced yesterday, happily vindicating the locally-based corporation's temporarily-damaged image the past few months.
One commercial that struck close to "home" for me was Apple's brilliant choice (in my opinion) to use the last song George Gershwin composed, i.e., "Our Love Is Here To Stay". For over 30 years, I had the honor and privilege to share social and professional times with Frances Gershwin, George, Ira and Arthur Gershwin's sister. She allowed me to interview her for a documentary I co-produced in 1998. I still have the videotape. When I entered her apartment in the upper 70s just east of Madison Avenue, the music playing on the stereo was "Our Love Is Here To Stay". I told Frankie (that's what she liked to be called) I knew that was George's final composition. She told it was her favorite because of that sad fact. Hearing and seeing the song so tenderly presented on the Apple commercial brought even more warmth and dignity to this holiday season for many of us who still remember gentler times in the midst of these times less gentle. "Frankie" passed away in 1999, but had she been alive this season, she would have appreciated that lovely commercial, too. as well as those who had the class to conceive it.
Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these geezer thoughts. I hope you and yours have the best year ever, starting tomorrow.