Atlantic City Rocked

Exactly 47 years ago my buddy Mike Williamson and I were in Atlantic City to experience the glorious and highly-underrated three-day Atlantic City Pop Festival.

It took place on August 1, 2, and 3, 1969, and we got there a few days early, hung around the boardwalk, smoked dope, and then decided to find a ride to the racetrack 12 miles away, where the big show was about to begin.

Imagine that. A huge, honkin’ rock and rock extravaganza, one of the greatest in rock and roll history, and one that most have never heard of.

I feel it’s kind of my mission to keep it alive.

I didn’t even bring a sleeping bag for some reason, and slept for a few hours every night for a week on hard ground, with my jean jacket as a lousy pillow. But it didn’t matter. I was there for the music and friends and vibes and chicks and drugs. And Orillians are tough bastards anyway.

Janis Joplin was there, and so was Creedence Clearwater, Santana, Procol Harum, Joe Cocker, Mothers of Invention, Jefferson Airplane, Moody Blues, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, Johnny Winter, and a whack of others. About 30 bands in all, with guitars soaring.

Guitars soaring except for Joni Mitchell, who left crying half-way through her set because no one was listening to her quiet and dignified set.

Skip Prokop of the Toronto-based Paupers told everyone that if they were about to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, they could just come to Canada, where there’s plenty of room.

I met a girl there from Washington D.C. and the plan was for me to go home with her and then on to Woodstock, but it never happened. I was probably too tired and hungry, and most importantly, I had a ride home lined up. She was cute though.

Back in Orillia I began planning on Woodstock, but a night or two before I was going to go, me and four of my  buddies met a guy in the park who was drunk, leaving his wife, and driving to Vancouver the next morning. So that next morning we all piled into his car and went to Vancouver instead.

I missed going to Woodstock, which I feel bad about, but at least I have Atlantic City, with this kick-ass lineup.

Atlantic City

Below: A couple of years ago, one of the guys we got a ride home with, Brad Emmons (that’s him with the cigarette in his mouth), sent me some Atlantic City photos that I didn’t know existed. I’m on the far left, and Mike is next to me with the yellow and black striped shirt.

At 2

Below, taken from behind the stage, B.B. King doing his thing,

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Reusch Checks Out The Lineup

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A big and hearty thanks to Bill for sending Ron Reusch’s look at how the Canadiens stack up this year by position.

It was something I had kinda thought about doing, but you know how lazy I am. And Mr. Reusch does a way better job anyway.

Here’s Ron’s excellent look at the 2016-17 Montreal Canadiens so far – The Reusch Blog

You be the judge on whether or not you feel this is a team that can make a serious dent.

And by the way, the much-respected Reusch, who’s been covering Montreal sports since the 1960s, somehow manages to put out smart and sharp posts on a regular basis and his blog is for sure worth a hard look.

Borrowed from his website is a little bit about this fine fellow.

“Ron Reusch covered sports both nationally and internationally over five decades. (1960s through 2010). Based in Montreal, Ron worked on the English language play-by-play broadcasts of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens and NL’s Montreal Expos.

As a member of the CTV Television Network, Ron covered a variety of including the 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1994 Winter Olympic Games and the 1976, 1984 and 1992 Summer Olympic Games. He also did play-by-play for CTV’s coverage of the first three Canada Cup hockey tournaments (1976, 1981 and 1984) and served as color commentator to Dan Kelly’s play-by-play for the NHL’s 1984–85 and 1985–86 seasons on CTV plus the 1987 Canada Cup. Other CTV assignments included live broadcasts of the Indianapolis 500 (6 times), and the Canadian Grand Prix.

Reusch’s broadcast career started in the B.C. Interior as a broadcaster for the Kamloops Chiefs of the Okanagan Senior Hockey League and then with the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers of the Eastern Professional Hockey League. Reusch moved to Europe in 1962, where, among other things, he covered the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics for American Broadcaster CBS Radio. Reusch returned to Canada and Montreal in 1969 where he began a 39 year association with the Montreal CTV affiliate CFCF. For twenty years he was CFCF Sports Director.”

Reusch

Radulov Enters Habs Universe

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Alexander Radulov is a new Montreal Canadien, for a year at least, which means I think we should hardly ever think about the jerk he once was and concentrate on the fact that he might be a great guy now.

Most importantly, this is a skilled forward, a top six guy like we knew the Canadiens needed, and so a big hole has been filled, adding to my ongoing optimism that the team is now bigger, tougher, and more talented.

I hope that some of the boys from BC, like Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, and Shea Weber, will find it within themselves to bring the Stanley Cup to Powell River next summer.

Radulov, who’ll be 30 on July 5th, made his millions these past few years in the KHL with Ufa Salavat Yulayev and CSKA Moscow. He also certainly knows North America, where his #22 sweater is retired in Quebec after starring for the Remports, scoring 61 goals and 91 assists in just 62 games back in 2005-06, his second and last season with the QMJHL club.

And of course with the Nashville Predators, where not only did he collect 102 points in 154 games, but he also earned a well-deserved spoiled shithead reputation.

Radulov dishonored his Preds contract to bolt to the KHL, and also decided to party with teammate Andrei Kostitsyn until 5 am at a bar in Phoenix, just before game two of their playoff series with the Coyotes in 2012. Who knows what else he did?

But we forget these things now because he’s a Montreal Canadien. Maybe not a Jean Beliveau-type Montreal Canadien, but hopefully a guy who can really make an impact up front.

It’s a new chapter for Radulov, and it’ll be up to him to show that not only is he a great player, but a great guy as well.

P.K. For Weber

PK Weber

The Subbanator is now a Nashville Predator, and big Shea Weber becomes a Montreal Canadien.

A switching of star defencemen. A trade that’ll piss off a lot of Habs fans. And who said Marc Bergevin was afraid to do something big?

Weber’s a stud with a shot that makes goalies consider crocodile wrestling. P.K.’s got a cannon too, but not like Weber, who wins hardest shot competitions and blasts pucks that sometimes remind me of my shot when I played for the Orillia Byers Bulldozers midget all-stars.

Weber, at 6’4″ and 235 lbs, hurts when he hits, and P.K. (6′ 210) – not so much.

Weber’s 30 and PK 27, and while both are Canadian, Weber hails from Sicamous BC, a place surrounded by lakes, streams, birds singing, and tranquility, while PK is from Toronto, where Nazem Kadri and the Leafs slither.

It’s a trade that might see some Habs fans furious at management and even quit watching hockey because they loved PK so much. Of course they’ll get over it, but right now they want to punch somebody in the mouth.

They loved what PK brought to the city, his charisma and charm and humour, and of course his $10 million pledge to Montreal Children’s Hospital. They loved his flashiness and his fancy suits, and certainly his way with the microphone and camera. They didn’t love it when he circled with the puck and fell down, but that won’t be mentioned now.

Would they love it if they knew for sure that P.K.’s teammates were sick of his act, that maybe he just might have been hurting his team in different ways?

Would they mind it if they realized that a Shea Weber personality, the polar opposite of Subban, just might be what this team in turmoil needs, and maybe the fact that winning is more important than a charismatic fellow who was great for his community but rubbed certain people at his job site the wrong way?

Subban wasn’t completely loved and accepted by all Habs fans either, but over the next hours, days, and weeks, we’ll be hearing only from those who feel Bergevin and Geoff Molson should be tarred and feathered and their heads placed in a vice.

Whose camp am I in? I’m looking on the bright side, because who knows how this will all play out. It could be terrific, and I’m all for change.

I liked Subban, but the team sucked last year like it’s never sucked before. They’ve been a small bunch, they ranked middle of the pack in scoring, the power play was pathetic, and if Bergevin had basically sat pat I would’ve been more pissed than this.

Yes, they still need firepower up front, but this is a start. Maybe Weber can help with some of the problems just mentioned. I’m expecting him too.

We’ve got a star defenceman with great size and a mighty fine NHL and Olympic resume, and one who sometimes shoots pucks through the netting. I’m okay with this deal, although it cost a big time quality guy to get him.

Think of the fun we’ll have watching opposing players scatter when the Webernator winds up.

 

 

Convict Kane

In 1967, when I was 16, I told my mother that I was going to Los Angeles. Great things were happening on the Sunset Strip at the time, I really want to be part of it all, and for some reason she said fine.

I’ve wondered about this last part quite a bit over the years.

So with almost no money and a bag of sandwiches, I sat in a seat on a train from Orillia to Vancouver and then caught a bus to the border where the customs guy accused me of running away.

I told him to phone collect to my mother in Orillia and she would confirm that I was simply on my way to LA and not running away, which he did, and shortly after I was on the side of the highway in northern Washington with my thumb stuck out, heading south.

All it took to get to LA was a handful of nights sleeping in ditches and a bunch of rides, including a long and sleepy one with a farmer bringing potatoes from Idaho to either Watsonville or Salinas. We hardly talked the whole time, which was good. I was tired, and I wasn’t all that interested in potatoes.

Closer to LA I got on a bus and sat beside a nice female college student who felt sorry for me, and at some point when the bus stopped at a restaurant, she called her folks in the city to see if I could stay there for a few days. They said no.

From the downtown L.A. bus station I went directly to the Strip which was the scene of not only young people everywhere milling about, but also bands like the Doors and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield playing at Pandora’s Box and all the other cool clubs. None of these bands I saw then, but whatever.

But one night I went to Whisky A Go Go (it’s still there), and saw not only the Youngbloods but also the Paupers, a great Toronto band who would play at the dance hall in my hometown Orillia from time to time. I also thought that maybe I’d meet a nice California girl at the Whisky and possibly get laid, but again, whatever.

I was on the Strip for about a week, staying in various dumps far from the good parts of West Hollywood, and being careful not to be out and about after 10 pm because Sunset was under curfew to those under 18 after huge riots had taken place there less than a year before. They made some sort of movie about this riot, called, aptly enough, “Riots on Sunset Strip”.

But one night, I think after the Youngbloods/Paupers show, I got sloppy, and while walking down the street around midnight, a cop pulled up and asked for ID. He saw that I was only 16, and the next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs that were way too tight, and hauled off to the cop shop.

At the station I asked the cops if they would phone Orillia, just like at the border, and have my folks take care of business. One of them phoned my mother, collect of course, and told her that I was arrested for breaking curfew and would be sent to a juvenile hall the following morning.

At juvenile hall, with big and impressive penitentiary-style walls, I turned over my clothes and wallet, which was all I had, and put on my new prison clothes. Then I was taken to a dormitory, given a bed and blankets, told the rules, and settled in.

It all kind of sucked of course, because I didn’t know how long I’d be there. Myself and a bunch of guys who were there for better reasons than breaking curfew, played cards and baseball, and I even had to take classes in a school room where I learned almost nothing about American history.

Then one morning, after about seven days, I was eating breakfast in the big hall when I heard my name called, and an official told me my parents had sent a plane ticket and I was leaving right away. So I left breakfast, got my clothes and wallet back, and was escorted to not only the airport, but right to my seat on the plane. They took curfew breakers seriously back then.

I got to Toronto, grabbed a bus to Orillia, and the first thing my mother said to me was that they weren’t mad, although they probably weren’t thrilled about having to buy a plane ticket because they were pretty broke I think.

I told a friend of mine who’s an LA cop about this a few years ago and he said that nowadays there’s no way they’d put a kid in juvenile for such a minor thing as curfew breaking. There’s way too many real criminals, and I’d just be taking up space.

Which is what I kinda thought at the time.

June 16 1967 – Monterey International Pop Festival, Monterey, California
July 14 1967 – Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood with The Youngbloods

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R.I.P. Gordie

Howe and Rocket

When I was a kid in the schoolyard, the conversation with my buddies would go something like this:

Rocket’s better.
Nope, Howe’s better.
No way. Rocket’s better.
Howe’s better.
Take off, hoser.
No you take off.
Shut up and your mother wears army boots. (Or words to that effect).

That’s what it was. Always the same thing. Rocket and Howe. Two completely different players, but Howe was the enemy and Rocket was my hero, so I won. And I’ve  known now for years that Howe was the better all-round player, but I didn’t then and I wouldn’t have admitted it even if I did.

In the 1990s I had breakfast with the legendary goalie Glenn Hall, who was in Powell River for the Allan Cup. Glenn was a teammate of Gordie’s in the 1950s with Detroit, and played against him while with Chicago and St. Louis.

Glenn had also faced the Rocket and Orr during his Hall of Fame career, and because he lived near Edmonton and still involved in hockey in various ways, was as familiar with Wayne Gretzky as practically anyone.

I asked who he thought was the greatest ever and he didn’t hesitate. Howe, he answered, because he could do it all, and the others couldn’t.

I didn’t tell Glenn his mother wore army boots.

But Howe could do it all. His wrist shot was something to behold, his passes pinpoint, his deft scoring touch like few others, his unequaled on-ice intelligence, the unparalleled respect he rightfully earned from other players.

And tough? You want tough?

My friend and former co-worker Gilles Gratton was a backup goalie during the 1974 WHA Canada-Russia Summit Series, and he told me about the time Gordie’s son Mark was leveled by a Soviet defenceman in dastardly fashion, so much so that an unsteady Mark initially skated to the wrong bench and had to be steered to the right one by Soviet players.

Not long after, Gordie just happened to skate by the player who nailed Mark, and the guy just happened to end up with a broken arm and was gone for the series.

You didn’t mess with Gordie or his kin.

Players in the NHL, WHA, or Russia didn’t go in the corners with Gordie. They timidly poked their sticks at the puck and then got the hell out of there before one of those famous elbows crushed their faces.

He did it all, legally or not. There was absolutely no one like him.

Several years ago Howe came to Powell River for an autograph signing and the prices charged for his signature were incredibly outlandish. Way higher than normal, maybe because Powell River is fairly isolated.

I was astonished at these abnormal prices and I wrote a column about it for the local newspaper in which I wasn’t very nice, coming down hard on him and the grocery store where the signing was held.

I regret that I did that. Extraordinary prices or not (and they were), this was a fine and friendly fellow, a legendary man, possibly the greatest hockey player to ever play the game,  and he was there trying to make a buck. What an asshole I can be sometimes.

Now he’s gone and it’s a sad day for me and you and millions of others. I can almost hear angels in heaven’s schoolyard: “Rocket’s better”. “No, Howe’s better.” “Take off, hoser”.

Gordie & Rocket

More To The Roy And Brian Spencer Story

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A new email adds greatly to an old story.

In 2008 I wrote about former NHLer Brian Spencer and the tragic events surrounding his dad when CBC decided to air a Vancouver-Oakland game instead of the Leafs and Chicago, which was Brian’s first NHL game.

Brian’s dad, Roy, furious at not being able to see his son in this huge moment in time, decided to bring a rifle to the local TV station, where he would be gunned down by the RCMP.

You can see the full story here – The Sad Story of Roy Spencer and his son Brian.

Today I received an email from a woman named Carole Fawcett who was working at the TV station when Roy Spencer burst in, and I appreciate very much her taking the time to describe those horrific events.

Here’s her email:

Hello

I was at the actual event in Prince George, where I worked for CKPG Radio and Television. Just wanted to clarify a few details about the Roy Spencer incident.
He had actually been calling the station all day asking where the game was going to be showed. He was very abrasive and rude I remember being told. He came to the station that night, and once in the door, lunged toward me (I was at the reception desk), wrenched the phone from my hands, banging it against my face in the process. Then he went further into the station. Fast forward to the TV studio where he had us all lined up with his gun pointed toward us and told the TV Switcher to shut down the TV which he did – so all people watching in Prince George would have had their TV’s go black. He told us he had killed (said he was a commando in the war) and would do so again and that we were NOT to put the TV back on the air. He threatened one of the staff members and then subsequently all of us. Unbeknownst to him, Fiori D’Andrea had managed to call the police before he got to the television studio. So, when he went outdoors, the RCMP said – “Halt – or we will shoot”……………and he ended up wounding three RCMP officers. He was killed in the process. He was suffering from serious mental health issues…………………..and his ability to be rational was long gone.

Of course in those days there was no help for staff and we were expected to be back at work the next day.

Just thought you may want some details from someone who was there.

Carole Fawcett, MPCC, CHt
Master Practitioner in Clinical Counselling
Clinical Hypnotherapist

Perry And The Old Boys

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Habs greats Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, Claude Provost and Jean Beliveau show their hipness as they pose with legendary crooner Perry Como.

For those of you who are too young or just not up on your music history, Perry Como went from being a barber to an international singing sensation in the 1940s and ’50s mostly. He was as relaxing as they come. So relaxing that I’m falling asleep just talking about him.

SCTV did a really funny bit on Como where he (played by Eugene Levy), sang while in bed and on the couch and chair, which you can see below.

My mother and father liked him, he was definitely a big talent, but I preferred a bit more up-tempo stuff. Heck, almost anything was livelier than Perry’s music. Elevator music is heavy metal compared to him.

But these Habs legends seemed like they liked him. And I’ll even go as far as saying that the Pocket, Moore, Provost and Beliveau might have even made out with their wives sometimes to Perry Como’s soothing voice.

Clay And Liston In The Kitchen

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My mother and I had this special time when we’d listen to the radio together in the kitchen. I miss that.

We listened to music and the news and even the odd earth-shattering thing, like that morning when we heard about four fellows in Liverpool who wore their hair down on their foreheads, and who could sometimes sing high notes like women. The announcer, on Orillia’s CFOR, then played a record, and suddenly the Beatles were now in our lives.

We listened to something else pretty darn big too. The two Cassius Clay – Sonny Liston fights, when Clay was young and over the top motor-mouthed, and who was probably going to be smashed to smithereens by the big, strong ex-con Liston.

Liston was mean, powerful, and the World Champ, and he looked like he’d done his share of dumping bodies into deep lakes. Clay was gonna be in big trouble, like the Russians would be in the 1972 Summit Series.

I suppose it was Howard Cosell telling us through the radio that Clay was quick, how he danced and confused the big thug, and we realized that the young fighter was basically putting his money where his mouth was. It was a huge surprise.

Just like that, the young fellow who bragged, “After the fight I’m gonna build myself a pretty home and use him (Liston) as a bearskin,” had skinned the big bear, like he said he would, in February of 1964, the same month the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show.

A year later, in the rematch, with mom and I back at the radio, Liston refused to come out of his corner in the first round after the phantom punch, when he may or may not have been tagged by Clay and which kept him in the corner, and which officially made the guy a bum and Clay a hero.

Two big fights, the legend of Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali was born, and now it’s sad to hear of his passing. He was larger than life, a great boxer, a great man.

But it’s also bittersweet to hear this news. Because remembering the kitchen table with my mom and the radio makes me happy.

 

 

 

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