News of the Week: Chuck Berry, Changes with Monopoly, and Costly Comma Mistakes

America bids farewell to a rock ’n’ roll legend, Monopoly rocks the dinosaur, and grammarians get their day in court — this and more in Bob Sassone’s News of the Week.


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RIP Chuck Berry, Jimmy Breslin, Chuck Barris, David Rockefeller, James Cotton, Derek Walcott, Colin Dexter, Lawrence Montaigne, Robert Day

What else do you need to say about Chuck Berry except that he was one of the inventors of rock ’n’ roll? When you think of rock in the ’50s one of the songs you think about is probably “Johnny B. Goode,” later made famous for a younger audience in Back to the Future. His other classics include “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little 16,” “School Day,” “No Particular Place to Go,” and many others.

Berry died Saturday at the age of 90. He has a new album coming out on June 16. It’s his first in 38 years, and it’s titled Chuck.

If Berry was the classic rock ’n’ roller then Jimmy Breslin was the classic newspaperman. The Pulitzer Prize winner wrote a column for The New York Daily News for 50 years, focusing on the everyday workers of New York City. It’s a cliché to say that we probably won’t see another guy quite like Breslin, but we probably won’t see another guy quite like Breslin. He wrote for The Saturday Evening Post too, including this 1965 humor piece about credit cards and this account of Jackie Kennedy’s final moments with JFK in Dallas.

Breslin passed away Sunday at the age of 88.

Chuck Barris
NBC Television Network.

You’ll remember Chuck Barris as the host and creator of the bizarre ’70s game show “The Gong Show.” He also produced “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” and wrote a book, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, that became a movie directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Barris. He passed away Tuesday at the age of 87. A new version of “The Gong Show” is coming to ABC.

Barris was also a songwriter and wrote a song you might remember.

David Rockefeller was a billionaire, philanthropist, banker, and member of one of the country’s most famous families. He ran the family bank, Chase, for many years, and along with his brother Nelson, governor of New York, was instrumental in getting the World Trade Center towers built. He was the grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller. He died Monday at the age of 101.

James Cotton was a legendary blues harmonica player who performed and recorded with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Keith Richards, and many others over his seven-decade career. He passed away last week at the age of 81.

Derek Walcott was an influential Caribbean poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work. He died last Friday, March 17, at the age of 87.

Colin Dexter created the popular detective Inspector Morse, hero of a series of popular books and TV series. He passed away this week at the age of 86.

Lawrence Montaigne was an actor who appeared on several shows, including two episodes of the original Star Trek, where he played both a Vulcan and a Romulan. He was actually going to replace Leonard Nimoy in the second season if Nimoy had accepted an offer to join Mission: Impossible, but Nimoy decided to stay (he joined Mission: Impossible when Star Trek ended). He also appeared on shows like Batman, The Outer Limits, Lassie, I Spy, The Fugitive, and Dallas, as well as movies such as The Great Escape. Montaigne passed away last week at the age of 86.

Robert Day was a veteran movie and TV director. He directed the films First Man into Space, The Haunted Strangler, Two-Way Stretch, along with four Tarzan movies, and TV shows like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Buccaneers, The Avengers, The Invaders, The F.B.I., Brackens World, The Streets of San Francisco, and Matlock. He died last Friday at the age of 94.

How Does a Thimble Become a Dinosaur?

I haven’t played Monopoly in years, but like most people I wanted to be the race car. I mean, who, if given a choice, would want to be the thimble? Maybe someone who sews.

If you didn’t care for the thimble, you’re in luck. After a poll, Parker Brothers has replaced that piece, along with the wheelbarrow and the boot. Instead of those pieces — hey, I kind of liked that boot! — we’re going to see a T-Rex, a rubber duck, and a penguin (and no, I have no idea why they call it a “rubber” duck and not just a duck). They’ll join the surviving pieces: the car, the dog, the top hat, the battleship, and the cat, so you might have a dinosaur and battleship square off, which I’m sure will be the basis for that Monopoly movie.

And if a big-screen film isn’t enough for you, the board game is also going to be musical.

Daniel at Breakfast

I’m reading a book of essays by Phyllis McGinley titled Sixpence in Her Shoe. It came out in 1963 and was a response to what people like Betty Friedan and other feminists were saying and publishing at the time. McGinley was a housewife and proud of it, and actually celebrated domesticity and suburban life. She also happened to be an acclaimed poet, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her collection Times Three and writing several children’s books and poetry for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and she wrote quite a bit for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s a shame that her books have gone out of print and she’s pretty much forgotten now (even though she was on the cover of Time at one point). But one of her books is remembered and celebrated every December: She wrote the original story for The Year Without a Santa Claus, the basis for the animated holiday TV classic of the same name.

Her birthday is March 21, which also happens to be World Poetry Day. On that day CNN anchor Jake Tapper posted this on Twitter. I don’t know much about poetry, but I like McGinley.


The Dangers of Not Using the Oxford Comma

We’ve all read examples of how omitting an Oxford (or serial) comma can lead to misunderstandings. One of my favorite examples is on a Tails magazine cover from a few years back that had the headline “Rachael Ray Finds Inspiration in Cooking Her Family and Her Dog.” They didn’t just forget that last comma, they forgot all of them — which makes me not want to eat at Rachael Ray’s house.

Forgetting it can also cost you a lot of money, which a Maine dairy company found out this week. Three truck drivers looking for overtime compensation filed suit against the company and could win a judgment of up to $10 million because of the way a contract was written.

Meet Julia

The iconic children’s show Sesame Street has debuted a new character. She has orange hair and her name is Julia. She also happens to be autistic.

I grew up watching Sesame Street and I learned a lot from it, not just basic knowledge like words and math and why some puppets like to live in trash cans, but also how to treat people. A character like this could really help kids understand.

Julia was already a character in Sesame Street books and stories, and producers decided to also add her to the TV show, which now runs first on HBO and then on PBS several months later.

This Week in History

Patrick Henrys Give Me Liberty Speech (March 23, 1775)

Here’s the full text and the story behind Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” speech. It was given at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.

Harry Houdini Born (March 24, 1874)

When I was a kid I was obsessed with Harry Houdini. I read every book I could find on the magician, and at one point even thought of becoming a magician like Houdini (without all of the “escape from a milk container filled with water while handcuffed” stuff). Check out Saturday Evening Post Archives Director Jeff Nilsson’s article on Houdini and “The Art and Crime of Illusion.”

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: First Crocus Cover (March 22, 1947)

First Crocus by Norman Rockwell
First Crocus
Norman Rockwell
March 22, 1947

I’m not entirely sure what a “crocus” is. It almost sounds like a car. Introducing the Ford Crocus, new for 2017! Anyway, 50 years ago this week the Norman Rockwell work appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Read the story behind the cover here.

Pecan Day

Pecans? Not a fan. Almonds? Sure. Peanuts? Yup. Cashews? Great! But I never got a taste for pecans, really. I was going to make a joke that someone should do an ad campaign for pecans with the slogan “YES PECAN!” but something like that already happened.

Tomorrow is Pecan Day. Here’s two recipes for shortbread cookies that include pecans, and here’s one for a crunchy sweet potato casserole.

Maybe I’ll try these sugar-coated pecans. Even though I’m not a pecan fan, I find that most things are improved when you cover them in sugar.

Next Weeks Holidays and Events

National Doctors Day (March 30)

This is the day when we honor the men and women who keep us alive. If you happen to have an appointment on this day, maybe you can bring your doctor some of those sugar-coated pecans.

World Backup Day (March 31)

If you’re like me, you often forget to back up the files you have on your computer (I once lost an entire novel I wrote because I didn’t have another copy). Today’s the day to remember to do that. Well, every day is the day to remember that, but maybe after an official day to remind us, we’ll actually start doing it. And I don’t mean just a cloud backup.

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  1. Chuck Berry was one of the greats. I remember the Fall of 1972 when I was just starting 10th grade, and Chuck Berry, Elvis and Sammy Davis, jr. all had top 10 hits at the same time. It was great! LIFE had done a cover on the ’50s the previous June, and Marilyn was on the cover of Newsweek’s version that October. ’50s &’70s fusion at its peak. I’m buying his new album in June, for sure Bob.

    There was certainly a lot more to Chuck Barris than what one would be lead to believe on the surface, which was (unfortunately?) The Gong Show. One of my favorite old ‘game’ shows was The Newlywed Game. Bob Eubanks was the ultimate host for it, too. Let me guess on the “new” Gong show: It’ll be an ABC prime time crap fest they’ll put for few weeks here and there like ‘Match Game’.

    If Barris had never done anything else than write ‘Palisades Park’ that would have been MORE than enough. It’s arguably one of the very best songs of the early rock era. Like 1962 itself otherwise, this song has ties to the ’50s, but is clearly hipper with cutting-edge electronics that still defy definition, not unlike Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ from the year before. Both songs are reminders there are definitely three distinctive sections that comprise the ’60s.

    Monopoly (Parker Brothers) is doing what it’s doing for attention in this era of nearly complete electronic domination. I’m sure the wheelbarrow would like to dump a few of these ideas if given the chance.

    ‘Daniel at Breakfast’ is unlike any poem I’ve ever read before. On the one hand it’s very strange, bizarre and even terrible; yet it’s fascinating and lovable when read more than once. I wasn’t familiar with Phyllis McGinley before, but now want to read a lot more of her poems. It’s very rare my mind will do a complete turnaround on something, but this one of those times. She’s wonderful!


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