Welcome to the Nostalgic Ramber

Hans Jeff Borger is heard on WRGE 97.9 FM in Ocala, FL featuring Christian programming.

"The Nostalgic Rambler" radio show previously heard on Gene Martin & Friends has been suspended due to my commitments at WRGE.

Why a blog? I wrote a book "The Little Grownup: a nostalgic Michigan boyhood" which should appeal to most baby boomers. A mass market book? Well, not yet...but the potential is there! (Be sure to buy it at "finer on line bookstores" everywhere!)

The comments presented in "The Nostalgic Rambler" probably won't be of interest to the masses...anymore. If grandma and grandpa and their friends were still alive, then it would be a different story.

I live in the past. My time warp is a comfortable cocoon even if it sometimes drives my wife crazy. The music of the 1940s and 50s, the stars of those days were big stuff in their day, but are now almost forgotten. Oddly enough, I was born in '64 so those iconic years were for the most part over by that time.

Through "The Nostalgic Rambler" I maybe can help share my love and knowledge for those times and things...all at one time important pieces of Americana but now a bit faded in memory.

The woman who did the blog about cooking all of Julia Childs' French Cuisine Cookbook in a year got a sweet movie deal out of her blog experience. I wouldn't mind that but would be happy to know that you are reading this....and maybe enjoying my time warp, too.

Hans Jeff Borger

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moss Hart, Broadway dreamer remembered

Remember when we used to have to do book reports in school? I don't think it was high on my priority list then. Today though it's time for a book review, or let's just call it a book recommendation! The book is called "Act One, An Autobiography by Moss Hart" published way back in 1959. It's still in print and has become one of the all time greatest biographies of Broadway and the theater. I didn't know this when I found it at a thrift shop for $1 !

Everyone has probably dreamed about becoming rich and famous. Moss Hart was one of those people. He was fascinated with the world of the theater ever since he was a small boy in New York in the early 1900s. His family was poor.... and dysfunctional is probably an understatement for their relationships. Of course most of us never get to climb out of our dreams and obtain the success we might want.

Moss (who ever heard of anyone naming someone Moss?) wanted to get into the theater but it was an elusive dream for a long time. He worked in a basement building which stored people's stinky fur coats, he worked all summer running a summer camp entertainment program only to have it go bankrupt at the end. He didn't receive a cent. He tried a stint as an actor working with a talented but often drunk leading man.

Moss was a manic-depressive in a time when nobody really treated that. Perhaps that's why he had the drive to succeed? Somehow luck came his way and little doors were opening. After the talented but eccentric George Kaufman allowed him to collaborate they worked on several versions of one play for months on end. At the end of the book Moss is rich and becoming famous with a successful play on Broadway.

Moss Hart's command of the English language is stellar. His wit in this book is hard to match with anything I have read in a long time. The peculiar personalities of theater folk are so interesting. I didn't know who most of these people were, but it sure was fun to read about them.

In his later years Moss married Kitty Carlisle, known to many tv viewers in the 1950s for her game show appearances. Moss died in his 50s. "Act One" left me wondering what else he did in his career. I recall seeing his name on the "My Fair Lady" soundtrack as he staged the Broadway production. There are several biographies about him written more recently so those will be next on my reading list.

In 1963 Dore Shary (Moss's friend who later struck it big in Hollywood) did a movie based on Moss Hart's life and book also entitled "Act One." I don't think it went anywhere as I can't even find it on VHS or DVD.

Why did I pick up this book in the first place? One of my all time favorite bios is by Random House publishing company founder Bennett Cerf ("At Random"). Bennett was enamored by Moss Hart and mentioned him endearingly in his book. Of course "Act One" was also published by Random House!

PS: Here's a fascinating look at Moss seen through the eyes of his wife. "Most creative people have depressions," she says. Wow.

pics above include an ad featuring both Bennett Cerf and Moss Hart; postage stamp of Moss and Moss with Kitty

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fred Allen, radio star and national wit

Growing up in Southfield, Michigan in the 1970s we had access to a great library. Part of that library had a cassette tape lending program (anyone remember cassette tapes?). Take the early 1970s and subtract about thirty years and you still had the 1940s and what was known as the "Golden Age of Radio." Today in 2011 the 1940s seem like ancient history. Subtract thirty years from today and you get 1981....that doesn't sound like THAT long ago, does it? As Jack Benny would have said.... "Hmmmmmmmm."

Anyhow, as time marches on, I have digressed.....getting back to to those tapes....Some of my favorites were by the radio comedian Fred Allen. Fred was a master of words and wit. His show was topical for the time. Sometimes that made it hard to understand back in the 1970s. Still somehow the wry wit of this man came through. His radio show was top rated in its heyday. Listen to an episode here.

His humor served him well on the radio and in several books but he never made the transition to TV very successfully, probably because he didn't have the looks! He did serve as a panelist on "What's My Line?" for a while as well as a mystery guest. He was a great friend of Jack Benny and they sparred on their various programs in a famous "feud" that was all in fun.

I don't think we have too many national wits around anymore. The general population is probably too lowbrow to understand the comments. I think it must have been fun to gather around the radio and listen to Fred Allen in his heyday. I can't get too nostalgic for 1981 but somehow those cassettes I listened to in the 1970s still keep me interested in the times that were already passing into the nation's foggy memory banks back then....

pics above include Fred with his wife and often co-star Portland Hoffa