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Posts from the ‘Odds & Ends’ Category

Heartbreak Hotel Las Vegas

May 4, 2016

Susan Marg


Photo by: Susan Marg

I’m awash in nostalgia, thanks to my local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. First, it was an article on pay phones, which they called a “relics of a not-so-distant past.” Another article noted Elvis’ decline on the Vegas Strip.

When I was doing research for my book Las Vegas Weddings, I can assure you that Elvis impersonators or, if you prefer, tribute artists were everywhere. On one trip to the City of Lost Wages, my husband and I saw a different Elvis performing five nights in a row – downtown, on the Strip, headlining concerts, and doing stand up in casino lounges. They were all terrific. So, too, were the guys in the wedding chapels.

While the number of tribute artists in town has been constant over the last several years, there’s a lot of competition for fewer gigs. Elvis-themed shows aren’t pulling in the crowds. Viva Elvis, a Cirque du Soleil production, closed in 2012 after two years at the Aria. In comparison, Mystère, the original Cirque du Soleil production, is going strong at Treasure Island two decades after it first opened. “Graceland Presents: Elvis the Exhibition” closed less than a year into a ten-year contract.

It’s not clear what is causing the fallout in fandom. It’s possible that there was not enough Elvis and too many acrobats in the first show mentioned above, and a landlord/tenant dispute disrupted the later at the Westgate Las Vegas. By the way, Westgate was originally the International, where Elvis began his long-running comeback in 1969.

All is not lost, however, unless you’re a runner-up at the three-day Tribute Artist Contest at Sam’s Town on the Boulder Highway this July. Rooms are still available.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Got Change?

April 22, 2016

Susan Marg

I’m so glad that my post on pay phones stirred up some old memories. Here’s a comment, another post, really, from my friend Brian G. Be sure to check out his links, especially the YouTube video on the last visitors to the Mojave phone booth. Once located off the beaten track and miles from any building, Pacific Bell removed it in 2000.

Photo by: Thomas

Photo by: Thomas

Hello, Susan:

When I was a junior and senior in HS, I worked at Al’s French Fries in Essex Junction, Vermont. It was started by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz immediately after WWII. They converted the lower part of their house into a burger joint. Until McDonald’s came to town in the late 60s, they were the only local fast food place outside of Burlington.

Well, we had a phone booth nearby – the type that had the nickel, dime, and quarter coin slots on top. Earlier I learned from a friend that you could get a dime call for a penny dropped in the nickel slot. Immediately after dropping the penny, the trick was to slam the coin return plunger with the palm of your hand. Sometimes it took 3 or 4 tries to get the familiar “Ding-Ding,” but it worked!

That came in handy one night after I closed at 10:00 pm and cashed up. Unfortunately my Dad had fallen asleep and neglected to pick me up and it was now midnight. As I walked across the RR tracks, I found a penny. Shortly thereafter, I made that call and the rest is history.

Thanks for the memory! For a western twist, check out:

Brian G.

PS – The original Coke tabs were a bang-up substitute for dimes in the parking meters. The raw inventory was everywhere. Simply separate the ring from the tab, quick file the corners, and you were good to go for hours and hours…

Can You Spare a Dime?

April 21, 2016

Susan Marg

We all pay for our phones. And, boy, do we pay. But in the not so distant past, there was a special type of phone called a pay phone. These phones were coin-operated: you put your dime or quarter or dimes and quarters in the appropriate slot, and dialed. A telephone card or a credit or debit card worked, too.

Photo by: Mark Mathosian

Photo by: Mark Mathosian

These phones were everywhere – airports, train stations, and bus stops. On street corners they were housed in phone booths, making them the perfect place for Clark Kent to change into Superman.

Well, their time has passed. Yes, they’re still around, but their number is not even close to their peak when there were over two million in service as recently as the turn of the century, that’s this century, sixteen years ago. Today, the number is just a quarter of a million.

An article in the San Diego Union Tribune this past Sunday brought on this nostalgia. When I was at AT&T, a colleague of mine was responsible for creating awareness of pay phones, and I think of her often. Billboards in airports across the country announced their availability. AT&T got out of the business in 2009, canceling their pay phone contracts and disconnecting service.

Thank goodness for cell phones, no matter how much they cost.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Celebrate the Silly and Serious

March 9, 2016

Susan Marg

The Fusco Brothers by J.C. Duffy

The Fusco Brothers by J.C. Duffy

I’m looking ahead. We’re now into March, and April showers (we hope, here in Southern California) will soon be here. There are lots of things to celebrate this time of year.

For example, April is National Humor Month. Seriously. It’s also Stress Awareness Month. That’s perfect, isn’t it, as laughter can help relieve what ails you. Just don’t let anyone make a fool of you on the first.

During the month there are special days to honor school librarians, Girl Scout leaders, and barbershop quartets. There is an entire week for administrative assistants.

We also recognize some of our favorite foods, including peanut butter and jelly, jelly beans, pretzels, prime rib, and shrimp scampi.

May is Personal History Awareness Month, a personal favorite of mine. So you have some time to think about what makes a day, a week, a month special to you. Then write about it!

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

September 24, 2015

Susan Marg

© racorn

© racorn

Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000, have never known a world without computers. They get all of their information and do most of their socializing on the Internet. I find that amazing.

Political, social, and cultural events are part of what makes us who we are. We’re often closer to those our own age, give or take a few years, than we are to our parents. We have more in common with those who experienced the same things growing up that we did – the same music, the same movies, the same technology — or lack of technology. We visit the same malls and shop at the same stores as our friends.

I remember my two-year old nephew, who’s a Millennial, loading a movie he wanted to watch into the VCR. He didn’t have to ask Mom or Dad. He just did it. This was in 1990, about ten years before DVDs became popular and no one had ever heard of streaming. Watching him I thought: well, so much for learning delayed gratification. Yep, that’s something Millennials have never learned.

Millennials are different from previous generations. And that’s neither good nor bad. We all have our faults and foibles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all get along.

Last month in the August 23 issue of Parade, actor Chris Elliott, a baby boomer, and his daughter, actress Abby Elliott, acknowledge the generation gap. In the article they discuss how they stay close. It helps that they are in the same business, show business, and they have each other’s back. They also believe that the family that laughs together stays together. In other words, it helps to have a sense of humor.

Offering advice to her elders, Abby points out that “LOL” does not mean “Lots of Love.” (For those who don’t know, it means: “Laughing our Loud.”) From her perspective, writing “RIP LOL” in sympathy would not be appropriate.

While I reserve the right to interpret “LOL” any way I want, I won’t be putting it on a condolence card anytime soon.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Speaking Volumes

September 12, 2015

Susan Marg

When was the last time you used the word “groovy”? It’s probably been decades. It was hip in the sixties, when we wore bell bottoms, the wider the better, with tie-dye tee shirts, and mini skirts were mod.

Illustration by: © macrovec

Illustration by: © macrovec

Slang falls into and out of fashion. If you’re part of the in crowd, you use it spontaneously, effortlessly, instinctively. It slips on as comfortably as an old pair of jeans. It’s a part of who you are, when you grew up, and to which generation you belong.

What are some of your favorite expressions – to describe something good or to convey a feeling? “Bummed out” comes to mind. So does “jazzed” and “stoked.”

The myriad ways to say “hello” are secret passwords that let you into the club. “What’s shaking” is old school for “wassup.” “Yo” was a simple greeting. “How’s it hanging” meant “how are you.” It still might.

There are even more ways to quit the scene. “See you later, alligator” from the fifties was shortened to “later” in the sixties. “Good night, John-boy” and “may the force be with you” came from pop culture in the seventies. “I gotta book” told the group you were leaving in the eighties, and “I’m gone” was just another way of saying “good-bye” in the nineties.

One of my favorites: catch you on the flip side.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Oh, Say Can You See

July 26, 2015

Susan Marg

There are stories all around us.

Just this morning I opened my San Diego Union-Tribune to the front page of the Sports section, and there was a picture of Roseanne Barr. She wore an extra large men’s white pullover. Her hair was cropped short, and her mouth was open. So, what else is new? Well, the photo wasn’t. It was taken twenty-five years ago when Barr sang the national anthem during a Reds-Padres double-header in Cincinnati.

Stock Image: Depositphotos

Stock Image: Depositphotos

Do you remember what is considered the worst performance ever? Barr didn’t just sing off-key, she screeched. She put her fingers in her ears to block out the crowd: they were booing. When she finished singing, if you can call it that, she grabbed her crotch in imitation of a ball player. When she walked away from the microphone, she made an obscene gesture and spit.

Pundits called her rendition the “Barr-Mangled Banner.” Fans were outraged. Patriots were offended. Players were embarrassed. How could this have happened? Well, the backstory is interesting.

Producer Tom Werner and a group of investors had purchased the Padres the month before. Werner, co-founder of the Carsey-Werner Company and responsible for many hits, such as Mork & Mindy, Bosom Buddies, 3rd Rock from the Sun, was executive producer of Roseanne, then the most watched television show in the country. Either wanting to promote his program or endear himself to its star, who was notoriously difficult, he suggested Barr’s appearance to his colleagues.

There was some pushback. The Padres’ vice president of public relations first worried whether Barr could sing. “Don’t worry about it,” he was told. He suggested that she sing ”Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” figuring no harm, no foul balls. Nope, Roseanne wanted to sing the national anthem, and what Roseanne wanted….

After the fiasco Roseanne was asked if she had any regrets about her performance. As befits a comedic queen, she’s quoted as responding, “Do I regret that the next day all of my projects were canceled and I had to have LAPD stand on my roof and protect me and my kids for two years?” On and on she went. Not quite as amusing, especially to Werner, was the drop from twenty-one million to less than seventeen million viewers the following season of Roseanne.

Barr, wanting a second chance, took singing lessons. Years later she showed how it should be done by performing the national anthem at a girls softball game near her home in Hawaii. It was recorded for her Lifetime reality show Roseanne’s Nuts.

It just goes to show it’s never too late to make amends.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

A Little Perspective, Please

March 15, 2015

Susan Marg

Different generations see things differently, as the story I received in an email shows very clearly. It goes like this…

Photo by: Road – © muha04

At the grocery store, a young cashier suggested to the older woman customer that she should bring her own bags, reminding her that plastic bags are not good for the environment.

The woman apologized and commented, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The clerk, not hiding her annoyance, responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The older lady, hoping to avoid an argument, but wanting to put the issue in perspective, went on to say, “Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store, in turn, sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized, and refilled. But we didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.


Grocery stores packed our purchases in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable was using them as covers for our schoolbooks. This ensured that public property, as the school provided the books for our use, was not defaced by our scribbling. Still, we were able to personalize our books by writing on the cover. But, too bad we didn’t do the ‘green thing’ back then.

“We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty, instead of using a throw-away cup or plastic bottle. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced dull razor blades instead of throwing the razor away. When mailing a fragile item, we made do with wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. 

 But, no, we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back then.”

“We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every building. We walked to the grocery store, rather than climbing into a 300-horsepower machine to go two blocks. We exercised by working or walking to work, so we didn’t need to run on treadmills requiring electricity. 

But you’re right. We didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in our day.


We washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the disposable kind. We dried our wash on a line, not in an energy-gobbling dryer. To cut the grass, we used a push mower, rather than one that ran on gasoline. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their older relatives, and, no, they weren’t always in latest fashion.

 But, young lady, you’re right; we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in our day.

We had one television and one radio in the house, not in every room. And the television had a small screen the size of a handkerchief. In the kitchen we chopped and mixed by hand, not owning an appliance for each and every task. 

 And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a satellite signal in order to find the nearest burger joint. But you’re right; we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back then.”

Let’s remember how we once lived, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to bridge the generation gap.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Remembering Funny Men

December 25, 2014

Susan Marg

imagesDespite appearances, W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin had a lot in common.

They were both born into poor families in the late nineteenth century, Fields near Philadelphia in 1880 and Chaplin in London in 1889. Before catapulting to fame during the silent movie era, Fields was in vaudeville. He started as a juggler, appearing as a genteel tramp with a scruffy beard and shabby tuxedo, somehow managing to keep cigar boxes, hats, and other flying objects up in the air.

Chaplin, too, began on the vaudeville stage doing comedy sketches. His impersonation of a drunk dressed in evening attire and top hat, attempting to light a cigar on a light bulb, was one of his most popular roles.

In character, Fields was a hard-drinking misanthrope, playing hustlers and card sharks with an animosity towards dogs and children. Disputing this, Fields declared, “I like children – fried.”

Chaplin’s “the Tramp” was a good-hearted character who, regardless of his predicament which he often brought upon himself, acted like the perfect gentleman. The Kid, “a picture with a smile – and perhaps, a tear,” featured seven-year old Jackie Coogan as “the Tramp’s” adopted son and sidekick.

The public adored both Fields and Chaplin, but both were lonely. “I was loved by crowds, but I didn’t have a single close friend,” Chaplin once bemoaned.

Explaining to his family his aversion to Christmas and other “silly holidays”, Fields lamented, “It’s because those days point up a thing called loneliness. An actor on the road — as I was for so long . . . and around the world seven times–finds himself all alone on the days when everyone else has friends and companionship. It’s not too good to be in Australia, or in Scotland, or in South Africa, as I was on tour, all alone on Christmas Day, and to see and hear a lot of happy strangers welcoming that two-faced merriment-monger Santa Claus, who passes you by.”

Still Fields would boast, “Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.”

Ironically, Fields died on Christmas day, 1946. In his will, later contested by his estranged wife and one of his two sons (both named William, after the old man), he left a portion of his estate to an orphanage “where no religion of any sort is preached.”The_Tramp_Essanay

By coincidence, Chaplin, too, passed away on Christmas day, 1977, survived by two sons (including Charles Spencer Chaplin III) from an early marriage and eight children from his fourth and last marriage with Oona O’Neill.

What tremendous legacies these funny men left. They always made us laugh and sometimes made us cry. We remember them with joy in our hearts and good will to all.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Who Ya Gonna Call?

October 10, 2014

Susan Marg

Have you lost control of your schedule? Engage a personal assistant to get you to the church – or the meeting or the hairdresser – on time.

Photo by: Fingle

Photo by: Fingle

Do you want to get rid of clutter? Employ a personal organizer to create space in your closet, if not your mind.

Are you lacking motivation to get in shape? Sign up with a personal trainer, and go for the burn.

Were you hurt in an accident?   Hire a personal injury lawyer.

Are you baffled by the stock market? Ask a personal financial advisor.

Are you undecided on how best to start your memoir, life history, or family story? Call me: I’m a personal historian. I can help.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved