The Jolson Story Again and Again

When my sister, Jan and I were visiting our Mom in Seattle, we delighted all of us by putting The Jolsen Story in the VCR. Mom has a big plasman screen TV, and stereo headphones — she was smiling ear to ear for the duration of the flick, and so were Jan and I.  We have always loved Jolson, and whenever I feel homesick, or lonely or depressed or nostalgic, I’ll put on Jolson. Well, they had The Jolson Story at the corner video store so, naturally, I rented it and have been half-watching/all-listening as I write Stealth (almost done, and pre-deadline).  As the warm up act today is the Kevin Spacey Bobby Darin bio-pic.  Don’t know if it is any more accurate than Jolson’s but I did notice they left out his early folk years (not folk rock) in the era of the Chad Mitchell Trio when Roger McGuinn (later of the Byrds) was backing him on banjo. The pic gives the impression he went from rock to lounge. Who cares? I wonder if there was a novelization of the screenplay. The film is rather artsy-fartsy, and Spacey doesn’t lip sync to Darin’s originals — he sings the tunes himself. Not bad, but not Bobby Darin, That’s All.


You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!


Long Island

Jolson Festival

Saturday, August 27


9:30 a.m.


4:30 p.m.

Knights of


2985 Kenneth Place


Long Island



(just 35 minutes from NYC Penn Station


Long Island

Railroad to


Station, L.I.)


Tony Babino "The Heart of Al Jolson"

accompanied by the piano artistry of Dave Gross


also scheduled to appear

Radio Personality Joe Franklin

Janet Cantor Gari – the daughter of Eddie Cantor

Brian Gari – the grandson of Eddie Cantor

Richard Halpern – Mr. Tin Pan Alley

John Kenrick (Mr.


FESTIVAL PROGRAM Registration, Muffins, Coffee & Tea

9:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Welcome by Jan Hernstat

10:00 – 10:30 a.m.

John Kenrick (Mr.

will show a multimedia

presentation on Al Jolson

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Society Auction (please bring items)

11:30 – 12:30 p.m.

Lunch Buffet

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

The Heart of Al Jolson – Tony Babino

1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

Special Video Presentation

3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Please bring your Jolson items for the auction.

The Lunch Buffet includes a Salad and

Chicken Parmigiana, Sliced London Broil (beef),

Penne a la Vodka (pasta), Southern Fried Chicken,

Dessert and coffee.


Myra Svelte, Jewish Mother to the World, struck another blow
for lox, eggs, and the American way. Our plucky heroine, outraged by hunger and
propelled by power from Saturn voyaged from Sherman Oaks to Culver City to Cuba,
drop-kicking terrorist hunger pangs and anti-Semitic absence of nutrients at
every mile. Yes, armed with the best
intentions and a Scripto lighter, Myra retained her victorious attitude despite one door after another being locked in
her face – restaurateurs turning her away, claiming  closures as their rationale. Undaunted, Myrawound her way through the serpentine surface streets until, by use of her wits
and wiles, she gained entrance to Izzy’s Deli on Wilshire. It was there, in
this mock-Kosher environment, (melted ham and cheese in a deli?) she
successfully consumed scrambled eggs and lox while Burl Barer, Brilliant
Author, stuffed his puffy face with Rabbi Reuben’s Reuben Sandwich.

It was dark and dangerous on the side streets of Santa Monica when Svelte tossed Barer to the curb, arming
him with a frozen rib-eye steak. “Watch your step, Barer,” she intoned. “The
world is crawling with genetic-mutant gentiles who, Zombie like in their
adherence to the blood-libel myth, would eat you and your little dog too!”

With that, she popped the non-existent clutch on her
automatic transmission, and careened off down Ocean Park Blvd. howling wildly out her Saturn’s recently installed moon-roof.


Okay, I took some creative liberties with the story. We were both hungry, it only took us 45
minutes to find an open restaurant, and we stuffed ourselves. There was no
mention of genetic-mutant Zombies (except my view of those who trust Fox News to
actually be news, not propaganda worthy of the old   USSR).

I wore a wig to David Zarkin’s wedding

Reading a recent comment from David Zarkin reminded me that I almost lost consciousness during his wedding due to the fact that my wig was too tight.  Okay, i admit this is another absurd but true story torn from the pages of my family's real life — a life as unreal as real life really is..really.

David was getting  married in St.Paul in the summertime when the humidity was 2000%. This meant we landed underwater at the airport, picked up our luggage in scuba gear, and wore flippers to slog our way to baggage claim. Did i mention we were perspiring? The men did, anyway. The women "glowed."

I was honored to participate in the wedding party  (no, not as Ring Barer) but as the family of the bride was not emotionally prepared to encounter a counter-culture rock n roll DJ whose hair looked as if on rental from Tina Turner, David's sister and her hubby suggested I buy a wig and stuff my long hair up underneath it. Brilliant idea! The three of us trotted off to a wig shop in Seattle at the last minute prior to flying off to St. Paul, and I purchased the only wig they had that was "man hair' and sort-of fit. Sort of, in terms of blood flow to the scalp and brain, is not sufficient. My wig was too tight, the blood flow stopped at the elastic cutting into the top of my forehead. By the time David slipped the ring on his bride's finger, I was ready to slip into unconsciousness and flop on the floor like a grounded flounder. Somewhere there is a lovely picture of the wedding party — including Burl Barer wearing a short hair wig, smiling through a migraine fog. When the wedding reception began, I was rescued by a pair of nail scissors — we cut the elastic, my brain once again had blood flow, and I had a delightful time devouring the refreshments and dancing with a cousin of the bride. My sideburns, which were real, were not the exact same color as the wig. A waitress at the reception said to me, "I've never seen a man wear paste-on sideburns before!"  Sheeeeesh!

"No," I explained, "the sideburns are real, it's the hair that is pasted on!"   tsk tsk…she was very sympathetic that a man as young as I would already be so severely bald. "Well, it happens you know, but as you can see, I have remarkable stamina and virility despite the hair loss." That didn't earn me any points with either the waitress or the dancing cousin. This event was the highlight of my one visit to St Paul. The #2 highlight was the tour of the Betty Crocker Kitchens, a pop culture event no longer available to the general public, most likely due to recent restrictions imposed on Americans by  "Fatherland Security" and the Patriot Act.


I signed up for Yahoo Personals, figuring its a good way to meet emotionally disturbed individuals who have no more real life than I do. Yahoo keeps sending me “YOUR LATEST MATCHES!” Will someone please explain why all these women enjoy long walks on the beach? When? Midnight? In the middle of the day when there are 8,000 dogs and teens on roller blades? And why is it a long walk? Where the hell are they going? Can’t they take a cab? I don’t want a long walk on the beach. Not only do i get sand in my shoes, but trudging through sand makes any destination seem twice as far and three times as inconvenient. These same woman want to curl up by a roaring fire. Fine — move to Malibu in August. Plus they all have friends of dubious veracity. “My friends tell me I’m cute.” No they don’t. Real friends don’t say that, they say “Hey, lose twenty pounds, shave your back, brush your teeth, get sensible shoes, or invest in a designer blindfolds. I have met some really cool people on Yahoo Personals — they are cool because they respond to my messages, when most people not only observe strict silence, but remove their profile from the site entirely. A very nice lady told me that she was a life coach. She has nice eyes. Does that make her a coach potato? There is also a problem with names — everyone has the same name. There are five thousand Susans on Yahoo Personals, and that’s just in the Santa Monica/Venice area. Life is difficult enough without remembering which person is Myra, Marsha, Mishna, or Mushka. Yahoo also needs to refine their match criteria. First of all, someone whose hobby is fascism is not going to ring my bell, nor is someone who thinks the minimum wage should be $2.50 an hour, and regards the Bill of Rights is “quaint but archaic.” amd bemoans the International Zionist Banking Media Conspiracy. Thankfully, I beat the odds on Yahoo Personals. Ive met three Susans,but I can keep them straight in my mind as one is British, another has red hair and is a writer who knows my nephew, and the third is the fun loving lady who often makes commentary here on this site. I still get confused between Marsha and Marushka, but there is only one Noba, one Rama, and one winner of Best Profile by a Woman who puts on lipstick to answer the telephone.” The woman who described herself as buxom and Rubinesque never respnded after I asked her to describe the difference between her ass and a Greyhound Bus, aside from the license tabs. OK, i’m no bargain either — I am ready to be carbon dated, and there are times when my visible means of support rank up there with Popo the Puppet’s. Now, if you will excuse me, I must go for a long walk through a raging fire on the beach.

On the Sony Lot

A surprise phone call from the nice folks at Sony Entertaiment — I was invited to see STEALTH while the director supervised the addition of new sound effects to the stellar action sequences. We had a brief chat about devising sub-plots for the novel,  and we  were surprised to discover that we had independently created the same new character who was not in the original screenplay — yes, the SAME CHARACTER for the same dramatic purpose. As the director said, "proof positive that great minds think alike."
I moved today from one end of Santa Monica to the other — if there are ends to Santa Monica. I was by the pier, now I’m not. Happily, this move was paid for by a co-owner of both hotels who did it simply to make my life easier! I have more room, full time DSL internet connection, and a dog run for Isis. What motivated him to do this? Well, it turns out he also had a surprise heart attack a year or so ago, and just thought it would reduce my stress level to be in this new location. Isn’t that nice of him?  His real career is original music for television and films, having composed title tunes for many well known shows — including the infamous Howard Stern. Check out his site:


Well, I can’t say I’m thrilled to be leaving Seattle, but I really should get back to Santa Monica. One reason is that my doggie has been in the Kennel since May 15th. If she stays there much longer, I could buy a used car for the price of bailing her out.  Plus, I’ve been paying rent on my room in Santa Monica. I’m sure my clothing appreciates it. It has been wonderful being in Seattle, staying with my brother and his wife, eating his food, using his computer, watching his TV, driving his car…(remind me to NOT buy a Range Rover– too many design flaws.) I have seen my son almost everday, and visited my Mom several times. My daughter came up from Portland and visited me, too. The weather has been incredible, and we have had no earthquakes.
Yes, it will be culture shock on Wednesday when I return to L.A, but sooner or later I had to go back. I am already hard at work on STEALTH, and I’ve got some other projects cookin’ in L.A. as well.  The nice thing is, I know I’m welcome to come back — and Southwest has some nice, cheap tickets with two weeks advance notice.
So, Tuesday I pack it all up — Wednesday I arrive back at LAX.
Please, don’t greet me with an earthquake!!

Laughter & The Heart

If I seem a bit pre-occupied with heart attack issues, it’s only because I had one.  This recent feature, sent to me by Risa, is good for a laugh.

Laughter is the "Best Medicine" for Your Heart

By Michelle Weinstein
University of Maryland Medical System Web Site Writer

Can a laugh every day keep the heart attack away? Maybe so.

Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a recent study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. The study, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.

"The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart," says Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We don’t know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack."

In the study, researchers compared the humor responses of 300 people. Half of the participants had either suffered a heart attack or undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The other 150 did not have heart disease. One questionnaire had a series of multiple-choice answers to find out how much or how little people laughed in certain situations, and the second one used true or false answers to measure anger and hostility.

Miller said that the most significant study finding was that "people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations." They generally laughed less, even in positive situations, and they displayed more anger and hostility.

"The ability to laugh — either naturally or as learned behavior — may have important implications in societies such as the U.S. where heart disease remains the number one killer," says Miller. "We know that exercising, not smoking and eating foods low in saturated fat will reduce the risk of heart disease. Perhaps regular, hearty laughter should be added to the list."

Miller says it may be possible to incorporate laughter into our daily activities, just as we do with other heart-healthy activities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. "We could perhaps read something humorous or watch a funny video and try to find ways to take ourselves less seriously," Miller says. "The recommendation for a healthy heart may one day be exercise, eat right and laugh a few times a day."

In addition to helping your heart, laughter offers other important health benefits. "People become healthier from laughter," observes Judy Goldblum-Carlton, a humor therapist at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children’s Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. "It improves circulation. When you laugh heartily, every organ is being massaged including your heart, lungs and digestive system. Headaches can just go away. When you laugh the endorphins released make you feel this elation. It makes those big decisions seem so much less important."

"A Southern Baptist, a Moslem, and a Mormon walk into a bar.  Bartender looks up and says, "What is this, some kind of a joke?"


The first person in my immediate family to become a published author was my sister, Janice. The book, THE STATUE OF LIBERTY IS CRACKING UP, was a clever compendium of observations, advice and one-liners about failed marriages, and recovering from them. The book had a schizophrenic voice — two women of vastly different styles sharing the same binding in a book about broken bonds. Jan’s material was clever and quirky; her co-author’s  material, while well written, tended toward the mean-sprited and resentful. In retrospect, I think Jan’s wit and wisdom, appropriately packaged and promoted  could have produced one of those "forever in print" self-help standards of the industry — the kind of book that never goes away, elevating the author to Dr. Phil status as some sort of pop culture icon of advice.  Too bad it didn’t happen that way. Yet, my sister has managed to share inspiration and encouragement to many people over the past several decades via her newspaper features, and more recently on her Curran Events blog on-line.  Sometimes, a few good words at the right time can make a major difference in someone’s life. I know for a fact that my sister’s efforts to help others deal with Lupus, chemo, and other challenges have been of significant value. I  get Christmas cards every year from a friend who credits Janice’s supportive encouragement, shared years ago, with helping save her life. There is an old expression: "If you save one person, it is as if you have saved all mankind."  So, maybe her first and only book didn’t become a best seller, but the author’s dream of having a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others became a reality, and that’s worth more than any royalty check. Besides, Janice becoming a published author assuredly contributed to the "writer mindset" manifested in her offspring. There are no "pre-published" authors in the family.  Download jans_book.jpg

Oh, please start learning Japanese. My forthcoming book, STEALTH will be released October, 2005 in Japan. I’m writing it in English; it will be translated into Japanese and released to coincide with the debut of the film of the same name.  Sadly, the American audience will be denied the joy of reading Burl Barer’s STEALTH — unless they read Japanese. So, start learning!


"Batman Begins" is a big budget, big action, big fun re-telling of the Batman origin story — how Bruce Wayne becomes THE BATMAN!  The events in the film take place prior to the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson face-off , and there is a delightful anticipatory reference to that film similar to the "Silence of the Lambs" set-up at the end of "Red Dragon."  The only problem I had with Batman Begins is that the actor who plays Bruce Wayne looks like George Bush!!! He does, honest. Look at the mouth. It’s creepy. Everytime Batman would get all Batmanian and intone his neurotic fear-based ramblings, I kept hearing George Bush saying "I’m a war president. I wake up everyday thinking about war."  Now we’re talking about something really batty!

Michael Caine, who plays Alfred the butler, once again steals every scene. Gene Hackman and he share the commonality of being better than most of the films in which they appear.  Have Caine and Hackman ever co-starred in a film together?  Caine, despite his age and perhaps being not that familiar to the younger movie goers, was the only character to get cheers and applause from the audience during the packed screening I attended last night. No cheers for the car, the batsuit, etc – but for Michael Caine.

The following picture has nothing to do with Batman, but it does have to do with George W. Bush, our current President of the United States. I have never met the fellow, and I stay aloof from partisan politics as it is divisive. I must admit, however, that I found this amusing:

Download BushTime.jpg