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News of the Week: Sinatra, Silver Bells, and Scotch Whisky

Published: December 11, 2015

Frank Sinatra’s 100th

Ol’ Blue Eyes would have turned 100 tomorrow, and many people and publications are celebrating his impact on music and culture. USA Today has a list of 10 ways he changed the world; The Guardian has a list of the best songs from Sinatra’s Capitol Record years; James Kaplan has a Wall Street Journal essay on why we’ll still be listening to Sinatra decades from now; and George Will calls him the greatest American singer of all time. Last weekend CBS had an All-Star Grammy Concert to celebrate his 100 years, with performances by Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., Carrie Underwood, and Adam Levine, among others; and December is Sinatra Month on Turner Classic Movies. They’re showing Sinatra movies and specials every Wednesday night for the entire month.

It’s really hard to pick my favorite Sinatra song. He recorded so many albums that I’ll be listening to the Siriusly Sinatra channel on SiriusXM and I’ll hear a song I’ve never heard before, which is amazing after listening to him for so many years. If I had to pick one? The live version of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with Count Basie.

Who First Sang ‘Silver Bells’? Fred Mertz!

He was no Sinatra, but the very first person to sing the classic Christmas song “Silver Bells” was Lucy and Ricky’s friend and landlord on I Love Lucy. Well, okay, it was the actor who played him, William Frawley. He sings the first part of the song (with his own lyrics) in the 1951 movie, The Lemon Drop Kid, where the song made its debut:

Most of the song was sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell, but it’s a cool little piece of trivia that Frawley actually started it. It’s such a classic song that it seems like it has been around a lot longer than the 1950s.

The Lemon Drop Kid is a fun movie, by the way. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t get mentioned enough as a Christmas movie.

RIP, Robert Loggia

A lot has already been written about the veteran actor, who passed away last week at the age of 85. He was fantastic in everything he did, from his roles in TV shows like T.H.E. Cat and Mancuso, FBI to dancing on the keys with Tom Hanks in the movie Big. He also did a TV commercial many years ago that is still one of my favorites:

I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking, What the hell? Why is Robert Loggia doing an orange juice commercial? It’s one of the few times I’ve laughed out loud at a commercial because it’s so clever and perfect.

Playboy’s Final Nude Issue Cover Girl Is …

… Betty White! I know, I was surprised too!

All right, the woman who will grace the cover of the final Playboy that will feature nude photos is actually Pamela Anderson. The January/February 2016 issue will be Anderson’s 14th time on the cover, which is a record. The issue will include an interview with Anderson conducted by James Franco along with a 12-page photo spread (with Anderson, not Franco).

We told you a while back that Playboy will stop having nude models in the print edition. That’s what the Internet is for.

For the record, the final nude centerfold in Playboy will be Kristy Garett.

Changes at Barnes & Noble

How does a brick-and-mortar bookstore survive in the age of Amazon? Maybe sell a lot more than books.

New Barnes & Noble CEO Ron Boire has a plan to change the retail chain, which has been going through some tough times the past several years facing store closings and online competition. He wants to make Barnes & Noble not just a place you can get books but also a “lifestyle brand,” a place where you can get toys, gadgets, games, and other gifts (in addition to the non-book products they already sell). Oh, and coffee and lunch too, for the Barnes & Noble locations that have cafés.

As I’ve mentioned before here, I was in a Barnes & Noble recently and saw that they’re now selling vinyl albums and turntables. Maybe that’s part of this new strategy. This could be a great thing, but I hope it doesn’t mean that some day Barnes & Noble will change into a place that sells toys and gifts and, oh yeah, we have some books too.

Ticks the Season!

Christmas Trees for Sale

(Shutterstock / © Cynthia Farmer)

As if you didn’t have enough problems to worry about with real Christmas trees, from their price to the trees drying out to having to drag them to the curb in January, here comes a new one: ticks! Seems that some of the trees from the Northeast might have some unwelcome inhabitants because of the warm weather we’ve had the past few months. Don’t spray it with insecticide though. It’s flammable. Instead, shake the tree a lot before you bring it in the house.

Now when people ask me how I can possibly prefer an artificial tree to a real one, I’ll just say, “Hey, no ticks!”

Nick Offerman Nipping at Your Nose

The Internet is filled with superlatives. It’s not enough that something is good and enjoyable, everything has to be THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER BEEN ON THE INTERNET or THE GREATEST VIDEO YOU’VE EVER SEEN or YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN THIS VIDEO CLICK HERE! It has gotten to the point of being silly, inaccurate, and just plain ridiculous.

Having said that, this video might just be THE GREATEST VIDEO YOU’VE EVER SEEN. You know those Yule logs that we see on various TV stations during the Christmas season, just an endless video of a crackling fire on our screens that give our living rooms a warm glow and a sense of the holiday season? Here’s a new entry, with a twist: 45 minutes of actor Nick Offerman sitting next to the Yule log, enjoying some Lagavulin.

It’s best if you know Parks and Recreation and picture Offerman as his character Ron Swanson, deciding to just sit in his chair and stare straight ahead while drinking his single-malt Scotch whisky, waiting for his hearty steak dinner to be ready. Expand the video to full-screen and turn up the volume and leave it on while you’re wrapping gifts.

National ‘Have a Bagel’ Day

It’s today, and it shouldn’t be confused with National Bagel Day, which was February 9. I don’t know what the difference is. Maybe on National Bagel Day you can celebrate the bagel as long as you don’t actually “have” one.

How about some Christmas bagels? Here’s a recipe from the Eclectic Recipes site that turns ordinary bagels into Pizza Bagel Wreaths, with broccoli or spinach for the greenery and red peppers for the bow.

I don’t know what you can do if your kids don’t like broccoli or spinach. Maybe a little pesto? Just don’t tell them about the basil leaves.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Dick Van Dyke born (December 13, 1925)

Van Dyke just turned 90 and has a new book out, Keep Moving and Other Tips and Truths About Aging.

George Washington dies (December 14, 1799)

The Saturday Evening Post has had many covers over the years focusing on our first president.

Glenn Miller disappears (December 15, 1944)

Glenn Miller

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Miller’s plane vanished over the English Channel, and while a cause has never been officially declared, many people think the plane was accidentally bombed.

The Battle of the Bulge starts (December 16, 1944)

The battle on the Western Front in Europe lasted until January 25, 1945.

A Christmas Carol is published (December 17, 1843)

Author Charles Dickens inspired Norman Rockwell to create several covers for The Saturday Evening Post.

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  • The only Sinatra 100th celebration I saw was the CBS show last Sunday night, but only the first hour. I got to see Tony Bennett and Harry Connick jr who both did a great job. I wanted to see Lady Gaga. Her new ad with Tony Bennett for Barnes & Noble is incredible. They’re a musical match made in heaven; no question about it.

    Speaking of the bookstore chain, I’m all for anything that’ll keep them open, even if the lengths mentioned here shouldn’t be necessary. The books themselves have always been enough for me in a bookstore, but what do I know?!

    I never thought to wonder or ask how Silver Bells came to be. I too thought the song would have been much older than 1951. William Frawley, wow. I got a kick just now out of his gruff rendition here!
    Oh, I added a reply to last week’s ‘News’ on the Lucille Ball statue link.

    Thanks for the Playboy links, Bob. Hefner and his team hopefully know what they’re doing; it’s a huge move. I can only imagine what questions James Franco will be asking Pamela Anderson. It should be a great read; and the photos, the photos of course.