IF: outside

here's the tricky part.

I love advertising. The best advertising is the kind that is remembered long after the ad campaigns have changed and changed again.

Remember this one from the 1960s? I’ll bet you still know all the words.

“Ooey gooey rich and chewy inside. Golden flaky tender cake-y outside.

Wrap the inside in the outside. Is it good? Darn tootin’!

It’s the big Fig Newton! The big Fig Newton! (Here’s the tricky part!) 

The big Fig Newton!”

I never liked Fig Newtons as a kid, but I sure ate them because of this guy.


from my sketchbook: stuart hamblen

It's all about the devil and I learned to hate him so
For over twenty years, Stuart Hamblen, the son of a Methodist minister, had a popular radio show on the West Coast. He also appeared in Western movies alongside Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne, composing the music for the films as well. His onscreen personality caught the attention of British record label Decca and, in 1934, he was signed as the first artist to their American subsidiary.

As his popularity increased, so did his alcohol consumption. He was regularly arrested for fighting and destructive behavior and was just as regularly bailed out of jail by his show’s sponsors. He further spiraled when he began gambling on horses. But, in 1949, Stuart attended the very first coast-to-cast television broadcast of a crusade by an up-and-coming evangelist named Billy Graham. Stuart reached an epiphany that night and, on live television, told Reverend Graham that he would devote his life to Christ. Graham shot to international notoriety and Stuart was fired from his show for refusing to do beer commercials.

Soon, Stuart started a new radio program titled The Cowboy Church of the Air. He began writing and recording songs and regained his fame with a new audience. He wrote songs with inspirational messages like “This Ole House,” (a hit for Rosemary Clooney), “Texas Plains,” (reworked into “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” a million-seller for Patsy Montana) and the John Wayne-inspired “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do).” His most familiar composition became a hit over ten years after it was written. Although Stuart recorded the original version (released under the name “Cowboy Church Sunday School “) and The McGuire Sisters recorded it a short time later, The song “Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sun Shine In)” was immortalized by cartoon characters Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble in a 1965 episode of the classic Flintstones called “No Biz Like Show Biz”. The song was so popular, it was used over the closing credits of The Flintstones in its final season.

Stuart used his celebrity to claim a spot in the 1952 presidential race. A staunch supporter of the American temperance movement,  Stuart ran on the small Prohibition Party and garnered 72,949 votes. Dwight Eisenhower won the election with 34 million votes. 

Stuart was recognized by the recording industry with inductions into the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Gene Autry Golden Boot and even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1989, 80-year-old Stuart Hamblen passed away from brain cancer. Billy Graham delivered the eulogy at the funeral.


IF: path

 But I'm trying, Ringo. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”


from my sketchbook: tom schweich

nice guys finish last

Tom Schweich was a pretty bright guy. He was an undergraduate at Yale and pursued and achieved a law degree from Harvard. He joined the oldest law firm in Missouri upon his graduation. After private practice, Tom decided on a career in public service. He was the Chief of Staff during the investigation of the federal governments actions in connection with the siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1999.

Later, Tom served as Chief of Staff under Senator John Danforth during his tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Tom stayed on and continued his service under two subsequent U.S. Ambassadors. In 2005, Tom furthered his public service when he became the highest-ranking international law enforcement official in the U.S. State Department. He was subsequently appointed Coordinator for Counternarcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan by President George W. Bush.

With a majority of the vote, Tom was elected Missouri State Auditor in 2010, defeating the incumbent Democratic candidate. Tom was such a popular figure in Missouri government, that he ran without Democratic opposition for re-election in 2014, something that had not occurred in Missouri for 144 years.

At the end of January 2015, Tom announced his candidacy for governor. Political analysts figured Tom as an odds-on favorite based on his popularity and spotless public record. However, the impending gubernatorial race began to get nasty.

Tom’s potential opponent, former U.S. Catherine Hanaway, along with John Hancock, the head of the Missouri Republican Party began making disparaging remarks about Tom. At rallies, Hancock compared Tom to “the deputy sheriff of Mayberry,” citing a weak character. Hancock allegedly made anti-Semitic comments about Tom, despite Tom being a practicing Episcopalian. (Tom’s grandfather was Jewish and he was proud of that part of his Jewish heritage.) When confronted, Hancock denied the accusations.

On February 26, 2015, Tom was in his home office early in the morning. His wife Kathleen was home and she heard Tom on the phone. He had left a voicemail for a reporter at the Associated Press. Tom’s message was somewhat cryptic, hinting at shedding some light on the rumors regarding his personal background. He did say that the nature of his statements would be personal and not political. Within minutes of his voicemail, a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called to confirm his inclusion at the meeting later that afternoon. Tom spoke briefly and hung up the phone.

Then Kathleen Schweich heard a gunshot.

She rushed to her husband’s office and frantically called 911, a call placed just seven minutes after Tom had spoken to the Post-Dispatch reporter.

Tom was 54 years old. He did not leave a note explaining his final action.


from my sketchbook: june fairchild

ajax lady
Just after high school, June Fairchild landed a small role as a party guest in a 1966 episode of “The Monkees.”  She also appeared in the teen comedy Where Angels Go Trouble Follows, and The Monkees’ 1968 big-screen effort Head. Soon, she found herself in films with Michael Douglas, Rock Hudson, Bruce Dern, Tony Curtis, even Mae West.

In 1967, she lived with her boyfriend Danny Hutton, who, along with his pals Cory Wells and Chuck Negron, had formed a pop vocal group. June had read a newspaper story about Australian aborigines gauging the coldness of a night by the number of dogs they had to curl up with to stay warm. She suggested the name “Three Dog Night” to Danny and the name stuck.

In 1978, June was cast in her most recognizable role in the Cheech & Chong comedy Up in Smoke. June appeared as a stoner who snorts lines of cleanser, mistaking the substance for cocaine. She earned herself the nickname “The Ajax Lady.” Unfortunately, this would be June’s final film.

June spiraled into a haze of drugs and alcohol for the next several decades. She had two failed marriages. She worked briefly as a go-go dancer and stripper. but ended up homeless, living in a cardboard box on Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row. While living on the street, she was raped and robbed of what little funds she had. June sold newspapers on the steps of the LA County courthouse, using the money to buy single nights at a hotel. She was recognized by a police officer in Van Nuys, who arrested her for failing to complete a community service sentence for drunk driving. She was sentenced to an additional 90 days in jail.

In 2002, Paramount offered her a small contract. Not for acting, but to use her likeness for a series of Up in Smoke-related bobble heads.

June passed away on February 17, 2015, while in hospice care. She had been suffering from liver cancer. June was 68.


from my sketchbook: frank christi

tough guy

You’ve seen Frank Christi before. His chiseled mug has graced the big and small screens countless times. The New York native brought his craggy streetwise visage to villainous roles in Baretta, The Rockford Files, Kojak and other police dramas. In movies, he appeared on the wrong side of the law in Terminal Island, The Hit and The Don is Dead.

His checkered past must have helped his acting career. He carried a police record that dated back to the 1950s, when he was arrested for burglary. Later, he would move on to a run-in with a Secret Service agent over his connection to a large sum of counterfeit currency. But, soon he turned to Hollywood and seemed to have put his shady dealings behind him.

In the early morning hours of July 9, 1982, Frank’s life took a turn that was straight out of one of his gangster scripts. He was confronted by two men under the carport of his rundown home on Woodrow Wilson Drive in the Hollywood Hills. Frank was shot to death, found later on the ground next to his ten-year old Datsun. Frank was 52.

A neighbor saw Frank with his hands raised, pleading, “What did I do?,” when the two men opened fire. A known mob informant (Anthony Fiato, who also testified in O.J. Simpson’s trial) led police to Norman Freedberg, the jealous lover of one of Frank’s exes. Freedberg paid hit men $2,700 to kill Frank. Eleven years after the crime, two men were caught, tried and convicted, each serving life sentences. A third man was implicated by Freedberg, but died of lung cancer before he could be sentenced. A trial for Freedberg ended with a hung jury. Plans are still being made for a retrial.