Benny Jay: Jon Randolph Keeps On Truckin’

July 31st, 2014

Jon Randolph’s latest post was so damn good, I had to call and get the back story.

It’s pictures he took in the early `70s of students from Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, competing in a Keep On Truckin’ contest, to see who could come up with the best imitation of Robert Crumb’s classic hippie comic. Here’s the link.

So, I get Jonny on the horn and, well…

Here’s what Jon remembers about taking those great pictures…

“It was 1971. I was out of school by then. I must have come down for a weekend. Not sure how I ended up there…”


studstWhen it comes to talkin’, he’s no Studs Terkel…


“Anything else?” I ask.

“Ugh, I submitted some to Look magazine. They rejected it, but they liked it.”

“How did you know they liked them — did they send you a letter?”

“I got a nice rejection notice from Annie Leibovitz.”

“You also sent the Truckin’ pictures to Rolling Stone?”

“No, I’m just saying I once got a rejection letter from her.”

I tell you — interviewing Jonny’s like taking Allen Ginsberg’s deposition. You only hope to capture whatever springs to his mind.

“So, Jon, would you say you were a hippie back then?”

“I don’t know, if you would say that. Sorta. I guess.”

All right — wouldn’t want to go out on a limb there.

We suddenly find ourselves having a conversation about something we know nothing about. As if that’s ever stopped us.

In this case — can we print a copy of Crumb’s orginal cartoon without getting sued by Crumb?

Jon says we can on the grounds that TTC’s not making any money.

The fucker can’t remember what he ate for breakfast, but suddenly he’s an expert on copyright law.


But no one takes a photo like our boy Jonny…


Desperate for something — anything — more to write, I ask how he found the old pix, hoping he has a stirring tale to tell. Alas…

“Friday morning I was panicking about what to run, so I looked around…”


“And?” I ask.


“You found the Truckin’ file?” I suggest.

“It’s not really a file,” he says. “It’s a box.”


“That’s it?” I say.

“You want more?”

Remind me never to ghostwrite this dude’s biography.

“So this is going to be my bad memory?” he asks.

“Well, it’s not like you give me a lot to work with…”

“Cooperate with the press once and look what happens?” he says. “I’ll never talk to the fuckin’ press again!”

I’m sure newspaper editors everywhere are weeping at the news.

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No Blaise: Reading for Dummies

July 30th, 2014

No Blaise was planning to write an original post, this being Wednesday. But she got bombed last night and had to take the day off. Happy Birthday, No! You’re a Third City kind of girl! As she works off that birthday-bash hangover, we’re running one of her greatest hits…


Though I have some habits that are a staple for me like being hungry all the time, most of my other habits I would consider sporadic.

One of these such sporadic habits is reading. I will get into phases with a good book where I plow through it in a week or two, depending on length. In the aftermath of said good book I’ll read more articles, seek out more information, etc.. Then I’ll find a new good book, get two chapters in and have a headache that can only be cured with photo lists of cute animals and binge watching Netflix.

I can only have the smarts for so long, ya know.

Like most of my sporadic habits, I would like to start reading more regularly. But, how!? It’s not like I don’t like reading, I love it. Getting into a good book is like…the friggin best. So why do I get distracted so easily?

Is it A.D.D.?



Certainly possible.

The reason this all is at the forefront of my mind is because when I start grad school in September this habit of reading when I feel like it isn’t going to fly, at least in terms of my assignments.

“Sorry professor, I didn’t do the reading cause I had just done that other reading and my brain didn’t feel like it.”

“Oh, whoops, I tried doing the homework before bed and fell asleep and then forgot about it in the morning. Can I turn it in next week? Or maybe in a month? I’ll definitely have it done in a month.”

“I just couldn’t get into the reading so I stopped.”

“They don’t have that textbook in the kindle store so I’m sorry but I won’t be using it.”

“Yes, ma’am, you are right. I do need a reality check.”

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Benny Jay: I Love Weird Al!

July 29th, 2014

Champagne bottles are popping at The Third City because…

Weird Al is number 1!!!

That is — Weird Al Yankovic, one of the premier artists of our time, has the number-one selling CD in all the land.

It’s called Mandatory Fun, it features his chart-topping single, Tacky — a parody of Happy. And it’s the first comedy record to hit the top spot since 1963, with My Son, the Nut by Allan Sherman.

Speaking of geniuses.

Actually, I might be Weird Al’s only fan at TTC.

As near as I can tell no one likes Weird Al cause 1.) he’s a parodist, so they think he’s not really an artist. Like parody is easy to do. And 2.) he looks really nerdy.

That doesn’t keep my from trying to win them over. I’m always emailing my friends links of Weird Al videos, along with notes like…

“I think you’ll like this one.”


“Forget all the others — you’ll really like this!



The great Mr. Sherman…


And they’ll write back things like…

“I don’t find this funny.”


“I can’t believe you find this funny!”


“Stop sending me Weird Al shit!”

I will now take a break to list the three greatest Weird Al bits of all time.

Amish Paradise, Eat It, his fake interview with Bruce Springsteen, and Bob, his Dylan parody done in palindromes. Do you know how hard that is, people?

I know that’s four. But limiting this man’s 30-years of genius to three is like eating just one piece of fried chicken — it can’t be done!

I even have a hard time coming up with my favorite line from a single song.

For instance, I’ll be thinking this is the greatest line from Eat It (imagine it sung to Michael Jackson’s Beat It)…



We love you, Weird Al!


“Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it
Get yourself an egg and beat it…”

But then I’ll think — no, this one’s funnier…

“Have some more chicken, have some more pie
It doesn’t matter if it’s boiled or fried
Just eat it, eat it, just eat it, eat it…”

Then, I think — no, this is the funniest!

“Don’t want no Captain Crunch, don’t want no Raisin Bran
Well, don’t you know that other kids are starving in Japan
So eat it, just eat it…”

At this point, I’d like to introduce you to Jennie. She works with my wife, and, yes, she too loves Weird Al!

So we are not alone, my friends!

She was a skeptic till she saw Weird Al in concert. “That’s when I knew — he’s a genius!”

For sometime, Jennie and I have been sending my wife links to Weird Al songs in the hopes that she will see the light.

Alas, I think my wife’s about to hire a lawyer to send us a Weird Al cease-and-desist letter.

In any event, congratulations on being number 1, Weird Al. You deserve it!

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Benny Jay: Under The Moon

July 27th, 2014

In honor of the summer moon, we’re reprinting one of our greatest hits…


I’m watching Apocalypse Now, when my wife walks out the door.

She’s joining a bunch of women to practice yoga on the beach under the full moon. They do it once a month in the summer — call it full-moon yoga. I’m not making any of this up.

See, that’s the thing about women. They’re different than men. They practice yoga under the full moon. We watch “Apocalypse Now” — again and again.

“Pick me up at 8:30,” she says.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say, as bombs and shells blast away.

“I’ll be at Lawrence and the lake….”

“Yeah, right,” I say, not wanting to miss a beat.

I watch it to the scene on the beach, where Robert Duvall’s making the soldiers surf while the bullets whiz by: “If I say it’s safe to surf this beach, captain, then it’s safe to surf this beach. I mean, I’m not afraid to surf this place. I’ll surf the whole fucking place!”

Great line. Some things never get old.

It’s getting dark outside, so I pause the movie and drive to Lawrence and the lake — the exact spot where my wife said she’d be.

Only she’s not there.  The corner’s empty. Pitch black, too. Spooky as all hell. I get out of the car and walk up a slight embankment to the top of a ridge that overlooks the lake. My God, what a sight! The moon’s like a big orange ball, casting its ghostly glow on the sand.

I see some kids throwing a football, but no yoga-doing women.

It sort of irritates me. I’m easily irritated when I’m hungry and I’m seriously hungry. And we’re supposed to eat at Annie’s Chinese restaurant.  I’m already thinking about the Kung Pao Shrimp. This place makes the best Kung Pao Shrimp.

I figure wherever my wife is she’ll call me when she’s done. So I go back to the car and turn on the radio. They’re playing The Who.

FullMoon660The moon was full!


Another car pulls up along side me.

I got the volume cranked high: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….”

I’m wailing away on my air guitar when I remember there’s a car next to me. I sneak a peek. The guy in the front seat’s staring at me.

It hits me — he’s gay. This is where gay guys go to find other gay guys. Big Mike told me this years ago. Not that Big Mike is gay. He just knows lots of stuff.

This guy must think I’m gay! Why else would I be sitting in my car out by the lake all by myself in the middle of the night?

I think about calling out the window: “I’m not gay! I’m just waiting for my wife, who’s doing that full-moon yoga thing.”

But I think: What if he’s not gay? What if he’s just waiting for his wife? Or worse, what if he doesn’t believe my story. I mean, full-moon yoga? It does sound like a stretch. Who the hell does full-moon yoga? He’ll probably think I’m a rookie gay guy – taking his first steps out of the closet.

I put the car in gear and drive away.

But he follows me! He’s got his high beams flashing off my rear view mirror so I can barely see.

I push on the gas, losing him at the light. I circle the block, parking right where I started.

Another car cruises up and parks next to me. A different guy looks in. No! Not again!

My cell phone rings. It’s my wife. “Where are you?” she asks.

“Where am I? Where are you?”

“At Lawrence and the lake….”

“I don’t see you….”

“That’s cause it’s dark….”

“Walk to the street light,” I tell her. “Hurry up. I gotta get out of here. These fuckers are like carnivores….”

Sure enough, out from the darkness come the shadowy figures of women, bearing yoga mats, including my wife and her friend, Jeannie.

They have the blissed-out, God-is-good-glow of women who’ve done two hours of yoga on a beach under the full moon.

Definitely more blissed-out than me, who spent the better part of the last thirty minutes on the run.

We drive to Annie’s Chinese and order a ton of food. Let me tell you — these chicks can eat! They’re shoveling it in — staying with me, bite for bite. Right down to the last peanut in the Kung Pao Shrimp.

When you’re hungry, you gotta eat. That’s one thing men and women have in common.

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Benny Jay: Kevin Love — Yes or No?

July 24th, 2014

For the few days, my time’s been consumed by an endless debate: Should the Bulls trade for Kevin Love?

I realize, of course, the world’s filled with tens — if not hundreds — of millions of people who don’t give a shit one way or another about this question.

Many, in fact, are in my very own family.

Still, that’s not stopped me from talking about this with scores of people — including strangers on the street — again and again and again.

As a matter of fact, I got a Kevin Love text coming in right now. What up, Cap!

For the uninitiated, the issue comes down to this…

Should the Bulls trade at least three players who are not so good for one guy who’s really, really good!

As you can see, this matter cuts to the core of our very existence.

Not surprising, opinions range.

For instance, my sister, who’s developed a taste for sports, relatively late in life, says…


Everybody loves Taj!


“Don’t trade Taj!”

“But he’s not really that good.”

“So what — I like him!”

“But you don’t even know him.”

“So what — shut up!”

As you can see, a certain level of illogic manages to sneak into any sports debate I have with my sister.

Then there’s Milo’s reaction…

“Benny, I would not make that trade.”

“Do you think Taj is that good?”

“No, but I don’t want the Bulls to trade Nik.”


That’s Kevin Love with the ball, non-sports fans…



That would be Nilola Mirotic, a rookie coming over from a league in Spain with whom Milo’s apparently already on a first-name basis. Even though they’ve never met.

“But, Milo — Mirotic’s completely untested.”

“True.  But I believe the Bulls should have at least one Serbian on the team.”

This is as good a point as any to mention that Milo’s last name is Samardzija.

Finally, there’s Norm response.

“Hell, yes, I’d make that trade. Quick. Fast. And in a hurry!”

“But Taj’s a great guy.”

“Fuck that great guy bullshit — gimme Love’s 20 points and ten rebounds…”

“But McDermott looked promising in the rookie league.”

That would be Doug McDermott, recently drafted out of college.

“Benny, there’s a reason he looks good in the rookie league. It’s a league filled with rookies!”

Well, he has a point. Even if it’s kind of cold-hearted and ruthless.

Then again, in sports — as in life — it’s generally the cold-hearted and ruthless who win.


Benny Jay: James Garner

July 22nd, 2014

James Garner died the other day. At age 86, of natural causes in his home in L.A.

The man lived a charmed life, he was a movie star who made a ton of dough. Still, I feel a little sad. I was big Jim Garner fan. He was funny and witty and cool.

I saw a ton of his movies back in the day, starting with The Great Escape. Which just may be the greatest Hollywood war movie — ever!

He played Bob Hendley, the sly and slick prisoner they called the Scrounger. As I recall, he got caught when the plane he was flying crashed.

I was about nine when I saw that movie. Probably went home and cried cause none of the good guys got away.

jamesgarnerstevemcGarner & McQueen in The Great Escape…


I also loved him as Charlie Madison, the cynical adjunct to the lieutenant commander in The Americanization of Emily. Which just may be one of the greatest Hollywood anti-war flicks — ever!

Paddy Chayefsky wrote the script. Let’s all quote one of Garner’s great lines…

“I don’t trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a hell it is. And it’s always the war widows who lead the Memorial Day parades.”

Amen to that.

I loved his TV shows. Especially The Rockford Files. Which I used to watch every week with my mom.

He played Jimmy Rockford, this down-on-his luck private detective who lived in a trailer and was always broke. He’d get messages on his phone machine that went like this…

“Jim, this is Norma at the market. It bounced. Do you want us to tear it up, send it back or put it with the others?”

My man.


With Diahann Carroll at the March on Washington…


As much as I loved Garner’s movies and TV shows, I never knew much about his life.

I definitely didn’t connect him with politics. If you asked, I’d have guessed he was a Republican, like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne or the other macho stars of that time.

But, no, it turns out he was “a lifelong Democrat, who was active in behalf of civil rights and environmental causes,” who met his wife “in 1956 at a presidential campaign rally for Adlai Stevenson,” according to his obit.

As such, he was one of the few Hollywood stars who had the guts to appear at the Great March on Washington in 1963.

Along with Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Charlton Heston — who used to be a liberal before he lost his mind.

Nowadays, standing with Martin Luther King may not sound like much. But back then it was a pretty radical thing for a white actor to do.

When needed he was there. For that and everything else, I say — thank you, Mr. Garner!

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Benny Jay: Love Never Felt So Good

July 20th, 2014

In honor of Michael Jackson’s topping the charts — five years after he died — with Love Never Felt So Good, another one of his irresistible pop sensations, we reprint this blast our glorious past…


I was driving in the car when onto the radio came – Off the Wall by the great Michael Jackson!

I cranked up the volume and started singing.

“Cause we’re the party people, night and day —  livin’ crazy that’s the only way….”

I hadn’t heard that song in years. Brought me back to a wild New Year’s Party, as `79 turned into 1980. A young Benny Jay — with a ton of hair –  acting crazy. Thank goodness there are no known negatives to be used against me.

Thing is – the song stayed on my mind, long after it ended. I’ve been singing it day and night ever since.

Eventually, I boiled it down to two lines, which I say over and over, apropos to absolutely nothing. I fear this may be the first sign of some odd form of insanity.

Like this recent exchange with a receptionist…

“Hold for Mr. Jones,” she says.

“We’re the party people night and day — livin’ crazy, that’s the only way,” I say.

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry — just ignore me.”


In my mind, I dance like this….


One day I was talking to this twenty-something year old I’ll call Adrienne. Cause that’s her name.

“Do you know where this line comes from?” I asked. “`We’re the party people, night and day — livin’ crazy, that’s the only way.’”

“No,” she said.

“That’s cause you’re too young. Ask your mother — she’ll know.”

So she texted her mother.  A few minutes later, her mom texted back: “Michael Jackson.”

“See!” I said. Then I said the following line from the song: “`Gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf, and just enjoy yourself.’”

“Oh,” said Adrienne. “If you’d asked about that line, I’d have known the song.”

Like I did something wrong.

The next day, I’m in the county clerk’s office, chatting with the nice lady at the desk. When I get the urge.

“Do you know this line?” I asked. Then I say, not sing: ”We’re the party people, night and day — livin’ crazy, that’s the only way.”


But in reality, I’m more like this….


“Oh, I know that line,” she said. “But I can’t remember where it’s from.”

“I’ll give a hint,” I said. “The writer died in 2009.”

Looking at me as if to say — Duh! – she pulled out her cell phone and showed me her screen-saver picture: A young Michael Jackson, doing the moonwalk.

Then she started singing — right there in the clerk’s office! “Gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf — an’ just enjoy yourself.”

At which point, I said: “Yeah!”

Which didn’t have any applicability to anything. Just got caught up in the moment.

Yes, he was weird. But I miss Michael Jackson

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