The Times from Munster, Indiana on February 1, 1985 · 29
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The Times from Munster, Indiana · 29

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Munster, Indiana
Issue Date:
Friday, February 1, 1985
Page:
29
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THE LIGHTER SIDE OF LIVING V ' ; What's more disgusting than a fake cat? A real cat! A friend sent me "fake" flowers the other day. Which was okay, because if you read last Friday's Living section feature you learned that more and more women are digging through the male macho by whisking-off flowers to friends, lovers, and husbands. So I don't mind. But my "fake" flowers had a nauseating surprise mounted atop the basket. A "fake" cat, which is only slightly less disgusting than a 'live' cat. Let's get serious cats belong on highways, not in flower baskets. I was upset. My friend told me it wasn't her idea. "The lady at the flower shop read your cat column a few THE REGION ENTERTAINMENT BEAT For dancers only Jimmy McHugh's hitting By ROBERT MESSENGER Times Design-Feature Editor J immy McHugh's fingers sweep softly across the keys of the electronic piano. The music is sometimes upbeat, but mostly mellow and romantic, and the dance floor at Alexander's Restaurant & Lounge vibrates gently to the swaying of couples "turned on" to each other and to the music. I Biliy Joel once lamented the plight of the "Piano Man" in song, and it evoked images of smoke-filled nightclubs brimming with people oblivious to the "lonely" figure smoking cigarettes, sipping drinks, and singing songs of hard times, heartbreak and love affairs. There are some piano men who fit the image, but McHugh is one of the new breed whose talents are sizable enough to label him a legitimate entertainer with a legitimate following. "He is fantastic," George Yannakopoulus, one of the owners of Alexander's, said about McHugh. "He doesn't come cheap but we have people who come here just to hear Jimmy. We didn't just want an ordinary entertainer, we wanted someone who could appeal to the crowds. And Jimmy does." JOAN RIVERS AT THE HOLIDAY STAR Joan Rivers is comedy's bag lady. If she acted on the street as she does on the stage, you might do one of three things : toss her a quarter, direct her to the mission, or call the cops. ; She is the ultimate female failure. That is the image and it is one she nourishes with a fervor. And no one does it better. -Her head is a depository of humor with a devilish cutting edge. And when she unloads it on an audience, the end result is a theater filled with raucous, uncontrollable laughter. Her trademark is self-imposed character assassination but she is without question the reigning queen of comedy, though being a woman provided no edge one way or the other in her climb to success. - ri think if you're funny, you're funny," Rivers, who will appear at Merrillville's Holiday Star Theater Saturday and Sunday, told The Times in a recent interview. "I rinn'l think it has anvthinS to do with being a woman." - But for all her accomplishments, Joan Rivers refuses to slow down. She quickly reminds an interviewer how fleeting fame was for friends who once tickled America's funny bone on :'Laugh-In. - "That was my group," she said. f . Robert Messenger . Times Design I Feature Editor I months ago. She has a bunch of cats and thought you were a jerk. "When she found out who I was sending the flowers to," my friend informed me, "she asked if she could put a ceramic cat in the arrangement just to upset you. I said sure." u McHugh's signature is not his own music. If he were in a rock band or a country group, he could get away with writing and performing original material, but in an environment like Alexander's, people want to hear and dance to the songs they know. "I don't always play the songs I like," said McHugh, 42, and a native of Hammond. "In fact, I'd say about 80 percent of the songs I sing are what the crowds want. They dictate the music. But it's okay, it's what I want to do." McHugh doesn't waste much time daydreaming about success on a grander scale. He once worked for a major record label and recognizes the hardships faced by those who pursue national stardom. "I don't have those kinds of aspirations anymore," he said. "It's very easy to have your bubble burst. Besides, I can't see myself living on Pepsi Colas and cupcakes anymore just to go out and try to make it big." So six nights a week, Tuesday through Sunday, McHugh takes his customary seat amid the impressive array of equipment and pounds out the music people love to dance to. And dancing, says McHugh, is what it's all about. 6ffi! Caii je "My friends. Let's count how many people have survived from 'Laugh-In.' Not many. But they were the hottest people in America. "And you wonder how many are going to survive now from SCTV. Do you know what I'm saying? You can't take anything for granted." It's hard to imagine Joan Rivers tumbling into obscurity. She won a plum of an assignment when in 1983 Johnny Carson named her permanent guest host on "The Tonight Show." But she is a writer as well, from television to books, plays to movie scripts, and all of that combined with her comedy appearances throughout the country makes for a rather hectic lifestyle. v So why not slack off a Little? "You're only as good as your last show. Literally," she said. "It's that simple. You should never think that people like you because tomorrow they may decide they don't like you. Something that's in style one day is out of style another day." And even with success perched solidly on her doorstep, Joan Rivers cannot, she will tell you, truly relax. "I just keep pushing, don't you?" she said. "I agonize when I write. I agonize before I perform. Yeah, I'm always upset. I'm That's sick. Just to refresh a few memories, I received far more written responses from cathaters than catlovers; the only difference being, cathaters are more intellectual and express themselves better. Catlovers are crude. They aren't satisfied with criticizing a cathater, they want to hurt him. But me and my cat-hating friends hung tough. We would not be intimidated. And, to this day, I still get letters from people who tell gruesome, grisly tales of macabre things perpetrated on unsuspecting but truly deserving cats. It's the kind of stuff that would make a catlover s the high notes "I like to keep things going," McHugh says of his performing. "I go by what the people tell me. "People who come out to dance and have a good time, they like it when the music k rolling all the time. One of the things, too, is I don't spend a lot of time jibber-jabbering over the microphone. People come here to dance and I give them the music." McHugh is not at all extroverted. "I'm basically a quiet person," he said. "I don't get a lot of private moments because I work here six nights a week. So I'm not one for talking a lot behind the microphone. Maybe I should do more but I think the people would rather have the music than the talk." He also sees a ray of truth to the piano man mystique, that of a lonely soul at the end of a dream, his last hurrah the plunking of keys in a local saloon while agonizing over what might have been. "It's true. And there definitely are places I've played where I've felt just that way," McHugh laughed. "I'm trying to do the best job I can. I'm not trying to be discovered. I'm lucky to be doing what I'm doing." McHugh says his equipment probably separates him from the typical image associated with a always worried. I'm always nervous." Perhaps that attitude is reflective of the hard days for Rivers. Every entertainer suffers through the early years when the jobs come tough, the money doesn't add up, and the future seems bleak. For most, quitting isn't a point to ponder, it's an escape hatch to crawl out of. Back to the hometown, to the factory or . the office, but out of the world of entertainment where the competitive edge can slice you into little pieces. "I think it's a tremendous motivator," Rivers recalled of the early '60s when she played dinky I J . i v. You re only as . ; 'f f. good as your ; : last show. 7 "A 4S .; : . Literally V V ry -' '( JOAN j "s-Y Pw RIVERS r T sick. It was really great. I seem to recall my friend telling me the lady at the flower shop once owned eight cats. Or 18. 1 can't remember. - Anyway, I wish I had eight cats. I'd tie them to the ends of sticks and use them as toilet plungers. I'll admit it now, I once lived with a cat. I called it Rover. Somehow the idea of walking in the door at night and yelling "Here, Fluffy ... c'mon, boy" didn't quite make it. It was my sister's cat. I didn't dislike the cat. Dislike is too mild a word to describe what I felt. Try hatred. It was no ordinary cat. It was programmed to maim and I have a scar on my lower left arm to rN ' ' ' ' iv v.;.:-.-. M I 1 ; ! I V s" ' - piano man. "I didn't want to be the typical piano player in a club because it's so easy to get lost, even if people enjoy your music and singing. So I went for the danceable qualities. I have $25,000 worth of equipment that produces outstanding music. People are surprised when they see it all and hear it." McHugh is too modest. talk 99 little nightclubs trying to perfect her comedy. Later would come gigs in the cabarets and coffee houses of New York's Greenwich Village and at Chicago's famed Second City, both steps up but a long way from major league recognition. "I think you never forget ( the hard times ) and you're always scared that it's going to come back again. I know for me it's certainly that way and I work twice as hard because of it" Rivers comedy can occasionally bring a wince or two when she takes after noted celebrities like Liz Taylor, but the audiences love it anyway. "First of all, she's out of the act prove it. And that was when I was trying to pet it. After that, anytime it came near me (and when it did it was always in an "attack" crouch), I would bop it on the head with one of those Louisville Slugger toy baseball bats. Soon it wouldn't come near me at all; I'd get exhausted having to walk over to where it was just so I could give it another BOP! on the head. On the other hand, it just dawned on me: A guy could make some bucks with a stable of cats. I could start a cat zoo, but instead of housing the little sneaks in cages I'd put them in microwaves. A microwave may not be a house cat's natural habitat but it ought to be. I L ft I Equipment only responds to the person playing it and McHugh's popularity suggests his is a rising star on the local level. The man and his music are a cut above the mainstream. (Jimmy McHugh plays Tuesday-Sunday at Alexander's Restaurant & Lounge, 9144 Indianapolis Boulevard, in Highland). because she's thin," Rivers said. "So obviously that's gone. "But she loved it, she never minded it. I've never done anything to hurt anybody. "Willie Nelson's daughter wrote me a letter and said it hurts what you told about my daddy. I took it out of the act. Liz Taylor told a friend of mine, a mutual friend, it doesn't bother her. But if it ever hurt her I would have taken it right out of the act." Still, Rivers said it's ludicrous to think anything like that would offend Liz Taylor. "She wears a 20-carat ring, has $30 million in the bank and is the most beautiful woman in the world," said a chuckling Rivers, who then paused for a moment to let the reality of that sink in. "Do you think she gives a s ? Can you see this woman standing there in a sable coat, loaded with diamonds, and really caring what I say?" Rivers is looking forward to returning to Indiana. "I think of Indiana as pretty," she said. "I think of it as green because I'm usually there in the summer and (the Holiday Star) has great audiences. Last time I was there with David Brenner and it was just wonderful. "Hove the people there." Not half as much as the people here love Joan Rivers. ROBERT MESSENGER Or I could start a new sport called "Cat Hockey." It'd be more fun because when you hit a rubber puck it doesn't make any noise. A cat puck, however, can be counted on to provide exhilarating sound effects 1 "MeeeOWWWWWWWW! ! " as it goes crashing into the net. Or how about Catmometers. You hang a cat outside and if it sweats and drools profusely, it's time to turn on the air-conditioning; if it's frozen stiff, you know it's too cold to go outside. You know, maybe I've underestimated a cat's worth after all. I hope the lady in the flower store appreciates that acknowledgement. Only a dip appreciates potatoes I'll bet you didn't know that February is Potato Lover's Month. Now that you know, do you care? Carol Kristl Times Design Feature Coordinator I didn't care either until I read the packet of information about Potato Lover's Month sent to me from the Potato Board. I don't know what the Potato Board does for the other 11 months of the year but for February they go all out. They sent a potato calendar, clip art of happy, smiling-faced potatoes jogging, dancing and cavorting as potatos are wont, more recipes than a person could eat in a lifetime of spud consumption, and featurettes extolling the virtues of the totally tubular tuber. But the best thing they sent was a potato joke book. No, I'm not kidding, it's a whole book of potato yuks. Titled "Potato Jokes, it was written and copyrighted by Paul McMahon. Personally, I've never considered potatoes a really hilarious vegetable. They're sort of homely, slightly boring but dependable, solid. This book changed my whole outlook on the lowly potato. If you've never heard a potato joke, here's a sampling, reprinted by permission of Long Shadow Books: WHAT KIND OF POTATOES CATCH THEIR OWN FOOD? Fishin' chips. WHY DO POTATOES VACATION ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA? They like to see the French fry, WHAT DO POTATOES DRINK WHEN THEY WATCH TV? Spudweiser. WHAT DO RUSSETS, NEW POTATOES AND WALTER CROVKITE HAVE IN COMMON? They are all common 'taters. WHO WAS THE FIRST GREAT SPUD PHILOSOPHER? Plata to. WHY ARE POTATO CHIPS CONSIDERED STUPID? At parties they always hang around with the dips. WHAT DO THEY SAY AFTER THE LONE POTATO RIDES OFF INTO THE SUNSET? "Who was that mashed man?" ARE POTATOES GOOD AT SPORTS? No, but they are avid spec-taters. WHERE DO POTATOES RACE THEIR CARS? The Indianapolis Spudway. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO AN ANGRY 300-POUND BAKED POTATO? Anything, just butter him up. Had enough yet? No? Well, take this: WHY DOES EVERY BILL PASS IN THE POTATO LEGISLATURE? The eyes always have iL WHAT'S A POTATO'S FAVORITE LOVE SONG? "Peelings." WHAT DO POTATO CHILDREN PLAY ON? Tater-totters. Enough. I could go on but potato jokes are like potato chips: you can't stop reading them. I personally would like to thank the Potato Board for brightening up my day. Now I can hardly wait until March. It's Peanut Month, you know.

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