Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The Hokey Pokey, the perennial song of birthday parties, weddings, and roller skating in your youth was actually composed by two Scrantonians -- although the question of its true authorship caused a small controversy in 1996.
Robert P. Degan, a former guitarist and former salesman in the old Home Furniture store in Scranton, wrote and copyrighted the song with fellow Scranton songwriter Joseph P. Brier in 1944. The full proper title of the song when copyrighted was “The Hokey Pokey Dance Song.”
In 1996, Scranton Times writer Joseph X. Flannery wrote two editorials (April 20, 1996, p. 5 and May 11, 1996, p. A5) after a Boise, Idaho newspaper incorrectly identified a different musician as the writer of the song. However, the copyright form at the U.S. Copyright Office correctly states that Degan and Brier are the true songwriters.
The Local History Vertical File (LHVF) for “Music – Hokey Pokey Dance Song” includes both of Flannery’s editorials, as well as a photocopy of a letter to Degan from the US Copyright Office confirming its true authors. The LHVF can be viewed in the Reference Department of Albright Memorial Library.
So the next time you shake your butt to the Hokey Pokey, remember that one of our own (make that two of our own) has made this ditty a celebrated classic of epic proportions.
Don't take our word for it - click here to hear the Ray Anthony Band's version of The Hokey Pokey.
Much thanks to Judi K. for this entry.
Monday, November 28, 2005
In 1999, Drew Barrymore co-produced and starred in the comedy Never Been Kissed, which also featured David Arquette, Molly Shannon, and Oscar-nominee John C. Reilly (Chicago). Barrymore plays Josie Geller, the youngest copy editor ever at the Chicago Sun-Times who poses as a high school student at the very same high school where she was once a misfit (nicknamed "Josie Grossey").
In a scene on her first day of school, as an undercover reporter, Josie rehearses her background to herself as a new student, chanting, "My name is Josie Geller. I'm from Scranton, Pennsylvania, the Keystone State."
The DVD of Never Been Kissed is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System. To place a hold, click here.
Much thanks to Matt Flynn for this reference.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Sleighbells ring, are you listenin',
Believe it or not, this classic holiday song that has been recorded thousands of times was written by a man from Honesdale who did not live to see his legacy and success.
Richard (Dick) B. Smith (1901-1935) attended Honesdale schools in Wayne County before enrolling at Penn State University, where he studied advertising, edited the college magazine and formed and conducted his own orchestra. Upon graduation, Smith moved to New York City and managed several theaters.
Smith became ill with tuberculosis in 1931 shortly after marrying the former Scrantonian Jean Connor. He was admitted to the West Mountain Sanatorium. While a patient (and his wife worked as a nurse at the same institution), he won first prize in a Maybelline Eye Shadow slogan contest ("The Eyes Have It") and started writing songs--including "When A Gypsy Makes A Violin Cry," "Bringing My Honey Back To Me," and, of course, the holiday perennial Winter Wonderland, which Smith wrote the lyric and Felix Bernard wrote the music.
Smith was only able to write songs for a little more than a year before he succumbed to the disease. He had accepted a contract to write music in Hollywood, but he died September 28th, 1935--one month before he was to go to California.
The song Winter Wonderland, for which Smith was mostly remembered, never made it to the top of the charts until eight years after his death. He is said to have written the song about the snow-laden trees of the Poconos, perhaps the trees in front of his family home at 922 Church Street in Honesdale, across from Central Park.
Today, Winter Wonderland could be found on hundreds of artists on hundreds (perhaps thousands) of holidays albums—from Ray Charles and Elvis Presley to Clay Aiken and the Eurythmics--to hundreds of other artists in every genre of music.
To hear Bing Crosby's rendition of Winter Wonderland, click here.
To read more about Winter Wonderland and Richard B. Smith, come to the Reference Department and ask to see the Local History Vertical File (LHVF) for "Music - Winter Wonderland."
Friday, October 14, 2005
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
IS A SCRANTON NATIVE
Poet W.S. Merwin, who grew up in Scranton, PA, has been nominated for the 2005 National Book Award for Poetry for his collection Migration: New and Selected Poems. This is the eighth National Book Award nomination for W.S. Merwin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner (1971 for The Carrier of Ladders and again in 2009 for The Shadow of Sirius) whose career as a poet and translator spans five decades.
As a boy, Merwin lived in Scranton before his family moved to Union City, NJ. He attended West Scranton High School and Abraham Lincoln public school in the city of Scranton. He has said many of his poems were drawn from his childhood here. Merwin returned to Scranton in 1983 to read from his works in a poetry series sponsored by the Friends of the Scranton Public Library.
We have several of Mr. Merwin's poetry collection listed in the library catalog. Our Local History collection in the Reference Department includes a newspaper clippings file on Mr. Merwin, including a 1994 Scranton Times article detailing his winning a $100,000 Tanning Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
The Reference Department staff wishes Mr. Merwin the best of luck in his nomination for the National Book Award.
UPDATE: W.S. Merwin has been awarded the National Book Award for poetry.
The Reference Department congratulates Mr. Merwin on his award. Also, check out the display in the Reference Department lobby.
Visit here for W.S. Merwin's page on the official National Book Award site.
To place a hold on W.S. Merwin's Migration, click here.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
In 1970, acclaimed songwriter Burt Bacharach put his own creative mark on Scranton when he wrote a song titled "Send My Picture To Scranton, PA." Bacharach's previous famous collaborations include Dusty Springfield's "Wishin' and Hopin'," The Carpenters' "Close To You" and numerous songs with Dionne Warwick ("Do You Know The Way to San Jose" and "I Say A Little Prayer" just being two).
When it came time to record "Send My Picture To Scranton, PA," Bacharach selected B.J. Thomas, most famous for the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" (also written by Bacharach) from the 1969 film "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid" and "Hooked on a Feeling."
The lyrics to "Send My Picture To Scranton, PA" begin:
Send my picture to Scranton, PA
Write them and say
I'm the kid they used to laugh at
Send my picture along with the news
Of all the good things I've done
If you would like to read the rest of the lyrics, click here.
B.J. Thomas recorded "Send My Picture To Scranton, PA," in 1970; it was released on his album "Everybody's Out Of Town." Unfortunately, the album is out-of-print, but the song is available on a Burt Bacharach compilation titled "The Sound of Bacharach."
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
There is a suprising and SHOCKING reference to Wilkes-Barre in the recently released book "Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini" by Dr. Billy Goldberg, M.D. and Mark Leyner. This bestselling book (presently #1 on the New York Times Bestselling Paperback Advice Books) presents humorous answers to medical questions, from "Can you get high from licking a toad?" to "Why are yawns contagious?" to "What causes an ice cream headache?"
The Wilkes-Barre mention appears in the book's Preface on page 21. In his version on how the two authors met, Dr. Goldberg was asked to be a medical advisor on the short-lived (only 3 episodes, in fact) medical drama Wonderland, for which co-author Leyner was a screenwriter. According to Dr. Goldberg:
To place a hold, click here.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
One of the songs, "Sisters of Mercy," has a connection to Scranton, PA., though the song never mentions Scranton directly. The song is a harsh critique of the Sisters of Mercy, an order of Catholic nuns who serve the poor and sick, whom Cher refers to as "daughters of hell," "twisters of truth," etc.
In an article from People Magazine (November 27, 2000, pages 18-19) titled "Cher, Nuns & Trouble," Cher explained that she wrote the song for her mother. When Cher was a a few months old, her father abandoned her and her pregnant mother in Scranton, PA. Cher's mother took her to a Catholic orphanage to care for Cher during the day while she worked as a waitress in an all-night diner. Cher's mother ended up having an abortion, and she returned to the orphanage to collect Cher after a three-week hospital stay. The Sisters of Mercy responded by calling her an unfit mother and refusing to return her daughter to her. According to Cher, it took six months and help from a Scranton City Councilman for Cher's mother to regain custody of her daughter.
Cher has stated that the song "is about a particular incident--not a condemnation of the Catholic Church."
If you would like to read the article from People Weekly, it's available in Access Pennsylvania Power Library from the magazine database "Masterfile Premier." We also have a copy of the People Weekly article in the Local History Vertical File for "Diocese of Scranton".
You can read the lyrics to "Sister of Mercy" by clicking here.
Cher's CD "Not.Com.mercial" is only available from the Artist Direct web site: http://www.artistdirect.com/
Saturday, August 20, 2005
The late, great Burt Lancaster plays one of the baseball ghosts, Dr. Archibald 'Moonlight' Graham, who was based on an actual baseball player for the Scranton Miners. The real Archibald Wright Graham was a left fielder for the Scranton Miners in 1905-07 and, at the end of the season, he practiced medicine in Scranton before moving to Minnesota. There were even several articles in the Scranton Times on Dr. Graham in the early 1900s (including a team picture of the Scranton Miners, including Dr. Graham, on Sept. 12th, 1908).
Field of Dreams is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System. If you'd like to reserve the DVD, click here; if you'd like to place a hold on the VHS, click here.
Thanks again to the kickin' Evelyn G. for the info.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Our lovely district consultant Mary Yeager emailed me and told me of a mention of Scranton in the popular HBO series The Sopranos. The story centers on fictional Mafia man Tony Soprano and his relationships with his wife, his family, his associates, and his therapist. The first-rate cast includes James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco.
The Scranton mention was in the first episode of the second season. The episode, titled "Guy Walks Into A Psychiatrist's Office," features a scene in which Philly "Spoons" Parisi (played by Dan Grimaldi) is picking up Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) from the airport. The dialogue goes like this:
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
In 1973, playwright and Scranton native Jason Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as the Tony Award for Best Play, for That Championship Season.
The play opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on September 14, 1972 and played for nearly two years, closing April 21, 1974.
Besides Miller, TCS also won a Tony Award for director A.J. Antoon, as well as nominations for actor Paul Sorvino, lighting designer Ian Calderon and scenic designer Santo Loquasto (Santo himself is a Wilkes-Barre native).
To place a hold on the text of Jason Miller's original 1973 play, click here. To borrow the DVD of the 1982 film (shot in Scranton), click here. The 1999 remake is also available; click here to reserve the DVD or click here to reserve the VHS.
A big holla and thanks to Elizabeth Davis for the suggestion.
*The 1999 remake of That Championship Season will be screened Friday, August 19th at 7:45 at Nay Aug Park. Click here for details. (NOTE: This event has passed and it remains listed here strictly for archival purposes.)
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The show "The Office" is set in a fictional paper supply company in Scranton, PA.
Click here for a news item that our very own Lackawanna County Library Crad will be appearing on an episode of the upcoming second season.
Eagle-eyed Jennifer Maher from the University of Scranton emailed me about the film School Ties, starring Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Chris O'Donnell. The film tells the story of David Greene (Fraser), a working-class Jewish quarterback from Scranton, PA who is attending the elite St. Matthew's prep school in 1950s Massachusetts (MA). David has chosen to hide his religion until a jealous bigot forces it out in the open.
School Ties is available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System; to place a hold, click here.
Thanks again, Jennifer, for the info.
Monday, August 01, 2005
James Stephen Behrens, O.C.S.O., of Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, sent me the following email:
There was a song called Wilkes-Barre, PA in the musical Tovarich, which ran on Broadway and starred Vivien Leigh.
Information about Tovarich (which is Russian for "Friends") is available from the Internet Broadway Database at:
According to IBDB, the show played for almost a year in a succession of 3 (count 'em 3) different theatres on the Great White Way. The music was composed by Lee Pockriss, and lyrics were written by Anne Croswell.
Vivien Leigh (who, with Byron Mitchell, sings Wilkes-Barre, PA in the show) won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Actress in A Musical for her performance in Tovarich.
The song concludes with:
I don't mean Scranton,
I hate Reading,
Where are we heading?
At Amazon.com, you can listen to a sample of Vivien Leigh and George S. Irving singing "Wilkes-Barre, PA!" the song is also available to purchase from iTunes.
Thank you so much, James, for this information. I'm a big Broadway buff and have never heard of Tovarich before, so my mouth is still agape at this information. Plus I'm amazed that someone as far away as Georgia has looked at our blog. WOW!!!
On March 18, 1965, on Moosic Street in Scranton, a tractor-trailer carrying 15 tons of bananas bound for the A&P lost control in rush hour traffic, hitting cars, houses, and wire poles before crashing into a home. The driver, Eugene P. Sesky (35), was killed and over 15 people were injured.
In 1974, singer/songwriter Harry Chapin (also famous for his classic song Cat's in the Cradle, who would himself die in a crash in 1981) immortalized both the tragic events of 1965 and the city of Scranton in his song 30,000 Pound of Bananas.
The lyrics to the song are on Harry Chapin's website. The song was originally released on Chapin's 1974 album Verities & Balderdash and was subsequently released on most of his live CDs thereafter (it appears to have been a favorite of Chapin's to perform in concert).
Our Local History collection in the Reference Department includes a newspaper clippings file on 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, including photocopies of the original Scranton newspaper articles from the crash in 1965. These articles can also be reproduced from the microfilm of the Scranton newspapers.
30,000 Pounds of Bananas is available on two CD titles from the Lackawanna County Library System--Essentials by Harry Chapin and a 4-disc box set by Chapin. Click on either link to place a hold.
Thank you, Judi K., the keeper of the LHVFs.
The lovely Clara Hudson from University of Scranton visited the Reference Department this afternoon and made me aware of this critally acclaimed film starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand and Katie (the future Mrs. Tom Cruise) Holmes.
In the film, author and Carnegie Mellon professor Grady Tripp (Douglas) learns his his married chancellor (McDormand) is pregnant with his child on the day his third wife leaves him. He befirends one of his troubled pupils James Leer (Maguire), who is obsessed with old film stars and is attempting to find an old coat once worn by Marilyn Monroe.
In the following exchange, Grady and James are driving and conversing about their lives:
Friday, July 29, 2005
Even popular TV shows have mentioned Scranton in the past. One of the best examples was in the first season of the long-running sitcom Friends. In the episode "The One With The Fake Monica," one of the side stories involved Ross' monkey Marcel, who has to be put in a zoo because he's "in heat."When Ross (played by David Schwimmer) is unable to put Marcel in a zoo in Scranton, PA:
This perennial holiday blockbuster stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin, an 8 year old boy left home alone when his large family forgets to take him on holiday. He uses his ingenuity to defend his home and himself from two bumbling burglars.
The following exchange is between Kevin's mother (played by Catherine O'Hara) and an airport ticket agent (played by Alan Wilder):
I have been awake for almost 60 hours. I'm tired and I'm dirty. I have been from Chicago to Paris to Dallas to... where the hell am I?
AIRPORT TICKET AGENT
In the scene in Korea, while on the road, they stop to help victims of a military attack. Midler and Caan ride with a mortally wounded Marine to a military hospital. As the marine, played by Thom Adcox-Hernandez is bleeding and moaning in pain, he and Eddie Sparks (played by James Caan) have the following brief exchange:
So where ya from, kid?
(winces in pain) Wilkes-Barre.
I played Wilkes-Barre.
I remember seeing this movie at a theatre in Wilkes-Barre when it was first released in 1992, and the entire audience collectively gasped at the above dialogue.
This is a 2004 remake of a 1955 classic that starred Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers. The remake stars Tom Hanks and was written and directed by the Coen Bothers (Fargo, The Big Labowski).
J.K. Simmons, who plays Garth Pancake, says the following in a heated exchange:
(eyes regain their focus)
The director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, was born in Wilkes-Barre and has written and/or directed several classic movies, including Guys & Dolls, No Way Out, Cleopatra, and, of course, All About Eve.
Below is a section of dialogue, near the end of the film, in which Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis) mentions Wilkes-Barre: