Wheel of Fortune … 2nd Anniversary …

Today is the second anniversary of my appearance on …

Wheel of Fortune

… about which I have intended to blog for some time … and now … two years later … here … finally … is the follow up I promised.

I have been a Wheel of Fortune fan all the way back to the original version hosted by Chuck Woolery. 

My family and I were living in Southern California when Pat and Vanna became the host & hostess on Wheel …

Pat Sajak & Vanna White

… and I remember watching Pat do the weather on a local news broadcast before he moved to Wheel.

We moved to Marin County, north of San Francisco, in 1985. One day in the late 80’s or early 90’s, I was coming down the stairs just as a new puzzle was displayed on Wheel …

… it was an “author and novel” puzzle …

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye blank… and … much to the amazement of my kids … I knew the answer instantly, with no letters showing.J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the RyeI recognized the answer, in part, because I had written my major English thesis in college on that very book.

From that moment on, I wanted to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune … and, over the past 7 years, as my fiancée Candy and I watched Wheel every night, she often asked, “When are you going to get on Wheel?”

I signed up as a Wheel Watcher … and then, in August of 2013, received an email announcing a Wheelmobile event in Northern California …

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile at Jackson Rancheria 1

… to be held at the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson, CA.

Jackson Rancheria

About a two-and-a-half hour drive from home … close enough!

So, on Saturday, August 17, 2013, Candy and I headed to Jackson, hoping that I would be selected for an audition to be a Wheel contestant. I previously blogged about this event here:


At the conclusion of this audition, we were told that all of the auditions would be reviewed by Wheel’s producers … and those selected for final auditions would be notified in two to three months.

Just a few days shy of two months later, my optimism was rewarded when I received an email inviting me to a final contestant audition … I immediately confirmed that I would attend … and, on Thursday, October 24th, it was back to Jackson Rancheria for Candy and I.

Contestants only allowed in the auditorium for these auditions … so Candy visited the casino while I … along with about 100 other would-be contestants … participated in a more intensive competition … followed by a further paring down to 30 or so for the final auditions and interviews. I also previously blogged about this event here:


Just a couple of months later I received an email from Contestant Coordinator Alexandra Reeves … advising me that I have been selected to be a contestant on Wheel … and that I had a taping date of Friday, January 17, 2014 (coincidentally, my parents’ 69th wedding anniversary, a good sign, I thought).

So, time to prepare … well, not really. I had been “preparing” for Wheel for more than 30 years and knew that “cramming” was not going to be much help. The only thing I did was review the capitals and other major cities of countries in Europe, in case one of them showed up in a puzzle.

Otherwise, I just watched the show every night and enjoyed the anticipation of being on it myself. Needless to say, my family and friends were excited and gave me all kinds of advice, such as “buy vowels,” “don’t guess letters that have already been played” and, most often, “win a lot of money!”

The day before my taping, Candy and I drove down to Los Angeles and checked in at the Culver Hotel …

Culver Hotel Entrance & Flowers

… just down the street from the Sony Entertainment Studios …


… for my taping … about which I blogged here:


and here:


Wheel of Fortune … March 4, 2014

Now it was finally time for my show to air … Candy & I had kept my performance a closely held secret … none of our family or friends knew the outcome. So, we gathered at #1 son Doug’s house to watch and enjoy the show together.


Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

My fellow contestants … Ashley Rieck & Dominique Washington … were both younger and better looking than I … and, as it turned out, quicker on the toss up button. At home, toss ups were always one of my strong suits … not so much on the show.

The $1000 toss up was a “Movie Title” …

Midnight in Paris blank

… and Dominique pounced on it quickly … with just 5 of the 15 letters showing …

Midnight in Paris 10 blanks

… she buzzed in and announced …

Midnight in Paris solved

… a good start for her.

We then did our introductions … for which I had decided that the most important thing of all was to name my fiancée, Candy … who was in the audience … and our combined six grandchildren, aged 1 through 9. I knew the grandkids would get a kick out of hearing their names on TV … and I actually managed to do it … Kohl & Cheyenne, Hannah & Quincy, and Finnegan & McKinley … without making any mistakes. After which Pat said, “We should give him some money just for getting all that.”

The $2000 toss up was “People” …

Faithful Fans blank

… and Ashley beat me to the buzzer on this one …

Faithful Fans 4 blanks

… but missed the second word of the puzzle, giving me a chance …

Faithful Fans 3 blanks

… and, since I am one … of the Cal Bears football team … I was able to solve …

Faithful Fans solved

This, of course, allowed me to start the first regular puzzle, something from “The ’80’s” … about which Pat said to me … “You & I remember the ’80’s, but I’m not sure about them.”

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go blank

I managed to take advantage of going first on this puzzle by solving it without ever giving up the wheel. I ended up buying four vowels … and got four of the consonants … but was hanging around the low value wedges just past the bankrupt every time I spun … so once I knew the answer …

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go 5 blanks

… I immediately solved it …

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go solved

… had $900 at that point …

Wake Me Up Befrore You Go-Go wof5972_089

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

… so won the minimum $1000 for any puzzle solve … and had a “1/2 car” wedge.

When Pat came over to shake my hand, he said … “I never root for particular players because they’re all terrific, but I was hoping you’d solve this. I just wanted to hear it come out of your mouth.” We both had a good laugh at that.

Next was a “Before & After” puzzle …

Bowling Pins and Needles blank

… and thanks to a missed letter and a “lose a turn” spin, the wheel got back to me with no letters exposed. On my first spin, I was exactly one peg (a third of a wedge) short of a second “1/2 car” wedge … then two S’s got me $1800 … so I proceeded to buy four vowels … O, A, E & I … then spun a “free play” and won $2000 with four N’s at $500 each.

With the N’s …

Bowling Pins and Needles 8 blanks

… I also knew the puzzle … and once again, because I kept spinning close to the bankrupt, I decided to solve rather than spin again …

Bowling Pins and Needles solved

… for a total win of $2800.

The next round, the “Prize Puzzle”, proved to be decisive in determining who would go to the bonus round … in fact, as it turned out, that result depended on the guess of a single letter. This puzzle was an “Event” …The Year of the Horse blank

… and Dominique started out strong with two T’s for $1800 … and three H’s for $1350 … and then, after buying two vowels, she spun and landed on the Express wedge. An S won her another $1000 … upping her total to $4150 … and she jumped on the Express.

Then came the crucial guess. The fourth word of the puzzle at that point was HO_SE …

The Year of the Horse 5 blanks

… and Dominique’s next letter was a very logical U … logical, but crucially incorrect.

Unexpectedly, my turn again … and I once again flirted with bankrupt … stopping just one peg short of it … but this time on the high value side … on the $3500 wedge. At this point, I knew the puzzle … and that it had two R’s … so won $7000 for those.

This time I decided to keep going and spun twice more … with an F good for $900 … and a Y good for a Ricardo Beverly Hills Luggage $1000 gift tag and $500 in cash.

The Year of the Horse 1 blank

With just an obvious vowel left, I solved the puzzle …

The Year of the Horse solved

… for $9400 in cash … and also won a prize trip to China & a digital camera, valued at $9097 … for a total of $18,497 for this puzzle … and $24,297 altogether.

Had Dominique guessed the R instead of the U, she undoubtedly would have solved the puzzle … and gone on to the bonus round … that single letter made all the difference in the final result.

That was my last success short of the bonus round, as Ashley & Dominique solved each of the remaining three puzzles.

Dominique was once again quickest on the final toss up …

Career Counselor blank

… correctly solving …

Career Counselor 7 blanks

… an “Occupation” …

Career Counselor solved

… for $3000.

Then Ashley … who hadn’t had much chance to play … joined in on the next puzzle, category “Things” …

Investment Tips blank

After Dominique had revealed several letters, she missed one … and I whiffed on a guess of L. Ashley then spun the $5000 wedge … correctly guessed P … bought an I …

Investment Tips 4 blanks

… and solved the puzzle …

Investment Tips solved

… for a $4750 win.

We had time for one more puzzle … with Pat doing the “Final Spin” on a “Place” puzzle …

Scenic Overlook blank

… when he spun the $500 wedge … making each letter worth $1500 … I knew that I would be going to the bonus round.

This relatively short, two word puzzle, proved elusive for all of us … before we were done, I missed on three consonants (T, M & G) … while correctly guessing only two E’s … Ashley added an R … but Dominique did the heavy lifting, correctly guessing S, N, L and 2 C’s …

Scenic Overlook 6 blanks

… after which she solved …

Scenic Overlook solved

… for a $7500 win.

After having spent several hours together in preparation, we had been friendly competitors … and I was happy to see that Ashley & Dominique had each enjoyed success in the show.

However, thanks to my fortuitous Chinese New Year solve, I was going on to the bonus round. This gave Candy a chance to wave … and to mouth “Hi Swappers” to her life-long group of Swapper friends … and me a chance to nearly hit Pat in the head with the follow through of my spin of the Bonus Wheel! After which he said, “Missed me by that much!”

The Bonus Puzzle category was “What are You Doing?” …

Window Shopping blank

… and after RSTLNE revealed just 3 letters, it looked like this …

Window Shopping RSTLNE

… not many letters showing! I thought it likely that the last letter was G … and was hoping to catch a second one somewhere else … so guessed G, D, M and O, which gave me …

Window Shopping GDMO

… which prompted Pat to say … somewhat skeptically … “Well, I don’t know. We’ll find out soon, in about ten seconds.”

Then, without the thought ever having formed in my conscious mind, the words leaped immediately out of my mouth … “WINDOW SHOPPING” … surprising me as much as anyone else …

Window Shopping solved

Pat then revealed the bonus round prize of $30,000

Bonus Round Window Shopping wof5972_144

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

… and Candy rushed out onto the set for a congratulatory hug and waves to the audience.

I had a final friendly chat with Pat and Vanna during the filming of the closing credits … and then this most exciting day was over. The taping went by so fast, it was mostly a blur … and I could not even remember some of the puzzles until the show aired and I was able to watch it myself!

This was a wonderful, literally once-in-a-lifetime, experience … everyone associated with the show was great to the contestants … the contestant coordinator team (Alex, Gary, Jackie & Shannon) … announcer Jim Thornton, who regaled the audience during the breaks with Wheel stories & trivia … and, of course, Pat & Vanna … American television icons … who were down-to-Earth and very friendly to our group of nervous contestants.

Candy and I took our two week Collette trip … “The Best of China” … in October 2015 … and had a great time … visiting Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Shanghai … about which I will blog … with many photos … sometime in the not too far distant future.

Three Dot … 121

Emily Litella Endorses Donald Trump …

Chevy Chase: Weekend Update recognizes its obligation to present responsible opposing viewpoints to our editorials. Here to reply to a recent editorial, is Emily Litella.

Saturday Night Live Emily Litella & Chevy Chase

Emily Litella: I’m here tonight to endorse Donald Trump for Resident of the United States. Unlike Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, and John McCain, who was born in Panama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria, Mr. Trump was born in Queens, New York. He grew up in New York and attended school in New York and Pennsylvania. Now, it’s true that his mother was born in Scotland and his father’s parents were born in Germany, but those are not reasons why Donald can’t be a resident of the United States. Lots of foreigners are residents of this country and most of them are good citizens who add to ethnic diversity … and many of them do jobs that no one else wants to do, so …

Chevy Chase:  [interrupting]  Miss Litella?

Emily Litella: Yes?

Chevy Chase: I’m sorry. The editorial was about endorsing Donald Trump for President of the United States. President, not resident.

Emily Litella: Oh. I’m sorry.

Saturday Night Live Emily Litella Never Mind


With apologies to Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase, Emily Litella and Gilda Radner, my all-time favorite SNL performer.

Three Dot … 119

Blackjack, Card Counting & Chip Collecting …

Today is one of those personal anniversaries that means little to anyone other than me … but 23 years ago began both a brief adventure and a life-long passion …

… throughout late 1991 and early 1992, No. 1 son Doug & I studied up on how to play blackjack by counting cards … by February 22, 1992, we thought we were ready to give it a try …

… so, that day he & I and his friend & Cal roommate Brian Watkins headed to Reno, Nevada, to play some blackjack.

Reno The Biggest Little City in the World SignWe stayed at the Sundowner Hotel …

Sundowner Hotel… and played blackjack from the early evening until 6:00 the next morning … slept for a few hours … then went back for another session at the tables.

The experiment was not a rousing success … Doug managed to come out a bit ahead, but I lost just over $100 in 12 hours of total playing time … eventually, we made three more trips to Reno, Tahoe, Sparks & Carson City, but had mixed results and I ultimately ended up with a net loss … so much for the great blackjack card counting experiment.

Of greater significance to me was something else that happened during that first blackjack trip … we first played at Harrah’s …

Harrah's Reno… and I was fascinated by the chips they used to play the game … a lifetime collector of one thing or another, I instantly decided to start collecting casino chips … a hobby I have continued to this day.

The very first chip I ever collected was a Harrah’s $1 chip of a variety called PMSC … or plastic molded solid core … a chip produced by manufacturing a solid metal core then molding plastic around the core to finish the chip …

Harrah's $1 Yellow Brasscore… PMSC chips remain to this day my favorites, though casinos no longer use them.

During that first trip, I collected chips from each of the casinos we played at … Harrah’s, Fitzgerald’s, Sundowner, El Dorado, Flamingo, Circus Circus, Riverboat, Cal-Neva and Harrold’s …

… and once we returned home, I began to research casino chips and their history … which led me to discover The Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club …

CC&GTCC Logo New… which I not only joined, but of which I eventually became…

Life Member #3606-38.

LifeMemberMy collection rapidly expanded, thanks to both the CC & GTCC and eBay, both of which have been the source of hundreds of additions to my collection … a selection of which are reproduced below. _________________________________________________________

My favorite chip — used at an illegal casino operated in the Floridian Hotel in Miami, Florida, by mobster Al Capone.  Only four of these $1 chips are known to exist today.Floridian 1 with BlackLoose Caboose, Cripple Creek, Colorado, $5 house chip. Caboose5The Midnight Rose, Cripple Creek, Colorado, $100 chip issued in 2000 for the supposed start of the new millennium (of course, it wasn’t really, but hey it’s a great chip).  I got this one from my friend chip collecting friend Bob Orme.Midnight Rose Millennium $100Kursaal Oostende, Oostende, Belgium, gaming plaque.Kursaal Oostende 100.000I even managed to combine my new hobby with a previous hobby, collecting US Post Office First Day Covers.  This is a set of $5 chips issued by the Four Queens Casino in Las Vegas honoring the original 13 colonies, along with a First Day display card of Colonial Flags.Four Queens 13 State Set with Colonial Flag StampsI also have a small collection of silver strikes, special tokens issued by some casinos when slot machines still actually had tokens in them.  This is a set of four $10 silver strikes issued by The Palms Casino in Las Vegas, honoring America the Beautiful.  The larger strike in the middle is a $200 strike that is 3 1/2 inches in diameter.  To get one, you had to first collect 20 of the $10 chips, then exchange them for the $200 version (which obviously would not fit in any slot machine).Palms 2004 Silver StrikesAs an adjunct to my chip collection, I have collected decanters from some of my favorite casinos or which relate to particular chip collecting interests … this one is from the Bucket of Blood Casino in Virginia City, a wonderful old Northern Virginia silver-mining town that has fascinated me for years.Decanter Ezra Brooks Bucket of Blood Dead Wagon Right SideAnother decanter, which ties together collecting chips & playing golf.  This one is from a 1971 Invitational Golf Tournament held at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.Decanter Jim Beam Sahara Invitational 1971 FrontSpeaking of golf, I also have several hundred casino logo golf balls.  This one is from the Carson Nugget Casino, Carson City, Nevada.Casino Logo Ball Carson Nugget Carson City NVEach year at the CC & GTCC convention, the club holds a poker tournament.  In 2001, I played, but did not do well.  I did watch the final table to see my friend Paul Sax (seat 5, back to camera) play.  Also watching, wearing a cowboy hat and looking down at the moment, is my friend Travis Lewin, who was a professor of law at Syracuse University School of Law.CC&GTCC 2001 Poker Scene JTRFinally, the chip collecting hobby innovated the use of individual chips as business cards and personal mementos.  This one is of my friend Archie Black, the founder of the CC & GTCC.  It is a Chipco (ceramic) chip issued by Chipco and the Fiesta Hotel & Casino.Archie99


For more information about the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club, see the club website here:


The 2015 CC & GTCC convention will be held June 24-27… at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Thee Dot … 101

In 1814 we took a little trip…

Reblogging here something by my daughter Larisa Joy Reilly Thomas, posted today on her blog “Roots of Kinship”. Great little family story about one of my favorite songs from my teen years, which took on family significance far exceeding the musical quality of the song!

The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny HortonDespite its rather unusual subject matter, The Battle of New Orleans won the 1960 Grammy for Best Country & Western song and was 1959’s #1 song on the Billboard Top 100 — see:


Johnny Horton had several other hits with unlikely subjects, including “Sink the Bismarck”, about the British Navy’s efforts to sink the German battleship Bismarck in World War II; “Comanche”, about the horse Comanche, which was the sole survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and Custer’s Last Stand; and “North to Alaska”, about the 1896 Alaskan gold rush.

Johnny Horton's Greatest Hits AlbumSadly, Horton was killed in an automobile accident on November 5, 1960, near Milano, Texas. Like several others of my favorite singers (including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and Eddie Cochran) he left us too soon.

Thanks, Kiddo, for this trip down memory lane!


Roots of Kinship

Battle of New OrleansBattle of New Orleans. By Edward Percy Moran. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons In 1959, Johnny Horton earned a number one hit on the Billboard Charts for the song The Battle of New Orleans.  Written by Jimmy Driftwood, it commemorates the victory of the United States over the British Army at the end of the War of 1812.1

Today, January 8, 2015, commemorates the 200th anniversary of the conclusion of the battle, fought from December 23, 1814 to January 8, 1815.  It was the last important battle of the War of 1812, occurring after the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814 (but before the treaty was ratified by both governments in February 1815).2The Battle of New OrleansAll of this is to set the background of a song that played a significant role in my childhood.  When my father was overseas in the US…

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Which City Should You Live In …

So, today I took one of those online personality tests on QUIZONY.COM …

… and, as usual, was frustrated by the fact that I wasn’t given more choices …

… such as “None of the Above”, “You’ve Got to be Kidding Me” and “Don’t be Ridiculous”.

Nevertheless, I finished the quiz, with the result that I should apparently live in London, England:

Slide1Not a chance, of course, but I couldn’t help wondering what the result would have been had I been able to choose answers that I actually liked.

So, I added to the quiz my preferred responses … knowing that there is no way to score the quiz this way, of course, I will never know the answer … but it was fun working on this.

Here is the quiz the way it would look if it included my preferred responses:

Slide2Slide3Slide4You can take the quiz yourself here:


I also wonder how many other cities come up in the results … there are 19,683 possible combinations of 9 questions with 3 answers each … 3 to the 9th power … though I have my doubts whether quizony went to the trouble of creating that many possible outcomes!

———- ooo ———-

Update May 1, 2014:

My daughter Risa posted a comment on Facebook about this quiz:

The answer is “You Should Live in Buford, Wyoming”.

Which prompted me to add one more question to the quiz …

Weather Question… with the observation, “I don’t think so.”  😉

The Mutiny on the Bounty … 1789 …

Monday, April 28, 2014, was the 225th Anniversary of another historical event which has always fascinated me — the Mutiny on HMS Bounty …

… the basic story, of course, is well-known … a group of mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian … … overthrew their captain (actually Lieutenant) William Bligh …

… setting him and 18 loyal crewmen adrift on the Pacific Ocean in a 23 foot open launch …

The mutineers then tried unsuccessfully for several weeks to settle on the island of Tubuai … set sail again, dropping off 16 sailors on Tahiti, and sailing on to Pitcairn Island … 

… there they burned the ship …

Burning of HMS Bounty in Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island

Burning of HMS Bounty in Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island

… in what is now called Bounty Bay and settled on the island. The settlers included Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men, and 18 women, one with a baby.

What is less well-known is the aftermath — for both Christian and Bligh. The latter navigated the launch in which he had been set adrift for 47 days until reaching Timor in the Dutch East Indies …

William Bligh's 47 Day Voyage

William Bligh’s 47 Day Voyage

… he did this with a quadrant and a pocket watch, but no charts or compass, and covered a distance of approximately 3,618 nautical miles or 4,164 miles, an extraordinary feat of seamanship. Bligh went on to have a long and successful career in the British Navy.

On Pitcairn …

… things were less sanguine. The Tahitians who had accompanied the Englishmen to Pitcairn were treated as virtual slaves and eventually revolted. There is some disagreement in surviving accounts of what happened, but what is clear is that Christian, most of the other Englishmen and all of the Tahitian men died in a series of battles that took place just four years after the landing. Some reports indicate that Christian actually committed suicide during the fighting.

By 1808, when the American trading ship Topaz visited Pitcairn, only one Englishman (John Adams), nine women and a handful of children were still alive.

John Adams Pitcairn Island Stamp

John Adams Pitcairn Island Stamp

Their descendants (approximately 48 people) still live today on Pitcairn, a British overseas territory.

Pitcairn Island TodayBligh later wrote a book about the incident,”The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty” …

The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty by William Bligh

The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty by William Bligh

… as did Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, whose 1932 novel “Mutiny on the Bounty” was my introduction to the event in the mid-1950’s.

Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff & Hall

Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff & Hall

I later read the Notable Trials Library edition of “The Court-Martial of the ‘Bounty’ Mutineers”…

The Court Martial of the "Bounty" Mutineers, The Notable Trials Library

The Court Martial of the “Bounty” Mutineers, The Notable Trials Library

… which was first published in England in 1931, and which contains both correspondence among the principals and a transcript of the courts-martial proceedings against Bligh and the mutineers who were captured on Tahiti.

More recently, Caroline Alexander has written “The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty”, which brings to the events a more modern interpretation.

The Bounty:  The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander

The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander

And, of course, Hollywood has made three big budget movies about the Bounty:

In 1935, “The Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as Christian …

Mutiny on the Bounty 1935

Mutiny on the Bounty 1935

… in 1962, “The Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Trevor Howard as Bligh and Marlon Brando as Christian …

Mutiny on the Bounty 1962

Mutiny on the Bounty 1962

… and in 1984, “The Bounty”, starring Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian …

The Bounty 1984

The Bounty 1984

I have watched all three multiple times … each has strengths and weaknesses … my personal favorite among them is the 1962 version.


For more information about the Mutiny on the Bounty, see:


Countdown to Wheel of Fortune … 7 days …

… just 7 days left now until my appearance on Wheel of Fortune … Tuesday, March 4th … for an episode of “European Vacation” …

… as a teaser, here’s a photo that I received today from Sony Entertainment … taken while I was on the set …


… be sure to tune in at 7:30 pm next Tuesday on ABC (in San Francisco) … to see how I did …

… and check out Wheel through any of its official social media accounts:

– FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/wheeloffortune

– TWITTER: @WheelofFortune https://twitter.com/WheelofFortune

– INSTAGRAM: #WheelofFortune instagram.com/wheeloffortune


“The British are Coming, The British are Coming” …

… the second of this week’s major rock & roll anniversaries was on Friday, February 7th … the 50th anniversary of the arrival in the United States of … the first wave of the “British Invasion” … THE BEATLES.

Rolling Stone Magazine:  The Beatles Arrive in the U.S.

Rolling Stone Magazine: The Beatles Arrive in the U.S.

The Beatles, of course, changed rock & roll forever … and in the process profoundly changed the United States in ways the consequences of which continue to this day.

John, Paul, George & Ringo … last names not necessary … came to the U.S. while the country was deep in mourning over the then recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy  … and provided, at least for the younger generation of Americans, a welcome diversion from the melancholy which had gripped the country.

Because I was in the midst of “gloom period” (the post-Christmas leave, mid-winter period of cold, snow & early darkness) of my plebe year at West Point, I was not a spectator … either directly or even by way of television … at the arrival of the Beatles.

But, thousands of Americans … mostly teenagers or journalists … greeted the band on its arrival at the recently renamed John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.

The Beatles Press Conference February 7, 1964

The Beatles Press Conference February 7, 1964

After their arrival, the Beatles participated in a press conference with New York disc jockey Murray Kaufman … “Murray the K” … who came to refer to himself as “The 5th Beatle”.  Kaufman hosted the “1010 WINS New York” evening time slot … and was (along with Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow) one of my favorite DJ’s of the rock & roll era.

The Beatles went on to make American television history with their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9th … with 73 million viewers … a staggering 40% of the total American population … and the largest recorded TV audience for a single show ever up to that time.

Meet the Beatles Album Cover

Like many young Americans, I bought every Beatles album as it was released … at least until I graduated from West Point … at which time I unwisely sold most of my record albums, including all of my Beatles albums, to underclassmen. 

Although I was never as much a fan of the Beatles as I was of others who they credited with making their success possible … including Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley … and did not like most of their post-1966 recordings … I do, to this day, enjoy their early recordings … such as …


“I Want to Hold Your Hand” … “Love Me Do” … and “I Saw Her Standing There” … which provided temporary relief from the drudgery of life as a West Point plebe … and which still bring a smile to my face when I hear them.


The Beatles on Wikipedia:


The Beatles arrive in the U.S. on Wikipedia:


How popular were the Beatles albums?


“The Day the Music Died” …

… this week marks the anniversaries of two significant events in the history of rock ‘n roll … the first of these was this past Monday, February 3rd … the 55th Anniversary of “The Day the Music Died” …

… on that date in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in the crash of a small plane near Clear Lake, Iowa.

The Day the Music Died Mason City Globe-Gazette 590203

Buddy Holly was … and to this day remains … my favorite rock ‘n roll artist. The song which made famous the line “The Day the Music Died” … “American Pie” by Don McLean … is my single all time favorite song.

I was fortunate to have grown up on Long Island … and to have attended a 1958 Alan Freed rock ‘n roll show at the Paramount Theater in New York City …  Buddy Holly & the Crickets appeared in that show, along with many other 1950’s rock ‘n rollers … I was also a newspaper carrier boy … delivering the Long Island Daily Press for any other old-timers who still remember that now defunct paper … and learned of the crash when I picked up my papers to deliver the next day.

Most music fans probably know of the two movies that have been made about the lives of Buddy Holly … “The Buddy Holly Story”, starring Gary Busey, Don Stroud & Charles Martin Smith … and Ritchie Valens … “La Bamba”, starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales … I keep hoping that someone will make a movie about the third rock star victim of the crash … “The Big Bopper” … so as to make a complete set.

There is also an excellent documentary movie called “The Real Buddy Holly Story” … hosted by Paul McCartney … who says that Buddy Holly was a seminal influence on The Beatles and their music … And, I also have two books on Buddy … the very readable “Rave On” by Philip Norman … and the almost scholarly “Buddy Holly, A Biography”, by Ellis Amburn.


For internet articles on the three artists, see:

Buddy Holly autographed photo

Buddy Holly & the Crickets website:



Ritchie Valens album cropped

The official Ritchie Valens website:



Big Bopper The singing

The Big Bopper on Legacy.com:




Rolling Stone

article on Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & The Big Bopper:


Wheel of Fortune Appearance …

Had my …

Wheel of Fortune

…  taping on Friday, January 19th, at the Sony Entertainment Studios in Culver City …


…  for a show that will air on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

Candy & I drove down to Los Angeles on Thursday and stayed at the Culver Hotel


… right down the street from the studios.

The hotel was built in 1924 and is a wonderful old, flatiron shaped building …


… with the result that our room … #60 on the 6th floor … had virtually no 90 degree angles …

… with the walls coming together at a variety of acute and obtuse angles, instead.

After checking in, we made the mistake of traveling 12 miles from the hotel to the Outback Steakhouse in Glendale … a trip that took almost 2 hours in the LA rush hour traffic!

Fortunately, we had a nice steak dinner … and the trip back didn’t take as long … but after having gotten up at 6:00 am so that I could make a 9:00 court appearance in Pleasanton on our way to LA … and after having spent more than 10 hours driving altogether … I was tired and wanted to be well-rested for my Wheel appearance … so was uncharacteristically in bed and asleep by 10:00 pm.

Got up at 6:00 am … and dressed in the outfit Candy had bought me for the occasion … black dress pants, long-sleeved grey shirt and solid gold tie … looked very spiffy!

Left the hotel at 7:00 to walk to the studio … took about 10 minutes … and was the second of the day’s contestants to arrive … well before the scheduled 7:45 arrival deadline … I was taking no chances on being late and getting scrubbed!

The schedule called for six shows to be taped that day … so we had a total of 20 contestants present … two of whom were alternates available in case one of the scheduled contestants could not participate.

We were all taken to a contestant area … which consisted of a meeting room, dressing room and hair/makeup room … where we spent a couple of hours going over the taping procedures, legal requirements, game rules & playing hints, and getting hair & makeup done.  Among the legal requirements … an agreement signed by each contestant not to reveal the results of the show until after it airs … so, no, I’m not going to tell you in this blog how I did!

While all this was going on, Vanna White

Vanna White

… stopped by to say hello and wish everyone good luck … how exciting!

During this time, we also learned which game we would be playing and in what playing position … of the six shows being filmed, 5 were “European Vacation” theme shows scheduled for viewing the week of March 3-7 … and the 6th was an “America’s Game” show scheduled for broadcast on March 19th. 

Of the 18 primary contestants, 6 were men and 12 women … and we were divided into show groups of three each by the show’s producers … not sure how they did that, but each group had one man and two women … one person in each group of three was then called upon to select one of six numbered golf balls to determine which show that group would appear on … I was the “ball guy” for my show and picked #2, meaning we would be the second show filmed that day … and would be playing in one of the European Vacation games … with a vacation in Spain as the signature prize. 

Then we had another selection process … with each person on our show selecting a small numbered ball to determine our position on the stage … I picked #1, meaning that I would be screen left … closest to Pat Sajak … during our show.

Finally, we also had an opportunity to play some practice puzzles … learn how to use the signaling devices for the toss up puzzles … and spin the wheel …


… which was both smaller and much heavier than it looks on TV.  The show’s producers taught us to spin the wheel by grabbing one of the posts with just the bottom three fingers … to avoid banging against the selection flippers … and I discovered that it is hard to get the wheel to make a full revolution … in fact, I was not able to do so.

In the meanwhile, guests of contestants were scheduled to arrive at 11:00 … so Candy took a cab from the hotel to the studio … and was eventually seated in the special guest section … contestants were not permitted to have contact with or even communicate with their guests prior to taping … but I did manage to flash Candy a quick “heart” hand-sign to let her know I saw her in the audience.

Guests were entertained with interesting information about the show … including that shows are taped on Thursday and Friday, every other week … that the wheel weighs 2400 pounds … and that 10,000 people try out every year, while fewer than 600 get on the show!

While the first three contestants went through the final preparation for their competition, the rest of us were seated in own section in the audience … at the opposite end of the audience from the guests …  to watch the other shows.

And then it was time for “America’s Game”


Wheel of Fortune

(to be continued after my show airs on March 4th!)


For background on how I got to be one of the fewer than 600 contestants a year who get on Wheel of Fortune, see my earlier blog posts about the Wheelmobile event I attended …


… and the follow up final audition …


The Official Wheel of Fortune website is here:


The Official Wheel of Fortune Game is on Facebook here:



Additional Culver Hotel photos:

Culver Hotel Sign

Culver Hotel Entrance & Flowers

Culver Hotel National Register of Historic Places Placque

Culver Hotel Placque

Culver Hotel Bench

Culver Hotel Entrance

Photos of the Sony Entertainment Studios & Culver Hotel in this blog © 2014 by Jim Reilly

Wheel of Fortune …


On August 18th, I went to Jackson Rancheria to participate in a Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile event, about which I blogged here:


Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile

I was fortunate to be selected for an audition … then waited for a couple of months to see if I would be invited for a follow up audition …

… which I was!

So, it was back to Jackson Rancheria …

Jackson Rancheria Casino

Jackson Rancheria Casino

… on October 24th for the next round of auditions …

… during which about 100 of us participated in a more intensive competition … followed by a further paring down to 30 or so for the final auditions & interviews.

Had a pretty good  run … solved two puzzles …

… a “Before & After” puzzle … “Cargo Deck of Cards” …

… and an “Event” puzzle … “Veterans Day Parade” …

… and was on a roll with another puzzle … a “Movie Quote” …

May the Force be With You

… lol …

… but the hostess spinning the wheel intentionally bankrupted me to give other contestants a chance to play.

All in all, I felt pretty good about my audition … but it was back to waiting … which they said could be as long as 18 months!

However, that proved not to be the case … as on Monday of this week, I received an email saying that I have been selected to be a contestant on …

Wheel of Fortune

… and that I have a taping date of Friday, January 17th (coincidentally, my parents’ 69th wedding anniversary).

They will tape 6 shows that day … with participants to be assigned to the 6 shows at random …

… 5 of them will be shown the week of March 3rd to March 7th … with a theme of “European Vacation” …

… and the 6th … with a theme of “America’s Game” … will air on Wednesday, March 19th.

So, Candy & I will be heading to Culver City on Thursday, January 16th … and I will be spending the following day with Pat & Vanna …

Pat Sajak & Vanna White

… needless to say, quite exciting!

Wheel of Fortune “Wheelmobile” Event at Jackson Rancheria


Candy & I went to the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort yesterday (Saturday, August 17, 2013) for this event, in the hopes that I would be selected for an audition to be a contest on Wheel of Fortune.

The event was held in the casino’s convention hall, which holds just over 1000 people. They did three shows, during each of which names were selected at random from among applications placed in a big drum. They picked names in groups of five, for a total of about 50 during each show. So, about a 5% chance of being selected for an audition. Each group, after being interviewed, played one “speed up” round puzzle.

The show’s “Pat Sajak” was a high energy guy named Marty and they had a substitute “Vanna White” named Morgan. I was not selected during the first show, so back in line for the second. While waiting in line, the woman in front of me asked me to take her picture in front of the Wheelmobile, which I did. In return, she took mine, too, and promised to send it to me. She ended up being one of the people selected during the show, but I was not … again … so back in line for the third show.

This time, however, mine was the third slip picked in the first group of the show, so I got my audition! Marty kept telling us that energy and enthusiasm (not my best personality characteristics) were important in the selection process, so I decided I needed to do something different than the other contestants. Therefore, when it was my turn to be interviewed, I walked over and gave Marty a big hug. He laughed and called it a “bro hug”.

He then asked me to introduce myself, to which I replied with something like:

“My name is Jim Reilly. I am a trial attorney and I have a fiancee, four kids, a dog, four cats and ten granddogs.”

In response to his question about what I like to do in my free time, said:

“I collect casino chips, play online strategy football and root for the California Golden Bears. Go Bears!”

We then did our puzzle, which was a “place” and looked like this:

____ / ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ / ____ ____ ____

The first two players guessed G and N, filling in the last two letters of the middle word in reverse order. I guessed A, hoping to get something besides the first letter, but didn’t. After several misses (including mine of M), the next guess was T, which filled the 3rd and 4th spaces of the second word. Then the fifth player guessed O, the 2nd and 3rd letters of the last word, and correctly solved the puzzle:


All of the auditions will be reviewed by the show’s producers and those selected for final auditions will be notified in two to three months. So, now, we’ll just have to wait & see.

After the Wheel show, Candy & I had dinner at the casino’s buffet, then I played poker while she played the slot machines (of which this huge casino has 1600). I played $1-2 No Limit Hold ‘Em for about four hours and won $267! So, all in all, a pretty good day.

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile at Jackson Rancheria 1


The Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort Facebook page is here:


“Django Unchained” … from History …


… with the Oscar awards coming up on Sunday night, I thought this would be a good time to comment on …

… the historical anachronisms in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained … we are not big Tarantino fans, but Candy & I went to see this because it is Oscar-nominated … and we both liked it more than we thought we would …

… nevertheless, several blatant anachronisms were strikingly obvious … and upon further reflection, several others not as obvious appeared …

… the most obvious, because of its central role in the movie (including the handling thereof by Tarantino himself in a bit part) was the use of dynamite to blow stuff up … of course, blowing stuff up is the primary raison d’etre for Tarantino’s movies, so his use of dynamite in this one is no surprise … however … the movie (according to the introduction) is set in 1858 … and dynamite wasn’t even invented until 1866 … furthermore, despite the use of the technique as a plot device, dynamite cannot be exploded by shooting into it … dynamite, by the way, was invented by Alfred Nobel, who patented his invention in 1867 … yes, the same Nobel after whom the Peace Prize is named … obviously, he would not have won it himself for that particular invention …

… another obvious anachronism was the appearance of a group of hooded terror-riders … though not specifically identified as Ku Klux Klan, this rather inept group was obviously intended to evoke the Klan … even though the Klan wasn’t founded until, coincidentally, 1866 … however much whites may have subjugated and abused blacks in the antebellum era, they didn’t do it by riding around on horses while wearing white hoods … the Ku (not Klu) Klux Klan was founded by former confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and several other equally delusional ex-CSA officers …  by 1869, the Klan had essentially disappeared, only to be revived in 1915 … by 1920, the Klan was advertising its opposition to “niggers, Catholics, Jews … dope, bootlegging, graft, nightclubs and road houses, violations of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex and scandalous behavior” … despite deep-seated hatred on the part of some, the Klan had once again pretty much died off by the 1950’s and is now an historical irrelevancy …

… other less obvious anachronisms …

… several of the weapons used in the movie were not produced until after the Civil War … including the Derringer pistols used by Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx) … the Sharps rifle used by Django, which was first produced in 1874 … and the Henry 1860 repeating rifles used by Schultz and Django which was first produced in, well, 1860 …

… sunglasses of the type worn in the movie by Django and Old Man Carrucan (Bruce Dern) were invented by Sam Foster, founder of Foster Grant, in 1929 …

… Dr. Schultz (and others) refer to his home country as “Germany”, which didn’t exist until 1871 … someone from Dusseldorf, Schultz’s ostensible hometown in the movie, would have said he was from Prussia, which was the national identity of the region at the time … Germany, as a country, was founded in 1871 by Otto von Bismarck, after whom the World War II German battleship was named …

… Django and Schultz meet Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) at the “Cleopatra Club” … which features as its emblem a bust of Nefertiti … but Nefertiti’s bust wasn’t discovered until 1912, when it was found in Thutmose’s workshop in Amarna, Egypt, by a German archaeological team lead by Ludwig Borchardt …

… high quality straws of the type used by Candie were not invented until at least 1888, depending on whether it is paper or plastic … paper straws were invented in 1888 by Marvin Stone … plastic straws were invented in 1938 by Joseph Friedman … prior to 1888, straws were generally made from hollow grass stems, reeds or metal tubes …

… Candie’s sister was playing “Fur Elise” on the harp … but “Fur Elise” was written and published by Ludwig von Beethoven in 1867 …

… Schultz exclaims “Sold American!” when he finds Django at the beginning of the film … but that phrase was introduced as an advertising catchphrase for Lucky Strike cigarettes in the 1930’s …

… similarly, the term “Mandingo”, used in the film, didn’t come into common usage until publication of the 1957 novel of the same name by Kyle Onstott and the 1975 movie based on the novel … the book was set in the 1830’s, but Onstott used the term “Mandingo” as a variation of the tribal name Mandinka, the ethnic heritage of Ganymede, the primary slave character in the book … interestingly, Kunta Kinte, the primary character in Alex Haley’s “Roots”, was also a Mandinka …

… even the pervasive use throughout the film of the word “nigger” as a racial pejorative is historically inaccurate … although the word, and its alternatives, niggur and niggra, were in common use during the mid-1800’s, it was generally used as a descriptive rather than pejorative term and was used with respect to all dark-skinned people, not just African slaves … in popular literature from the second half of the 19th century, such as Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1876) and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1884), both of which were set in the 1840’s, the term is used in a non-pejorative sense … even as late as the 1897 Joseph Conrad novella “The Nigger of ‘Narcissus'”, the term was used without derogatory racial connotation … it wasn’t until the 1900’s that the word came into widespread use as a racial epithet.

So, if you are a Tarantino fan, enjoy the movie for what he’s good at (blowing stuff up), but don’t rely on it for historical research or accuracy.