The Will Rogers Follies

The first Broadway show I ever saw was “The Will Rogers Follies.” To this day the show remains one of my favorites, and I still play the original cast recording from time to time. It starred Keith Carradine in the title role. It also featured Cady Huffman, who would later go on to star as Ulla in “The Producers,” and the late great Dick Latessa, as Clement P. Rogers. The music was by Cy Coleman and the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. This big, fun show also had cowboys and Indians, a bunch of cute dogs — and it featured the “special participation” of Gregory Peck as the legendary showman Florenz Zeigfeld, which was akin to the “voice of God.”

This would have been the fall of 1991, if I remember correctly. I was working as an editor at the Hudson Valley News in Newburgh, N.Y., at the time, and I had just completed a big project and my boss wanted to reward me by a trip to the big city to see a Broadway show. I stayed at the Milford Plaza, and I almost got mugged. A year later I had moved to my apartment in Manhattan, I had a new job working at National Jeweler, with offices in Times Square, right across the street from the Palace Theater. When my dad came to visit we went to see “Will Rogers Follies” together. It was still running, with Mac Davis in the lead role.

The Will Rogers Follies

Jefferson Davis

As president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis was under almost constant criticism from members of the rebel congress, from many of the newspapers in the South, and from his military. There were bread riots and protests over the draft. At one point, Arkansas even threatened to secede from the Confederacy! Davis had lots of trouble with his generals, but he worked the best with Robert E. Lee.

More facts about Jefferson Davis:

  • Graduated from West Point!
  • He fought in the Mexican-American War.
  • He was Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce
  • His first wife was the daughter of Zachary Taylor.
  • He was often sick in bed, and at some point he lost an eye.
  • He was elected to a six-year term as president of the Confederacy. He ran unopposed.
  • He was a micromanager and a bit of a control freak.
  • He was said to be grumpy.

Jefferson Davis book review

I’m not a huge fan of the Confederacy, and I think anyone who flies a Confederate flag today, in 2018, is a racist. But I wanted to read more about the Civil War. “Embattled Rebel: Jefferson David as Commander in Chief” by James M. McPherson was on the bargain table at Barnes and Noble, in hardcover, for six bucks. It’s by the same author as the book I completed immediately before this one, “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” and I found it was an interesting follow up.

Rather than being a “cradle-to-grave” biography that I prefer reading, this book focuses almost exclusively on the war from the South’s perspective. There is not much about the upbringing of Jefferson Davis, his family life, his career leading up to the Civil war and what happened to him after. The author describes the immense disadvantages the South faced, and he describes the three times that the South came closest to winning the Civil War.

The latest issue of the root canal magazine

I’m managing editor of roots magazine (the r is intentionally lowercase) as part of my job at Dental Tribune.

This issue contains a letter and article I wrote as tribute the beloved Dr. Fred Weinstein, of Vancouver, British Columbia, who passed away recently. Dr. Fred was the editor in chief of roots, a dear friend, and I miss him so much.

If you click the pages they will open bigger and you can read the articles:

tribute to Dr Fred Weinstein


The complete issue is available on the Dental Tribune website here, but to get online access you have to subscribe.

Lincoln as wartime president

Lincoln went through many generals in the first few years of the Civil War. Many frustrated him by. McClellan gave him the most trouble, with his constant delaying and complaining. But Grant didn’t complain or blame others.

In my goal to read at least one book about each president in order, I am about a third of the way through. Before I move on to Andrew Johnson, however, I wanted to read more about the Civil War. “Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” by James M. McPherson, focuses on Lincoln as a wartime president.

Fred Mick

The Civil War encompassed the entire presidency of Abraham Lincoln. He was a hands-on military leader who got deep into planning, strategy and personnel decisions. He spent many long hours in the telegraph office, monitoring news from the battlefield. He visited troops in person, met with his generals at their camps, and he even participated in a few campaigns. He and Mary Todd often visited the wounded soldiers at military hospitals.

Thanks to Richard Dalglish for recommending that I add this to my reading list! I am glad I did!

Handbook on the Lincoln Memorial

For me, it’s always been an emotional experience to visit the Lincoln Memorial — and it will be even more so next time, now that I have read books about our 16th president. In my view, Lincoln was our nation’s greatest leader. Not only that, but he was one of the greatest persons ever to live.

The memorial houses the great marble statue of a seated Lincoln within a Greek temple, with his Gettysburg Address and portions of his Second Inaugural Address inscribed on either side of the interior. From the steps you can see the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol. It was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922, by then President Warren G. Harding and then Chief Justice (and former President) William Howard Taft. It’s been the site of countless political demonstrations over the years, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech during the Civil Rights March in 1963.

Fred Michmershuizen

This 50-page handbook, published by the National Park Service, is divided into three sections: An overview of the memorial, a brief biography of Lincoln, and a section about the how the monument itself was conceived and built. A map and historical photographs help tell the story.

Early gems from the Stones

Back in the early 1960s, the BBC had a regulation in place that restricted the number of records they were allowed to play. It was called “needle time,” and there was a limit. So they got recording artists to come in to the studio and actually perform live for radio broadcasts. The Rolling Stones, who got their start during this era as a cover band playing mainly Chicago blues, classic R&B — and even, yes, country music! — were cut out for this. On each visit the BBC wanted them to play at least three songs, sometimes as many as five, including their latest hit.

Released late last year, “ON AIR” is a two-CD collection of these in-studio recordings. Each one of the songs is the band actually playing live. And they are really good. My personal favorites include “Route 66,” “Down the Road Apiece” and “2120 South Michigan Avenue.”

But it gets even better, because this special collection also includes eight — yes, eight! — songs that the Stones had never officially put out on any studio album. These songs are:

  • Hi Heel Sneakers
  • Fanny Mae
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Cops and Robbers
  • Memphis Tennessee
  • Ain’t That Loving You Baby
  • Beautiful Delilah
  • Crackin’ Up

Of course, a live version of “Crackin’ Up” is on Side 3 of the “Love You Live” album on the El Mocambo side. (What’s the the El Mocambo side, you ask? That’s a whole ’nother story.)

Up until now, you could only find these rare Stones songs on bootlegs with lousy sound quality. Now you can hear these songs as an official release, in really good audio. So if you want to have a complete collection of the Stones, “ON AIR” is a must. This is your chance to hear the lads at the height of their early prowess.

The Rolling Stones ON AIR

‘Hello Dolly!’ with Bernadette Peters

Thanks to the Seat Geek app, I got an orchestra seat to see Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber in “Hello Dolly!” tonight! She was amazing. So was everyone else in the show. Last May, I saw this same production with Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce. And in the 1990s I saw Carole Channing in a special 25th anniversary production. This is one of the best shows ever, and I am so very glad to have been able to see it so many times with such great talent.

Hello Dolly Bernadette Peters

‘Hamilton’ on Broadway

Having read the Ron Chernow book on which the musical “Hamilton” is based, I’ve wanted to see the show for so long. This week, finally, after I had faithfully entered the lottery via the Hamilton app every day for about six months, success! A pair of front row center seats, for 10 bucks each! A neighbor joined me as my guest.

I thought the casting of the performers was inspired. They were all fantastic, especially Michael Luwoye in the title role, Bryan Terrell Clark as George Washington, and J. Quinton Johnson as James Madison. For some reason I have not been not a huge fan of the original cast recording of “Hamilton,” but on stage I thought the numbers and their staging were brilliant. My favorite songs were “You’ll Be Back” and “What Comes Next,” both performed by King George III. I was deeply moved and close to tears throughout, but I managed to hold it together until the very end, when the story of Eliza going on to found an orphanage was told. From that moment on, waterworks. As I stood with the rest of the audience for the standing ovation, I had tears streaming down my face.

Hamilton playbill

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

In “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” author Doris Kearns Goodwin focuses on how Lincoln assembled and worked with his cabinet, which was (in my view) the best cabinet since that of George Washington.

Fred Michmershuizen

Leading up to the Republican nominating convention in 1860, the front-runner was William H. Seward, who had been governor of New York and a United States Senator. Seward was a giant in the Senate, an elder statesman, the “heir apparent” to the nomination and the presidency. There was also Salmon P. Chase, who had also been a Senator and a Governor of his home state of Ohio, and Edward Bates of Missouri. But at the convention none of them could get a majority, so their delegates switched over to Lincoln, who got the nomination on the third ballot.

After he was elected, Lincoln immediately decided he wanted his three main political foes to join him. He had a party and a country to hold together, and he wanted the best and brightest, working with him. So he set aside all personal rivalry and chose Seward as Secretary of State, Chase as Treasury Secretary, and Bates as Attorney General. Later, he also brought in Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War. Years previous, Stanton had humiliated Lincoln during a court trial they were both involved with as lawyers. But again, Lincoln did not let his hurt feelings from the past get in the way of picking the person he thought was best for the country.

These choices turned out to be excellent ones. Lincoln became closest with Seward and Stanton, who were crucial in the war effort. Chase was an excellent manager of the nation’s finances and proved vital as well, but he was often complaining and scheming behind Lincoln’s back and kept threatening to resign when he did not get his way. Lincoln kept Chase because he felt the country needed him.

This is the book upon which the 2012 movie “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis, was based. But the movie focuses mostly on Lincoln’s fight to get the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, which does not come until the very end of this 750-page text. So it’s weird to say on the cover that this book is “now a major motion picture.” Perhaps it’s because, in many ways, the movie draws on larger themes in “Team of Rivals” — in that it shows how Lincoln thought through complex issues, how he often used storytelling to make a political point, and how he faced immense heartbreak in his family life.

The first third of this book is really four biographies in one, jumping between the careers and lives of Seward, Chase and Bates in addition to Lincoln. There is so much in the book that is not covered at all in the movie, so if you watch the movie and don’t read the book you’re really missing out. This was a long book that took me more than a month to finish, but I learned so much and I’m so glad I read it.

One thing I learned in my reading was that out of all the men around Lincoln, it was Chase who was the most anti-slavery, who held what would be called today the “most progressive” views of racial equality. That’s why I was especially touched that Lincoln named Chase to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Lincoln had finally accepted Chase’s resignation after Chase had schemed yet again behind his back. Seward, Stanton and Bates wanted the court seat and had been more loyal. But yet again Lincoln set aside what most others in his position might have done and picked the person he felt was best for the country.