Friday, February 12, 2016

Free advice

Hillary Clinton, in the last two debates: “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS.” “I do not believe a vote in 2002 is a plan to defeat ISIS in 2016.”

What Bernie Sanders could have said in response:

“The Secretary is correct: a vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS in 2016. But voting to authorize military action against Iraq, as you did in 2002, Madam Secretary, suggests that you lack the judgment necessary to develop an effective plan to defeat ISIS in 2016. On the most important foreign-policy question of the last forty years, you made the wrong choice. In 2016 your insistence on a no-fly zone in Syria is also the wrong choice. We cannot afford to get caught in another quagmire in the Middle East. And a no-fly zone would be the first step into another quagmire.”
Pretty good, I think.

Some rock

[Nancy , November 7, 1955. From Random Acts of Nancy .]

That’s some rock. Context: here. But especially here.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

[Driving up a street of conspicuous wealth .]

“If I had a house that looked like that, I’d just sit inside and think .”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Just one sentence about New York City:

It is the town of hope for Billy Klenosky, a song writer whose masterpiece, “April in Siberia,” was voted “Bomb of the Month” by radio station WINS.

Gay Talese, New York: A Serendipiter’s Journey (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961).
As Billy, Mr. Klenosky leaves virtually no digital trail: the name appears in Portuguese and Spanish translations of Talese’s book, and in a Chicago Tribune review of the book. The name William yields more. The Social Security Death Index lists one William Kenofsky, born May 28, 1922, died July 15, 1988. His parents were Sol (1894–1970) and Bessie Frenkel Klenoksy (1899–1974). Sol was a restaurateur; Bessie, a “fundraiser and production chief” for the American Red Cross. William enlisted in the Army in October 1942 and served as a private. Bessie and William were both residents of Kew Gardens, Queens, when they died.

“April in Siberia” — or “April in Siberia!” — was released in 1959, one side of a 45 on the Bald Eagle label. The performer: Billy “K.” (A name meant to suggest Murray the K?) Billboard called the record “semi-humorous”:

[Billboard , April 13, 1959.]

William Klenosky made his first appearance in the New York Times in 1960, not as a songwriter but as a political candidate, running in a Democratic primary to represent Queens’s Fourth Congressional District. He lost. In July 1961, he was hoping to be elected mayor of New York, dropping a bid for the Democratic nomination to run as an independent. By August, he was collecting signatures to run under the name of the New City party (presumably a party of his creation). On September 20 the Times reported that Klenosky had submitted petitions with 7,600 names. And a day later, the New City campaign was over:

[New York Times , September 21, 1961.]

But no sign in the Times yet of “April in Siberia.” That would come two years later. On May 6, 1963, the show UTOPIA! A Musical opened at Manhattan’s Folksbiene Playhouse, presented by Billy K Productions, with book, music, and lyrics by William Klenosky, and a cast of twenty-seven. On May 7 the Times published a review by Louis Calta. The show’s premise was odd: an astronaut and cosmonaut encounter a group of Tories living in the Rocky Mountains. “A silly little musical,” “a lot of inadvertent humor,” “some strange doings,” said the Times . The reviewer managed to spell Klenosky’s name both correctly and incorrectly in the course of just a few hundred words. Among the show’s songs (all of which the Times pronounced “inadequate”): “I Work for Pravda,” “The Masses Are Asses,” “You’ve Got the Devil in Your Eyes,” and, yes, “April in Siberia.”

The Times review is perhaps most valuable for its summary of Klenosky’s mayoral campaign:

[New York Times , May 7, 1963.]

UTOPIA! closed on May 12.

In 1966 Klenosky was a Republican candidate for office, running to represent Queens’s Tenth District in the New York State Senate. He lost to Democrat S. R. Thaler. In 1967 Klenosky was back on Off-Broadway, with a one-man revue, Klenosky Against the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune , presented by “Billy K Productions in association with God,” with book “by Life,” music and lyrics by Klenosky, and “lighting by Con Edison.” Among the numbers: “Krushchev, Castro and Klenosky,” “The Republican Dilemma: Goldwater or Klenosky,” “Klenosky v. Thaler,” and “Lindsay Was Prettier and Taller Than Klenosky and Who’s Sorry Now?” The show closed within two weeks. For those unacquainted with the name, John V. Lindsay was elected mayor of New York City in 1965. Does that song title mean that Klenosky attempted a second run for mayor? Or was he still ruing his 1961 petitions debacle?

These fragments of a life suggest to me that William Klenosky had a marked and not necessarily congenial sense of humor, a strong ability to resist discouragement, a penchant for self-dramatization and exclamation points, and an extravagant sense of his own importance. I can imagine him sitting on Joe Franklin’s couch: “Here’s a young songwriter and performer I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more from.”

For eighteen dollars, it’s possible to hear at least a little something from William Klenosky: eBay recently listed a copy of “April in Siberia!” b/w “She Broke My Heart, So I Broke Her Jaw.” The address for the Bald Eagle label: 80-32 Lefferts Boulevard, Kew Gardens 15, New York. Klenosky was breaking into the music business from home: 80-32 is a residential address, and it was Klenosky’s address when he filed his petitions in 1961. Today the 80-32 residence is still owned by a Klenosky.

The record is on its way here. Stay tuned.

Also from New York: A Serendipiter’s Journey
Chestnuts, pigeons, statues
“Fo-wer, fi-yiv, sev-ven, ni-yen”
Leeches, catnip oil, strange potions

New York Times sources
“Results of Primary Contest in City.” June 9, 1960.
“Levitt Denounces Wagner As Failing in Leadership.” July 25, 1961.
“2 Mayoral Petitions Issued.” August 10, 1961.
“9 Entries Listed in Mayoral Race As Filing Is Ended.” September 20, 1961.
“Stephen Kennedy Still Undecided.” September 21, 1961.
“Theater Tonight.” May 6, 1963.
“Theater: ‘Utopia!’ Opens: Musical by Klenosky at Folksbiene Playhouse.” May 7, 1963.
“8th ‘Utopia!’ Show Is Last.” May 13, 1963.
Death notice for Sol Klenosky. October 9, 1970.
Obituary for Bessie Klenosky. December 20, 1974.

Other sources
“Reviews of New Pop Records.” Billboard , April 13, 1959.
Dan Dietz, The Off Broadway Musical, 1910–2007 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010).

[Dietz’s book is my source for song titles and the details of Klenosky’s shows.]

New old phone booths

The New York Times reports on refurbished replacements for Manhattan’s four streetside telephone booths.

Related posts
New York’s public telephones : The Lonely Phone Booth : Telephone booths

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Obama on the Titanic

Barack Obama spoke in Springfield, Illinois, today. Addressing the Illinois General Assembly, he spoke eloquently of the need for “a better politics”:

“When I hear voices in either party boast of their refusal to compromise as an accomplishment in and of itself, I’m not impressed,” Obama said. “All that does is prevent what most Americans would consider actual accomplishments, like fixing roads, educating kids, passing budgets, cleaning our environment, making our streets safe.”
I waited for some overt discussion of my state’s budget impasse and its catastrophic consequences for social services and public higher education. But as with Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address, the subject of the budget was barely there. Obama’s reference came only in passing, as the ship continues to sink. I had high, and perhaps foolish, hopes about this trip to Springfield. And now I am deeply disappointed.

You can watch and listen to the speech at YouTube. The reference to the budget comes at the 49:41 mark, thirty-three minutes into a nearly hour-long speech.

A related post
Illinois’s higher-ed crisis

[Yes, Obama, too, was dropping -g s.]

Sink redux

Bernie Sanders last night: “They’re throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink, and I have the feeling that kitchen sink is coming pretty soon as well.”

See also 2008, February and October.

Parking at Coney Island

A recurring scene from childhood: pulling up to the gate of the parking lot at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, my dad behind the wheel, my (maternal) grandfather sitting next to him.

(That must mean that there were four people sitting in the back: my grandmother, my mother, my brother, me. It was a big car, a Plymouth Savoy. And we were all varying degrees of small .)

Anyway — I remember my dad and my grandfather vying, again and again, to pay for parking, my grandfather reaching across to the attendant, my dad trying to block the attempt. Let me pay. No, I have it. They were men of honor.

I learned from my mom just a few days ago how much it cost to park at Coney Island: ten cents. So it was a game. They were men of honor and men of play.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


[On a phone, loudly .]

“The question is whether I stay stuck in this uncomfortable seat or get up and take all my stuff, which is also a pain in the neck.”

As a fellow bystander said to me, “So dramatic.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Mary Shelley: “a godlike science”

A creature learning a language:

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).

[The phrase “articulate sounds” may be an echo of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Frost at Midnight”: “falling on mine ear / Most like articulate sounds of things to come!” Elsewhere Shelley unmistakably echoes a phrase from the poem: Coleridge’s “the sole unquiet thing” becomes Shelley’s “the only unquiet thing.” Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner figures much more prominently in the novella. Our household’s Four Seasons Reading Club (formerly the Summer Reading Club) is happily trekking through Frankenstein .]