Another iconic figure of my youth who did not live up to expectations

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I never know where the next memory trigger is going to come from. I see and hear so many memories from the clients who come through my door that I typically don’t have a problem coming up with new content for this blog. Today’s memory is courtesy of a woman who came in with a relatively easy order. She needed the photos stored in her phone transferred to a flash drive. I try to do those on a same day basis so my clients don’t have to leave their phone with me.

While the files were being transferred, we made small talk. Turns out, back in the day she was a successful lounge singer in Vegas, and was coached by none other than Wayne Newton (Danke Shoen, anyone?) I asked her to tell me one story about her entertainment days. I couldn’t have been more surprised with her response.

It seems she worked on the NBC show, BJ and the Bear. It was a short-lived series (1979-1981) which featured trucker B.J. McKay (played by Greg Evigan) and his pet chimpanzee, Bear. They travelled the roads in their red and white Kenworth K-100 Aerodyne finding adventure wherever they went.

The show hit the airwaves at the height of the trucker craze when CB radios were the current fad. Convoy was a popular song, Smokey and the Bandit was in the theaters, and everyone in America tried to think of a clever and catchy CB “handle” they could use as their nom de plume. (Mine was “Red Flash”… better to not ask why.)

Her memory:  the Bear was a real bear to work with. Very mean. She hated that chimp and couldn’t stand to be around him.  “But he seemed so cute on the show,” I countered. “Mean,” she repeated, “They just made him look cute.”

I guess you never truly know about the TV personalities you grew up watching. They can seem normal as their character on the show but turn into a real animal when dealing with them in person. 

In case you forgot, here’s the theme song to BJ and the Bear.

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family videos through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Hey, Coach O!

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I had a couple of high school coaches in my studio today. I always enjoy hearing stories from coaches because they remind me so much of my dad who was a public school gym teacher and coach for most of the time that I knew him.

But he was so much more than that. Well before I ventured onto the scene he was quite the “Big Man on Campus” at Roanoke University. He was a star basketball player, nicknamed “The Big Scoop” for his skills under the basket. He was voted thrice to the All State team and eventually earned a spot on the all Century Team and was inducted in Roanoke University’s Hall of Fame.

His illustrious playing career was interrupted by a little disturbance most people knew as WWII. He left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps where he became a bombardier as part of the 448th Bomb Group for the Mighty Eighth Army Air Force. He flew 24 missions over wartime Germany and thankfully made it back home safely. Upon his return to the states, he resumed his education at Roanoke University and even played for another season where he racked up awards, accolades, and the attention of one Red Auerbach who invited him to come play for him. At the time, Red was coaching the Washington Capitols.

Unfortunately, when my dad was free to accept the offer, Red had no open positions so he returned to his family home in New Jersey and got picked up by the Paterson Crescents, a team in the American Basketball League. He only played a couple of seasons before he decided to shift his attention and talents elsewhere.

He became the Athletic Director for a Naval Base in Bainbridge MD, and then decided to embark on a career in public education. It was a career that carried him through to retirement age. And he left an indelible impression on scores of children who were fortunate enough to have had him as a coach or teacher.

I still remember walking down a city street with my father only to be continually interrupted by what appeared to me to be grown men who would shout out, “Hey, Mr. O!” or “Hey Coach!” Even at my tender age, I could see the love and respect these men had for my father because he had provided them instruction and a role model to emulate when they, as much younger versions of themselves, were his students.

It’s a warm memory. One that I am glad to know has not diminished over time.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Cooties!

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Just the other day I was editing a client’s photo keepsake order which was largely made up of shots from birthday parties and Christmas mornings. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the kid’s games they received I, in my youth, also received… or I wanted to. Like the air hockey game they got one Christmas. I never got that. I had to go to the arcade to play it. What was the deal with that?

Anyway, one of the box games that was proudly displayed under the tree was the Milton Bradley game, Cootie. I remember that game. It was designed primarily for pre-schoolers to teach youngsters about taking turns and winning or losing with grace.

The premise was simple. You had all the parts to build a bug. You rolled a dice to determine which part you could add. The first one to complete his or her “cootie” won.

Cooties had a different connotation when I was growing up. I don’t know if it still does. But when I was in elementary school, it was a well known fact among us boys that all girls carried cooties. We didn’t know what they were but just hearing about them made us know we didn’t want to catch them.

I remember when I was in third grade, I was surprised kissed by a girl (her name was Vicki) before class started. She said she wanted to tell me a secret and when I bent in closer to hear… smooch! Cooties! I didn’t know what to do so I chased her around the room with the intent to hit her. Thankfully, I didn’t (or chose not to) catch her. You see, deep down in my third grade soul, I knew… that surprise kiss was kinda nice.

Personally, although I have no supporting evidence to back me up, I think the idea of cooties was foolishly concocted by girls in order to delay the interest boys would eventually have in them. Believe me, by the time elementary school was over, when I was thinking about girls, cooties were the last thing on my mind. And until today, I don’t think I ever thought about them again.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

On This Memorial Day Weekend

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In observance of Memorial Day, we’re taking a few days off to reflect upon those who served and those we’ve lost.  We’ll be back in the studio on Tuesday. Until then, here’s a repost of a blog from last year about some of the military men in my family:

From left to right:

My father, Edward J. Ondrasik, who, with the Eighth Air Force, flew 24 missions over Germany as a bombardier during WWII. We learned afterwards that he flew each of those 24 missions without a parachute as he could not fit into the bombardier compartment with it on. He died in 2009.

My uncle, Charles C. Parish, served as Lt. Commander in the US Navy. Was a pilot of a #2 F-4J (Phantom) during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam and declared Missing in Action in 1968. His status was changed to Killed in Action in 1973. His name is among the tens of thousands engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

My maternal grandfather, Herman O. Parish, who, as captain and commanding officer received the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit for services rendered during WWII. He retired as a US Navy Rear Admiral. He died in 1989.

We honor their memory and thank them for their service and sacrifice. As we do all who have given service to our country.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Pomp and Circumstance

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It is that time of year to prepare to say congratulations to the young men and women who are on the cusp of one of life’s great achievements – high school graduation. Putting together a photo/video keepsake to recognize and honor their journey is a great idea and I’ve done a number of them over the years. The importance of choosing the appropriate song to accompany pictures of your graduate in various stages of his or her life cannot be emphasized enough and there are a number of great songs to choose from.  Here are some client favorites along with some key lyrics that help explain why they are popular:

The Climb – Miley Cyrus 2009. “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”

My Wish – Rascal Flatts 2006. “My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to…”

I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack 2000. “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance.  Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’…”

Graduation (Friends Forever) – Vitamin C 1999. “And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives. Where we’re gonna be when we turn twenty five. I keep thinking times will never change. Keep on thinking things will always be the same.”

Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield 2004. “Staring at the blank page before you. Open up the dirty window. Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find. Reaching for something in the distance. So close you can almost taste it. Release your inhibitions”

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson 2004. “I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly. I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky. And I’ll make a wish, Take a chance, Make a change, And breakaway.”

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day 1997. “So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why, It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time, It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life.”

These are just a few of the songs clients have used to tell the story of their graduate’s life. There are many others and I’m sure there’s one that would be perfect for the graduate in your family.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Go to Plan C?

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When you decide to become a videographer, you commit to the often impossible attempt to capture lightning in a bottle. Moments come and go and if your camera is not pointed in the right direction, focused, and turned on at precisely the right minute, you’ll miss it. And your clients won’t be happy.

To make matters worse, there are a lot of moving parts to a production shoot. And it is very easy to have something go south on you. Which is why it is important to have a backup plan to your backup plan.

Case in point: I was hired to videotape some high level animal experts who were presenting at a recent veterinary conference here in the Orlando area. I packed my bags, loaded the car, had an assistant with me, double checked everything. I thought I was ready.

As we arrived at the venue, a local convention hotel in South Orlando, I found that instead of filming a lecture at a live conference as I expected, the clients decided to recreate the presentations just for my camera. In a hallway… at the hotel. With people passing by… on their way to and from an open bar.

It was not what I was expecting but no problem. I adjusted my plan. I set up my equipment. I had brought my lighting kit so the lack of adequate lights was not an issue. I brought my lavaliere mikes in case we needed them which enabled me to reduce the amount of ambient noise distractions (i.e. well lubricated convention goers.)

I had an extra DSLR camera with tripod for B-roll and as a back up camera to catch the footage from a different angle in case I needed to edit in a cutaway shot during an unplanned break in the presentation.

To my utter dismay, what I didn’t bring was the DC cord to the main camcorder. No worries, I thought to myself, I’m glad I tossed in that backup battery for the camcorder just before I left.

I was there to record six presentations.  I recorded the first one and my battery went from 100% to 78%. I quickly did the math. I was going to have to switch batteries halfway through in order to capture all six presentations. But I wasn’t really worried… yet.

At the halfway point, I switched batteries.  The one I had been using was down to 30%. The new one I put in… 0%. It was completely dead.  I had 3 more presentations to record. And not enough battery strength to do it. Cue the sweat glands.

I did have the back up DSLR with its two full batteries so I knew I could get the video but the lav mikes needed my camcorder’s XLR jacks to capture the best audio. And the camcorder was going to die before the end of the next presentation.

I suddenly remembered that I threw my Zoom H4nPro audio recorder (pictured above) in my video bag on a whim. I didn’t think I would need it (in fact had never used it before on a production job) but I had space in the bag so in it went. This device accepts the XLR jacks of an audio cable so I could direct the lav mikes output to the Zoom’s SD card while the back up camera could record the main video signal. 

I completed the shoot and everything fell into place. It turned out great. Thanks to the Zoom H4nPro and to the people who suggested to me 2 years ago it might a good thing to have in the camera bag. To quote Hannibal from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Hi Ho, Oh No, It’s Off To School I Go.

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We have five senses. And a memory can be attached to any or all of them. Today, I was reminded of a memory through an auditory trigger which led to an olfactory memory.

An old high school buddy who I read online today mentioned a local radio station which prompted me to recall the local AM station my family listened to in the morning every…single…day…for…fifteen…years. It did have the best contact information to report on school closings due to stormy weather which is why my parents tuned into it. But it also had some very odd practices which it never wavered from. One of them was the practice of playing, at 6:30am, a military march to get their listeners awake and active and ready to face the day. Let me say, that when you’re a school-aged kid, you don’t much appreciate that style of music jarring you from your deep sleep.

And I was hit with a double whammy, because my father, as a depression era kid, refused to waste food. If the previous night’s meal was not entirely consumed, it became his breakfast the next day.  Here’s what he did. He chopped up an onion. He chopped up a green pepper. He took the leftovers of last night’s meal. And he threw them all into a skillet. It could have been lasagna, it could have been flank steak. He just fried it all up. The smell of fried green pepper and onion quickly infused the house and it…along with the oom…pah…pah beat of the morning march.. drove me straight out of the house. I could not get to school fast enough.

To think of it, I never did stick around long enough to see if my dad ever ate his concoctions. Perhaps it was all a ruse to get us kids to wake up and go to school. But, knowing him as well I did, I wasn’t about to bet against it. It worked. We survived and I got an education. And as much as I am loathe to admit it, I even developed a kind of fondness for military marches.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

One Man’s Noise Is Another Man’s Symphony

 

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Passion is a wonderful thing. It is something that can be shared and appreciated… but not always understood. I learned that recently through a client who brought in an audio tape that he wanted “cleaned up” a bit.

I was not prepared for what I heard. Noise would be putting it mildly. There was percussion, but no beat. Sounds but no melody. Have you ever heard a comedy routine where a character leaves the stage and the next sound you hear is the crash of someone tripping over a garbage can? To my ear, it was kind of like that but it lasted some 20 minutes.

When the client returned to pick up his order, I got an opportunity to learn a little more about what it was I was transferring. Turns out, it was a real and rare recording of a specific musical composition. The proper term is called “twelve tones” and is also known as dodecaphony or twelve tone serialism.

Devised by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1921, the term “denotes a system of musical composition using the twelve chromatic notes of the octave on an equal basis without dependence on a key system. The technique is central to serialism and involves the transposition and inversion of a fixed sequence of pitches.” [Wikepedia]

I know, right? Silly of me not to recognize it. But while listening to my client who obviously had a passion for the mathematical precision needed to compose and perform this particular discipline, I couldn’t help but form an appreciation for something beyond my comprehension.

Researching it a bit further, I found that this musical system has been adopted by many classical and mainstream composers including Igor Stravinsky and American composer Scott Bradley, probably best known for scoring Tom & Jerry and other cartoons.

Here’s an audio sample of a twelve tones composition by Anton Webern.

 

It’s not what I’d call a toe tapper but I’m told there’s a musical genius behind it that my audible perceptions aren’t skilled enough to recognize. Which is why I love what I do… I am continually introduced to new disciplines, artforms, and historical facts or events of which I had no previous knowledge. And I get to hear about them from people who have developed a passion for them to the point that they want to preserve the memory of it. And that is something I can definitely understand.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Club Babalu

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As I’ve said before, one of the benefits of my work is not only meeting a wide range of people but also hearing of their stories and experiences. I find I’m always learning something new.

Recently one of my customers, who came to in have some music from a band he was in converted to a CD, told me a story about the father of one of his band members. Seems the dad cultivated a bit of fame back in the day using the name Rey Mambo. It wasn’t his real name, which was Marvin Baumel, but when he got swept up in the Latin craze in the early 50s, music promoters said the public would never accept a Latin band fronted by a Jewish man. So he made up a name more fitting for the music he was playing… Rey Mambo. And a star was born.

Back in the day, most hotels in South Florida would have a house Latin band… think Ricky Ricardo and the Tropicana Club (later renamed Club Babalu) from the I Love Lucy show (pictured above). Rey Mambo and his band was a part of that vibrant scene on the beaches of Miami.

Here’s a short educational documentary that tells a lot of his story. I found it fascinating and charming. I hope you enjoy it too.

The Story of Rey Mambo from Carl Hersh on Vimeo.

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Wedding Memories

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I don’t know if anyone noticed but there was a little wedding that took place yesterday. Congratulations to the newly wedded Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Nice ceremony. And I should know. I’ve certainly transferred enough wedding videos to recognize the good from the great (there’s no such thing as a bad wedding. There may be bad marriages perhaps but weddings are always happy occasions). And I’ve seen my share because they are usually among the first memory people want to digitally protect and preserve.

There was the outdoor wedding that had to be moved under the caterer’s tent when the weather took an unexpected turn for the worse. People coped. Couple got married. Everyone was happy… wet but happy.

There was the wedding that took place around Halloween. It was a costume affair. Bride was a princess. Groom was a frog. Minister was a vampire. I would have been… you guessed it… a cowboy. People seemed happy beneath the masks they were wearing.

There was the Indian wedding and reception that from beginning to end needed three DVDs to hold all  the video that was shot. Lots of colors. Lots of music. Lots of cultural traditions. Lots of happiness.

There was the wedding that had members of the wedding party seemingly competing with each other as to who could give the most emotional toast. Lots of tears but they were happy tears that flowed from an abundance of love and joy in the room.

My favorite wedding video of all time is, of course, mine. And it was the very first videotape I transferred when I got into this business of digitally preserving memories. What is the state of your wedding memories? If they are still on film or videotape, let me protect them for you by converting them to a DVD or digital file.  And if you never had a video done of your wedding, bring me your wedding album. I’ll make a movie for you using your photographs and your favorite songs.   You’ll be glad to have it so you can pass all that happiness onto future generations. And what a wonderful surprise gift for your spouse!

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.