Friday, February 24, 2023

Insight: More than a howl

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Interviewing someone widely considered to be a legend has always been one of the more interesting aspects of my career in journalism, but I would have paid the newspaper I was working for in June 1995 for the opportunity to sit and talk with radio personality Wolfman Jack.

Wolfman Jack was one of the most popular
radio and television personalities of the
1960s and 1970s. COURTESY PHOTO
He was on a promotional tour across the United States promoting his autobiography “Have Mercy! Confessionals of the Original Rock ‘n Roll Animal” and meeting fans and signing copies of his book. I was given the task of writing an article about his appearance in our city and his new book. The candid interview turned out to exceed any expectations I may have had about Wolfman Jack and the struggles he encountered along the way in becoming one of the most recognized celebrities in America in the 1970s and 1980s.

We met in the food court at the mall, and he complimented me on the denim jacket I was wearing. His kind words made me feel at ease and led to a revealing discussion about his improbable life rising above mediocrity to become a popular and beloved radio star.

In his distinct raspy voice, the Wolfman described for me the loneliness he experienced after his parents divorced when he was a child and to overcome that, how he fell in with a gang of neighborhood hoodlums in Brooklyn. At some point, young Robert “Bob” Smith, as he was known then, started listening to rhythm and blues records and developed a fascination with that style of music, even when it began to morph in the 1950s into what was labeled as “rock n’ roll.”

Because of his childhood growing up in an integrated environment, the Wolfman told me he realized that people were the same, no matter their skin color and how he championed racial equality when he launched his career as a disc jockey, first at a tiny radio station in Newport News, Virginia and then at a station in Louisiana. His commitment to the cause of equality in music in the early 1960s drew the attention of the Ku Klux Klan which burned a cross on his front lawn and eventually convinced him to move out of the Deep South.

I asked how he came up with the idea for the Wolfman Jack persona and he told me he created it while working in Louisiana partly because of his gravelly voice and because someone who worked at the radio station thought his looks resembled Lon Chaney, Jr. the star of “The Wolfman” films of the 1940s. To top off his new character, he added the iconic wolf calls and wolf howls that “Wolfman Jack” became known for in his late-night broadcasts.

The gig which brought him to national attention was on a powerful Mexican border radio station that could be heard across most of the Southwest and into California and drew huge ratings among young listeners of rock n’ roll.

He told me when that job ended suddenly in the early 1970s, he took a less prominent broadcasting gig at a small station in Los Angeles and he thought his career was headed downhill, but it was actually about to explode. Wolfman Jack was hired to be the Master of Ceremonies for a new Friday night television series called the “Midnight Special” which featured musical headliners and bands performing their top hits live or on tape as he introduced them.

Now a top star himself, the Wolfman said he was nervous meeting John Lennon and shaking his hand, and that he was profoundly embarrassed to ask Elvis Presley for his autograph. He told me that his all-time favorites to meet though were Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson because he was such a huge fan of their music.

Then he mentioned how he received a phone call one day from Hollywood director George Lucas about playing the part of a DJ in a movie he was making called “American Graffiti” and what it was like to act in that film with actor Richard Dreyfuss.

Throughout the interview, Wolfman Jack talked in detail about how he struggled financially to support his wife and children while first working in radio, and then how his anxiety led to experimentation with drugs. He wanted me to include that in my article to show that he was a regular person leading a regular life that became successful through hard work and determination.

We shook hands as the interview concluded, and I asked him where he was headed next. He said he was flying to Washington, D.C. where he was going to tape an episode at the Hard Rock Café there for his syndicated radio program before returning to his home and family in North Carolina.

As it turned out, Wolfman Jack did indeed tape that show the next day in Washington and then boarded a flight to North Carolina. Just hours after arriving back at his home, he suffered a major heart attack and died at the age of 57.

As it turns out, the newspaper interview that I did with him was the final one of his meteoric career, and one that I’ll certainly never forget.<

Rep. Jane Pringle: Heating help is on the way

By State Rep. Jane Pringle, D-Windham

Maine Revenue Services has announced that it has begun mailing out the first wave of $450 winter energy relief checks to an estimated 880,000 eligible Maine residents as part of LD 3, An Act to Establish the Winter Energy Relief Payment Program to Aid Residents with High Heating Costs and to Finalize the COVID Pandemic Relief Payment Program which the Legislature enacted with bipartisan support in early January.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
represents Windham in
the Maine House of 
I was proud to vote for this legislation when it was being considered in the legislature, which will help many Windham residents be able to survive during these cold months while my colleagues and I in Augusta work on long-term solutions to address high energy costs. The direct payments will help assist in paying for all types of heating, not just oil, and give families the flexibility to spend the money as they see fit.

Many people will receive their checks this month, and all eligible recipients should have them by the end of March. As outlined in LD 3, the income thresholds to receive a check are consistent with those for the $850 inflation relief checks that were sent last year: $100,000 if filing single or if married and filing separately, $150,000 if filing as a head of household or $200,000 for married couples filing jointly.

You can find more information about the winter energy relief payments at

Additionally, LD 3 provided $40 million to supplement the Home Energy Assistance Program, $10 million to Maine Community Action Partnerships such as The Opportunity Alliance serving Windham and all of Cumberland County to help deliver emergency fuel assistance and $21 million to bolster the Emergency Housing Relief Fund, which supports emergency housing and shelters.

If you feel you are not in need for the relief payment, consider donating your check to local organizations that make a large impact in our community daily such as Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Windham Food Pantry, or a charity of your choice.

This legislation will also provide a critical lifeline for low-and middle-income Maine families at a time when it is desperately needed. For many in our community that are working hard but not earning enough, I truly understand the chronic stress balancing whether or not to heat your home while also having to meet other financial obligations.

If you are truly in need of assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to someone. One of the things I love about Windham is that we take care of each other, and no one should have to face these situations that reach a critical breaking point alone.

As the legislature continues its work in the coming months, I will look to your guidance and advice on how we can continue to drive down energy costs in our community.

Finally, if you are in need of any assistance or other state resources regarding heating or other matters, please contact me by email at 

Thank you for allowing me to serve you in Augusta.

Rep. Jane Pringle is serving her second non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives, having previously served from 2012-2014. She is currently a member of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee in the 131st Maine Legislature. <




Andy Young: Three of a Kind

By Andy Young

John Jaso began life on America’s west coast during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

From left are Joe Rafferty, John Jaso, and Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Leonard Pitts Jr. was also born in California, but during Dwight Eisenhower’s stint as America’s commander-in-chief.

Joe Rafferty has lived his entire life in the northeast, though like Pitts he was born when America’s flag had just 48 stars on it.

So, what does a trio consisting of an ex-professional baseball player, a former syndicated columnist, and a recently retired high school football coach have in common? Just this: each excelled in his field, but took the initiative to leave it by choice, rather than wait to have someone else decide for him when it was time to move on.

At the conclusion of the 2017 major league baseball season, Jaso’s two-year, $8 million dollar contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates was expiring. And while he wasn’t headed for the Hall of Fame, Jaso more than likely could have signed another seven-figure deal with a team looking for a veteran left-handed batter with some power.

But after 15 years as a pro, Jaso decided enough was enough. He bought a boat because, as he told a reporter, “I just want to sail away.” And that is exactly what he’s done since then. Some wondered how he could spurn the opportunity to collect more huge paychecks, but a New York Times story published last week reported Jaso’s response to that question as, “But I’d already made millions of dollars. Why do we always have to have more, more, more?”

Two months ago, Pitts stepped away from writing opinion pieces for the Miami Herald, where he had been employed for the past three-plus decades. Author of four novels and a memoir, the prolific Pitts was arguably America’s most thoughtful and articulate syndicated opinion columnist. Full disclosure: I generally agreed with Mr. Pitts’ written sentiments, but on those occasions when he expressed an opinion that differed from mine, my first instinct was to reexamine my own views on the issue(s) in question, given the logic, eloquence and genuine passion with which he presented his ideas.

Closer to home is a legendary football coach who resigned his position at Kennebunk High School earlier this month. Like Jaso and Pitts, Joe Rafferty’s unquestionable skills were still in demand, but after 44 seasons, 217 victories, and one Maine state title, the universally beloved and respected mentor stepped down, and did so characteristically, which is to say quietly and without fanfare.

Rafferty and Pitts are both in their 60s, yet it seems unlikely that a small town high school football coach who’s spent his life in New England would share any similarities with a syndicated columnist who’s always lived in urban settings.

And what would either of them have in common with a dreadlocked millennial who retired at age 34, having likely made more money in less than a decade of playing major league baseball than the two accomplished, just-retired baby boomers did in their combined lifetimes?

Just this: John Jaso didn’t retire from baseball; he retired to explore the world on his sailboat. Leonard Pitts didn’t retire from writing weekly columns; he retired to his children, his grandchildren, and writing more novels. And Joe Rafferty’s retirement wasn’t from coaching football, but to his family, his State Senate seat, and his dedication to making life better for those around him.

They may appear different on the outside, but Pitts, Jaso, and Rafferty each took the initiative to retire to something rewarding rather than from something they’d grown tired of, and that common trait is one everyone contemplating ending their working days would do well to emulate. <

Friday, February 17, 2023

Insight: Fishing for football tickets

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

My dad was educated in mechanical engineering and that sure came in handy in the 1960s when I asked for his help in competing for a grand prize that included tickets to a professional football game.

It may have been a step down from his duties at work designing plans to transmit satellite imagery to government monitoring stations, but you sure couldn’t tell by his enthusiasm for helping me win the contest.

I first heard about the competition in September 1964 when I accompanied my parents to the Star Market grocery store on a Friday night. There was a huge display in the soda pop aisle promoting the contest and I took home an entry form to participate.

The Coca Cola Bottling Company of Western New York was sponsoring a contest to win two tickets on the 50-yard line at the old War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo for a mid-November game featuring the Boston Patriots against the Buffalo Bills. The contest entry form contained 24 small circular photos of Buffalo Bills football players and to compete, all you had to do was find and remove rubber bottlecaps of the 24 players depicted on them and attach them to the entry sheet.

The contest opened Oct. 1 and ran through Oct. 31 and seemed like a lot of fun. It turned out to be a genuine quest for me and was an activity I could share with my younger brother and my father.

The first few bottlecaps were easy to collect. Inside the six 16-ounce bottles we brought home from the store were bottlecap images of Bills quarterback Jack Kemp, fullback Cookie Gilchrist, defensive end Ron McDole, defensive tackle Tom Sestak, wide receiver Glenn Bass and punter Paul Maguire.

I attached them to the entry sheet and was excited because I only needed 18 more to have a chance to win. That proved to be a little more challenging than I expected.

The next trip to the supermarket and the purchase of six more bottles only yielded one new bottlecap, that of backup quarterback Daryle Lamonica. So far, I had just seven of the 24 required to win with about two weeks left in the contest.

As I began to think I might not have much of a chance to win after all, my father brought home three new bottlecaps from the Coke vending machine at his office including safety Ray Abruzzese, linebacker Harry Jacobs and guard Al Bemiller. That brought my total collected to 10 and boosted my spirits considerably.

But it also gave my father an idea and he shared it with our family at the dinner table that evening. He told me that he thought about creating a makeshift “fishing pole” with a magnet on a string that he could lower into Coke vending machines around town to try and “fish” out as many bottlecaps as we could.

The first stop was at an Esso gas station, and it must have been quite a sight to watch as I lowered the string with the magnet down into the slot where people popped the metal bottle caps off their Coke bottles. I slowly pulled four bottlecaps out of the machine and extracted about 35 bottlecaps out of there in total and loaded them into a brown paper bag my father was holding.

We then found another Coke machine in the shopping plaza near our home. That also resulted in a haul of about 30 more bottlecaps. The last stop was at the bus station and that machine produced more than 40 bottlecaps using our impromptu “fishing pole.”

Back home, I discovered bottlecaps for running back Wray Carlton, cornerback Butch Byrd, linebackers Mike Stratton and John Tracey, halfbacks Willie Ross, Bobby Smith and Joe Auer, defensive end Tom Day, defensive tackle Jim Dunaway and wide receiver Elbert Dubenion.

My total stood at 20 bottlecaps with a little more than a week left until the end of the contest. I obtained bottlecaps for guard George Flint and center Walt Cudzik by trading extras I had collected of Lamonica, Kemp, Sestak and Gilchrist to a classmate.

That left wide receiver Ed Rutkowski and kicker Pete Gogolak to finish the set and enter the drawing for the grand prize. On the day before the entry forms were due, my father drove me back to the Coke machine at the Esso station and we were able to gather about 15 bottlecaps out of the machine there.

Returning home, out of the 15 bottlecaps, I could only find Rutkowski and fell one short, missing the unorthodox soccer-style kicker Gogolak.

Later that week, I read in the newspaper that a 14-year-old from Lockport, New York had won the drawing and received tickets to the game against the Patriots.

My family watched on television several weeks later as the Bills raced out to a 28-21 lead, but Patriots’ quarterback Babe Parilli engineered a fourth-quarter rally, including throwing a touchdown pass to Gino Cappelletti as the Patriots throttled the Bills, 36-28.

Not sure what happened to many of those rubber Bills player images, I still have four of them but who knows what they're worth today?

Andy Young: Cracking the Scarlet Code

By Andy Young

It was shortly after taking in a James Bond movie that I began seriously considering a career in espionage.

I was attracted by the possibility of consorting with fellow operatives like Honey Ryder, Tiffany Case, and Pussy Galore, each of whom would, I knew, find me utterly irresistible. However, I was considerably less interested in taking some of the risks that came with the territory, most notably being targeted for assassination by a series of fiendish homicidal maniacs bent on world domination. Even worse, said sociopaths came equipped with an army of insanely strong hired goons, each of whom was even more sadistic than he was grotesquely physically deformed.

Subsequently dialing down my career ambition from spy to detective, I envisioned myself and my comely partner, a Ryder/Case/Galore hybrid, being assigned to get to the bottom of particularly tricky murder cases that had flummoxed local authorities, not to mention confounding the Feds as well.

Of course my shapely, photogenic sidekicks and I would always catch the killer(s), but our 100 percent effective investigations would be done covertly, thanks to our ability to communicate via a brilliantly-conceived secret code I had shrewdly created in my spare time, when I wasn’t suavely but firmly fending off an endless parade of overly amorous admirers.

Some people design secret messaging systems with the aid of devices like decoder rings. I never got one of those when I was a kid. My family didn’t buy the product that was giving away that particular prize but in addition I misunderstood the TV ads that explained exactly what it was that came free inside those specially marked boxes.

The voice on the commercial never specified which Decoder it was. I might have considered choking down that nasty cereal if there had been a ring featuring some New England state inside the box, but I had no interest at all in a bauble featuring North Decoder or South Decoder.

In my imaginary detective scenario my curvaceous assistant and I were tasked with tracking down diabolically clever murderers, each of whom thought they’d committed the perfect crime. But our determined investigations, all of which were conducted surreptitiously, would inevitably bear fruit. One particularly challenging case ended when my uncharacteristically stymied partner sent me a memo (in invisible ink, of course) reading, “Icicle mammoth simple top umbrella mandible pirate elevator diamond.” Upon reading her memo I responded with, “Dinner stick awful paper essay small tiny issue asset essence scrub table truck elbow hen stagecoach, twice nice strike shovel stud chemist health crisp road spell herd, pillow snack street chalk sell charm mattress cleaver blender.”

Shortly thereafter we made the appropriate arrest(s), then subsequently sailed (or in our particular case were chauffeured in a solar-powered, carbon-neutral limousine) off into the sunset.

Of course, the lesser law enforcers would remain utterly clueless about our uncrackable code. It was too bad they hadn’t thought of the board game by that name; if they had, perhaps they’d have deduced I deciphered incoming messages by simply reading the first letter of each word in my colleague’s missive, and responding with what looked like gibberish, but was in actuality easily discerned by my partner. That’s because the second letter of each word, when read in order, spelled out my cryptic meaning.

I never did get to indulge my detective fantasy. But I still enjoy designing clandestine communication systems, and hope to donate one to the CIA someday.

In fact, I recently devised a cryptograph, tentatively code-named “Kayak,” that’s so diabolically clever I’ll bet no one can ever crack it.

sselnU yeht nac daer sdrawkcab. <

Tim Nangle: Serving those who serve us

By State Senator Tim Nangle

As a former paramedic and public servant, I am proud to be a part of the Maine Senate and advocate for the well-being of our emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. EMS personnel are professional health care providers who provide care 24-7, very often in unusual and difficult situations and locations.

State Senator Tim Nangle
Last month, the Blue Ribbon Commission on EMS released its final report, highlighting the critical need for improvements in our state's EMS system. The report makes significant recommendations to provide much-needed support to those on the front lines of emergency medical care. The recommendations include investing $70 million annually for the next five years in EMS programs; exploring options for benefits for non-municipal, nonprofit licensed EMS staff; fully funding the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP); and convening a workgroup to explore EMS career pathways.

My colleague Sen. Chip Curry, who co-chaired the commission, has already submitted legislation to fully fund LOSAP and to explore EMS career pathways. In addition, Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, the other commission co-chair, has a bill that will reestablish the Blue Ribbon Commission so that it can build upon the work of the first Commission.

I plan to support these bills so that our EMS professionals receive the resources and support they need to provide the essential services we depend on.

I am deeply committed to supporting all of the brave Mainers serving as our state’s first responders. I am working on a bill that would provide much-needed support to those injured while performing these essential duties. This bill “An Act Regarding Workers’ Compensation Benefits for First Responders Injured in the Line of Duty,” will ensure that any first responder who is no longer able to work a secondary job due to an injury suffered in the line of duty will receive workers' compensation benefits that considers the lost income from all their employment. This would apply to all first responders, including EMS professionals, law enforcement officers and firefighters. This will help alleviate some of the financial stress that injured first responders face while recovering and allow them to focus on their physical and mental well-being. We must do all we can to support our neighbors who put themselves in harm's way daily to serve their communities.

Maine has traditionally relied on volunteer providers to provide EMS and fire response services. Unfortunately, that model no longer works for many people and communities. Improvements in emergency care before folks reach the hospital have made a meaningful difference in outcomes for people experiencing a heart attack. In the past, we administered oxygen and some medications to people we suspected were having a heart attack. Now, paramedics can definitively diagnose a heart attack. They can begin treatments and notify the hospital. All of this leads to better health outcomes for patients.

This is just one example of the many situations where improved technology and training have had a very real positive effect. However, the technology and training to maintain this capability requires adequate funding.

As noted in the report, many rural EMS agencies don’t have adequate support or funding. Decreased insurance reimbursements, users who can’t or don’t pay their bills, as well as reluctance to fund EMS services adequately at the municipal level place an unsustainable pressure on rural EMS agencies. The people who show up at your door at all hours of the day or night when you call 911 are dedicated healthcare professionals. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t. The folks deserve the tools and support they need to care for you.

It is a privilege to serve as your state senator and have the opportunity to work toward improving our emergency medical services. We owe a debt of gratitude to these selfless Mainers, and it is our duty to provide them with the support they need to deliver the vital services we depend on.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, wants to discuss legislation, or needs help connecting with a state agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is, and my office phone number is 207-287-1515. Also, you can find me on Facebook at To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at<

Friday, February 10, 2023

Andy Young: Bart, Buck, Norm, and King Tut

By Andy Young

One of the best things about having a weekly newspaper column is enjoying the freedom to write about whatever I want.


Were it my choice this week I’d pen a fascinating essay on the 100th anniversary of the opening of King Tut’s tomb, an event that captivated archaeologists and laymen around the world back in February 1923.

But unfortunately, I am unable to do that, because like every other small-town columnist in America, I am required to write about the Super Bowl this week.

It’s the law.

Today’s professional football players may be bigger, stronger and faster than their decades-ago predecessors were, but they don’t have the sorts of memorable nicknames players had back in the 1960s.

The first Super Bowl featured the upstart Kansas City Chiefs, who were representing the seven-year-old American Football League, and the haughty, heavily-favored Green Bay Packers of the more established NFL.

Coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, Green Bay was quarterbacked by Bryan Bartlett “Bart” Starr, who was ably protected by an offensive line that included, among others, Frederick Charles “Fuzzy” Thurston.

I was rooting for the underdog Chiefs, whose most notable player was a mountainous defensive tackle named Junious “Buck” Buchanan. He stood 6-feet-7 inches tall and weighed, depending on the source, 269, 270, or 287 pounds. Even compared to other pro footballers of the day, Buchanan was a behemoth. I could do just enough math to figure out that he weighed more than three times what I did at the time.

Not surprisingly, Green Bay routed the Chiefs on Jan. 15, 1967, 35-10. That disappointed me, since I always rooted for the dark horse, particularly when it featured a wondrous man-mountain like Buck Buchanan.

This Sunday the modern-day Kansas City Chiefs will represent the NFL’s American Conference, and as was the case 56 years ago, the opposition gladiators will be clad in green. The 2022 Philadelphia Eagles may be an impressive bunch, but their namesakes at the time of the first Super Bowl were considerably less daunting. For a time the team was led by pass-happy quarterback Christian Adolph “Sonny” Jurgensen, but in 1964 management dealt him to Washington for fellow field general Norman Bailey “Norm” Snead.

Okay. Maybe not every nickname was memorable back then, but you get the idea.

Snead called signals for the Eagles for seven dreadful seasons, but at least he was photogenic. His chief asset was that he truly looked like a quarterback, which could account for his finding employment with the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers after the Eagles mercifully sent him packing following the 1970 season.

Thankfully there is no mandate for making a prediction about the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl, because I haven’t followed pro football since the down linemen transformed themselves from unusually large men into pharmaceutically-aided freight cars.

These days Buck Buchanan would likely be judged as too petite to play for the Eagles or the Chiefs. He’d look spindly compared to the 18 offensive and defensive linemen listed on Kansas City’s most recent roster, who average 303 pounds per man, or five pounds less than the average weight of the 17 current Eagle linemen.

My attitude regarding this year’s game is a combination of ignorance and apathy. I don’t know if the Eagles or the Chiefs will win, and I don’t care, either. But I do have one passing Super Bowl-related interest. What I’d really like to do is find a time machine, travel forward a few thousand years, and be present on the day when captivated archeologists open Buck Buchanan’s tomb.<

Insight: A curse by any other name

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor
Next week marks 100 years since British archaeologist Howard Carter opened the burial site of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt, and supposedly unleashed an ancient curse upon his expedition of the “most dire punishment for any intruder entering the tomb.”

“King Tut’s Curse” is a curse allegedly cast upon any individual who disturbs the mummy of an ancient Egyptian, especially a pharaoh. The curse does not differ between common thieves and archaeologists, and has been claimed through the centuries to inflict bad luck, illness, or even death upon robbers.

Having watched many of the old 1930s classic horror films growing up, I was sure Boris Karloff starring as the Mummy was merely fulfilling an obligation to destroy English tomb invaders as part of the ancient curse. Years later, I am old enough to realize that superstitions, such as curses, are just psychological mind games, and don’t often come to fruition.

Or do they?

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most famous modern curses and how they began.

On Oct. 6, 1945, Chicago tavern owner William “Billy Goat” Sianis was blocked from bringing his pet goat, Murphy, into Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs World Series baseball game against the Detroit Tigers. Sianis, who was the model for comedian John Belushi’s famous Saturday Night Live “cheeborger” skit, reportedly placed a curse upon the Cubs that they wouldn’t win the World Series then or ever again.

Through the years, the Cubs became “lovable losers” and came close to reaching the World Series a few times, but always failed. The 1969 team were leading the National League East race by 10 games on Aug. 13 with five weeks left but ended up eight games behind in second place trailing the New York Mets, who went on to capture the World Series championship.

In 1984, the Cubs led the best of five games National League Championship Series over San Diego, 2-0, and needed to win just one more playoff game in San Diego to reach the World Series. Cubs fans blamed the “curse” when their team dropped the next three games.

In 2003, leading the Florida Marlins, 3-0, in the eighth inning of Game Six of the National League Championship Series and needing only one more win to secure a berth in the World Series, the curse struck again when Chicago fan Steve Bartman reached out on a fly ball and deflected it away from Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, who might have caught it. Umpires ruled it was not fan interference, and the Cubs went on to lose that game and the next one to fall one game short of the World Series.

The “Billy Goat Curse” remained alive in the minds of Cubs’ fans. That was until 2016, when the Cubs broke the 71-year-old curse and finally defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win their first World Series in 108 years.

The Hope Diamond is another legendary curse that began when newspaper articles reported rumors that the massive gem had been stolen from the statue of a Hindu goddess in India and carried a curse bringing bad luck to those who possessed it. Wherever the diamond went, tragedy, bad luck, and death followed, reportedly claiming 17 lives along the way in Asia and Europe.

Ownership of the lavish diamond was passed along among a series of French collectors before its purchase by Henry Philip Hope, a Dutch art collector based in London who renamed it the “Hope Diamond.” Upon Hope’s death, the diamond was given to several of his heirs, who also met somewhat questionable and untimely deaths and continued public suspicion that the 45-carat gem was indeed cursed.
Eventually the Hope Diamond was sold to American heiress Evelyn Walsh McLean, and in 1958 it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. where it remains on exhibit today in the Harry Winston Gallery there.

Then there’s the curse that all Boston Red Sox baseball fans are aware of, the “Curse of the Bambino.” In the offseason of 1919, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the contract of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees to finance the Broadway musical “No, No, Nanette.”

Ruth had been a significant contributor to Boston’s World Series championships in 1915, 1916 and 1918, but in a Yankees uniform, he led New York to four World Series titles and became baseball’s all-time home run leader with 714, a record that stood for 40 years. Boston’s “Curse of the Bambino” for selling Ruth to the rival Yankees supposedly led to an 86-year Red Sox World Series championship drought, not broken until the 2004 Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to overcome the curse.

The mind is powerful and curses, whether real or imaginary, can make some out to be genuine believers.

Howard Carter, however, had none of his “King Tut Curse,” calling it “Tommy Rot.” While others associated with unearthing the Tomb of King Tut in Carter’s expedition had befallen fates such as death by blood poisoning, tragic fires, smothering, suicide, cobra bites and pneumonia, he lived another 16 years, dying of lymphoma in London in March 1939 at the age of 64.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Insight: Dating disasters provide laughable moments

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

My wife Nancy and I were watching an old episode of “The Office” television show recently and it prompted a flood of bad memories for me about dates that I had experienced which were less than ideal.

In the television show, the character Michael Scott (the company boss), joins co-workers on a night out at a local bar. When co-workers Jim and Pam Halpert try to set Michael up with a friend, he turns out to be a boorish date who ruins the occasion for everyone.

That got me to thinking about my own dating history before I met Nancy and how I survived some of the worst dates imaginable.

Here’s a sampling of what I’m talking about.

A few months after moving to Florida in 1991, I visited a local bank to establish a checking account. I was helped by the bank’s assistant manager, a friendly and attractive woman who was interested in my job as a newspaper reporter and seemed to be flirting with me. I asked her to have lunch with me the following day and she agreed.

At the restaurant for lunch on a Friday, we appeared to be compatible, and I asked her out on a second date. She agreed and said that she’d meet me at a popular restaurant at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening. Before she left, I forgot to exchange phone numbers with her before we drove away.

That Sunday night, I answered the doorbell at our family’s home at 2:30 a.m. to find a state trooper standing there to inform me that my father had been struck head-on in a nearby town by a drunk driver and that he was killed in the crash. I joined the rest of our family as we collected his belongings and made funeral arrangements the following day.

By the time Tuesday evening rolled around, I had completely forgotten about the date I had set and, in fact, didn’t remember it until Thursday night. On Friday morning, I went to the bank and apologized to her while explaining the circumstances of my father’s death.

She became enraged and told me that was the lamest excuse she had ever heard for standing her up at the restaurant. I told her that it was true, and my father’s obituary was in that day’s newspaper. She laughed and told me I had probably faked the obit since I worked for the newspaper. She said I should come up with a better excuse next time but there wouldn’t be another date because she hated liars.

On a different first date a few years later, I met a woman at a café for dinner. She ordered a salad, and I had a bowl of black bean soup. Apparently halfway through the meal, the black bean soup upset my stomach and I excused myself to use the restroom. I spent about 10 minutes in the restroom until I felt good enough to return to our table. I resumed eating and carrying on a discussion with my date when I once again had to urgently return to the restroom.

Emerging from the restroom after 15 minutes, I found my date was gone and our table had been cleared away. I asked the waitress what had happened, and she said my date had paid the bill and left the café, but not before asking her to pass along a message to me. She said if I was that disinterested in our date, I should have been honest and told her so. She said I should never call her again.

Years later, I was sitting in my apartment on a Sunday afternoon when a neighbor I knew knocked on my door. She asked me if I would drive her to her sister’s house about 40 miles away. I had nothing better to do that day, so I agreed to take her there.

As we drove to her sister’s home, she said she liked me and that I had a nice car. She said she’d always remember my kindness and considered this as “our first date.” Long before she said that I realized she was really drunk and not making sense. She was slurring her words and a bit of drool was hanging from the corner of her mouth.

We arrived at her sister’s house and the sister wasn’t home. We turned around and drove back another 40 miles to my apartment complex. As we pulled into the parking lot, this neighbor asked me to keep the trip a secret. I asked why and she said her boyfriend was insanely jealous and would probably become angry if he knew that I had driven her to her sister’s house and he might become violent.

For weeks afterward, I stayed inside my apartment only going to and from my car when going to work. The drunk neighbor knocked at my door again about a month later and when I realized who it was, I turned down the volume on the television set and didn’t answer the door.

I think we have all experienced some “less than perfect” dates during our lifetime. What ones come to mind for you?

Andy Young: The Shortest and the Best

By Andy Young

A jealous, small-minded few maintain that those of us who began life in February have permanent chips on our shoulders because we were born in the briefest of the twelve months.

They’re wrong.

Why would we Aquarians (and the 36.3 percent of Februarians who were born under the sign of Pisces) have an inferiority complex? In the slightly amended words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a close friend of the late John Lewis, also a February native): “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin nor by their birth month’s duration, but by the quality of their character.”

Does evidence exist that people born in February are more likely to be courageous, trend setting, literate, innovative, adventurous, artistic, athletic movers and shakers than their brethren and sistren born in other months?

Who knows: maybe George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, John Grisham, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Gertrude Stein, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, John Steinbeck, Thomas Edison, Frederick Dougless, Ralph Nader, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tommy Smothers, Chris Rock, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Lindbergh, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Jim Brown, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, L. L. Bean, Jaromir Jagr, Norman Rockwell, Jack Benny, Bill Russell, Charles Darwin, Ja Rule, Dr. Dre, Charles Dickens, and Christie Brinkley all being born in February is just coincidence.

Or maybe not.

Sure, a few February natives might feel we’d be better off if our month had been allotted a greater number of days, like its bloated neighbors January and March. But as a group we’re the furthest thing from envious. After all, according to, the second month is already home to National Dark Chocolate Day, National Texas Day, National Get Up Day, National Baked Alaska Day, National Freedom Day, National Serpent Day, and National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and that’s just on February 1!

The shortest month is literally fraught with special days and observances. Not counting its first 24 hours, February’s first week contains Optimist Day, National Tater Tot Day, National Heavenly Hash Day, Groundhog Day, Bubble Gum Day, National Wear Red Day, National Carrot Cake Day, National Women Physicians Day, National Hemp Day, National Homemade Soup Day, National Create a Vacuum Day, National Thank a Mail Carrier Day, National Weatherperson’s Day, National Shower With a Friend Day, World Nutella Day, National Chopsticks Day, National Lame Duck Day, National Frozen Yogurt Day, National Periodic Table Day, National Send a Card to a Friend Day, and National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. And would anyone like to guess which month also contains National Pork Rind Day, National Love Your Pet Day, and National Chocolate Covered Nut Day?

Here’s a hint: it starts with “F,” and ends in “ruary.”

I’ve also heard that there’s a significant football game on the second Sunday of the month, but I’ve been so busy preparing for National Umbrella Day (February 10), National Flag of Canada Day (the 15th) and National Strawberry Day (the 27th) that I haven’t had time to notice.

If we February natives have a chip on our shared shoulders, it’s only because we’re tired of being unfairly resented by the unfortunates born in one of the eleven lesser months. But since our collective default setting is kindness, maybe we’ll say a prayer for them on Fat Tuesday (February 21) or Ash Wednesday (the 22nd). Better yet, we’ll go to our accustomed perch on the moral high ground and send some healing karma their way on February 26, which is National Set an Example Day. <