Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Funny Girl (move over, Barbra)

Photo by Brent Humphreys/Redux,
for The New York Times

I just got around to reading this article in the New York Times Magazine, and I'm impressed all over again with comic Anita Renfroe. The reporter did a great job (with one possible exception, noted below) and Anita really shines in the interview. I'm glad to call her a friend (i.e. someone I knew before she was so famous and who still responds to pretty much all of my e-mails), and equally glad to call her my hero (one of 'em, anyway).

You may know her as the woman in the YouTube video doing the song ("Momsense") based on everything your mother told you and set to the tune of "The William Tell Overture." Which landed her a spot on Good Morning America, and maybe a regular network gig or two. I prefer to remember her as the wise and discerning woman who liked my song when I entered a songwriting contest at the Babbie Mason Music Conference about 10 years ago. You tend to stick with folks like that.

That said, I was a little shocked when I read this part of the article:
"She is round and soft, loves butter, carbs and sugar and worries routinely about her weight." Yep, she worries...nearly any woman would, especially when otherwise sharp reporters describe her as "round and soft." I checked--this was not Anita's line (apparently the reporter was caught up in the spirit of Anita's self-deprecating humor; it happens). For the record, Anita is not round--not even in cross-section. Oval or elliptical, maybe. But as you can see, she's a beauty, and no Lulu Roman by a long shot. Anyway, she's married already, so what difference does it make? (Huh? What? Did I say something wrong? Please. I can make jokes too, y'know. Where're you going, ladies?).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Col. Albert G. Kelly, 1892-1944

(Click to see larger pics at your own pace)

My great uncle, Col. Albert G. Kelly ("Al" to friends and family), was Chief of Staff of the 9th Armored Division from its activation in 1942 until his death in 1944. In my ongoing research of my family history (I've got the bug), I was struck by the irony and poignancy of his story, at least what I've gleaned from a few letters, newspaper clippings and pictures left by his little sister, my grandmother Harriet Raulston Kelly Vaught. She had my mother late in life so the generations go back a ways (just clarifying I'm not quite as old as the relation might imply).

After a career in the U.S. Army beginning in WWI, Uncle Albert's life ended--not in battle...not in a P.O.W. camp...but in his bed. According to his general in a letter to his mom (notice you can use the magnifying glass on the upper right of the linked page to zoom in to the graphic), Albert caught a cold during the trip to to England, and it got worse and worse until it brought on a heart attack on Sept. 19. This was just before his men joined the invasion of Europe, distinguishing themselves quite well, and just before he received an apparently-immminent promotion to Brigadier General. Kind of like Moses, in a way; led his people to the threshold, and could not cross over himself. Moses' sin kept him from progressing; can't say the same about my uncle, but he was a smoker, so in Baptist terms, the analogy is a sound one.

I'm sure Uncle Albert would've been disappointed and possibly ticked off had he known his fate beforehand. (Are you humming that Paul McCartney song yet?). But his contribution to the Allied victory was no less significant, in my eyes or (I'm sure) in the judgment of history (the collective body of knowledge of the past, not the TV channel--though they'd probably agree as well). I admit I'm not the most upfront, gung-ho, bumper-sticker-sporting cheerleader for our military, but I very much appreciate those guys and gals and the job they do, and I'm especially happy to share a name with this guy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Julie Forester at the FQ

I hear Julie has been practicing her "ah-EEE"'s and singing with a Cajun accent for her performance with her band at the French Quarter in Nashville tonight. We'll see if it pays off. Either way, you're sure to have a good time (unless you happen to be a shrimp). And she's definitely easier to look at than Jimmy C. Newman.*

Just click the poster on the left (don't worry, there's more where that link takes you) and listen for yourself.

See you at 6:30.

*(that's an Opry reference, folks; try to keep up).

Monday, May 19, 2008

The dreaded answering machine

This is one of the most painfully hilarious scenes ever put on film. A guy calls a woman he's met earlier that evening (thus breaking the much-discussed standard "two day rule," so he's already living dangerously)...and overthinking sets in.

This clip helps answer a question women so often ask ("why don't men call?") and one that most of my friends and family are too polite (or afraid) to ask me ("why is a great catch like you still single?")*.

*(Except, in my case, for the "six-year relationship" part).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dottie Rambo: "Sheltered" for eternity

photo courtesy of
Aaron Crisler | The Judy Nelon Group

A very sweet, humorous and godly woman reached her final destination early Sunday morning. Dottie Rambo was an amazingly prolific songwriter whose work was recorded by Elvis...well, you could stop right there, but also Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Porter Wagoner and countless others, including her own family gospel group. She was killed in a bus crash during high winds on the way to a gig in Texas, and her fellow passengers were injured.

I cannot claim to be as aware of her as some can, but in the last few years I did grow to have great respect and affection for her. Some of her songs, such as "We Shall Behold Him" and "Behold the Lamb," were favorites of the church choir I sang with in college.

I saw her in person a couple of times here in Nashville. One was at an NSAI Christian writers' retreat, where she cracked everyone up with her commentary between songs as she performed in the round for the attendees. The other was when she was the featured speaker at a very recent NSAI Christian workshop (a monthly meeting). A relative handful of us listened in rapt attention as she shared about her life, sang her songs (inviting us to join her, which we did) and, after the "official" webcast interview was done, took questions. I asked her to share a story from her years of traveling with her group (one that wouldn't damage any reputations or endanger any careers!). Life on the bus is a staple of Southern Gospel life (as are the resulting stories), so it's only fitting, in a way, that she would go out the way she did.

She told how she was the first one awake one morning and got the bus driver to bring her a large dead rattlesnake they saw in the road. She hid it under her armrest and after her groggy traveling companions were up and milling around, she screamed and tossed the snake at them. She said they spoke in many tongues, but not the kind you'd hear at church! (Actually I can't remember her exact final line, but that was the gist of it--call it the "writer's embellished version"). She was, in a word, a hoot.

She had said she was working on a book about her life; I hope she had enough done for her people to release it. She had achieved much, and suffered much; she had quite a story to tell, and was old enough not to have to be so careful how she told it. I look forward to hearing more from her one of these days, one way or another. I expect to laugh. Loudly. And often.