Saturday, January 14, 2006

Guest Blogger: Spike Manton

Spike Manton is a stand up comedian, a sports radio host (formerly of "The Spike & Harry Show" on AM 1000 in Chicago), a radio sidekick/comedian (formerly with "The Steve Dahl Show" on WCKG), a radio host (formerly co-host of "The Morning Loop Guys" on WLUP), and a playwright (co-writer of the award-winning play "Leaving Iowa"). For more info about his play, check out

He's also a big Bears fan. But I'll let him tell you the rest of the story...

"Defending the Couchfan"

I am absolutely out of my head excited about the Bears game this weekend. My 9 year old son, Mickey, and my 7 year old daughter Samantha have been making plans all week about the game. Alright, mostly Mickey, but we’re bringing Samantha along as fast as we can. We are Bears fans in our house. At least, I thought we were.

But according to conversations I had and overheard ad nauseum this week, I am not actually a Bears fan at all because I won’t be at the game. This is a sentiment that seems to rear its misdirected head whenever the “Big Game” is upon us. It is a time when true fandom is only measured by how much you have paid for your seat, or how naked you are willing to be in 10 degree weather. Now, I’m not attacking the faithful that go to the game. Well, yes I am. But, I consider it more of a counterattack, a defensive assault on behalf of everyone rational, passionate Bears fan who might enjoy the camaraderie of his family and friends at room temperature, with $6 six packs instead of $6 beers and a padded recliner over near-concrete, frozen ass holders.

Allow me to tell you loud and clear, I will be on my couch, wearing a shirt (in spite of the balmy 70 degree temperature in my living room) watching the Bears game the only way you really can watch any football game – ON TV! I’ll be home, cultivating two future Bears’ fans, cheering, yelling and thoroughly enjoying the game in the comfort of my own home.

Now if you are simple enough to attack my preference for watching on TV, let me make some brutally obvious points that standing shirtless in 10 degree temperatures have left too many incapable of grasping. I see the game and you don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I get calls from friends on the way home from a game asking me “what happened on that play?” I tell them of course, because I was able to hear, watch and absorb every second of the action while they were trying to find a bathroom and a beverage. I would personally be too embarrassed as a “real fan” to call a lowly TV viewer for information. On the other hand, you might ask, if I actually saw more of the game, then who is the real fan?

Beyond all the logic and contradictions is the most unmistakable point. We, the TV people, have completely changed the game you are watching in your overpriced, not near a bathroom seat. We see the game so well on TV, that instant replay is now football law. After 30 years of yelling at the TV, “If I can see that, why can’t you?” the NFL caught on and made it the rule. I enjoy replay challenges more than anyone I know, because it is like a 2 minute jury verdict every time, where the official comes to midfield and says, “Again, we thank TV viewers for finally sharing with us their superior view of the game – thanks”

If you are one of the chosen who attend games, but don’t actually think you are the chosen ones, then I wish I could buy you that first overpriced beverage. But I won’t be there to do that, so I’ll make this offer. Call me after the game if you need to know what happened.

Rick's Note: A man can dream, can't he?

If you'd like to contact one of our guest bloggers, click on 'comments' below this post. That will e-mail it to me, and I will forward the e-mail to the guest blogger. (You can also e-mail me by clicking the e-mail me link on the right.) If you have a question for the guest blogger, I'll badger them for you until they respond.

Remember: All comments are welcome and encouraged (and all of them are read by me). I periodically post the best/funniest comments in seperate posts. Unlike other blogs they won't appear in the comments section--because I find that more people read the comments when they are part of a post.

Friday, January 13, 2006

This Week News & Views (Jan 8-13)

This Week

News & Views

*Friday the 13th
Today is Friday the 13th. Why is this supposedly such bad luck? Most people think this goes back to the Last Supper when Christ and his apostles numbered thirteen. Less than 24 hours later he was crucified. If memory serves, it was on a Friday.
=Call me superstitious, but I’m not messing with that one.

Top 3 Political stories of the week.*
(*An equal opportunity offender)

1. Samual Alito Confirmation Hearings
WASHINGTON--The hearings for Associate Supreme Court Justice Nominee Samuel Alito were held this week.
=I know this just shows how odd I am, but every time Alito said "Stare Decisis" (pronounced Starry Dee Sisis) I thought--"Great Radio Name". Come to think of it, it's an even better Exotic Dancer name.
=Everybody is talking about Alito's wife being driven to tears, but there was an even more memorable moment if you ask me. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that Alito had "special shoes" to fill if he replaces Sandra Day O'Connor. The camera cut to Alito and he raised his eyebrows and smiled. Apparently he had no idea how exotic the perks were.

2. Ted Kennedy's children's book
BOSTON (AP) Senator Ted Kennedy and his Portuguese Water Dog, Splash, have co-written a book called "My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington D.C." The book is due to be released in May.
=Ted Kennedy has a dog named "Splash?" Now that's a wacky sense of humor.
=He also has a fish named "Mary Jo"
=I wasn't there for the birth because he didn't call anyone for eight hours, but you should see his cute litter of kittens..."Ick," "Quid," and "Chappa." I'm not sure about the birth order.

3. Bush calls for an end to irresponsible debate about the war
WASHINGTON-- President George W. Bush has made several speeches over the past week in attempt to frame the debate about the Iraq war. He said he "welcomes debate", but that "the American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate."
=Harry Belafonte--He's talking about you.
=The President did actually identify irresponsible debate: "anyone who says we lied, anyone who says we went for oil, and anyone who says we went for Israel is providing comfort to the terrorists." According to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, that's approximately 54% of America. That's a hell of a sleeper cell.
(Note to Feds: That was a joke.)

Every Picture Tells a Story

*I love Mug Shots
The website put out it's list of top 2005 mugshots this weekend. Check out the full list at the link above, but here are my favorites. See if you can identify them...
=The two woman above are the cheerleaders who were arrested in the bathroom stall...together. I include them because they were with the Carolina Panthers; this weekend's Chicago Bears opponent. You know the smiling guy below. I included him because he was in the news this week, announcing that he would not seek to get his old job back. The number #1 mug shot on their list is the guy with the paint on his face. He was arrested for stealing spray paint, and then inhaling the fumes from paint cans. That's got to be one of my all-time favorite pictures. Do you think he was guilty?

*Chicago called fattest city in America
Men's Fitness magazine has ranked Chicago as the fattest city in America, based on our love of television and lack of exercise. The magazine said that Chicago has the worst workout environment in the country.
=That's why I don't work out. The environment stinks. Really honey, look, this magazine agrees.

=As a Chicagoan, I do have one request: Please ask George Wendt, Dennis Franz, and Jeff Garlin to stop bragging about their Chicago roots. It's starting to take a toll on our rep.

=By the way, Baltimore was chosen as the fittest city in America by the same magazine. No doubt this is due to the svelte frame of Baltimore Sun columnist Jack Germond.

Other Stories you might have missed

*Inventor of LSD celebrates 100th birthday
GENEVA, Switzerland (AP)- Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman, who discovered the mind-altering drug LSD and was its first human guinea pig, celebrated his centenary Wednesday — in good health and with plans to attend an international seminar on the hallucinogenic.
=That seminar will be the first international seminar illuminated exclusively by black light.
=His children; Rainbow (75), I.C. Spots (70), and Microbus (69), sent their best wishes from Haight Asbury in San Francisco.

*Marcus Vick arrested
SUFFOLK, Virginia--Marcus Vick, the quarterback for Virginia Tech booted off the team this week for his behavior on and off the field, was charged with pulling a gun on three teenagers during an altercation in a restaurant parking lot. Vick has announced he is turning pro and will enter the NFL draft.
=Who would draft a guy who was kicked off his college team, intentionally tried to injure a player in a game, and has been arrested multiple times?
=He was "packing" heat, right? I say Green Bay takes him.
=One team that definitely won't take him? Saints.

*Mouse pays man back for tossing him out
FORT SUMNER, N.M--Luciano Mares, of Fort Sumner, caught a mouse inside his house and wanted to get rid of it. "I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house." The home and everything inside it was destroyed by fire.
=I believe this is what John Lennon called "Instant Karma."
=The mouse was heard singing this song:
"M-I-C. See me run away. K-E-Y. Why? So I can burn your...H-O-U-S-E."

*Movie Review
=I don't like doing movie reviews because I see so few of them, but if you get a chance, you simply have to see this one. It's powerful.

Reader Response

Regarding last week's 'This Week' rundown
"As Johnny Carson said--Good stuff. Keep this up and you should have your own column"
"Very funny. I laughed out loud while reading your blog (especially about Clinton and The Who) and had to explain it to my seatmate."
"Awesome. I know how hard this is to do. I even made you my home page, but, c'mon: Ice Cold Germans? Are there any other kind?"

Regarding Dave Stern's guest blog about dads of newborns.
"Awaiting the arrival of my third son I got thirsty and left the room for a diet Coke. The soda machine was nowhere near the delivery room so it took some time to get back to the room. By the time I returned , my 10 pound son was already on his way out. Hey I was thirsty!"

Regarding Sunday's post: The Santa Threat

"I loved the Santa article. I still use the Santa threat--but they aren't buying."

Regarding Suburban Man

You know you're a suburban guy when:
=You own a grill and a complete set of matching grill tools
=You can debate the finer points of 10-10-10 versus 5-10-5 fertilizer (or even have an inkling what those numbers mean)
=You not only know what they're talking about on the traffic report, but actually listen
=Just thinking about parallel parking makes you break into a cold sweat
=You've actually comparison shopped for patio furniture
=A trip on the subway is an excursion for your kids, not transportation
=You can't remember the last time you haled a cab without a phone

"I look forward to your goofy/off beat humor every morning, but my favorite so far was your contest winning poem."
"Good Content. Your son's favorite joke (Monday's post) is a keeper."
"I've got you bookmarked and plan to check it out regularly"
"You are a sick, twisted weirdo. Then again, I like sick, twisted weirdos."

This Week in Severance

*I just got back notes from my editor regarding six of the chapters in my upcoming satirical novel about the media business ("Severance"). It's getting there; almost no changes this time. Although any similarity to actual persons is strictly coincidental, people who have read the chapters I'm working on this week think that Rush Limbaugh and Dan Rather won't be pleased. I have no idea why.

*Every week I'll provide links to articles that explain the current (sad) situation of the media. That, after all, is the inspiration for my novel.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

From the Archives: Elvis

This week marks the 71st anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. You've probably seen a story or two celebrating the life of the King of Rock and Roll.

"From the Archives" has a different way of celebrating. Instead of celebrating what he did in life, "From the Archives" will celebrate his birth week by remembering the day his peaceful rest was disturbed. The year was 1994. Witnesses near Elvis' grave at Graceland said they heard "spinning" noises the day Michael Jackson announced he had married Elvis' girl Lisa Marie.

During that time, John Landecker and I imagined what the King might have been saying as he spun round and round. The following lyrics accompany the tune “Burning Love,” and John performed this as Elvis (in full costume) for the first couple of Landecker & Legends tours.

(Warning: Content is rated PG)

“Use Your Glove”*

Lord almighty, Lisa Marie’s so surprisin’,
Just like Priscilla, she gave her old man the heave ho,
But girl, girl, girl, this new husband that you’ve acquired,
Is a llama owning, crotch grabbing, monkey loving, scary freak show,
So tonight when it’s time to retire,
And he’s wearing your dress he admired,
Say not tonight, Michael I’m tired.
Use your glove

Ooh ooh ooh, Michael is so mesmerizing,
He plays with the kids and pretends to be Frankenstein,
He comforts them when it’s raining and the sun ain’t shining,
That’s OK—as long as they ain’t no kin of mine,

So tonight when it’s time to retire,
Surround the kids with barb wire,
Put a damper on his desire,
Spurn his love.

Lisa Marie babe, listen here to your daddy,
Put the rights to my songs in a safe and throw the key away,
Daddy’s motto was ‘Takin’ Care of Bizness’
But I never did no business with a man that change his face every day.

So tonight when it’s time to retire,
And he’s wearing your dress he admired,
Say not tonight, Michael I’m tired.
Use your glove.

*This song also appeared on “Landecker & the Legends, Volume 1.” (One of the six CDs we released to benefit Lambs Farm in Libertyville). Last summer the band reunited to do a few gigs (setting an attendance record in Arlington Heights). Check out the website of The Legends at That website will also list the upcoming concert dates for Landecker & The Legends, if they decide to do some more shows this year.

*A week from Saturday John will join the blog as my guest blogger.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Bald Minute: Bald Rage

THE BALD MINUTE by Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

"Bald Rage"

In her book “On Death & Dying,” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of grieving; Denial & Isolation, Anger & Rage, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. The bald or balding male goes through the same stages while grieving for his hair loss, but no-one recognizes or acknowledges that pain. Until now.

In our upcoming book, “The Bald Handbook,” co-author Dave Stern (bald) and I (balding) leave no bald stone unturned as we look at each stage closely and help the balding male cope with his painful reality. Until the book comes out, this blog will present nuggets and pearls of wisdom from the book in short weekly segments, we call…”The Bald Minute.” (This feature is available for radio syndication. Click on the e-mail link on the right to inquire.)

R: Welcome to another episode of “The Bald Minute.” Today’s Bald Minute subject?

D: Bald Rage

R: Often, a bald man suffering through the second stage of grieving for his hair loss--

D: Anger & Rage--

R: …experiences sudden bursts of uncontrollable anger. Often the trigger for his rage can be something as simple as hearing a certain type of music.

D: For instance, Hair Bands. That’s one that really rubs it in our face, don’t you think?

R: But what can a Stage 2 bald man do about it, Dave?

D: Well, for one thing, it’s perfectly OK to hate all members of all hair bands during Stage 2.

R: Ratt, Whitesnake, Poison, Guns & Roses, Motley Crew?

D: Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

R: But we’re not advocating violence against hair bands. We’re more civilized than that.

D: We recommend using words to convey your anger.

R: For instance, if you’re ever lucky enough to meet a member of a hair band, try saying this to the preening rocker…

D: “I’ll come check out your set after I grab a corndog and ride the Tilt-A-Whirl.”

R: Remember, it’s OK to hate during Stage 2 grieving.

D: It’s what makes it the most fun of the five stages.

R: For more information about bald rage or balding, check out our upcoming book, “The Bald Handbook.” Reporting for the Bald Minute, I’m Rick Kaempfer.

D: And I’m Dave Stern.

We're accumulating a comprehensive list of celebrities worthy of our hate (think thick lucious hair) during Stage 2 grieving. Send us examples, by clicking the word 'comments' below, or the e-mail link on the right.


Here's a music tip for you Stage 2 balding guys. If you like folk rock, and have a hankering for James Taylor...

His old stuff will tick you off. Not very good.

But, wow, is his new stuff good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Suburban Man Reaction

I was really nervous about posting this column today because it exposes me as the fool I am. Thanks for making me feel better. I'm not alone.

"When I started working 20+ years ago my boss would buy computer games, copy them, and return them the next day.Through relentless (but goodnatured) pressure he convinced me to do the same. However, like you, I couldn't return them - mostly because of feeling foolish and possibly getting caught. (My boss was barred from Toys 'R Us - no kidding.) So I ended up with many hundreds of dollars worth of unreturned Atari games and told my boss I returned them. I can now return things. But only because my wife was sooo disappointed in me when I couldn't. She had to come with me the first time, though."

"I beat your record. I returned my first gift when I was 48, and I only did it myself because it was from my wife. Don't use my name, I don't want her to know."

"It's not just a gender thing. I'm a woman who also hates returning gifts. I think it's a guilt thing. Can I ask you a personal question? Are you Catholic?"

Rick responds: "I didn't think it was that obvious, but yes I am."

Thank you also to those of you who completed the following phrase. You know you've become Suburban Man, when...

"Your neighbor says hi, and you know his name."

"You start parallel parking your mini-van and you realize this is the first time you've had to do it since you bought the car."

"You tsk tsk a neighbor with a brown lawn."

"Your daughter comes home at 9 and you've already dialed 9-1-..."

"You'll happily meet anyone downtown as long as it's not during the week, and not during the weekend."

"You know the difference between and can give directions to Lake Forest, Lake in the Hills, Lake Zurich, and Fox Lake."

Thanks also to Daily Herald columnist Ted Cox for mentioning my blog in today's Daily Herald. It's in the Suburban Living section. He wrote:
"Producer Rick Kaempfer who worked with Steve Dahl and Garry Meier and came up with many of the parody songs on John Records Landecker's late, lamented morning show on Oldies WJMK 104.3 FM, has started a blog at He delves into his radio archives on Thursdays."

Coming this Thursday, I'll feature one of those parody songs. It was inspired by an event that made Elvis Presley spin in his grave. Next week, John Records Landecker himself will be a guest blogger for a day.

How to Contribute: Q & A

I've been getting quite a few questions about how to contribute to the blog, so I thought I would answer them here for all to see.

Q: Why doesn't my comment show up immediately on the blog?

A: I have this blog set up a little differently than some other blogs you might have seen. The comments all go directly to my e-mail. I see every one of them, but I'm not publishing them in the comments section. Instead I accumulate them and put them out in seperate posts (where more people will read them). I'll have one later today about Suburban Man.

Q: Where do I click to send a response?

A: You can either click the comments link below each post (again, note above why the number next to comments will always say zero), or click the e-mail link on the right. I see every comment sent either way.

Q: I have a few friends that want to be included in your regular e-mail blog update list. Where should I send their e-mail addresses?

A: See the answer to above question. Same thing. I'm happy to add anyone who wants to be added to the list.

Q: I only received one e-mail update on Monday but nothing for the rest of the week. Why is that?

A: I only send out an e-mail update once a week (so I don't become too much of a pest). Check out what is coming for the week on Monday (I tease the whole week on Monday), bookmark the site, and then come back on the days you think there might be something of interest.

Q: Do you take requests?

A: Sure. If you have a bald subject you'd like Dave & I to address in the Bald Minute, or you have something from my archives you'd like to see, by all means, send in your request. If I have it, I'll post it.

Q: For your Jokes segment on Mondays, do the jokes have to be clean?

A: Yes, please. This is a family-friendly site. Don't look at me that way. "Clean Jokes" is not an oxymoron.

Thanks for all your questions and comments. Keep 'em coming. I greatly appreciate them.

Suburban Man: My First Time


“My First Time”

This is kind of embarrassing to admit. Until last week I had never returned anything to any store. Not once. Never.

I accumulated this unblemished 42-year-record with various different techniques over the years. First and foremost, I kept each and every thing given to me as a gift. Even if it didn’t fit. Even if I didn’t like it at all. Even if it was obviously re-gifted. I always defended this as simply being polite. If someone went to the trouble of giving me a gift, the least I could do was display it, or wear it, or put it deep into a closet for the rest of my life.

This technique was working nicely for me until I got married about fifteen years ago. Suddenly, some gifts weren’t just for me anymore. They were for both of us. I tried to use the same technique with my wife, but she wouldn’t go for it.

“What is wrong with you?” she asked.
“I guess," I explained, "the gift-receiving politeness-gene is only carried in the Y chromosome."
“That’s crazy,” she would say, “Take it back. We don’t need five cow-shaped creamers.”

I pretended to give in, but I merely kept “forgetting” to return it. Eventually she would just get frustrated and take it back herself. She even came around to accepting this odd personality tick of mine, and stopped asking me to return things.

This new post-marriage technique continued to work after we had children. For ten glorious years whenever our children received gifts that weren’t appropriate or didn’t fit, Bridget returned them. Then, without even realizing the implications, I volunteered to stay at home and raise the kids while Bridget returned to work every day. It wasn’t easy, but I was adjusting pretty well to everything until disaster struck this year.

One of our kids got “fat pants.” I’m sure that’s not the technical name, but when your son is so skinny he makes Mary Kate Olson look like John Goodman, just about every pair of pants look like fat pants on him. And my other kids, while not quite as skinny, also have very little chance of fitting into these pants as long they continue eating an all-white-food non-caloric diet.

One night after work, Bridget walked into the room holding the gigantic pants in her hand. She looked at me, and my heart started pounding. I realized what she was going to say. This was my job now.

“You have to return these,” she said.
“He may grow into them,” I said. “Maybe we can get that surgery where they staple an extra stomach on.”

No dice. I had to confront the ugly truth. I was afraid to return anything because I had no idea what to do or where to go. I was planning on hiding the pants and pretending like I returned them, but she was on to me. This time no matter what I said or did, I wasn’t getting out of it.

“At Target they only give you a store credit,” she said.
“You think I don’t know that?” I replied testily.
“Don’t spend it,” she said. “Just bring me back the receipt.”

She had me. I started sweating. I didn’t sleep that night. By the time I arrived at Target the next day, I was in the midst of a full-fledged anxiety attack. I settled down a little when I found the return desk without much problem. It couldn’t be missed; the line was about six miles long.

I was pretty sure I was ready to go, but I double checked everything.
*Fat Pants—Check.
*Gift Receipt—Check.
*Picture of my sons to prove that these pants couldn’t possibly fit—Check.
*List of the foods my sons will eat without being threatened—Check.
*Pictures of my friend’s and sibling’s kids to prove the pants couldn’t possibly be given to someone else we know—Check.

I rehearsed the true story in my mind a dozen times. I figured the store detective conducted these interrogations and I wanted to be ready for him or her. Doubt suddenly crept in; what if they thought my kids were too dangerously skinny? What if they called the authorities? What would I say? The guy in front of me was called to the counter. It was almost my turn. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.

Before I could even rehearse again, another “service representative” was free.
“Next please,” she called.

"Please be gentle with me," I joked. "It's my first time."

She didn't even look up. Uh oh. Humorless alert. I was a dead man.

Thirty seconds later, she handed me a plastic card.

“What’s this?” I asked.
“That’s your store credit.”

”Just like that?”
“Yes, sir,” she said and looked over my shoulder. “Next please.”

“Wait a second,” I said, holding up my hand to stop the person behind me. “That's it? No questions?"
"Like what?" she asked. "You have the product, you have the receipt."

"What if I didn't have a receipt?" I asked.
“If it’s in re-sellable condition,” she answered, “and we still carry the item, we’ll take it back.”

This was mind blowing.

“So it doesn't matter when I got it as long you still have it in stock and it's in good condition?" I asked.

She was openly sighing now. “Yes,” she said.
"One last question," I said. "Could you point me to the cow-shaped creamer section?”

Suburban Man Question: Last week one of the readers of Suburban Man had a great premise. "W" said "You know you've become Suburban Man when..."

Fill in the blank and send me your responses. I'll post them all later today.

Monday, January 09, 2006

This Week on Rick's Blog (1-9/1-14)

Hopefully you've bookmarked the site, because this blog will have new material every day. Coming up this week...

*Tuesday Jan 10th: Suburban Man does something for the first time in his life. And let's face it--he's no spring chicken. There aren't many "firsts" left.

*Wednesday Jan 11th: The Bald Minute examines the second stage of grieving for your hair loss--anger and rage at those who didn't lose it.

*Thursday Jan 12: We celebrate Elvis’ birthday week by remembering the time he began spinning in his grave.

*Friday Jan 13: This week in review (News and Views about Alito, The Smoking Ban, The Illinois state reptile, and did we mention it was Friday the 13th?)

*Saturday, Jan. 14: Guest Columnist: Sports-Radio Host and Award-Winning Playwright Spike Manton gives his NFL playoff picks.

Also: New this week, an opportunity every day to answer a reader question. Keep sending the good, the bad, and most importantly the funny. I've already heard from several hundred of you from 22 states and 4 countries.

Three jokes to start your week

1. An 82-year-old man went to the doctor to get a physical. The doctor cautioned him about his age and sent him home with a lecture on the proper lifestyle. A few days later,the doctor saw the man walking down the street with a gorgeous young lady on his arm.

At his follow up visit, the doctor said to the man, "You must really be doing great!"

The man replied, "Just doing what you said Doctor: 'Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.'"

The Doctor said, "I didn't say that. I said you've got a heart murmur. Be careful!"

2. (This is currently my favorite joke. It's a little odd.)

Q: What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot-dog vendor?
A: "Make me one with everything."

3. (This one is my son's favorite joke. He's told it many times)

Donald Rumsfeld gave the president his daily briefing. He concluded by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the president exclaimed. "That's terrible!"

His staff was stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sat, his head in his hands.

Finally, the president looked up and asked, "Just how many is a brazillion?"

We're always looking for jokes. If you have one you'd like to submit, click on the pencil at the end of this post or the e-mail link on the right. I'll give you credit if I use it during "Jokes for a Monday Morning."

Sunday, January 08, 2006


By Rick Kaempfer

From the Winter 2005-2006 issue

You may not know the name Haven Gillespie, but if you’re a parent, he has given you the gift that keeps on giving. Since 1934, American parents have quoted this wise Kentucky philosopher on a regular basis; especially during the months between September and December. J. Fred Coots may have written the music that makes Gillespie’s words more memorable, but it’s the words themselves that have resonated with parents.

Haven Gillespie wrote the lyrics for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

While it’s certain that parents used the Santa threat well before Gillespie wrote the lyrics for that song, he gave the threat credibility. I think that’s the secret to the song’s longevity—a reason why it has become a standard; a beloved holiday song. The music may be warm and comforting, but the lyrics are a none-too-subtle threat.

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town

If you’re a parent that hasn’t quoted that song at one time or another, then you’re a saint. The temptation is simply too strong. When the little darlings are acting up, crying, or whining, and it’s during those glorious months between September and December, a simple humming of this song will often stop them in their tracks. It’s the Santa threat.

Sure, Santa brings presents, but he’s a little scary.

You better watch out!

Sure, Santa brings presents, but he hates whiners.

You better not cry
You better not pout

Parents may have told their kids this before 1934, but when the words are in a song, they have gravitas. Keep in mind this song was written during the Great Depression when children already knew they weren’t going to get much. The 1934 Santa had a much smaller bag, and he wasn’t going to bother putting toys in that bag for whiners or complainers. That must have been pretty obvious to kids in 1934, but I’m still glad Gillespie put it in the song. It’s not obvious to my kids. As a matter of fact, between January and September, I tell them not to whine, cry, and pout all the time—and it’s like I’m saying ‘blah, blah, blah.’ But during the autumn months, I simply sing Gillespie’s wonderful lyrics. It gives my words power and meaning, because…

Santa Claus is coming to town.

While the first verse is great for handling simple whining and crying problems, the second verse of the song is positively visionary. This is the verse that lets my kids know that the entire matter is out of my hands. I’d love to help them out, but I’m not the one keeping the list; Santa is. Take it up with the bald fat man at the North Pole. He’s the one that controls the presents, and he’s not around, so you’re wasting your breath begging me. What is the kindly old man doing right now?

He’s making a list,
He’s checking it twice.

I have probably said those words a thousand times in my ten years of parenthood. My oldest son Tommy nods knowingly when I sing it. Don’t question Santa. The man is a stickler for detail. Dad forgets things all the time, but he’s not keeping a list. That Santa character is the real deal. I once heard Tommy explaining to his little brother that Santa has people everywhere—a network of spies that rivals the KGB. You may run, but you can’t hide. Don’t believe me? Listen to the words…

He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice.

I know I’m speaking for most parents in this country when I say: Thank you Haven Gillespie. Thank you for the crying, thank you for the pouting, thank you for the list, and thank you for making him check it twice, and thank you for not mincing words. It’s the “N” word, kids. It’s naughty. Case closed. You probably just made the list, and Santa isn’t the kind of guy who fools around. He’s a stalker.

He sees you when you’re sleeping,

That’s probably the scariest line in the song. I like to sing it in a sinister voice.

He knows when you’re awake.

I’m betting that not many parents use that line, but I have two boys who share a room. I’ve opened the door on school nights more than a few times to sing that line. It silences the boys instantly—like magic. I love that line, but not as much as I love the refrain. It’s what gives the song a happy ending—a course of action.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.

Now that’s just the Santa threat in the most direct terms possible, but it comes with a positive message, even if it’s said through a forced smile. When a child is pouting, or whining, or wailing, or fighting, or doing anything at all other than what Mom and Dad want them to do, the solution is right there.

Be good for goodness sake.

Got it? Good. Now go to your room.

Most kids don’t even know the rest of the song. The next few verses are full of boys and girls having a jubilee, and kiddie cars and curly head dolls…but kids have a very hard time remembering those verses. The message of the first two verses and the refrain are still ringing in their darling little ears.

And for that, we should all thank Haven Gillespie.

If he hadn’t passed away in 1975, we would be calling him right now to commission another song. By ten in the morning on December 25th, if you try the Santa threat again, even if you sing the most powerful holiday song of all time, you will probably get a reaction something like this:

“Santa’s already been here. Look at all these presents! He loves me!”

I know I speak for most parents when I say it’s time for a new song to cover the time from December 25th to September 1st. That’s a long time to parent without such a powerful threat. Consider this a plea to the Haven Gillespie of the 21st century. I don’t want to be greedy, but if the words could say something about video games being taken away forever, that would be great.

Rick's Notes: Shore Magazine is a brand new magazine for the tri-state area (Illinois, Indiana, & Michigan). With a readership per issue of 150,000, Shore Magazine is quickly making its mark in the tri-state area. Here is how Editor and Associate Publisher Pat Colander describes the magazine: “Shore is for real people who embrace the quality, quantity, and density of living right now. A magazine that’s original, authentic, passionate, understanding, literate, irreverent, relevant, inspiring, fun, smart, outrageous, understated, sensitive, enthusiastic, important, trivial, but always compelling. A magazine that makes us laugh, that gets it, that knows who we are right at the center.” Shore is distributed in Chicago, Northwest Indiana, and Southwest & Central Michigan.

Some of my articles to look for in the next few issues...
"Morning Radio Wars"
"Unhandy Man"
"Returning Home: Heidelberg"
"Breaking up with technology"