Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thomas Edison and his Organized Research Lab in Menlo Park...1876-1883 The greatest period of research in the history of man!

Today when we look at our world and see the many useful and wonderful devices that we have at our command. It should be met perhaps with wonder, for it was not so long ago that nearly everything we take for granted today was developed.
Let's go back 130 years ago and look at our lives. What was there to do? Well you would work, and for leisure you could read at night by candle or oil lamp. If you used an oil lamp you had to be very careful not to knock it over, as if you did the odds were good it would burn down your entire house.
Cooking was by wood, or coal burning stoves, or by fireplaces. Communication was possible through the telegraph, but that was expensive.

In 1876 something amazing happened, for the first time in history a man by the name of Thomas Edison created an "Organized Research Laboratory" in Menlo Park (what is now called Edison, NJ).
For those of you who do not know what organized research is...I will put it simply...Instead of one researcher you have teams of researchers under one roof and all under one name. In this case it was Thomas Edison. I have often referred to Edison's development this way..."The brilliance of Edison was that he was brilliant enough to realize he wasn't brilliant enough...and that is brilliant"!
Edison said of his Laboratory, which he referred to as an "invention factory"... "We plan to come up with a minor thing every week and a big thing every few months or so"....Did they ever!!!!!

In this lab was a team of talented people from all over the world working on Edison's ideas and innovations. These ideas would change the world. In fact they all knew they were changing the world...of course none was more aware of that than Edison himself. He was the master showman and promoter. He would make sure the press knew all about everything he worked on.

Working with Edison in those early years were 20-50 men. Mostly all very young and full of hope for the future. A few of them were Charles Batchelor, John Kruisi, John Ott, Francis Upton, Francis Jehl, Charles Clark, and many others.

It was in Menlo Park that the TELEPHONE MOUTHPIECE was developed, the word HELLO created, the PHONOGRAPH and RECORDED SOUND was invented, the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM was developed, the INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB was developed and made practical, the first ELECTRIC TRAIN in America was developed, the MIMEOGRAPH, the EDISON EFFECT BULB the first development in the field of electronics, even the first wireless transmission of tones over 580 feet..20 years before Marconi!

It is interesting to think that in that horse and buggy age they were working on things that would have an effect on the space age.
In the 7 years that the Menlo Park lab was used, nearly 400 patents were received by Edison and his staff. There is nothing like that in history....It was the golden age of inventing and Edison himself was perhaps what we would call the last of the heroic inventors.

I would also put it in another way, that Edison dealt with invention much like an artist deals with a canvas. He was unique and well aware of it. He became known as the "Wizard of Menlo Park".....From his fertile mind came great innovations and developments.

His life was also full of years, he lived to see the age of 84 and also saw much of what he started become commonplace.
We owe a lot to that man who changed the world as we know it....That genius, inventor, innovator, promoter, businessman, industrialist, showman, scientist, all wrapped into one....Mankind's benefactor.....Thomas Alva Edison.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A few tidbits on Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln ...perhaps one of the greatest men to reside on this mudball called Earth.

I have always marveled at the life of Lincoln and his great intellect. He was a great man and became to many a hero....and of course hero's know when to die.

I wanted to touch lightly on 3 points about Lincoln. He gives us some great lessons on personal control and how to pull a fast one as well.

1. Anger management.

Lincoln always love to tell people when they were really hopping mad to write a letter to the person they were mad at. Once they finished Lincoln would look at them and say "Now tear it up". They would be perplexed.......saying why Mr. President? Lincoln would tell them that they had told the party what you thought of them and you got it out of your system. After that Lincoln would tell them to write a letter again with out all the nasty parts. Lincoln said that he often did that himself, and it saved him from writing something that might be embarrassing later.
So take Mr Lincoln's advice, when you are mad write that letter to so and so...and tell them how awful they are...then destroy it and write will be glad you did!

2. Political showmanship

Lincoln was a master politician, he was such a good politician you didn't know he was!
He mastered the art early on, on how to handle a people. He did it by usually using double talk....Many times you think you had an answer from Lincoln, and then you would find out later that the answer you were given was not an answer but magnificent political prowess.
I would like to speak about one of Lincoln's greatest political moves ...The Proclamation of Emancipation....This was one of the greatest documents ever written, and what's more it said nothing! To put it in the simplest terms the document stated that all slaves in the rebelling states were now free. That sounds wonderful, but what states were not under Lincoln's control? The states that were rebelling.

Lincoln did not grant freedom to slaves in the boarder states that had remained in the union. So Lincoln freed people he had no control to free, and the people that he could free he did not.....It was an amazing political move. It made the war against the south a holy war! What was the document was to do?...It was designed to keep England on our side. How could a nation (England) attack a country(USA) that is doing the same thing England had done before "Freeing the slaves" So the document that really said nothing much ...did a whole hell of a lot! Changed the war from one of States rights to one of Slavery, and the finishing up of the awful practice. Lincoln without really saying anything had changed the war and made it a crusade!

3. Laughter is the best medicine

Lincoln taught us that it is ok to laugh. He once said that if he did not laugh, he would die. When one looks at his picture and sees the stress that ate away at him..We can see what a great relief it was for him to laugh. Lincoln was not a singer, but he was a great storyteller.
I am reminded of a Lincoln joke.

Here is a good story of Lincoln's which dealt with a judge he used to work with.....

He would say " I was walking to the courthouse and the judge came by with his carriage and asked me if I wanted a ride to the courthouse. I said sure....I hopped on.... and the carriage was swinging to the right and left...and I turned to the Judge and said...Judge, I think your driver is drunk. The Judge leaned out the window and yelled ....You scoundrel, you are drunk! The carriage came to a stop and the Irish driver said back to the judge...:That's the first correct decision you've made this year!!!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Memories of Franco Corelli and Jerome Hines ........... part 3

Jerry having some fun and recording on an Edison cylinder with Celeste Holm..I am trying to direct the recording session...not too well.. This is the Jerry Hines I will always remember....

Franco Corelli's grave in Italy He died on October 29th 2003.

Jerry Hines was a dear friend to me He taught me so much and had some simple wisdom in life. He was very religious and I tried to steer away from that at times. I found an interesting trick to pull with him...If he started on religion I would ask what was it like when he was 25? He would answer "I broke a lot of hearts back then, and if I got any one of them in trouble I would of married them!" He used to sing the nasty songs of his youth and they were fun.....I learned to understand Jerry, and he was very good to me. When I did programs and spoke he would make sure he was in the audience to cheer me on...... There were so many stories he told that i will have to write an artical just listing a few of them...He was a great friend and I miss him.

There are few words that I can use to say how lucky I have been in life. I have had the opportunity to know some of the greatest and nicest people who have walked this earth.

When I set up the museum I work in. I set up a recording program...with Jerry Hines's help. Recording people on original Edison recording equipment on wax cylinders...
Here is a partial list President Gerald Ford, Senator Bob Dole, Gov.'s Brendan Byrne, Thom Kean, Celeste Holm, Tony Randall, Buzz Aldrin, Isaac Stern, Jerome Hines, Peter Jennings, Robert Merrill, Walter Cronkite, Yogi Berra, Franco Corelli, Mickey Rooney, June Lockhart, Mayor Edward Koch, Eddie Bracken, Joe Franklin, Eva Franci, Larry Hagman, and a number of others.... I had conversations with Anna Moffo to record her but that is all too impossible now.
I have had the rare talent of being at the right place at the right time. The last time I saw the Corelli's was just that sort of chance...and it took place in New York City.
As fortune would have it I was with Eva Franchi, the widow of Sergio Franchi... at the 2001 Licia Albanese-Puccini program at Lincoln Center...We watched a bit of it....Tony Randall came on, Robert Merrill, Franco Corelli, Licia many times...Soon after this and Eva turned to me and said "let's go backstage"...
So we went back stage and soon we ran into Tony Randall and we exchanged words and he started walking with Eva and me...Soon we ran into Robert Merrill and we said hello and started talking...Then I saw the Corelli's and they came over and we embraced and started talking...
Back stage we had our own little crowd and I was introduced to some really nice people such as Barbara Cook...How sweet she is. But soon all of our talking became so loud they had to stop our party as we were having too good a time! What Fun!!!

It was all at Alice Tully Hall....I left there and sadly never saw the Corelli's again.....I spoke to them once on the phone but within 2 years not only he but Jerry Hines were dead.

In the later years Jerry became more and more fragile...His wife passed away in 2000 and he never quite got over that. He wrote a history of her life and said as soon as I am done with this I am ready to go.....He finished it in late 2002 on Feb 4, 2003 I held his hand as he slowly died......
Funny how that all happened Jerry in his last years walked with a cane...On the day he died I was dreaming of Jerry....He drove up in his car and hopped out and I recall as clear as day what I said to him "Jerry where is your cane?" He said to me " I just wanted to say hello one more time" He looked so wonderful and alive........and then the phone rang...... it woke me from this lovely dream that seemed so real......It was Kathy Handley, a mutual friend of Jerry and I. She said you better go to the hospital Jerry is dying...So I ran to NYC...And made it just in time to spend a few minutes with my friend. I have always thought that he came by and said good bye to me....I really do.

To Jerry Hines I want to say to you my friend that you were my mentor and dear friend..who never gave up on me. Because of you I became a success.....

To Franco Corelli I want to thank you for the friendship and the fun you shared with me....I hope you are singing with Tetrazzini up there

Love you both ........... Jack

Memories of Franco Corelli and Jerome Hines both born 1921, both died 2003.......... part 2

Singing the night I recieved bravos from Franco Corelli...

This is us all without dogs!!!

In this second chapter of memories and stories I am going back and reading my journals which I have always kept and writing down some of the stories I have of Corelli and Hines.
I saw Jerome Hines much more than I saw Corelli, as he and his wife were mostly in Italy but made periodic stops in NYC at their apartment on 57th and 6th Ave.
It was called the Hemisphere House. ... How we would all meet would be that Jerry Hines would give me a call and say "Hello Baby!....The Corelli's are in and could you pick them up in New York and join us for dinner". Well most often I could do that. Sadly there were a few times I could not.
Once I had become friendly with the Corelli's I would get calls every now and then from them.
One day at Jerry Hines's house Corelli asked me who was my favorite soprano of all time? I told him the soprano who's voice I loved best was of another age. Louisa Tetrazzini. He looked at me, and said "really??" I told him I enjoyed the sound, range, and quality of her voice. He said "She is my favorite too" ...I was amazed by that...Considering who he had sung with, he liked the voice of Louisa Tetrazzini best!
So I made him a tape of my collection of Tetrazzini records and he was so happy and said he would spend his evening listening too it. He called me at home to thank me again the next day.
Now he did not know I worked now and then as a singer, we never talked about it... till one day my phone rang as I have written in my journal for November 27, 1998 "The phone rang and it was Mrs Corelli (Loretta) "Hello Jack, just wanted to give you a call and say thanks again for the tape, we loved it". I told her I was happy that they did and look forward to seeing them again. At this point Franco jumped in and said "Jack, it is so nice that we have met you, we both like you very much" "Could you join us to see the Barber of Seville?"
Last minute notice was great except for this night I had a job to sing!! Oh damn!...I told him I sadly could not as I had singing gig to do....
He asked "Do you sing?" "What voice?" I told him I was a tenor..He responded "bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo!!" I was very happy to get a bravo from Corelli......and I think I sang a lot better that night as I was in my own little happy cloud. But sadly I was not able to join them at the opera.

Perhaps one of the more amusing adventures with the Corelli's took place on December 6th 1998 I wrote all about this day in my journal as it was quite an adventure as you will see....

"At about 11:00 pm last night Jerry Hines called and asked if I would like to dinner and join the Corelli's again. I told him I would be delighted too. He said that he would pick them up and I said I would save him the trouble and pick them up at their apartment.
I arrived at their place at 12:00 noon Sunday. The weather was incredible at 12:00 noon it was already 71 degrees F. I parked in front of the place and went in to the front desk to say I was there.
They came down the Elevator, Franco came bounding out of the elevator and shook my hand he was followed by Loretta and dog! We hit traffic right took us close to an hour to get out of NYC on 7th Ave going to the Holland Tunnel...We had little small talk Corelli said " The weather is changed because the world has changed on its axis...California weather is here" He had an interesting habit of reading all the signs of banks and stores as we went by....
We finally made it through the tunnel and he said " So clean the road" I didn't understand right away, but soon realized what he meant was no traffic. Mrs Corelli asked me several times if I knew where I was going?.....I told her I know my way very well...Franco added "No worry, Jack is king of New Jersey".

Now Jerry Hines's wife Lucia had been suffering from Lou Gerig's disease and the Corelli's want to get flowers...Now on a late Sunday afternoon... that is not too easy..I took exit 135 on the Garden State Parkway and I saw a Shoprite Super Market...and I pulled in as we discussed if this would be good. Franco said yes, Loretta said No! Then they started to argue in Italian...
Then a truce was declared and "WE" Franco, Loretta, Me, and the Dog went into the store.
I told him that the dog would not be allowed into the store, so he was wearing a trench coat and he put the dog inside his coat so the dog's head was looking out the top of his coat under Corelli's chin.
I wish I had a camera on me as the image was priceless and funny.

Then we wondered over to the area where they had flowers..and a rather tough looking woman was behind the counter...Corelli said loudly ..."Hey Lady" "I wanna 18 roses..the best a roses" "Pink" as he pointed to the red roses...She grabbed the red roses..."No Lady...I want a Red" as he pointed to the pink roses...I could see the lady behind the counter start to loose her cool...At this point Mrs Corelli went behind the counter to supervise...much to the dismay of the flower lady.

Soon The Corelli's were arguing again in Italian...Pointing to various flowers and the lady behind the counter..It was quite a scene! Finally Franco waved his hands and walked away...while Mrs Corelli supervised the flower production.

Soon the flowers were ready and Franco said "We take the flowers to the car" We went outside and Corelli was singing a little and the dog was moving around under his chin and we packed the flowers into the car and slowly walked back to Shop Rite...
As soon as we walked in there was a big scene going on as Mrs Corelli was driving the baking staff crazy...and finally stormed out saying "they have no good cakes here!!"
So we followed her.....and I said I would get the car...So I ran over to the car and started driving over...
Corelli came into the street and razed his hand yelling "Hey Driver!!!" like he was hailing a cab...So we all laughed and got into the car and drove over to Villa Lucia, which is what Jerry Hines calls his honor of his wife.

Jerry Hines had a son named Russell who had Downs syndrome As soon as we arrived Franco would play with Russell for a half an hour or so playing claps hands...He would say to Russell "Can you say Franco?...Can you say Jack?....Can you Loretta?.".and Russell would try to say the names. I had a 1905 Victor III there so we could play some records for Lucia... and Jerry Hines was playing with the horn marching through the house singing "Di Quella Pira" in bass range using the horn as a megaphone..Corelli said that "Jerry is indeed the greatest of voice teachers..But a awful tenor" We had dinner and had lots of laughs and Then back home. A great day.

That was quite an adventure! Dinner was wonderful and we sang around the table..I took the Corelli's home and I did indeed get lost!!! We had a great time laughing all the way home....What a great day. Thank you Jerry!

End of part 2

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Memories of Franco Corelli 1921-2003 and Jerome Hines 1921-2003 part 1

Jerry Hines and Franco Corelli...when they were younger...... They were both great guys who I was lucky enough to call friends

Having a dinner at Jerry Hines with the dogs...... Left to right................ Franco Corelli,, Mrs. Corelli and dog,, me,, Jerry Hines and his dog Lulu......

I was introduced to Franco Corelli by the operatic basso Jerome Hines who had been a good friend and singing teacher for me.
I always wanted to be a performer I guess and was lucky to have worked as a singer for nearly 10 years. So I was also lucky to have a such good company around me.
I met Corelli at Hines's home in Scotch Plains... and as I entered the house Jerry Hines brought me in and I met Mrs. Corelli, who always had a dog in her hands..and then Franco.
He was seated in a chair and he rose to greet me stepping forward saying in somewhat broken English..."Jack, it is a pleasure to meet you finally. I have heard so much about you and your work with Thomas Edison...and if you have passion in what you do, you will be successful."

We settled down to small talk and soon Jerry, Franco and I were enjoying a good conversation on many topics. Mrs Corelli was a bit more distant and not as open. She would spend a lot of time putting bows in her poor dogs hair!

This all started in 1998 when we first met and I was under the impression that I would never meet them again. So I had come prepared with a book and CD's to get them signed....How embarrassing....But I was sure this was a one shot deal.

Little did I know that we would many times be dinner companions ...all of us getting together at Jerry's house for dinner and often listening to music and listening to Jerry and Franco tell stories of their lives and operatic triumphs and disasters. We had a lot of fun!
They were old men remembering what they had done and we all enjoyed each others company. I learned an awful lot from them both.

Jerry Hines was 6'6" in height and a big man with a big voice. Even at this point in his life he could still do a hell of a job at singing. He used to joke with me and say "Look at me I have the voice of a teenager and the body of an old fart" Jerry still holds the record at the Metropolitan opera house for the longest career there. He was there for 41 straight years!

He was the first American to sing Boris in Russia. In fact he was singing it in Russia at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev was there and after the performance embraced Jerry and offered a toast..saying "let there be peace between our countries" Jerry returned home with the Chairmans message of peace and became a special ambassador of peace. He always joked about it..When ever they wanted to do a documentary about the Cuban Missile Crisis they would interview him and never use it...he said "It didn't make Kennedy look good enough...and made it look like someone else had done something besides Kennedy" Well Jerry knew the truth about it but never complained but laughed about it saying how overblown history has made it, and how fortunate it was that Khrushchev was pushing for peace.

He used to sing for me quite often when he was in the mood, playing the piano along as he sang.

When the Corelli's were there we would sit around the dinner table and sing together...which was treat for me.

One time in 1999 Robert Merrill came over to see Jerry, and I went and picked up the Corelli's at their apartment on 57th Street in NYC. So we all got together and were talking about singing and Caruso.
We had no phonograph there to play some of the old records on so I suggested that we all go to the museum where I work and have a concert.....and that is what we did. It was only about 10 minutes away. So we set up chairs and a outside horn gramophone. ...and Caruso entertained us...or should I say he performed for a panel of judges. The three of them Hines, Corelli, and Merrill were making comments and giving the thumbs up or down on the recordings!! It was a hoot!!!! Corelli would often say "he is cheating!" and other times say "He has a beautiful sad sound".

Robert Merrill said he started listening to Caruso when he was a boy. His mother borrowed a victrola from a rich uncle and his father bought new Caruso's each week. He said "when all the guys were out playing stickball, I was upstairs listening to Caruso. I always closed the windows when I would do that so they would not hear and I told them I was sick, But I was learning from Caruso how to sing".

Corelli told me after we listened to a number of Caruso's that his favorite Caruso recording was "A la luna" which Caruso recorded with Emilio De Gogorza in 1918. We played the recording and Corelli sang along..It was a fascinating experience to hear the voices of perhaps the greatest tenors in history in the same room...

We played the trio from E'Lombardi which had on it the voices of Journet, Alda, and Caruso....everyone joined in...But the last part of the recording everone just stopped and listened.
Jerry Hines said that this recording is like a master class. Corelli agreed and said that Caruso is at top form in that recording. So that ended our concert and master class ...we went back to Jerry's house and had dinner and took everyone home to New York.

One night at one of the dinners Jerry Hines told a story that made everyone laugh it concerned Corelli and him. He started and I will try to write it as close as I recall

" When I finally got my chance to go sing in La Scala I was so excited. Of Course Franco was there and he was six foot 3 and very handsome. He heard about this basso who was coming over who was not only handsome but six foot six! Well he was all worried about being over shadowed by me. So he had his dressmaker make insets into his shoes that would make him six foot eight! Now what he did not know was that his dressmaker was a friend of my wifes and he told her what was a foot with Corelli. So I had shoes made that added six inches to my height. Oh you should have seen us, on the first dress rehearsal..Out came Franco towering all over at six feet eight inches and very proud of himself. Then I came out towering at seven feet! You should have seen his face. Ever since that day he always says to me no heels!!"

Corelli told a story of how when he first started to sing he was told he was a baritone. So he studied as a baritone for a while but soon it was released that he was indeed a tenor. He worked in his early days as a stevedore. He worked at loading ships. He told me he used to love to listen to old opera recordings in Italy. He said his uncle had a farm and here he would listen to the great voices of the past. He looked at records from my collection and asked "are these original? Cause they look too uncles records looked old." I told him they were original and well cared for.

I have lots of stories of Jerry Hines and Franco Corelli that I will share in part 2