Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Backstage

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Gene Pitney’s “Backstage”:

There haven’t been too many songs about the touring life musicians endure. I’ve featured two on my Spotlight express: Bob Seger’s “Turn the page” and Gene Clark’s “Backstage Pass.” Both outstanding songs. One of the first was Gene Pitney’s “Backstage.”

Gene Pitney began his career as a songwriter for other musician. He wrote Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball” and “He’s a Rebel”by the Crystals. In the early sixties, he took up performing. His tenor voice could give a song a powerful rendition which was lacking in many of his contemporaries.

From 1961 to 1965, he turned out hit after hit, perfect songs for the radio format of that time: “Town Without Pity,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Mecca,” “Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa” and “I’m gonna be strong.” It’s hard to listen to any of these songs and not pull over your car and listen.

Near 500 words: Chair sitting

I wasn’t always a chair sitter. Then late one night, I saw a master of the chair, performing his art in an episode of “All in the Family.” Saint Archie of Bunker sat down on his throne and revealed the secret to the truly blessed life. There was no problem that could not be solved, no challenge that couldn’t be met, no secret that could not revealed. When he sat on that chair, he was the all-wise one.

Once I fell under Saint Archie’s spell, I took the road not taken so much and have been thankful to the Blessed Archie since. Under his guidance, I learned the art of contemplation. Navel gazing, if you will. I learned to stare blankly into space with nary a thing on my mind.

I learned to pontificate as well as the speakers in Hyde Park. On any number of subjects I know absolutely nothing about. Archie taught me the art of laziness. If a job needs doing, there’s always an Edith to do it.

After months of practice, there was only one thing left to do. Saint Archie had his special chair. I needed mine. I spent many an afternoon, wandering the showrooms of God’s green earth. But no chair fit my bottom’s criteria. Just as I was about to give up I met her.

I remember the moment like it was just yesterday. I gazed across the Ikea showroom. She was a wooden framed, canvas covered goddess of a chair.  She saw me. It was love at first sight. I introduced myself. She told me her name was Chaise. I immediately proposed and she accepted. The cashier performed the nuptials. Then she pronounced us man and chair with the word, “Sold.”

Our honeymoon was a long one. I kept asking myself how had I gone so long without such a creature. She was a perfect fit for my bottom. Her embraces were ecstasy.

Whole days went by without my moving. Once I took my respite in her arms it was like the poet Omar Khayyam said. “A can of beer, a remote control, and thou.” We learned the nooks and crannies of each other like we’d been married for decades. I knew her mood swings. She knew where to scratch my back when an if I had an itch.

Then it happened. Like Sheldon Cooper says, there is a Special Place for each of our bottoms. And for us alone. One night some friends came over. And lo and behold, one of those former friends rested his bottom on my beloved. With tears pouring down my face, I screamed, “Sitter, beware.”

But it was too late. My beloved had embraced his bottom as she had embraced mine. As the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a chair sitter scorned.”

When they left, I sat down in my beloved’s arms. The sound was different. In the past, there had always been an ahhhh from Chaise. Now there was a burp. A burp! I ask you, “Have you ever heard such a thing?” The fit was too loose for my bottom. And she retained his smell. The smell of dirty socks.

Needless to say I did not get a divorce and take her down to the local Goodwill. No. I gave her what she truly deserved. Forty whacks with an ax.

In the months that followed, I found myself alone. Distraught. Nothing could satisfy my depression. I watched “All in the Family” episodes for weeks on end, hoping for inspiration. I prayed to Saint Archie. Nothing would do. And then I was at Ikea.

Needless to say, I have lived happily ever after since. And perhaps when I die, I will be buried sitting up in Silla’s lap.


Kaisa was an ice skater. She was good at it too. But she had to work at being good. When she decided to do a thing, she threw herself into it.

Her parents had first noticed that when Kaisa decided to walk. While her brother and sister took their own sweet times, Kaisa didn’t. She went at it wholeheartedly

She was two when she first walked out onto the ice. She didn’t want to get off. It wasn’t the skating that took up her time. It was the routines. On top of being a good skater, she was a perfectionist. Any screw-up in a routine and she beat herself up.

When she first went to the training camp, she realized she had found her place in the world. There were others like her. They were not just competitors. They were friends. When one did well, they all did well. That was their way.

Helsinki is a large city, the largest in Finland. Before any time, everybody in the city knew about her. She was their darling. With her small body, her blonde hair, her blue eyes, she was their darling. And she loved the applause.

Finally, she went into competitions. Initially she did well. Winning a medal or two, but she went after more. That is when she fell. And she fell hard. She broke her arm.

The doctor put a cast onto it and she went back on the ice. The ice was her home.

Once her arm was out of the cast, she began exercises that would build up her muscles. She learned how to fall without breaking anything. Sure, she might have a bruise or two but she would be able to get up and skate. That was the point.

Thirteen and she found herself Olympic bound. “You have four years to train,” her coach told her, “and you must train hard.”

While other girls went out on dates with blonde haired blue eyed boys, Kaisa skated. And she skated and skated. Until she was ready. Everybody said she was ready. And so she was.

She stepped out onto the ice at the European Championships and she went into her routine. Not a mistake. Not an error. She had chosen a James Brown song to dance to and she gave the music the bump and grind that it deserved. When she walked out off the ice, the applause and cheers were deafening. She was the hottest thing they’d seen on the ice in years. The medal went to her.

Again and again she fired up the ice. Soon she would be on the Olympic stage and would give the Americans a run for their money. Then she fell in love. And she didn’t just fall in love with anyone. She fell in love with a first class jerk.

As she had matured as a skater, she had remained innocent to the ways of love and sex and dating. She didn’t know how to take her feelings. So she did the only thing she knew. She went on the ice. But the ice was melting from the sun of her love. She fell and this time she didn’t fall well. She broke a leg.

Her coach and her doctor told her the news. “You’re going to be okay but we’re afraid the Olympics is out.”

That night she cried out, “To hell with love. I will be a champion.”

The cast came off and she went out on the ice. Within minutes, she fell. She had an ear infection that was affecting her balance.

They treated the ear, then she went back out on the ice. She fell again. The Olympics were a year away and she would not be ready.

Her mother came to her. “We know how bad you want this. But something is telling you that this is not for you.”

They cried together and held each other.

“You’ve got to let it go,” her mother said. “This is not your journey. You’ve done your bit. Now lay down the skates and go find your journey.”

Seventeen years old and one of the best skaters in the world, she dried her tears. She took her time to heal, then she went off to the mountains to be alone. In the cabin where she was staying, she got plenty of sleep for the first time in a long time. Each morning she woke up early and watched the sun rise over the mountains. Each day she took long walks in the forest and thought about her life. Without skating, she had no compass.

One night by the fire, she looked through the books on the shelf. There weren’t many. One was a diary. She began to read it. The next day she finished with tears in her eyes. She closed the diary. She went outside and said good morning to the world. She knew what she would do. She would be a nurse like her mother and she would go to Africa to help at the refugee camps she had read about.

She was a new woman and her skating life was over. But that was okay. She had learned what she needed to learn.

She caught the train back to Helsinki a week later. Sitting and reading a magazine across from her was a man. He looked up from his article. She was smiling. He smiled back.

“I’m Kaisa,” she said.

“I’m Jussi,” he said.

She went to say something but she couldn’t think of anything to say. But he found the words for the two of them.

“What are you doing with your life, Kaisa?”

“I’m going to be a nurse,” she told him. Her smile was bigger than it was when she first smiled at him.

“A nurse, eh. I’m going to be a doctor. I want to go to Africa and work in the refugee camps.”

“That’s what I want too.”

They didn’t talk for the rest of the journey. They just sat and looked at each other and occasionally they laughed.

For the first time in her life, Kaisa was truly happy.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Final Portrait

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Final Portrait” (2017):

With some artists, I need an In to appreciate their work. “Final Portrait” was the In I needed to access the amazing work of the Swiss Alberto Giacometti, one of the great artists of the twentieth century. He was as important to the art world as many of his contemporaries including Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Dali and Henry Moore. He was a sculptor, a painter, a printmaker.

At the end of his career, he had abandoned all art movements and focused on creating something original. Influenced by existentialism, he stripped down his sculptures and portraits to what would seem to be the essence of the subject.

“Final Portrait” is based on A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord, a writer who made the art world his subject. Director Stanley Tucci gives us a few weeks in the artist’s life in 1964, close to the end of his life. During those weeks, James Lord (Armie Hammer) sits for the artist for a portrait. Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush)i tells Lord that it will only take two or three days. The process turns into weeks and what seems to be an eternity for Lord. A painful eternity.

It is a gray world, the studio of Giacometti. Only Caroline, the prostitute and Giacometti’s muse, brings color into his world. As the project continues, James Lord gets to see Giacometti create. Geoffrey Rush is always good. No matter the part. Whether it be David Helfgott in “Shine,” Sir Francis Walsingham in “Elizabeth,” Javert in “Les Miserables,” Harry in “Tailor of Panama,” The Maquis de Sade in “Quills,” or Lionel Logue in “The King’s Speech,” his work as an actor is superb. As Alberto Giacometti, he gives one of the best performances of the films I have seen him in.

Lord also gets to know Giacometti’s brother and closest friend, Diego, played by Tony Shalhoub. I have enjoyed Shalhoub’s work since I first saw him as the Italian cabdriver, Antonio Scarpacci, in the series “Wings”. Later he was the hypochondriatic detective Adrian Monk in “Monk”. At first, I didn’t recognize Shalhoub. His quietness seems to make him fade into the scenery. Shalhoub makes us realize how essential Diego was to his brother.

Giacometti’s long suffering wife, Annette, is played by Sylvie Testud and Clemance Poesy is Caroline, Giacometti’s prostitute muse. Both actresses are French and new to American audiences. And both are wonderful as the two closest women in Giacometti’s life.

Usually biopics are a chronological narrative of the subject. What he did when he was a kid. What got her started on her road to greatness. But the movies seem to leave something out. Something that is the essence of the subject. Something that reveals the inner light that makes the subject worthy of so much attention.

By concentrating on a short time, Stanley Tucci has given us the Giacometti’s life. He has brought insights into the artist’s creative process: the struggle, the perfectionism, the desire never to settle, the focus, the concentration. By choosing those few weeks in 1964, Tucci has given us what may be easily called a great biopic.

Near 500 words: Ancestors

The woman in the door of the wooden hut stood before Rufus. Her dark hair and her brown eyes were full of life though her life was hard.

Her focus reminded Rufus of the last time he saw his father. It was late at night and the old man sat at his desk, studying a photograph of his father who had been gone some thirty years. There was a light in the old man’s eyes. It wasn’t the light from the table lamp. It was another kind of light. It was the light of memory.

Or was it more? Was it the light of someone who has experienced some piece of the divine in his life? Rufus’ father never spoke of his father.

“Can I have some water?” Rufus asked the woman in the doorway.

The woman smiled. Instead of water, she invited him inside her one-room house. A house that was spotlessly clean. In the corner was an altar to some god or other. He didn’t ask since he knew it would be as rude as asking his father about his grandfather. She brought him a cup of tea and offered him a seat on one of the three wooden chairs.

Rufus took out his camera and pointed to it. “Can I take your photograph?”

The woman blushed, then shook her head yes.

Rufus pointed and snapped several pictures. Then he finished his tea. He thanked her for her hospitality.

It was a brief encounter but not as brief as the night he saw his father studying the photograph of his father.

As he walked up the path away from the woman’s house, he missed his father and his grandfather. Perhaps in another life. Perhaps.