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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 1987

It’s time to go back in time once more this month in the Tuesday Timeline, and for the last day of January, I admit that I was at a loss as to what to pick for a topic today.  
Not that January 31 was a boring day in history.  January 31 had a lot of significant events.  But to choose one that stood out, and had an interesting story behind it.  That was the tricky part.
Let’s take a look at some of the topics that could have been up for consideration, shall we?

The first interesting fact about January 31 that I found out was that it was on this date in 1930 that a company known as 3M started selling its latest product.  This product was something called Scotch tape.  Certainly, the invention of Scotch tape was revolutionary, and over eighty years later, people still use the product today.  However, there’s only so much that I can say about Scotch tape without having the blog entry sound boring.  Because, let’s face it.  Watching paint dry would be more interesting than a piece on Scotch tape.

I briefly considered doing a piece on someone who was born on January 31.  It was on this date in 1981 that a young man named Justin Timberlake was born.  Starting off as a Disney Mouseketeer, he made his way through boy band *NSync, embarked on a solo career, and now has found his way into the acting world.  It would have been interesting to do, but I already did a similar piece last week, and I like to try and switch it up a bit every now and again.

Just so you know, other celebrities born on January 31 include Kerry Washington, Minnie Driver, Anthony LaPaglia, Jessica Walter, Harry Wayne Casey (better known as KC from KC and the Sunshine Band), Portia de Rossi, and Carol Channing.

I also briefly looked at the other end of the spectrum, choosing someone who passed away on January 31.  A.A. Milne was one possibility, having passed away on this date in 1956, but I already did an entry on Winnie-the-Pooh last week.  So, that idea was out.

Other historical events that took place on this date include the following;

1950 – Harry S. Truman announces plans to start up a program to develop the hydrogen bomb.
1958 – The first successful launch of an American satellite into orbit (Explorer 1)

1961 – Ham the Chimp travels into outer space.
1966 – The Soviet Union launches Luna 9 spacecraft as part of the Luna space program.

1971 – Apollo 14 space mission took place.
1990 – The first McDonald’s opens up in the Soviet Union, in the city of Moscow.

2001 – Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is convicted for his role in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
So, while there was a lot of history that took place on January 31 (including a lot involving the space program, oddly enough), I didn’t feel as though I had enough to formulate a decent blog entry for any of these facts.

So, I decided to try and go a different route.  I decided to look at the date through significant dates in the entertainment industry, hoping that something would stand out as interesting.
And at the last minute, I found what I was looking for.

Today we’re going to go back in time twenty-five years to the date January 31, 1987.
It may not have been the most significant date in the world of television, but January 31, 1987 was the date that “The Facts Of Life” episode ‘A Star Is Torn’ aired for the first time on NBC.

At the time, “The Facts Of Life” was in the middle of its eighth season, and in the midst of weathering some changes.  Earlier in the season, Charlotte Rae had left the series, to be replaced by Cloris Leachman.  With Mrs. Garrett’s departure and the introduction of Beverly Ann to the series, ratings took a bit of a free fall.  But that wasn’t the only reason.  The four main characters of Blair, Jo, Tootie, and Natalie were all getting older, and it became more of a struggle to come up with ideas to keep the four principal leads under the same roof.  I think Season 8 was the one where the girls transformed ‘Edna’s Edibles’ into the funky gift shop ‘Over Our Heads’, and each girl owned a percentage of the business.  I think that’s how the writers kept everyone together that year, if I’m remembering correctly.
Oh, and George Clooney had a role on the show as George, the store’s handyman.  But, January 31, 1987 was also George Clooney’s final appearance on “The Facts Of Life”, for he ended up leaving the series to tour with one of Tootie’s friends.

Earlier in the season, Tootie befriended a young woman who went by the name of ‘Cinnamon’ at an audition for a Broadway musical.  Cinnamon ended up getting the part over Tootie, but just a couple of months later, Cinnamon returned to come for a visit after telling the girls that the Broadway show didn’t work out.  But after it’s discovered that Cinnamon recorded an album and ditched the tour that she was set to embark on, Tootie wonders why she would reject such an opportunity.  It’s later explained that Cinnamon ended up getting a case of cold feet, and wanted to quit performing, much to Tootie’s annoyance.  Cinnamon had made a success of herself but couldn’t handle it, and it annoyed Tootie because she still struggled to make a name of herself.
It seemed as though the friendship between Tootie and Cinnamon would end forever.  But Cinnamon got to thinking about what Tootie had said, and she figured that if Tootie believed in her, then there was a good chance that others would too.  She decided to come on Jo’s radio show in which Tootie had previously invited her to, Tootie apologized to Cinnamon, and Cinnamon ended up singing on the radio show.  Below is a clip of the episode, “A Star Is Torn”, airing on January 31, 1987.

Cinnamon was played by singer Stacey Swain...who you might know better by her stage name, Stacey Q.
And, Stacey Q happens to be the subject for today’s Tuesday Timeline.

It seems hard to believe that Stacey Q is in her fifties now, but she celebrated her 53rd birthday on November 30, 2011.  And this California girl had an upbringing that some would classify as being performance oriented from the start.  Taking dance lessons at an early age, Stacey started training to become a ballerina at the young age of five.  By 1969, Stacey had become the youngest member of the Dance Theater of Orange County.  She was just ten years old.  She spent a total of eleven years studying ballet and flamenco dancing.
By the time the 1970s began, the teenaged Stacey started performing at Disneyland, participating in the annual ‘Fantasy on Parade’ event held each Christmas season.  She performed the role of the Dutch Puppet (which was later used as an alias that she would use for early recording sessions) for three years before graduating from high school in 1976.  Shortly after graduating, Stacey auditioned for a job with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where she performed as a showgirl, and as an elephant rider.

How’s that for an interesting career beginning?  From Disneyland to the circus.  Not too many people can have those jobs on a resume.  Yet, Stacey Q did.  And she wasn’t stopping there.
Stacey had gotten into the recording business sometime in the early 1980s.  Having been introduced to the business by her then-boyfriend at the time, Stacey started recording music in 1981, when she met record producer Jon St. James.  Together, they formed a synthpop band simply known as ‘Q’.  The band had little problem recording the background music for the tracks, but when St. James realized that they needed a vocalist for the song ‘Sushi’, they were initially at a loss.  St. James knew that Stacey had recorded some demos at his recording studio, and asked her to sing the lyrics.  Stacey went ahead and sang the song, even though she always saw herself as more of a dancer than a singer.  However, when the track was recorded, St. James was so impressed at the final product that Stacey ended up being given the role of lead singer.

The band ‘Q’ achieved moderate success and a small following through college radio, but the band had a bit of reshuffling within it.  Two members left, and were replaced.  The band also had to change its name from ‘Q’ to ‘SSQ’, because Quincy Jones reportedly had purchased the ‘Q’ trademark.  The newly formed SSQ released the album ‘Playback’ in 1983, and their first single, ‘Synthicide’, provided some exposure for the band, complete with an accompanying music video. 

But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s when Stacey decided to go it alone on a solo career that her career really kicked off.  Recording her debut album in 1985, Stacey decided to go by the stage name of ‘Stacey Q’, as a reference to the first band she played with.  The album spawned a single, “Shy Girl”, which sold 100,000 copies alone.  Not a great number, when you consider that other female artists at the time like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Sheena Easton had sold much more than that.  However, the sales did get the attention of major record labels, including Atlantic Records.  Atlantic Records signed Stacey Q to a contract in early 1986, and shortly after that, Stacey Q released her biggest hit.

ARTIST:  Stacey Q
SONG: Two Of Hearts
ALBUM: Better Than Heaven
DATE RELEASED: February 4, 1986

“Two Of Hearts” was a song that had actually appeared on Stacey Q’s 1985 self-titled album, and was remixed for “Better Than Heaven”.  Stacey’s SSQ bandmates played back-up on the album.  The first single off the album, “Two Of Hearts” made it to #3 on the Billboard Charts.  Had it not been for the fact that Stacey Q was signed to two different record labels at the time, (which promoted the single at the same time, therefore competing against each other), many believed that it could have been a number one hit.  Looking back on the song now, it sounds a bit dated, but back then, it was considered a modern pop hit, and very cutting edge.  The album also contained the Top 40 hit, “We Connect”, which you heard ‘Cinnamon’ singing in “The Facts Of Life” clip I posted above.

The song “Two Of Hearts” was the song that was the bigger success, and was heard on radio stations all throughout 1986.  The single also provided Stacey Q with multiple talk show appearances, as well as a guest spot on ‘Hollywood Squares’ as a panellist.  And, her two stints on “The Facts Of Life” wasn’t the only television sitcom that she appeared in.  She also guest starred on an episode of “Full House” in May of 1988.  You can watch a clip of her on that show HERE.

(TRIVIA:  The song playing in the background of the record store in that clip is Stacey Q’s “Don’t Make A Fool Of Yourself”, which was a minor hit for her in the spring of 1988.)

After the success of “Better Than Heaven”, Stacey Q embarked on a European Tour, dyed her blonde hair bright red, and released two more albums with Atlantic Records.  1988’s “Hard Machine” and 1989’s “Nights Like This”.  Although Stacey Q had more creative control with her later albums (the song “Another Chance” was practically written by Stacey herself), and were critically praised, they didn’t do so well in sales.  Both “Hard Machine” and “Nights Like This” were virtually ignored on radio, and when Stacey Q’s Greatest Hits album was released in 1995, there were no tracks from either album on that compilation.  She left Atlantic Records in 1990.
Still, Stacey Q is very much active in the recording business.  Although her mainstream success has dried up, she has developed a loyal fanbase and cult following ever since.  In 1997, she converted to Buddhism, and released an album called “Boomerang” that same year.  She also has done voice work for English translations of Japanese anime cartoons, with ‘Stratos 4’ being one of the projects that she worked on.

And in 2010, she released her latest album through Hydra Productions, which had a rather familiar album title.

The album title was “Color Me Cinnamon”, which was the same name as the album that the character of Cinnamon was set to release on “The Facts Of Life” episode that she guest starred in...
...on the 31st day of January, 1987.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lion King

I often wondered if it would be easier if I had been born anything other than a human being.

Just picture it. Have you ever wanted to be some other species in the world? Maybe you would have rather been a dog, chasing tennis balls across a backyard. Maybe you would have liked to have been a blue jay or a robin, soaring across the sky. Maybe you would have been a giraffe, getting your lunch from some of the tallest trees in the world.

I have to admit, there were times in which I wished I could have been an animal instead of a human. I would have been almost any animal. A penguin. A dolphin. A mosquito.

(Actually, scratch that last one. Mosquitos spread malaria and West Nile disease, and live a grand total of just a few hours...that's kind of an empty existence.)

On the surface, it looks as if the animal kingdom has a rather sweet life going on. No responsibilities to get to work on time. No chores to do. Just making sure that you had enough to eat and a safe place to sleep. Really, what more could one want out of life?

I especially felt like that when I was a child. Having had some not so nice human experiences, there was a part of me that wished I could be an animal. Where I could basically come and go as I pleased, and where I could do whatever I wanted. Where I wouldn't ever feel sad again.

Of course, as an adult, I know that being an animal isn't nearly as great as I thought it would be. Not saying that sometime during my teen years, I moonlighted as my neighbour's dog, mind you...because that would just be weird. But, I think that being an animal has its share of hardships too.

For one, unless you happen to bump into a cannibal or Jaws, I really don't think that we humans have to worry too much about being eaten by another animal. But if you're an animal (particularly one near the bottom of the food chain), your life is a constant horror movie, where one false move means dinner for someone else. The main course being you.

Another thing that would be terrible about being an animal is the fact that if you were sick and needed help, it would be very difficult to communicate that to someone. I know before I had to put down my cat back in the summer of 2010, it was obvious to us that he was really sick, and wasn't going to recover. But we also didn't know what we could do to help take away his pain because he was unable to tell us what was wrong. That made it even more frustrating.

And being an animal means that you have to often go out on your own to find your food in the wild, rather than going down to the local No Frills, Price Chopper, Kroger, Whole Foods, or whatever grocery store is in your area. Which I suppose doesn't sound so bad, except that in the animal world, finding food can be harder, and more dangerous.

I guess in many ways, the movie I have selected for today's Monday Matinee (the last in a series of animated feature films for the month of January) touches on the idea of animals having similar struggles as humans do in terms of life. In many ways, our main character of the film starts off as a lion cub, eager to see the world, but reluctant to follow the rules or take responsibility for the huge title that he is destined to take on in his adult life. As the film progresses though, a tragedy and betrayal force our hero to grow up rather quickly, and realize that he has others to worry about besides himself.

Sounds kind of like a struggle that many humans themselves have to experience, doesn't it?

The subject for today is the 1994 movie “The Lion King”, the 32nd animated feature released by Disney.

First, before we get into the details of the plot, let's talk a little bit about the records that this film set when it was released on June 15, 1994. The movie holds the record for being the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film ever, with a net profit of almost one BILLION dollars! It was also the highest grossing 2D film in the United States, and fourteenth highest grossing film overall. The movie ended up winning two Academy Awards for music, a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and was accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Tim Rice and Elton John, with songs like the one directly below this paragraph.

ARTIST: Elton John
SONG: Circle Of Life
ALBUM: The Lion King Soundtrack
DATE RELEASED: August 9, 1994

The soundtrack's success inspired a Broadway musical to be produced. Opening for the first time in 1997, the musical would earn six Tony Awards, including the one for 'Best Musical'.

And to think that 'The Lion King' idea was planned out six years before it was released.

Back in 1988, Disney was promoting its then latest release Oliver & Company. On the European leg of the promotional tour were Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney, and Peter Schneider. During this meeting, the three were brainstorming ideas for a new feature film, and the idea to have a film set in Africa came about. Katzenberg jumped on the idea, thinking that it was a good one, and producer Thomas Schumacher also wanted in on the project. In November of 1988, Thomas Disch (who wrote 'The Brave Little Toaster') planned out a story called 'King of the Kalahari', which was then turned into a script called 'King of the Beasts' by Linda Woolverton. However, the original version of the script was nothing like the version that people would see in theaters in 1994. I'll talk more about that towards the end of this entry.

Work on the film began as early as 1991, and there was some upheaval during the initial months of planning, including having a director step down from the project amidst a conflict of interest (George Scribner left the project after clashing with Roger Allers over whether the film should be a musical), a title change, and a setting change (initially set in the jungle, it moved to the African savannah). In fact, a lot of the staff left the project early on to work on the feature 'Pocahontas', because they believed it was going to be the more successful of the two films.

How wrong they were.

By 1992, the staff had been put firmly in place, and the project moved along, with the script being rewritten to accommodate the theme of 'leaving childhood behind to face adult responsibilities'. 1993 was spent trying to get the cast together to record the voices for the characters.

Because the main character, Simba, was to be shown as both a child and as an adult, the production team realized that they would need two actors to play the role. Enter Jonathan Taylor Thomas as young Simba, and Matthew Broderick as adult Simba. Other actors cast included James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, Moira Kelly, Rowan Atkinson, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Cheech Marin, Robert Guillaume, and Madge Sinclair, amongst others.

(TRIVIA: Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella originally auditioned for the roles of Zazu and a hyena respectively, but producers were so impressed by their chemistry together when they auditioned together that they ended up winning the roles of Timon and Pumbaa. And, when Cheech Marin won the role of one of the hyenas, his longtime comedic partner, Tommy Chong was asked to play the other hyena. Unfortunately, Tommy Chong was unavailable, so the role went to Whoopi Goldberg instead. The things you learn from DVD and video commentaries, eh?)

The project was finished in early 1994, and was released in theaters that June. And the rest as we say is history.

In “The Lion King”, the first scenes we see are of a group of animals gathering around Pride Rock, somewhere in the African savannah. It's a very special day at Pride Rock, for it is the day that the lion king and queen are about to become parents. Mufasa and Sarabi proudly show off their newborn son, Simba to the animals down below, and there is much celebration and joy to be seen. After all, Simba has become the heir to the throne. If anything should happen to Mufasa, Simba would become the new king of the land.

Not everybody was thrilled with Simba's birth though. Especially not a lion named Scar.

Scar was the brother of Mufasa, making him the uncle of Simba. And, with Simba being the direct heir of Mufasa, the chances of Scar taking over the kingdom at Pride Rock went down drastically. Having Simba around was Scar's worst case scenario.

Simba doesn't quite grasp the importance of being king, at first. And why should he? He was a kid back then, and didn't know how hard of a job being king of the lions was. Luckily, he had a very patient father who tried to teach him everything about the Pride Lands, as well as the responsibilities that came from being king. There's a shadowy place in the Pride Lands that is forbidden to enter, and Simba wanted to know why that was. But before Mufasa could tell him, Zazu, Mufasa's adviser, warns of an incoming hyena attack. Mufasa forces Simba to go home with Zazu while he stays behind to fend off the hyenas, leaving Simba to wonder what is so forbidden about the shadowy place.

It is here that Scar comes up with a rather dastardly plan. He tells Simba that the shadowy place is the site of an elephant graveyard, and Simba, always one to love exploring manages to convince his best friend, a female lion cub named Nala, to tag along. Sarabi sends Zazu along to keep an eye on both Simba and Nala, but the two cubs are too fast for Zazu to keep up. The two cubs eventually end up reaching the graveyard, and both of them are at first excited to see it.

That is until they discover the reason why the place was forbidden. They come across the hideout of the much-feared hyena pack, coming face to face with Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. The three hyenas immediately give chase to the two scared cubs, and it seems as though they are in great danger. 

Fortunately, Mufasa is there to rescue the cubs in time, but Simba knew he was going to be in big trouble for disobeying his family. While Mufasa is very angry and disappointed, he realizes that he has a lot more to teach his son. So, the lessons continue, with Mufasa making a point to show Simba the sky filled with stars. Each star represented the kings of the past that watch over him, and that if he ever felt alone, he could always look at the stars to guide him.

At the same time, Scar is annoyed that his first plan didn't work out so well, so he decides to team up with the hyenas to step it up a couple of notches. After making a promise to the hyenas that together they would take over the Pride Lands, Scar orders them to stampede a large group of wildebeest into a gorge, where Simba happens to be in the hopes of eliminating the only thing standing in his way of being king. Mufasa once again comes to Simba's aid and rescues him. 

But when Mufasa ends up getting trapped himself, he calls out to Scar to help him. Scar cruelly throws Mufasa right into the middle of the stampede, where he is killed. When Simba comes across Mufasa's body, he is absolutely devastated, especially after Scar's vicious lie, telling Simba that HE was to blame for Mufasa dying. Scar tells Simba that he should run away, and not come back, for nobody would understand. And Simba, being young and impressionable (and the fact that he just lost a parent) decides to take Scar's advice. This leaves Scar in a perfect position, telling everybody that both Mufasa and Simba perished in the attack and that he will become the new king.

Enter the hyena population. The presence of the hyenas, as well as Scar's tyrannical rule causes the once proud Pride Rock to lose some of its pride, turning it into a land where food and water are scarce, and where happiness is replaced with misery.

Simba, on the other hand, is rescued and adopted by a meercat named Timon, and a warthog named Pumbaa. Simba forges a strong friendship with both of them, and from them he learns some new lessons. He learns how to enjoy life again since the death of his father, and he also learns a new motto.

Hakuna worries.

And for the next few years of Simba's life, he lived without worry and without fear, his old life merely a shadow in what he was. And I'm sure that he probably would have forgotten about it entirely had it not been for the fact that a face from his past would come back into his life.

When a lioness comes across Timon and Pumbaa, Simba manages to save their lives by fending her off...not realizing at first that the lioness was his childhood friend, Nala. Long story short, the two reunite, end up reestablishing their friendship, which soon turns into romantic feelings. Nala and Simba fall madly in love with each other, and it seems as though Simba's life is complete. But when Nala tries to convince Simba to come back home, Simba refuses. Despite pleas from Nala, saying that the Pride Lands have gotten much worse since he left, Simba won't go back, for he is too ashamed to return, still blaming himself for his father's death. There was no way that he could change what happened, so why would he go back now?

It takes the wise words of a dear friend of Mufasa to change Simba's mind. Rafiki, the mandrill who helped present Simba in front of the crowd at Pride Rock the very day he was born, reintroduces himself to Simba, telling him that he knows that he was Mufasa's son. While Simba is still stubborn, and won't go back, this doesn't faze Rafiki one bit. He takes Simba to a nearby pond, tells him to look into the reflection in the water, and tell him what he sees. Watch what happens below.

So, after talking with the spirit of Mufasa, Simba realizes what he must do. With Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa by his side, Simba returns to Pride Rock in hopes of getting rid of Scar and the hyenas for good, while avenging the death of his father.

And, that's all I'm going to say about this movie. Come on, you know that I never reveal movie endings. You should be used to it by now.

But, I loved 'The Lion King'. It had such a great message about not running away from your responsibilities and facing your fears. I imagine that Simba must have been so conflicted having to go back home and facing all the people who he thought blamed him for his own father's death. Especially since the belief he held was perpetrated by a cruel fabrication, courtesy of the heartless Scar. The fact that he did make the choice to set things right shows a lot of courage, and I think we all could learn a thing or two from Simba.

It also taught us the power of friendship, as Simba's loyalty towards Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa outweighed anything else. It was even more important to him than being king. And, as Scar would find out towards the end of the film, sometimes betraying the wrong people could lead to disasterous consequences.

But Scar was a meanie, so who cares about him!

In the end of it all, 'The Lion King' was probably one of Disney's finest example of a good vs. evil story.  Yet, it was also a wonderful coming of age story, with Simba growing up before our eyes, and maturing into a lion king that any parent would be proud of.

I bet somewhere up there, Mufasa was smiling down on his son on that final confrontation.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jeff Healey's Angel Eyes

Today's blog entry is going to be one of those that will be shorter than most other entries that I have done. My work schedule this weekend has been a bit screwy to say the least, and I have a limited amount of time to write today's Sunday Jukebox entry. But, I always said that I love a challenge, so I'm embracing the fact that I have a bit of a deadline before my shift tomorrow.

As it so happens, today's subject is a man who himself had to undergo a lot of challenges in his early life...challenges that were much more severe than the one that I am currently experiencing at this time. By all accounts, his chances of finding success in the music industry would have been limited, according to many people. But, we'll get to that a little bit later in the entry.

Today's Sunday Jukebox entry will focus on the life and career of Canadian jazz and blues-rock vocalist Jeff Healey.

Born Norman Jeffrey Healey in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on the 25th of March, 1966, Jeff Healey grew up to become a huge success in Canada. He had an interest in music at a very early age, and by the time he turned seventeen, he was already in his first band. The band name was “Blue Direction”, a quartet which mostly played cover songs. The band did manage to form a small following, thanks in part to the group playing venues at local Toronto clubs.

When he wasn't playing gigs with Blue Direction, Jeff Healey could be seen at radio station CIUT-FM, hosting a jazz and blues show. Jeff even brought his own huge collection of 78 rpm records to play on the show.

And when I say that he had a huge collection of records, I mean it. It was impossible to say what the exact number of records that Healey owned was, but it was estimated that he had amassed a grand total of well over thirty thousand.

That's 30,000 records! One has to wonder where he kept them all...especially in the early days of his career. I don't even have 300 CD's!

So, Jeff Healey was in a job spinning tunes from his own personal collection, which I'm sure netted quite a few loyal listeners. But becoming a disc jockey at a jazz station wasn't exactly what brought him fame later on, though it would inevitably play a huge part in his later career.

It was during this time that Healey was introduced to a pair of musicians who he immediately clicked with. The musicians were Joe Rockman, a bassist, and Tom Stephen, a drummer. With Jeff having learned how to play the guitar, the three decided to form a band.

The name of the band? The Jeff Healey Band. Not exactly the most original name out there, but what's in a name, anyway?

Besides, in the case of The Jeff Healey Band, the name wasn't nearly important as the music. Their very first gig as a band was at a Toronto club known as 'The Birds Nest'. The club itself was upstairs from Chicago's Diner, which was on Queen Street West. Their first concert was reviewed and written up in a Toronto based magazine, NOW, and within a matter of months, the band began touring dozens of Toronto clubs, playing almost nightly. One location was the famed blues club, Albert's Hall, which was where The Jeff Healey Band first met two other guitarists who both had made names of themselves in the world of blues guitar.

They were Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And it was that meeting that started Jeff on a new venture...recording his very first album.

After signing a recording deal with Arista Records in the late 1980s, The Jeff Healey Band recorded their debut album, 'See The Light', which hit stores in Canada in September 1988. The album went triple platinum, selling over three hundred thousand copies in Canada alone, another sixty thousand sold in the United Kingdom, and the band was nominated for a Juno Award (for those of you who don't know, a Juno is kind of like the Canadian version of a Grammy Award) for Album of the Year in 1990, but lost to Alannah Myles. However, they did score the award for Canadian Entertainer of the Year, which some might say was the greater honour.

One of the reasons why the album became so wildly popular was because of this track, the second to be released from the album during the summer of 1989.

You can view the actual video clip of the song HERE, since I can't seem to post it on the blog itself.

ARTIST: The Jeff Healey Band
SONG: Angel Eyes
ALBUM: See The Light
DATE RELEASED: June 17, 1989

The song 'Angel Eyes' debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 17, 1989, in 85th position. Over the next few weeks, it would eventually peak at #5. In Canada, the song also did very well, cracking the Top 20.

In addition to the song being a single off of the band's debut album, it was also featured in a motion picture the same year that the song was released. Luckily for the band, the use of the song in the movie meant that they ended up getting to co-star in the film as well.

That movie was 1989's “Road House”, starring Patrick Swayze. In between recording tracks for 'See The Light', The Jeff Healey Band was recording songs for the “Road House” soundtrack, as well as playing the house band in the movie. As a result, Jeff Healey ended up having several speaking parts in the movie where he interacts with the character played by Patrick Swayze.

I mean, just picture it. Back in Patrick Swayze's heyday, I bet you that millions of people probably would have loved the chance to star in a movie with him, or even meet him. I could probably name off about a hundred girls I know who would have loved to have played the 'Baby' to his 'Johnny' on 'Dirty Dancing'. The fact that Jeff Healey managed to get a small role in the film, just by doing what he loved doing best, was quite remarkable, to say the least.

But then, remarkable could be a word that could best describe the obstacles that Jeff himself had to face when he was growing up.

You see, I left out one very important detail when talking about his early life. A life that involved him learning how to play a guitar at an early age, forming a band at 17, taking on a job as a disc jockey, and forming The Jeff Healey Band, which was his biggest success to date. It was a dream that many people have, but very few accomplish. Jeff Healey managed to beat the odds and had a successful recording career. The band was put on the map with “Angel Eyes”, and managed to have an additional ten singles chart in Canada between 1990 and 1994. He even got a chance to work with former Beatle George Harrison when the band released a cover version of The Beatles classic 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' in the early 1990s. By clicking HERE, you can listen to that cover, if you like.

Jeff Healey was a man who dreamed of having a career in the music business. Not only did he succeed where many failed, but he ended up working with some of the most legendary musicians, and won awards for his talent.

All this is impressive enough for someone who has all FIVE senses. So, what if I told you that Jeff Healey did all of these accomplishments with only FOUR senses?

When Jeff was just eight months old, he developed a rare eye cancer, known as retinoblastoma. The good news was that treatment options were available at the time, and he was expected to survive. The bad news was that the cancer was present in both eyes. So before Jeff Healey celebrated his first birthday, both of his eyes had to be surgically removed. As a result, Healey was forced to wear artificial eyes for the rest of his life.

But, do you think that Jeff let losing his sight stop him from doing what he loved doing? Not a chance!

At the tender age of three, just two years after his surgery, he was learning how to play the guitar. Taking into account his loss of sight, Healey managed to play the guitar by setting it up flat on his lap, and playing it that way. You can see evidence of this by watching the “Angel Eyes” video that I posted above. I imagine that it probably was no easy going for Jeff, and I bet he probably had to get used to finding chords and strings, and getting used finding his own playing style.

But, man, once he got all that figured out, nothing was stopping him from reaching his goal. Sure, a lot of people were a bit skeptical when he was starting out. They wondered how someone who was blind could play a guitar, read sheet music, learn guitar chords. I think that once they heard Jeff playing the guitar, it ended all the wondering.

The Jeff Healey Band continued to record albums throughout the 1990s, and into the 2000s. By the time the band released their 2000 album “Get Me Some”, Healey decided that he would venture off in a different direction as a solo artist, recording music that was not only close to his heart, but music that also got his career started at a radio station years ago.


In 2002, Healey released the first of three traditional jazz albums, with selections dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. He still played the guitar on all of these albums and in live performances, but sometimes he would play the trumpet at certain live performances. He formed another group known as 'The Jazz Wizards', and between 2002 and 2007, he toured throughout North America and Europe. He played at a jazz club named 'Healey's' in Toronto (which later was renamed Jeff Healey's Roadhouse), and throughout his entire career, played with some legendary artists in the world of music. Some of these included Dire Straits, BB King, ZZ Top, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and the man who helped discover Jeff Healey, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He even helped discover other artists along the way, and helped them to success, one notable example being Canadian blues singer, Amanda Marshall.

Sadly, Jeff Healey's career would come to a tragic end one day in 2008.

In early 2007, Jeff Healey ended up having surgery to remove cancerous growths from both of his lungs. Prior to this, in 2005, Healey had to get two sarcomas removed from his legs. Throughout 2007 and the first part of 2008, Healey fought the cancer with everything he had, and underwent chemotherapy to try and stop the spread of the disease. Sadly, there was very little that could be done.

On March 2, 2008, Jeff Healey passed away in a Toronto hospital at just 41 years old...just one month before his album “Mess Of Blues” was due to be released. He left behind his wife, and his two children.

Just two months later, in May 2008, a tribute concert was held in his memory where all proceeds for the show were donated to “Daisy's Eye Cancer Fund”. It had been an organization very close to Jeff Healey's heart, as it was one that had made great advances in treating retinoblastoma, the same disease which robbed Jeff of his ability to see. Jeff Healey's son also ended up having retinoblastoma as well, so you can see why Jeff was more determined than ever to support this cause. In 2009, Healey was posthumously inducted into the Terry Fox Hall Of Fame.

It was a sad end to a remarkable, extraordinary life and career. But thanks to songs like 'Angel Eyes', and other songs that he released in his two decade recording career, Jeff Healey will always live on.

Just on a side note, (and maybe a personal one), 'Angel Eyes' ranks high up on my list of my most favourite songs of all time. I really wanted to do an entry on this song for a while.

And, just a wee confession here. If I ever get married...this song WILL play at my wedding. I guarantee you that much.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Juniorization Made The Archies 'New'

Saturday mornings just aren't the same as they used to be.

When I was a child, it wasn't uncommon to see cartoons airing from seven in the morning to six o'clock in the evening. Then again, I grew up in Canada where Global Television would air cartoon shows all day long until the six o'clock news.

That's why I find it a bit sad to see that Saturday mornings are only but a glimmer of what they used to be.

If you have cable channels like Teletoon Retro or Boomerang, you can find a way to relive the Saturday mornings of yore. But network television, which used to host the cream of the Saturday morning crop, is a television wasteland on Saturday mornings. I honestly don't know if any of them even air cartoons anymore. Our ABC affiliate, at least, airs educational programming with Jack Hanna and other animal experts. CBS has news, and cartoons from ten years ago. I couldn't tell you what NBC offers, because I very rarely watch that network as it is.

So, what happened to Saturday morning television? Were there any warning signs?

One possible theory that I've heard is the lack of originality and creativity in creating new cartoons. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many cartoons were based on popular toys, games, and comic strips. Care Bears, Jem and the Holograms, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Garfield. All of these shows were very well-received, and all of them developed a following. And, if you look through this blog, you'll see that I've done blog entries on all the shows that I have listed.

The thing is that those cartoons were based on original ideas, and even two or three decades since they originally aired, are still widely popular and are regarded as Saturday morning classics by the people of my generation.

Then the late eighties came along, and with them came the first stages of unoriginal programming.

One of the trends that really used to bother me that cartoons did was the so-called 'juniorization' of Saturday morning favourites. In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, take classic television shows like The Flintstones or Scooby-Doo, and picture what they might be like as children.

That's how we ended up with such shows as Tiny Toon Adventures, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones Kids, and Yo, Yogi.

And, sorry to say that a lot of these shows failed miserably.

I'll be the first to admit that Tiny Toon Adventures was a cartoon that I watched religiously, and I can't find too much at fault with it. And, yeah, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was really annoying, but the plus side of it being that Scrappy-Doo wasn't in it (I'm guessing he wasn't born then), so it was tolerable. But The Flintstones Kids were terrible...absolutely terrible. And, don't even get me started on Yo, Yogi, which was a cartoon that should have never been made. Jellystone Park turning into a shopping mall? Yikes.

Whether or not that was the beginning of the end for Saturday mornings as we knew's hard to say. Some might suggest the death of Saturday mornings stemmed from cable and satellite television offering thousands of choices. Some might blame the mid-90s preference towards live-action shows such as 'Saved By The Bell' as a factor.

It's hard to say what the deathblow was to Saturday mornings. It could be one of these possibilities, it could be all of these possibilities.

So, I pose this question to all of you reading this entry before we go on. What do you think killed Saturday morning programming? It'd be interesting to read some of your replies, if any are given.

Today's topic is about a cartoon that could fit into the 'juniorization' of Saturday morning programming that seemed to be in vogue during the late 1980s. It's a cartoon that was based from a comic book serial that I grew up reading (and STILL read, by the way), and although it only lasted one season, that same season was rebroadcast two years later.

The television show also launched two comic book titles, both lasting between three to five years. Beginning in late 2011, the stories from these comic book titles have been reprinted in current titles, and the show itself has aired sporadically on various cable channels over the years.

This show was The New Archies.

Debuting on NBC on September 12, 1987, The New Archies was the latest in a long line of cartoon shows starring Archie and the gang and detailing the many adventures that they have in Riverdale, U.S.A.

The catch? This edition of the cartoon showed Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and their friends as twelve year old kids attending Riverdale Junior High. Weirdly enough, Mr. Weatherbee, Miss Grundy, and Ms. Beazly are teachers there, despite the fact that they also appear at Riverdale High as educators.

Now, the idea of portraying Archie and the gang as anything other than seventeen year old high school students is nothing new for the company. If you go back to the 1950s, you'll see that was when the first issue of Little Archie was released. Little Archie was a comic title that showed Archie and the gang as a group of six and seven year old children attending school at Riverdale Elementary. Surprisingly enough, both Mr. Weatherbee and Miss Grundy taught at that school too!

(Apparently Weatherbee and Grundy are gluttons for punishment.)

There's a lot of people out there who have said that they hate the Little Archie title. Looking at it, I can see that there are some oddities in regards to the title. At least depending on the artist who does the stories. If Bob Bolling wrote and illustrated the stories, I find those to be true to form for what Little Archie was supposed to be about. The exploration of the world through the eyes of a seven year old was captured brilliantly by him. I found Dexter Taylor's work to be fantastic, but his stories were so unbelievable. I mean, in Dexter's stories, Little Archie was just as much of a player as his 17-year-old counterpart. Some of the stories probably would have worked better in the regular comics. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the teenage Archie stories rewritten for the Little Archie audience.

That said, I have a soft spot for the Little Archie title. My first Archie comic ever was a Little Archie Digest. There's no way I can bash a classic that I grew up with.

(We won't discuss the horrific 1991 Little Archie revamp.)

On the flipside, we're seeing Archie as an adult in current magazine serial 'Life With Archie: The Married Life', which debuted in the summer of 2010. In the serial, we see Archie as he deals with married life with Betty, as well as married life with Veronica. And, in the upcoming Archie #632, we're going to see Archie tackle married life with Valerie, from Josie and the Pussycats.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the planned cover, to be released in April 2012.

It kind of makes me wonder who he's going to marry next. Katy Keene? Cheryl Blossom? Lil Jinx?

Believe it or not, there's even an Archie Babies title floating around the Archie world. I've never seen the title, as right now it's only available as a digital download title...but I wonder how successful of a title it is.

Oh, least with Archie comics celebrating their 70th anniversary last month, they're not at a shortage of new ideas, and I respect the fact that they take chances.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's go back to 'The New Archies'.

As far as I know, there were thirteen half-hour episodes made of the series, with each episode having two stories. Some sources that I've looked at state that there were fourteen episodes made, but for some reason, I cannot recall seeing the fourteenth episode that supposedly aired. At any rate, if you click HERE and HERE, you can watch a couple of episodes of the show, just to get a feel of what the show was like.

(A couple of notes about the episodes. the heck did Miss Grundy end up driving Ol' Betsy? And secondly, how klutzy can one teenage boy actually be?)

Now, if you've watched the episodes, you'll probably have noticed that at the very least, the 12-year-old Archie characters are a lot like the characters in the comic books. Their personalities fit exactly to the counterparts they play in the original comic books, so that is one plus for the show.

Archie is still the girl-crazy, sports obsessed boy who happens to also be one of the klutziest (as evidenced by one of the episodes that I showed you). Jughead is still the gluttonous stringbean with a taste for hamburgers and a dislike for girls. Betty's still the kind-hearted, generous soul who never has a bad thing to say about anyone. Veronica's still the rich girl who has everything handed to her...yet surprisingly she has a valley girl accent and wears clothes that don't look like they go together at all. How eighties. Oh, yes, there's Reggie too, who proved that he was just as much of a jerk as a pre-teen as he is shown in the comic books. In fact, Reggie appears to be even more one-dimensional in The New Archies than in any other adaptation.

There's other secondary characters that appear in the series. Big Ethel makes an appearance in this series, and she's just as gawky and awkward in this cartoon as she is in the comics. Moose is also in the series, and while his slowness in class was linked to him having dyslexia in the teenage Archie, on “The New Archies”, he's just portrayed as being as dumb as a box of rocks.

There's also some minor appearances in the series by Archie's dad, Veronica's dad, Pop Tate, Coach Kleats, and Ms. Beazly, the lunch lady.

And then there's Eugene and Amani, which are two characters that only appear in 'The New Archies'. They're not seen in Little Archie, and they don't even seem to make an appearance in the regular Archie series at all. So, why were they in the series?

One could argue that they were added to add a bit of multiculturalism to Riverdale, as both Amani and Eugene are African-American. But then if they wanted to do that, why not just add Chuck Clayton and Nancy Woods in the series? Neither one were shown in the cartoon at all.

Here's my theory. I think that Eugene and Amani are actually hybrids of characters who did not make it into 'The New Archies' from the original comic book series. The question of why Chuck, Nancy, Dilton Doiley, or Midge Klump weren't featured in 'The New Archies' has never been answered, but my best guess is that 'The New Archies' was a show that was only meant to have just a few characters on screen at once. It was produced by DIC Entertainment, and going back to any DIC shows that I watched, it was very rare to have more than say, ten different animated characters onscreen at the same time. It would be way too much hard work to animate so much, at least it would have been back in 1987. I'm guessing that the characters of Chuck and Dilton were combined to make Eugene, and that the characters of Midge and Nancy were combined to make Amani. This effectively took four characters and condensed them into two, making fewer characters to animate.

Of course, that's just my theory.

So, what's the final verdict on 'The New Archies'? Well, as far as I'm concerned, while it doesn't quite hold a candle to the original series, I do respect the fact that the creators tried to keep the Archies in character, and I will say that some of the episodes were enjoyable to watch. Granted, the episodes in which an alien comes to visit them, and when Archie and Jughead accidentally shrink themselves making a birthday present for Veronica, and when Archie becomes a werewolf were farfetched, but it was a cartoon. Cartoons could be unbelievable.

The cons? The show has NOT aged well at all. The clothing and references made are incredibly dated now. The background music may have been cutting edge in 1987, but is tragically laughable now. And, Eugene and Amani as stand alone characters fell flat. I would have rather had Dilton and Chuck, to be honest.

But 'The New Archies' celebrates its 25th birthday this year, so I figured that I would dedicate a blog entry to the show so that people can see what it was like.

And besides, the show taught a bunch of life lessons to kids. That you shouldn't change who you are to get people to like you. That everyone is capable of a good deed, regardless of how clumsy you are. That cheating is not okay. That makes it okay in my book.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Everybody Loves Raymond's Wife!

Having been single for quite a long time, and never being married, I've never had to experience the joys of having in-laws.

EDIT: Oh, wait, that's not quite true, as both of my sisters have gotten married.

I'm talking about having a mother-in-law or a father-in-law. I've never had either one as of yet. But, I have to admit that I always wondered how I would get along with in-laws...hypothetically speaking, of course.

I would like to think that if I ever had in-laws, I would get along with them quite well. Or, at the very least, I would try to get along with them for the sake of my wife.

However, I'm sure that many of you reading this blog entry have had in-laws who have at times driven you a little bit crazy.

Suppose you have a mother-in-law who purposely brings over complete dinners for the whole family. To some, it might seem like a kind gesture of love on the surface. But if you knew ahead of time that the only reason that your mother-in-law was bringing over food because she didn't think that your cooking was as up to par as hers...well, yes, that would be incredibly frustrating.

Or, how about having a garage or basement filled with dozens of appliances and electronics that no longer work because your father-in-law claimed that he could fix them, only to make them even more damaged? Yes, that could be frustrating.

Or, how about when you spend a whole lot of time and effort creating the perfect gift for your in-laws? You spend a fortune on making sure that the gift is of the finest quality, and even spend a little extra to have it engraved. It's a gift that comes straight from the heart. And what happens when they unwrap it for Christmas? They take it to the store and exchange it for something that they wanted more.

That would be the ultimate in frustrations.

And, yet, the above situations have happened to today's blog subject.

You might think that was bad enough. Having in-laws that constantly meddle in every aspect of your life, often causing more frustration than happiness. At least in most cases, they live far enough away that at most, you only have to deal with them once a week or so.

Not so for our blog subject for today. In her case, she was unfortunate enough to live right across the street from her in-laws. Just imagine having your in-laws living so close that they feel a need to come by for a visit EVERY SINGLE DAY. Having them criticize the way you clean the house, or do unsolicited repair jobs around the house, or just dropping by unannounced.

I imagine that would be enough to drive anybody nuts.

On that note, I think we should meet this victim of unfortunate circumstances, shall we? Oh, she is preparing a turkey for a holiday dinner.

Wow. That wasn't awkward to watch at all.

But for Debra Barone, such was life being married to Ray Barone. Unfortunately for her, when she married Ray, she also married Marie, Frank, and Robert Barone...Ray's mother, father, and brother, respectively.

The television show that these characters come from? That would be 'Everybody Loves Raymond'. Debuting in 1996 and running until May 2005, 'Everybody Loves Raymond' was part of the CBS Monday night comedy block, and consistently ranked near the top during its entire run. For nine seasons, the show chronicled the lives of Debra, Ray, and their three children, growing up in a suburban paradise in the state of New York. The show is largely based off of the real-life family of Ray Romano, who himself has three children. Patricia Heaton played Ray's wife, Debra.

The sitcom also starred Brad Garrett as Robert, Doris Roberts as Marie, the late Peter Boyle as Frank, and the Sullivan siblings (Madylin, Sullivan and Sawyer) as Ray and Debra's three children. In later episodes, Monica Horan played the role of Amy, Robert's girlfriend who later became Robert's wife.

TRIVIA: In the pilot episode of 'Everybody Loves Raymond', which aired on September 13, 1996, the original names of the twin boys in the program were Gregory and Matthew, after Ray Romano's real life twin boys. Their names were changed to Geoffrey and Michael after the pilot. The third Barone child, Ally, was named after Romano's daughter, Alexandra.

In the show, Ray works as a sportswriter for a newspaper, while Debra was a homemaker. Prior to marrying Ray, Debra worked in public relations for the New York Rangers hockey team (which probably explains part of how Ray and Debra hooked up in the first place).

Initially, when they met each other, Debra lived in an apartment, while Ray lived at his parents house moving furniture. Ray was delivering a futon that Debra had ordered, and they were setting it up for her when Debra and Ray almost felt an instantaneous connection with each other. I guess if one were to believe in love at first sight, Ray and Debra felt it. Ray even asked Debra out on a date, to which she accepted.

And then Ray walked in on Debra as she was getting out of the shower, and saw everything, and he thought he blew it. Turns out, he didn't. She invited him over to her place, tempted him with her world famous lemon chicken dish, and she fell head over heels in love with him.

The part where Ray almost knocks Debra out cold with the freezer door was just a fluke. Of course, some people who believe strongly in fate may have taken that a sign for Debra to run far, far away.

But Debra was seemingly a glutton for punishment, and married Ray anyway.

It wasn't until Ray and Debra had Ally and were expecting twins that they realized that they needed a bigger place to raise their family. There was no way that they could fit five people in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. They needed a house, and needed one fast. So, when the house across the street from Ray's parents became available, you know who came up with the idea to buy the house?

Yep. Debra.

In Debra's mind, it was the perfect solution, despite Ray's objections. They would have a home big enough to raise their family, and they would also have Frank and Marie across the street to look after their children when they couldn't. Add Uncle Robert to the mix, and it would be fun and games all the time.

Only it wasn't.

Throughout the nine years that we welcomed the Barone family into our households, we saw just how stressed out Debra was. Of course, sometimes it felt really difficult to find any sympathy for her because as we all know, it was her own fault that they ended up there in the first place. At times, she was so stressed out and overworked that it wasn't too uncommon to see her emotionally frustrated and having fractured relationships with everyone in her family.

Despite all of this though, the Barone family care an awful lot for Debra, and they all know that they are probably better people for having her in their lives.

So I thought for this blog entry, I'd use it to celebrate Debra, by accentuating at least one positive quality in each relationship that she has with each one of the adult Barone family members. Because, let's face it, to be able to deal with all of their craziness, she deserves a medal...even though she sort of brought it on herself.

Let's begin with the man that Debra married. Ray Barone. I'd have to say that for the most part, Ray and Debra were very much made for each other, and it's hard to pictured either of them apart. But, just like most husbands and wives, there's always something that they tend to nitpick each other about. Whether they forget to throw their dirty underwear in the laundry hamper, or they don't take out the garbage, or they don't fix the squeak in a cabinet door. You know, things like that.

In Debra's case, she gets annoyed that her husband doesn't seem to take a real active role in helping her with chores or raising the children. Although Ray is forced to watch ESPN and other sports programming for his job as a sports writer, it did seem as though Ray used it as a bit of a convenient excuse to get out of the household duties that Debra asked him to help out with. Ray's even gone as far as faking illness to get out of doing housework. No wonder Debra got frustrated with him.

Of course, Ray's behaviour is easily understood when you take into consideration how he grew up. With a mother who spoiled him rotten, and a father who basically ignored him, he really had two different extremes. It was really hard for him to find a middle ground. I think Debra understood this, and tried to make allowances for him. It proved to be quite a challenge though. Although, one thing that was clear was that Ray really loved his wife and would do anything for her when the time came. He even gave up the Super Bowl for her once. There's not a lot of guys who would give up the Super Bowl for anything.

(Well, actually, I would because I hate football, but that's a moot point.)

And in turn, Debra helped defend Ray from a bully...the mother of one of the girl scouts in their daughter's girl scout troop. So, like I said, when worst comes to worst, they are always there for each other.

But what about the other members of the Barone family?

I'd say that regarding the male members of the family, Debra had a cordial relationship with both of them.

Frank Barone, although he was always one to hide his emotions and was your stereotypical cantankerous old geezer, he seemed to have a soft spot for Debra. I really do think that in his own way, he really liked Debra, and was proud of Ray for marrying a great girl like her.

Certainly he drove the family crazy by breaking the staircase, painting their house a weird colour, and actually driving a car through their living room!

But Frank was a guy who didn't like seeing Debra hurt. And when Debra decided to take on a job at the lodge that Frank was a member of, Frank knew that the other members didn't exactly act like gentlemen. Frank not only stood up for Debra, but made sure that she was safe from the advances of the other men. Once Frank stood up for her, Debra ended up getting enough confidence to tell the lecherous perverts at the lodge how disappointed she was in them.

Debra also has a great relationship with Robert. In fact, I think Debra and Robert probably understand each other the best because they're both in similar situations. Just as Frank and Marie can sometimes drive Debra crazy, it is especially worse for Robert, as he happens to live with Frank and Marie under their roof for most of the series. But that was good in a way, because Debra and Robert would often comfort each other, and give each other advice on how to cope. Robert ended up being a venting post for Debra to vent about Ray, Frank, and Marie, and I'm sure that having Robert as a confidant really helped Debra manage her stress. In turn, Debra probably helped Robert stop feeling sorry for himself, and was Robert's strongest supporter when he and Amy started dating. I think the friendship between Robert and Debra was wonderful, and I kind of wish it was explored more in the series.

Finally, we come to the frenemy portion of the blog entry.

The quality of the clip above is not very good, but it's no secret that Marie Barone and Debra Barone's relationship can be quite dysfunctional at times. Let's take a look at all the things that Marie has done to Debra over the years. She sabotaged Debra's spice rack to keep her from duplicating her own recipes. She purposely tells Debra that she is not a good cook, cleaner, housekeeper, or clothes folder. She insists on taking control over ever little detail in weddings, parties, anything really. She's snobbish, she's judgmental, I think in one episode, Amy's mother once called her a narcissist.

To say that Debra and Marie are much like water and electricity would be an understatement.

But there is one positive thing that I can say about both of them. No matter how much they antagonize each other, both Debra and Marie want what is best for Ray. And I think that while neither one of them would ever show it, I think there's a little bit of respect deep down inside. Deep down, I do believe that Marie thinks that Debra is the best woman for Ray. Though, she'd NEVER admit it.

Another instance came when Debra and Marie ended up having a falling out that lasted almost an entire week. They refused to speak to each other, despite efforts from Ray, Frank, and Robert to get them to patch things up. Weirdly enough, Debra and Marie ended up forgiving each other on their own, as both of them realized how much they missed each other!

I guess maybe in some weird way, Debra and Marie actually get along better when they are taking shots at each other's expenses. They fight and criticize each other constantly, and Marie always manages to find a way to disguise her condescending nature as a compliment to Debra, which I'm sure annoys Debra to no end. At the same time, I don't think either one could live without the other.

It's a real dysfunctional relationship between the two of them, and I don't think I could really do it much justice in such a small space. Maybe if I ever do the Marie Barone blog topic, it'll be explained in more detail.

My hope for today though is that you understand Debra Barone a little more than you might have before...and maybe you'll find that you love her just as much as you might have Raymond.

Well, unless you HATE the show, that is.