Travis Edmonson: RIP

•May 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Sixties folk music legend Travis Edmonson has passed away following a long illness. He was 79 years old.

Best known as one half of the popular duo Bud & Travis with partner Bud Dashiell, Edmonson had been in ill health for some time. In addition to his concert and recording work with Dashiell, he was a member of The Gateway Singers as well as a gifted and successful solo artist in his native Arizona. Dashiell passed away in 1989.

Here’s a link to a rare television appearance of the duo, featuring an introduction from a very young Hugh Hefner. (Travis is on the left):

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Disney: “Pinocchio,” Dickie Jones, and “Wrong Way” Hodgkins”

•March 4, 2009 • 2 Comments
Dick Jones as Buffalo Bill, Jr.

Dick Jones as Buffalo Bill, Jr.

Dickie Jones didn’t see it coming. Neither did I, and as a result, we nearly ended up in Gary, Indiana.

Don’t get me wrong…Northern Indiana was indeed beautiful on June 23, 2000. And all we missed was a highway off ramp. It’s just that Dick, his wife Betty and I were due back in Rosemont, Illinois to give a presentation to a convention hall full of Pinocchio fans, and, since Dick had lent his voice to the animated title character in Disney’s 1939 classic, his appearance was just the other side of compulsory.

We should have simply remained at the hotel, but the weather was sunny and warm, even by California standards, and both Dick and Betty wanted to see downtown Chicago. So see it we did…from Wrigley Field to Soldier Field and back again, as Dick told us stories of previous visits, highlighted by a huge, star-studded rodeo he participated in at the latter venue.

On the return trip, however, due to some inopportune road construction and (let’s be candid, here) a less-than-attentive rental car driver (me), we missed our turn, and found ourselves heading south instead of north on Interstate 90, with signs indicating that we would soon be in Gary, Indiana, and not Louisiana; Paris, France; New York or Rome.

Or, most importantly, Rosemont, Illinois.

But then, it wasn’t the first time that Dick Jones’ career had taken an unintentional turn.

Born February 25, 1927, in West Texas, Dick was a veteran in the saddle before he was old enough to start school. By the age of four, he was billed as the “World’s Youngest Trick Rider and Trick Roper.” Trained for a career in rodeo, he was instead personally recruited to Hollywood by none other than silent cowboy star Hoot Gibson. Convinced by the actor that he had everything it took to make it in western pictures, Dick (and his mother) soon relocated to Los Angeles, where the young man quickly found work in the plentiful horse operas of the day.

He soon graduated to roles in other film genres as well, and may have created a new niche market playing what he calls “as-a-boy” roles. In other words, he appeared in the first reel or flashback scenes of several bio-pics and fictional flicks of the day, playing the lead character as a youth. Dick is pretty certain he appeared in more of these roles than any other child actor, and he makes a compelling argument. A quick glance at his IMDb page indicates he played characters listed in the official film credits as: “David as a child,” “Donald Pecos as a boy,” “Lee Danfield, Age 11,” “Matt Howard at 12,” “Samuel Clemens – age 15,” and my favorite, “Dick Abbott – Age 8-12.” And these represent less than half of his total “as-a-boy” roles.

By 1938, when he was cast as Pinocchio in Walt Disney’s second full-length animated film, he was a celluloid veteran, with credits in more than 40 features and serials. He would eventually appear in more than 100 films and 200 television episodes. But it was because of the long-term popularity of his one Disney project that he, Betty and I were in Chicagoland in the first place, heading the wrong way on Interstate 90.

Fortunately, a timely “U” turn was executed safely, and we arrived back at the Rosemont convention center with enough time for a shower and wardrobe change. Grace in abundance was extended to me by both of the Joneses, but it didn’t stop Betty, who handles most of the correspondence with good humor, from ribbing her directionally-challenged chauffeur annually on the Jones family Christmas card (see detail below).

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Once on the stage, Dick continued spinning his fun tales. He also continued to express surprise that anybody would be interested in his life story. I kept assuring him between questions that everyone present was there for precisely for that reason.

No video or audio exists of our show (at least officially), but Dick was a candid delight. As with many child actors, his memories of the adults he worked with were limited (Kathryn Beaumont, Disney’s Alice and Wendy, has told me she was almost always doing schoolwork in a trailer between takes, leaving little or no time to chat with the other performers). He did, however, remember one particular skill of Walt Disney’s…his ability to throw push-pins like darts.

Animators and story men used the old style push-pins (the ones shaped like little “rooks” from a chess game) to construct their storyboards, so they were always around in great numbers. If Walt was around during a lull in production, he would challenge everyone to a contest. He threw them underhand, with great accuracy. Dick remembered trying to throw them, with comical results.

In addition to his Disney memories, I asked questions about his other work, and so the audience learned of, among other things, his excellent performances in two classic James Stewart films released the same year as PinocchioDestry Rides Again, and Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

The next time you watch Mr. Smith, (and I suggest that you do it sooner than later) keep an eye out for the spunky U.S. Senate pageboy who gives Mr. Stewart’s title character a quick tour through the august chamber before the junior senator is sworn in. And when Mr. Smith asks the boy his name, our hero answers, “Richard Jones.”

Only in Hollywood.

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Here I am with Betty and Dick after finishing our seminar

In the 1940s, Dick was one of the actors who played the role of Henry Aldrich on the popular radio program, The Aldrich Family. He also book-ended a stint in the Army with several more film roles, and finished out the decade under contract with Gene Autry’s Flying “A” Productions. It was this work which led to career transition to the small screen.

In 1951, Dick was cast alongside fellow stuntman and actor (and eventual screen Tarzan) Jock Mahoney in the Gene Autry television production of Range Rider. Playing the part of the Range Rider’s sidekick Dick West (the “All-American Boy”), Dick was able to play both comedy and drama, and put his skills as a trick rider and roper to good use. He also did all of his own stunts.

Here’s an episode of Range Rider, featuring Dick and star Jock Mahoney. Their obvious on-screen chemistry was one of the reasons for the show’s success.

The next couple of years, Dick appeared frequently in other Autry TV shows, including the flagship The Gene Autry Show, and Annie Oakley. In 1955, he was cast in a show of his own, the syndicated Buffalo Bill, Jr., also a Flying “A” Production.

Even though he was now the star, he continued to do his own stunts.

When he retired from the screen in 1959 (he occasionally took roles as a favor to good friends such as Alvy Moore of Green Acres fame), Dick moved on his next career in real estate. Honored as a Disney Legend in 2000, Dick is also a member of the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame and is a Golden Boot Award-winner, which honors actors, actresses, and crew members who have made significant contributions to the genre of Western television and movies.

These days, Dick and Betty live on their ranch in the San Fernando Valley, and spend a good deal of their time with their children and grandchildren, although Dick occasionally sneaks away for some deep sea fishing. The two also visit the occasional cowboy festival, and have been making appearances this year that coincide with Pinocchio‘s 70th Anniversary and it’s release on Disney DVD and Blu-ray.

craig hodgkins

PS: For essays on my events and experiences other Disney personalities, just select the “Disney” category from the drop down menu in the right sidebar.

Disney: A Legendary Day with Fred MacMurray

•February 2, 2009 • 1 Comment

macmurrayfredbioI only met Fred MacMurray once. I won’t say once was enough, but I’ll take it.

The brief visit was all I’d hoped…I’ll always remember his self-effacing humor. He was also, it turned out, a much better conversationalist than the Shaggy Dog.

But maybe I should explain.

October 13, 1987 was the inauguration of the Disney Legends Promenade at The Walt Disney Studios, and MacMurray was the very first Legend to be honored. Although his late-career portrayal of Professor Ned Brainard in The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963) may have endeared him to Disney fans, it was his first Disney feature role that led to his “Legendary” selection.

In 1959, MacMurray was cast as Tommy Kirk’s befuddled father in The Shaggy Dog, a canine comedy caper (and surprise hit) that also showcased young Disney veterans Tim Considine, Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran, and Annette Funicello. Because The Disney Channel had scheduled the film (and a 1976 sequel, The Shaggy D.A.) on their fall 1987 line-up, a “Disney Legends” award was conceived as an additional promotional push for “Shaggy Dog Month.” So, MacMurray and his wife, actress/dancer June Haver, were invited out to Burbank for the ceremony.

When told about the award idea, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner – to his credit – felt the concept, if given the right attention, could be much more lasting and impactful, something it has clearly become over the past 20+ years.

But back to 1987, MacMurray, and the dog.

I was on studio property that mid-October day in a dual capacity, representing the Disneyland Resort’s weekly newsletter, The Disneyland Line, and their short-lived Cast Communications Network (“CCN: Coming to a Break Area Near You!”). With me were Jimmy McGraw, the graphic artist for the Line, and Tom Meslovich, one of Disneyland’s hardworking “AV Guys.”

fredmacmurraydlarticle1In addition to writing a short Line feature on MacMurray and the Legends Award program (click on the Line page to the left to read the whole article), I’d been assigned to shoot a CCN video report as well. So, bursting with credentials, I joined the local media to the right of the Studio Theater entrance, and MacMurray arrived at the ceremony site a few minutes later. Riding in an open-top Model T roadster alongside Haver and a “next generation” pooch, he waved happily to the crowd. Both Michael and COO Frank Wells spoke before MacMurray stepped to the podium.

“I just thought we’d come out here today,” he shared good-naturedly, clearly a little surprised by the large studio crowd, “get a few pictures taken, maybe say ‘hello’ to the dog. This is much more than I imagined.”

After sharing a few memories of Walt and the studio, and accepting a commemorative plaque from Michael (the current Disney Legends award featuring Mickey’s hand holding his Fantasia wand had yet to be designed), the guest of honor stepped over to a square of wet cement and knelt, leaving his hand prints and signature behind (Sid Grauman-style) as the first-ever “official” Disney Legend. Camera bulbs flashed. Questions were shouted by us media types.

A few minutes later, as he finished wiping the wet cement off his hands, I stepped back over to him and asked if he still played the saxophone (his musical skill was what originally brought him to Hollywood). He laughed and put his hand on my shoulder. I checked my blazer to make sure he hadn’t left any cement residue.

“Imagine a young man like you remembering that,” he said, a little surprised again.

[Authors note: This was more than 20 years ago. I WAS young]

Holding up his right hand, he indicated the ring finger with his thumb. It bent in at an unusual angle, and had made a much deeper indentation in the wet cement than the rest of his fingers.

“No, I can’t really play anymore,” he answered, smiling a little wistfully, “this [finger]’s just gotten too arthritic to work the thing the way I want to.”

We chatted for a couple more minutes, and I thanked him for his work in the Disney films and on a childhood television favorite, the long-running My Three Sons, where he appeared as widower (and erstwhile father figure) “Steve Douglas” alongside Considine (who played “Mike Douglas” from 1960-65) and former Mousekateer Don Grady (who played “Robbie Douglas”).

Soon, it was time for him to join Haver (whom I also met briefly) and the dog in the Model T for a ceremonious exit. But before he left, he was kind enough to sign his name across the top of the Disney Legends press release I had with me (detail below).

fredmacmurraysig

A few minutes later, the Model T driver returned with the dog so we could shoot some bookends (an open and close) for the video piece. For those shots, I sat behind the wheel of the car with the dog at my side, saying something like, “This is Craig Hodgkins, and the Shaggy Dog, at the Disney Legends Awards at The Walt Disney Studios.”

Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what I said, because I no longer have a copy of the video footage or the finished piece. No, the only visual evidence I have that I was actually there (other than the article I wrote) is this photo (below) which surfaced a few years later. I never found out who took it, but I’m thankful they did.

studiolegendscraigcandid

That’s me in the blue blazer, leaning against the car, intently discussing a shot with Tom (with the video camera on his shoulder), who is mostly obscured by Jimmy (who stands with his back to the photographer). The dog, patient as ever, awaits his cue. He was thoroughly professional, but didn’t say a word to me the entire time we were together.

In the Spring of 1988, I left Disneyland to begin a new job at the Disney Studios. One of my favorite things to do during my years there was walk around the property after eating a quick lunch in the commissary, frequently stopping by the Legends Promenade, where MacMurray’s prints were soon joined by other Disney greats.

Eventually, the Legends Awards outgrew the area in front of the Studio Theater, and were relocated to the newly-named Legends Plaza facing the Team Disney building, where hand prints and signatures are now reproduced as bronze plaques.

fredmacmurraydlphoto2

Fred MacMurray’s legendary handprints…when the cement was still wet

Fred MacMurray passed away on November 5, 1991.

A few days later, I returned to the the Studio Theater to pay my respects. It must have rained the night before, for some water remained in the deep imprint left by his right ring finger.

I smiled, remembering our brief conversation, and for a moment imagined that I heard a lone saxophone off in the distance, softly playing the My Three Sons theme song.

craig hodgkins

PS: I you need or want a little fatherly Fred MacMurray in your life, My Three Sons: Season One (In two volumes) has just been released on DVD for the first time ever. Enjoy every episode from the 1960-61 season in glorious black & white!

PPS: If you want to see a more dramatic (or sinister) Mr. MacMurray, check out his work in Double Indemnity (1944), The Caine Mutiny (1954), and The Apartment (1960). For his flair for comedy in early, non-Disney roles, try Murder, He Said (1945), The Egg and I (1947), and Father Was a Fullback (1949).

Three Faces of Eric at Breakfast

•January 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Eric at our “Boys Morning Out” at IHOP. A little coloring, a lot of pancakes, a warm cup of coffee and a lot of laughs.

Posted via email from craig hodgkins

Josh Griffin…Take Note…

•January 13, 2009 • 1 Comment

A youth pastor from Southern California is a big winner on “The Price Is Right.” Courtesy of Jennifer Taylor.

Dedicated to my good friend Josh Griffin. JG is also a youth pastor, but he took decidedly less than top money from Bob Barker a few years ago.

Posted via email from craig hodgkins

Disney: Happy 80th Birthday…er, Anniversary, Mickey Mouse!

•November 18, 2008 • 5 Comments
Walt and Roy Disney with Mickey Mouse and a special Academy Award

Walt and Roy Disney posing with studio star Mickey Mouse and his special Academy Award

The best known spokesmouse in the history of the entertainment business officially sprocketed to life 80 years ago today (November 18th) when Walt Disney’s first synchronized sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, premiered at the Colony Theater in New York City in 1928.

This celebrated event came a scant five years after Walt and Roy Disney launched their Disney Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, an organization which cut its teeth on two series of silent shorts featuring other leading characters: Alice (of the Cartoonland series) and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

For the record, Mickey was actually given animated life six months prior to the November date. His first two silent cartoon appearances (in unofficial screenings of Plane Crazy on May 15th and The Gallopin’ Gaucho on August 2nd) didn’t bring the Disney brothers a distribution deal, but the third cartoon (and the addition of a soundtrack) was the charm. After Mickey’s “sound” success with Willie, soundtracks were quickly added to Gaucho and Crazy, and the two were finally released on December 30, 1928 and March 17, 1929, respectively. All three shorts were largely animated by Walt’s long-time associate, the prolific and multi-talented Ub Iwerks.

After a few years of confusion on Mickey’s origins, The Walt Disney Company finally chose to recognize the November 18th date as Mickey’s official “anniversary” (The company prefers the term “anniversary” rather than “birthday,” since Mickey remains ageless).

So happy 80th anniversary, Mickey!

craig hodgkins

Nick Reynolds, Founding Member of the Kingston Trio, Dies at 75

•October 3, 2008 • 3 Comments

Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the Kingston Trio, passed away Wednesday, October 1st of complications following surgery at a Chula Vista, Calif., hospital. He was 75. His passing leaves Bob Shane as the only surviving member of the original Trio. The third founder, Dave Guard, died in 1991.

Jokingly referred to in concert as the “runt of the litter,” and usually the butt of the jokes in their early 1960s TV and radio commercials for the soft drink 7-Up, Reynolds’ voice and tenor guitar work were a big part of the success of the Trio, one of the most popular folk groups of the “Folk Era,” a time period which ran roughly from 1958-64. His on-stage energy and care-free attitude helped the group become a sell-out live act as well as a recording success.

He met Bob Shane while the two were attending Menlo Park Business College in the late 1950s. They discovered a mutual interest in music, and were soon playing at frat parties and local Bay Area hangouts. After meeting Stanford graduate Dave Guard, they got serious about the music business, and hired Frank Werber to manage their career, a move which paid off big time.

The Kingston Trio recorded three dozen albums and helped pioneer the college concert circuit, building a huge following that placed them on the cover of Life magazine in mid-1959. At one point in 1960, they had four LPs on Billboard’s Top Ten SIMULTANEOUSLY, a feat that has never been equaled.

After the trio disbanded in 1967, Reynolds retired to Oregon to spend time with family. He returned to the Trio for a period in the late 1980s, joining original member Shane and banjoist George Grove. He retired again in the 1990s following some health problems.

I had the opportunity to speak with Nick a couple of times in the late 1980s, before he rejoined the trio. He was hosting and tending bar at Bula’s Pub & Eatery, a clean, well-lighted place on Orange Avenue in his old home town of Coronado. He was gracious, and we had a nice chat about his time with the group, and what he had been doing since. But I was very glad when I learned he decided to strap on his old tenor guitar for another go at the songs he helped make famous.

craig hodgkins

Joe Penner, Betty Grable and Dick Lane in “The Day the Bookies Wept”

•September 29, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Here are two short scenes from RKO’s well-reviewed but rarely seen 1939 racetrack comedy, The Day the Bookies Wept, starring Joe Penner, Dick Lane, Tom Kennedy and a young Betty Grable.

In this first scene, Ernie Ambrose (Penner), a cab driver from Brooklyn, is so busy training his pigeons that he doesn’t pay much attention to his girlfriend Ina Firpo (Betty Grable), something that clearly wouldn’t happen in real life.

Later that day, Ambrose reports to work at the Colonel Cab Company, where his fellow drivers have spent the morning discussing plans to pool their money to buy a race horse in order to make a killing at the track. In other words, to “make the bookies weep.”

Because of his experience training pigeons (but mostly because this is a comedy), they select Ernie to buy the horse and train it. Knowing that Ambrose wants nothing to do with the ponies, fast-talking cabbie Ramsey Firpo (played to perfection by frequent Penner sidekick Dick Lane) and Pinky Brophy (Tom Kennedy) work had to convince him.

For more on Penner and his films, radio shows, and live performances, check out the Wanna Buy a Duck? website.

For a biographical essay on actor and announcer Richard “Dick” Lane, click HERE.

craig hodgkins

I’ll Get Around to It

•September 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Yikes. I haven’t blogged in more than a month, but the same thing happened around this time last year.

Between the day job, the girls starting school again, fantasy football season getting underway, and me taking on a couple of big live event projects, my “free” time has been pretty limited. Besides, I don’t have any new photos of Jennette McCurdy, Mary Costa or Don Adams to share anyway.

I’ll be back as soon as I can.

craig hodgkins

Books: “There Was Light” at UC Berkeley

•August 23, 2008 • 1 Comment

I recently added a book to my collection titled There Was Light: Autobiography of a University. Published in 1970 by Doubleday, and edited by novelist (and Berkeley grad) Irving Stone, it contains essays by thirty-nine notable alumni of the University of California at Berkeley in honor of the school’s centennial.

The essays are reflections of each writer’s experience at the school as an undergraduate, graduate, faculty and/or Board of Regents member. Surprisingly, many memories are an honest balance of both positive and negative. Since the university’s centennial was celebrated during years of great social change in Berkeley and around the country, some reflect that as well.

What made this particular volume interesting this time around (I’d seen it other times in used bookstores) was that it bears the signatures of sixteen of those essayists, as well as that of editor Stone, who wrote the biographical novels Lust For Life (Vincent van Gogh) and The Agony and the Ecstasy (Michelangelo) as well as Men to Match My Mountains, among many works.

I was drawn to the book because of the essay by (and signature of) George R. Stewart, author of Earth Abides, Storm, Fire, Names on the Land, Ordeal By Hunger, and many, many other works of fiction and fact. I’m a completist of sorts when it comes to Stewart, and have been slowly trying to get signed copies of all of his works…quite a task. I’m only about halfway there.

But the serendipitous bonus here was the other signatures. Here is the list, in order, with a brief (and woefully inadequate) description of each person’s occupation or area of expertise/service:

– Irving Stone – Novelist
Myron Krueger – Professor of Forestry, and timber management industry specialist
– Horace M. Albright – Director, National Park Service under FDR; Corporate Officer of US Potash Co.
– Jacques Schnier – Professor of Architecture and Art, well-known sculptor
– Harry Kingman – Lobbyist for the underprivileged, and baseball coach
– Bob Haas – White House Fellow; CEO, Levi Strauss & Company
– Dan Koshland – Biochemist, Professor of Molecular Biology, Editor of Science magazine
– George R. Stewart – Writer and Professor of English
– Edwin W. Pauley – Oilman, UC Board of Regents, namesake of UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion
– Stanley McCaffrey – President, University of the Pacific
– W. Byron Rumford – California State Assemblyman, early opponent of segregation
– Paul Schuster Taylor – Agricultural Economist and Professor, Husband of Dorothea Lange
– Knowles Ryerson – Dean of Agriculture at both UC Davis and UC Berkeley
– Ina Jackson – Teacher and Educator, early Board Member of the NAACP
– Reva Beck Bosone – Utah’s first female state senator, US House of Representatives
– Antonia Brico – Classical Pianist and Conductor
– Donald McLaughlin – Dean, College of Mining; UC Regent

Most of these men and women achieved their “fame” prior to the book’s publication, but others such as Haas, Koshland (each with family ties to Levi, Strauss & Co.) and McCaffrey, achieved greater recognition after 1970. To the best of my knowledge, of the seventeen signatories, only Haas survives.

There were other notable essayists whose signatures do not grace this volume (economist and ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith, cartoonist Rube Goldberg, television host Ralph Edwards, athletes Joe Kapp and Jackie Jenson, among others), but I’m pleased just the same.

Now, if I could only locate a signed copy of Earth Abides

craig hodgkins

The Service Times Are A’ Changin’

•August 22, 2008 • 4 Comments

Don’t know what your church services are like (or if you even attend), but we used to have a lot of fun at Mariners in Irvine when I was there. They probably still do…

I’ve received a few requests lately for some of my “sacred satire” material, musical and otherwise, so I thought I’d drop a few video and/or audio samples into “Get it. Got it. Good.” from time to time.

Here’s one of the most requested: My take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are A’ Changin'” from 2004. All for a good cause.

A little background: We’d recently completed construction on a new worship center (which conveniently would hold more people) and new children’s building (nicknamed “Port Mariners” for it’s nautical theme), allowing us to go from three Sunday services to two. Our 5:00 pm Saturday service stayed the same. Parking and traffic patterns were altered with the construction, and that needed to be communicated as well. So with all that in mind, I wrote and performed this the weekend we announced our Sunday service times were changing from 8:30, 10:00, and 11:30 to 9:00 and 11:00.

PS: I’d just bought the harmonica the day before and given myself a crash course. When I said “those are the only five notes I know” during the song, it was pretty accurate.

PPS: Mariners has since added a second Saturday night service, so “5, 9 & 11” wasn’t “written in stone” after all.

craig hodgkins

Check out some of my other “Sacred Satire” videos HERE.

Barack Obama, John McCain and Rick Warren

•August 16, 2008 • 1 Comment

I don’t write about politics or faith very often…I prefer to bore people on a variety of other subjects…but following tonight’s Saddleback Civil Forum (carried live on CNN and FOX News, among others), I felt compelled to write something.

Here’s my take: I can’t tell you who “lost” on the evening, if anybody (both candidates came off very well), but I think the overall winner was the American voters.

The concept of a “civil” forum is not new. British politician, philanthropist and social justice crusader William Wilberforce (recently profiled in the film Amazing Grace) was famous for reaching “across the aisle” of Parliament to work with those with opposing views in a spirit of civility. Unfortunately, our society seems to have lost a little of this important skill in the 21st Century. But tonight was decidedly different.

Each candidate was quick-witted, thoughtful, well-spoken and generally impressive. We also got to see what each man looks like without a tie on. Warren’s extended dialog with Obama and McCain — thanks to the well-paced one hour interview format — was a welcome change from the usual stump speech “sound bites” that tend to overwhelm us during a campaign year. I had the sense that each senator was able to adequately share his views on several topics in this relaxed, low-pressure environment.

By relaxed, I certainly don’t mean that the questions were easy. In fact, I think that the primary (no pun intended) reason for the evening’s success were not the answers themselves, but Warren’s questions, which drew each senator out on topics not usually covered on the campaign trail. True to his word, Warren asked the same questions of Obama and McCain. Because Obama took a bit more time with some of his answers, McCain received a couple that Obama didn’t, but generally the two covered the same ground. And each was very forthcoming.

A few thousand people attended the event, and several hundred more watched live in various video venues scattered around the Saddleback campus. In addition, hundreds of radio and television reporters and associates were on hand, interviewing as many people as they could following the event, guaranteeing that we’ll have plenty of “sound bites” to nibble on for the next few weeks. I hope they do the candidates justice.

As I waited for my wife and oldest daughter to meet me at the venue I had hosted (they had been in the main auditorium with Warren and the candidates), I was struck by the content of the discussions I overheard as the throng filed past. Everyone seemed to be discussing the topics of the forum, and sharing comments and views from both candidates that had impressed them. At a restaurant a few miles down the road, I overheard some discussions continuing. And the cool thing was that all of the discussions were…well…civil. Politics and religion? Who’d a thunk it?

Well done, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rick Warren.

William Wilberforce would be pleased.

craig hodgkins

Figure Skating: A Visit To The Silicon Valley Open

•August 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Erin Hodgkins and Dianne Deleeuw

Erin Hodgkins, her coach Dianne DeLeeuw, and the Kayla Dopp Memorial Trophy

I often find it odd that I am a father of two figure skaters. I didn’t grow up in a winter climate. I live in Southern California. I played only team sports, none of which involved ice. And other than the major crush I had on Dorothy Hamill during the 1976 Olympics (and a little beyond), I knew very little about the sport. But my wife and daughters love it, so I’m learning to love it as well.

It was an easy task today, since both daughters medaled in their respective events at the 2008 Silicon Valley Open in San Jose.

Erin earned the gold medal, placing 1st out of 15 competitors in the Pre-Preliminary Group. Each of the five judges had her in first, a pretty rare feat. She was also awarded the Kayla Dopp Memorial Trophy (pictured above), which is given annually to the girls competitor with the best technical performance in the Pre-Preliminary group. The award is named for a talented and popular young skater who tragically lost her life in July of 2005, and Erin was honored and humbled to receive it.

Emily also skated wonderfully, and earned fourth place among a dozen other skaters in the very competitive Preliminary Group. Two of the five judges had her in second, but such are the vagaries of the scoring in ice skating. But Dad isn’t bitter. Really.

Erin Hodgkins and Emily Hodgkins

Erin Hodgkins and Emily Hodgkins

The two have been skating for a little more than three years now. They took it up later in life than most of their skating friends, but really took to it. They started in ISI competitions in and around Orange County (their home ice is the Westminster Ice Palace, and they skate for the All Year Figure Skating Club), and recently stepped up to skate at the USFS level, where everything is much more intense. Their current coach is 1975 World Champion and 1976 Olympic Silver medalist Dianne DeLeeuw. Last week they placed 2nd (Erin) and 5th (Emily) at the Glacier Falls competition at Anaheim Ice. The trek to San Jose was our first family ice skating road trip.

The SV Open is a four-day event held at Shark Ice, the training and practice facility for the San Jose Sharks NHL team. It’s an impressive place, with four rinks (or “sheets of ice” as the coaches and skate moms call them). Best of all, there is a great sports bar/restaurant (a warm island in the midst of all that cold) with windows on all sides so you can keep an eye on the action. The event itself was huge as well. More than 500 skaters representing 31 skating clubs took part.

It was a great first road trip experience!

craig hodgkins

craighodgkins.com updated

•July 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hold the virtual presses. Or is that the vanity presses? Anyway, I’ve updated the links on my website, cleverly titled craighodgkins.com. It’s still the quickest way to connect to my conference speaking and event schedule (I’m updating that as well), plus my Twitter home, YouTube channel, and various and sundry items of relative relevance.

craig hodgkins

7 Signs You May Be Playing Too Much “MarioKart” Wii

•July 21, 2008 • 1 Comment

Nintendo’s MarioKart is additive, especially with the ease of the Wii and it’s steering wheel. So here’s a few signs (some from personal experience) that may indicate when you really need to take a break from playing it:

  1. If you have children, you’ve changed each of their names to “Baby” something
  2. The steering wheel in your real car or truck feels large and awkward
  3. You see something in the middle of the street, and you run over it to increase your vehicle speed
  4. When exiting a banked freeway ramp, you try to drift using your “B” button
  5. When you’re not playing, you watch YouTube videos of other people’s Mario Kart races
  6. If a motorcycle starts to pass during your commute, you consider bumping it off the road
  7. After each race, you speak in glottal grunts and short phrases, like “Uh huh. Craig Win. Ha Ha Ha!”

craig hodgkins