News of the Week: Mark Twain, the Battle of the Sexes, and Comfort Food Season Is About to Begin

In the news for the week ending September 22, 2023, are Twain, Twinkies, too-expensive TVs, and talking to America.


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Random Notes

Thoughts jotted down during the week I finally put away my fan…

I love all things Christmas but there’s a Christmas commercial running already. Really? We’re still more than a month away from Halloween! At this rate, on Christmas Eve we’ll be seeing ads for Valentine’s Day candy.

I guess it’s true: they can’t cure the common cold.

Do you want to go see the fall foliage in New England? Okay, but don’t be a jerk about it.

Salad is not a comfort food.

If you’re worried that the writer and actor strikes currently going on will affect your favorite holiday movies (the TV version of comfort food), fear not! Hallmark ChannelGreat American Family, and the other networks completed filming all of their movies a while ago. This year there are approximately 497 of them! (Spoiler alert: at the end, people fall in love.)

This video has gone viral. It’s from New Year’s Eve, 1999, and it shows a guy bragging to his friends that he paid $5000 for his new TV at Best Buy. I’m sorry, but 1999 wasn’t that long ago. Many of us were around then, buying televisions, and if he paid that much for that TV he got ripped off.

According to Reader’s Digest, the nicest city in America is Buffalo, New York.

Remember several years ago when we didn’t have Twinkies for a while? Now the company is worth billions.

What do you think Mark Twain’s best-selling book was while he was alive? Nope, not that one. Not that one either! It was his blank, self-adhesive scrapbook.

Johnson & Johnson is changing the iconic script logo they’ve used for 130 years. I don’t like the new one.

50 Years of the Bloomingdale’s Bag

The iconic big brown bag turns 50 this month, and if you go to the flagship store in Manhattan you can get a collectible bag filled with many goodies, including a big brown pickleball paddle.

What’s Going on with Cereal?

Cereal sales were declining for years until 2020, when sales rose 5.2 percent (probably because of COVID and everyone eating at home). And then sales dropped 8.7 percent in 2021 and another 3.9 percent last year.

Why? Turns out people want to eat healthier and not eat so much sugar (healthy foods are a cereal killer). The Wall Street Journal examines the problem and the possible solutions.

Of course, many of the same people who shun sugary cereals in the morning will leave the house and immediately go to Starbucks for a venti mocha Frappuccino.

Hero of the Week

The referee in the Seattle Seahawks/Detroit Lions game on Sunday.

RIP Roger Whittaker, Billy Miller, Michael McGrath, Joy Chambers-Grundy, Dick Curtis, Edward Hume, and Les Edgerton

If you watched television in the ’70s and ’80s you probably saw a lot of commercials for the music of Roger Whittaker. The British singer was known for such songs as “The Last Farewell” and “New World in the Morning.” He died last week at the age of 87.

His song “Time For Peace” appeared on the Saturday Evening Post’s 12 LP box set for An American Christmas.

Billy Miller won three Daytime Emmys for his role as Billy Abbott on The Young and the Restless. He also appeared on General HospitalAll My ChildrenNCISJustified, and other shows. He died last week at the age of 43.

Michael McGrath won a Tony for Nice Work If You Can Get It. He also appeared in productions of SpamalotPlaza Suite, and Tootsie. He died last week at the age of 65.

Joy Chambers-Grundy played Rosemary Daniels on the Australian soap Neighbours for many years. She was also a best-selling novelist. She died Saturday at the age of 76.

Besides being the spokesman for Blitz-Weinhard beer in a series of classic TV commercials, Dick Curtis was also in one of the best Dick Van Dyke Show episodes, “Coast to Coast Big Mouth,” playing the game show host who gets Laura to admit Alan Brady is bald. He died Saturday at the age of 95.

Edward Hume wrote the classic TV movie about nuclear war The Day After and created The Streets of San FranciscoBarnaby Jones, and Cannon. He died last week at the age of 87.

Les Edgerton was an award-winning novelist and teacher known for his popular writing books Hooked and Finding Your Voice. He died last month at the age of 80.

This Week in History

The “Battle of the Sexes” Tennis Match (September 20, 1973) 

Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, in a televised match watched by 90 million people.

Perry Mason Debuts on CBS (September 21, 1957) 

We all know that Raymond Burr played Mason, William Hopper played Paul Drake, and William Talman played Hamilton Burger, but did you know that Burr did a screen test for the Burger role and Hopper did one for Mason?

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Sugar” (September 19, 1942)

I like to figure out the backstory on old Post covers, but this one from Howard Scott has me stumped. Is our generously-proportioned friend on a diet and he allows himself one cube of sugar a day (and keeps it in a ring case for some reason)? Or is he about to propose to his girlfriend and he knows she likes sugar more than diamonds? I don’t know. (Update: My smart editor tells me it probably refers to rationing during World War II.)

Comfort Food Season Is Here!

TV and books and maybe even music can be “comfort food,” but the real comfort food is, well, food. Here are some recipes to try as the days get shorter and the nights get colder.

Start off with a bowl of Curtis Stone’s Southwestern Chili, his Homemade-Chicken-Soup-Makes-Me-Feel-Better Soup, or the Rich and Simple French Onion Soup from AllRecipes. The Pioneer Woman has recipes for the Best Mac and CheeseChicken Pot Pie, and a Cheesy Potato Casserole, and for dessert, how about Lizzie’s Old-Fashioned Cocoa Cake with Caramel Icing from Trisha Yearwood or Mamie Eisenhower’s Chocolate Fudge from Southern Living?

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Fall Begins (September 23, 2:50 a.m. ET) 

Or, the “Autumn Equinox,” if you want to get all fancy about it. It officially starts at 2:50 a.m. ET.

Checkers Day (September 23) 

This day isn’t about the game Checkers, it’s about the speech given by Richard Nixon in 1952 where he defended accepting a dog named Checkers as a political gift.

He’s talking to America here.

Uploaded to YouTube by Richard Nixon Foundation

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  1. Thanks for the ‘56 Perry Mason screen test link. I had the chance to watch it this morning. A fascinating look at ‘what could have been’ which wasn’t bad, but the way it worked out was best. It always is.

    I loved the fact there were the great continuation TV movies in the ‘80s, taking the classic series into a future section of the century.

  2. Well, the Glade ad here is kind of ‘Christmas-lite’. As a company outsider, my guess is they know it’s too early to lay it on too thick, so this is an ‘easy lay’ letting you know it’s available, and best to get yours now. More supply chain disruptions are predicted with the continued nightmare inflation, so it might be a good idea.

    I agree about the common cold not having a cure, but meds like Ny-Quil and Coricidin Cough & Cold (I buy the Walgreen’s versions) let you get the rest you need relieving the symptoms so the cold will be over faster. The flu shot, Vitamin C, avoiding sick people and enough sleep should help keep you from getting sick in the first place.

    Johnson & Johnson is changing their name to Kenvue, which probably isn’t a good idea either. I put comments on Jeff Nilsson’s corporate ‘Identity Crisis’ feature on it last month. As far as the script goes, it’s probably 2nd (or close to it) only to Coca-Cola’s in being the most famous.

    I suppose the (up until now) unthinkable idea of getting rid of the Coca-Cola logo might be on the table also. Too many really stupid people can’t read or understand cursive. They can’t even sign their own name beyond scribble. Soon they won’t even be able to do that! “What’s a pen? What does right or left handed mean? Is an IQ of 70 a bad thing?”

    Your guesses regarding this ’42 POST cover are really good. The rationing angle seems most likely given the shortages during the war years. It’s hard to know for sure. Howard Scott was a great artist regardless. He may have intentionally left it open for interpretation, like Mona Lisa’s ‘smile’. Is she, or isn’t she?

    I watched The Checkers Speech in its entirety. It still holds up as the great speech it was. Nixon should have learned his lesson from it, applying that wisdom from the ’50s in the ’70s, as President.


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