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Archive for the ‘Looking Back’ Category


One of the most influential women of her time, Alice Westbrook Barnes, has died in Jefferson City.  The 90 year-old became a major force in advertising communities on both coasts and created campaigns that impacted world companies like L’Oreal, S.C. Johnson and Cheesbrough-Ponds. For more than 60 years, she was a marketing master and consummate saleswoman.


Why do they call it “background music” when it’s so intrusive?  Where can you find a hot buttered martini?  You know the small bores: “Of course I never watch TV but last night I happened to see -.”  Remember putting phonograph records back into their jackets?  Where are the people who expect an answer to “what’s new?”  Didn’t the era of tackiness begin when they stopped making those elegant squirt-type seltzer water bottles?


It’s been 25 years since the grand dame Globe-Democrat closed its doors for the last time. So, Tom Pagano felt it’s a great reason to have a party. The reunion will be held from 3-7 p.m., Oct. 29 at Orlando Gardens, 8352 Watson Rd. For an RSVP, go to Frank Absher ( . .Devereux Murpy LLC founding partner, Stephen Murphy, and his wife, Pam, have been hit with lawsuit by Royal Banks of Missouri for a $306k loan they made for the Webster Groves couple. The loan was a renewal of one originally issued to finance the purchase of 1000-1100 South Fourth Street, just east of the Broadway Oyster Bar. Royal Banks allege that Stephen defaulted on the loan in August and Pam guaranteed the loan for which she failed to pay and it’s now in breach of the guarantee. Devereaux Murphy’s client list includes the St. Louis Association of Realtors and Blake & Davis realtors. The matter is headed to the St. Louis County courtroom of Judge Maura McShane.


After the first newsflash, there wasn’t much reality to that morning of 9/11.  Some were on their way to their first coffee break and others wrapped in their own arms and thoughts saying, “This can’t happen here.”  Some remembered that day in Dallas – “Big D” they call it as the D in Death.  When the first bulletin on 9/11 was heard, the announcer sounded stunned and confused.  His careful training in voice and diction went out the window. You snatched fleetingly at the hope that it was only an unconfirmed rumor as you surfed the networks.  A paralysis was setting in as millions of minds focused on the suicide attacks at targets in New York City and Washington, D.C. There was a steady flow of bulletins, the announcers sounding breathless as though they had been slugged in the stomach.  But all the while a lump was forming in your throat. Your thoughts ambled in a most confused way as the news tickers clattered in the background. Old timers remembered Arthur Godfrey sobbing on the air as he described FDR’s funeral and the peculiar, choked phrase, “”God bless his gaudy guts.”  Tears glistened on the stubbly cheeks of combat GIs.  There was Walter Cronkite clearing his throat and announcing, “John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is dead.”  Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination threw our nation into half-mast. The terrorists’ attacks threw our nation into unparalleled tragedy.  CNN and FOX proclaimed “America’s new war!”  We’ve entered a new age, brutally shaken, but more than ever aware of the dark forces around us and within ourselves that can still be controlled. If we’ve learned anything, we have learned that there is no such thing as security. When anarchy reigns – and anarchy begins when you stop caring for your fellow man – then not even the most valuable person in the land is safe.  All the guns in the Secret Service could not keep us safe, and all the weapons of mass destruction at our command will not keep us safe. The only shield is compassion and understanding, firm in the face of hate.


French flying enthusiast Bernard Decre says that a newly-found 1927 U.S. Coast Guard telegram suggests that French aviator Charles Nungesser may have actually been the first to cross the Atlantic non-stop, passing over Newfoundland but perishing in a crash, according to the Wall Street Journal. . .How did vet religion scribe Pat Rice, a retiree of the Post-Dispatch, learn in the summer of ’03 about Archbishop Justin Rigali’s impending promotion to become Philadelphia’s Cardinal? A 23 year-old Philly college student Rocco Pelmo called her out of the blue and said, “No archbishop had ever left St. Louis before, and that somebody would was amazing.” Rice told the Baltimore Sun this week, in a profile of Pelmo, “That was the first time I knew that this kid had incredible contacts,” The young man’s blog, “Whispering in the Loggia,” has since become widely-read among Catholic insiders. . .Former P-D skilled scribe Joe Mahr, now with The Chicago Tribune, just completed a lengthy investigation showing that “convicted rapists, molesters and other violent felons” are getting paychecks from Illinois’ Dept. of Human Services for babysitting kids from lower income families (so their moms and dads can work). The money comes from an otherwise praise-worthy $750 million a-year program that subsidizes child care for more than 150,000 impoverished families. Mahr’s probe found that the agency “poorly vetted babysitters for years,” and even now “lacks safeguards to weed out babysitters who watch children while living in the homes of sex offenders and other felons”. . .


The next edition of the London telephone directory will be minus one of the most endearing listings, now that the wonderful Fran Landesman is dead. Back to the age of youth and the days of innocence it was always a thrill to see the merry twinkle in her eyes as we strolled into her and her late husband Jay’s Crystal Palace on Gaslight Square. For those at the birth of the Square and subsequent flowering, there could be “no more fascinating personality – – exquisite songwriter, inventive poet, wild soul and tragic figure,” remembered Wayne Brasler of Chicago.  Our short-term miracle called life is richer for having known Fran.


Clanking thoughts occurred to me as I drove aimfully past Busch Stadium trying to zero in on the city I once thought I knew so well.  The stadium is now located in the environs of yesteryear Chinatown, where men wore long robes and pigtails, heading toward puffs of opium at tong meetings, Tourists snapped pictures, that would engrave forever the image of a Chinatown that lives today only in the minds of aging caucasians. The young, the quick and the smart got out of there many years ago.  Chinatown has since been revived by Asia Town on Olive Boulevard just east of I-170. But, in those early days, there were: a flea-bag St. Regis Hotel and if its walls could’ve talked, they’d be sued for libel; Jim Mertikas’ Grecian Gardens, where politicians, judges, lawyers and cops made deals over ouzo and steaks: Harry Wald‘s World Theater, that dared to show the films “Ecstasy” on the screen, replete with Hedy Lamar baring her pubes and Jane Russell baring her boobs in “The Outlaw”; African-Americans were only allowed to sit in the upper balcony of the old American Theater on Market Street and were later emancipated by Dr. David Grant and every time I saw a roast beef fired up at Happy Hollow, I thought of Torquemada. Nowadays, the most lucid residents of The Hood jam at Amnesia, Venue and The Label clubs. Far to the south there was Soulard Market where one could observe freshly-dressed geese, homegrown veggies and rats bigger than cats.


It will be here forever – this enchanted city in the middle of the country.  It was a hodge-podge that grew in clumps of accidental beauty.  Once there were artists who starved so well, soap-box derbies along the highways, a winning football and baseball team of which no one said, “bad officiating,” flash cards, a VP parade at night in which, sadly,  the only black people involved were those who cleaned the streets following horses, hopscotching kids, jazz on the riverboats, tables on which elegant squirt-type seltzer bottles rested  and the distant sounds of live bands in hotel lobbies. Even the live band is silent in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency where former owner Fred Kummer insisted on live music in the onetime Adam’s Mark. Meantime, the Hyatt was jamming Saturday night when the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club held its Party at the Prom benefit presided over by its prez Flint W. Fowler.  A big man in heart and soul wearing a white jacket, Fowler described the club’s vast Mentor St. Louis, dedicated to the memory of firefighter Capt. Derek D. Martin.  He noted, “We have many character leadership programs.  We help improve student behavior, because most kids come to school without boundaries.” Retired Rockwood School District administrator, the radiant Vivian  Moore, spoke of pre-school children and their need for parents to get back to basics.  “It’s important for them to be taught to give back and to expect less from the government,” she said. “Schools and families must work together making sure that the young people have what they need.”  Moore was with her husband Thomas and near club boosters Jill and Edward L. Dowd, who went from serving as U.S. Attorney to forming the Dowd & Bennett law office with 14 barristers, including his son,  Edward L. Dowd, III.  Partner in the firm is James Bennett, former law clerk to associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Patricia Wente, former KWMU GM was also on hand and guffawed over a letter she received in the mail.   “It was signed by Tim Eby (the GM of the station) and they must be hard-up asking me for money!,”  she giggled. Wente was fired from the radio station and ended up retiring.


I drove aimfully around the Central West End trying to find the places I once thought I knew so well. It seemed blessfully familiar: the magnificent Hortense Place mansions, including the one in which the late Jack Carney once lived and entertained, among other houses that escaped the 1958 tornado. Balefully charming they still are. It’s amazing how their dignified facades are preserved. Big cars, beautiful people and the aroma of pizza baking in the ovens at Pi, which reminded me of the paraphrased lyrics, “Happiness is just a thing called dough.” (We all knead it whether with mushrooms or sausage or both.) I said to my host – a living person – the pizza is incredible! Pi co-owner Chris Sommers, a onetime valet at the Seven Gables, explained the dough contains corn meal to make it a bit crunchy and housemade mozarella cheese – not provel. How did Sommers and his partner, Frank Rutledge, launch the Pi empire? “I had adult ADD and bought the recipe from a small San Francisco shop,” said Sommers. Now, the owners have four stores here with another due to open in March in the Beltway. “It will be right near Bryan Cave‘s office and six blocks from the White House on F Street,” said Sommers. The CWE is all things to all people, or perhaps too much for some as evidenced by the shuttering of The Pasta House on Euclid Avenue. Moving along, the columnist popped into Herbie’s Vintage ’72 where Dance St. Louis’ Sally Bliss entertained the company’s artistic and exec director Michael Uthoff. Still blissfully beautiful Sally, who is a cancer survivor, interrupted to take a call from her husband/broadcaster Jim Connett, who said he is occupied these days attempting to launch a classical music radio station. Later, Uthoff confided that Dance St. Louis’ 2011 season will offer at the Touhill such companies as: Martha Graham; Aspen Santa Fe; the Ensemble Espanol with Paloma Gomez; a production of the Nashville Ballet’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the closer with “Spring to Dance” featuring 30 area dance companies. They noted that Uthoff and Bliss once danced as partners with the Joffrey Ballet company. “We were both married to others at the time,” she said as she blushed. At another table, Dr. Seth D. Crosby, director of translational research of genome sequencing center at WashU School of Medicine, was surrounded by colleagues. Dr. Crosby said, “We’ve just started looking into pediatric cancer, which is sometimes different to diagnose. We’re looking at cutting-edge technology to look at the cancer as well as the best possible treatment. We have federal money, but need Missouri funding as well in trying to get beyond just the scientific community and into the general population.” As the columnist took off, Herbie’s floor manager Tim Anselm touted that soon the revered dinery will offer rabbit pasta – a fave of habitues. Among the al fresco diners on McPherson Avenue were watercolor artist Daven Anderson with Shannon McIntyre, who owns the nearby custom iron furniture store, Sambeau’s, and is the wife of Steve Mcintyre, who established Balaban’s in west St. Louis county. Anderson ticked off the locations, where his works of urban life are on view, including the Missouri Athletic Club, which he said has bought three of them. Nearby were Jay Lewis and Lia Jones, admission directors of Everest College, which they tipped will offer in 2012 associate degree programs. Then, a quick stop at J. Viviano & Sons on The Hill to check out the holiday merchandise that just arrived, including panettone fruit cakes, pandora cakes and toronne nuggat candies. Then, a spin downtown past Kiel Opera House, that raised questions about its future. Is the news blackout on its restoration caused by pressure from Grand Center? Is the blackout imposed by restorers? it’s marketing suicide not to promote it. Meanwhile, Kansas City is heavily marketing the countdown to opening of the Kauffman Center performing arts complex next fall and it seems the $417 million downtown venue might clean up with travel business. Onward to the Pietosa family’s Napoli II restaurant in the Town & Country Crossing, at which bossman Tony Pietosa said that the restaurant is beginning to fill reservations for its special New Year’s Eve blast. At the “star table”, Steven Cartopassi of Overland Metals cheered that copper had just risen by $4 a-pound. With him was Ranken-Jordan hospital’s prez and ceo Lauri Tanner. Both had just attended a board meeting at which final touches took place for its Jan. 30 gala at the Kemp Auto Museum.


My doctor once bet me 100 to 1 that I’d never make it to my age.  He’s gone now and if he’d won, he’d have a helluva time collecting it.  I refuse to wear glasses when I look in a mirror and therefore I look blurry.  I chuckle and recall when Rudolf Nureyev examined himself in a mirror at The Muny.  I asked him what he was looking at and he replied, “Him.”  As kids, we had simple pleasures: playing cork ball on a sand lot; flying through the air on the Comet at Forest Park Highlands; enthralled at airplanes flying in and out of Lambert Field; listening to music on the phonograph with breakable records and playing tag.  Today’s youngsters are playing it smart on computers and they’re far more politically oriented than we were. Sadly, some of today’s kids are suffering with cancer, while their desperate parents pray for miracles. To many parents something miraculous happened.  They met pediatric oncologist Dr. Bob Bergamini, who practices at St. John’s Mercy Med Center.  “We have three babies in neonatal intensive care with cancer and they’ll be cured and will be given back to their childhood,” said Dr. Bergamini.  “Eighty-five percent of the children, who come in will be cured and walked out.  In cases of leukemia, we’ve learned how to give just chemotherapy and to do growth factors, that help the white count recover after chemo.”  The good doctor was surrounded by parents at the Friends of Kids with Cancer benefit at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, including Gisela and Peter Cohen, whose granddaughter was diagnosed and treated for leukemia at 3.  She’s now 18. Surrounded by Justin Taylor, Kathy Richey, Mary Mercurio and Lawson Primm, Judy Ciapciak boasted that the evening capped off a day of activity, that will bring $130,000 to the agency, “which has only two full-time employees,” she said.  A fashion show of 26 children from 3-18 years-old, who are in active treatment, modeled in the show, while seven in remission for at least five years, also trotted down the runway.  A massive boutique surrounded the ballroom with 500 donors milling around, prior to an auction.  Jeweler Dan Hufford and Scott Mangus are set to lead a new entity – Young Friends of Kids with Cancer.  BTW – Justin Taylor and Lawson Primm are heading up The Choo Choo Ride Spinning Event with 14 clubs participating and a gala on Jan. 20 at Saks.

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