Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NBA Lockout Resolved But Thunder Goes Back To Seattle?

The Seattle ThunderSonics? With the good news that the NBA owners' lockout of the players has been resolved, a couple of Canadian guys, J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas, were in Oklahoma City to interview locals about the news that, as part of the deal, the Thunder were moving back to Seattle as part of a "peace offering."

As reported at USA Today, the article reads as follows:
Oklahoma fans told Thunder are moving back to Seattle
By Alonzo Adams, AP, as reported in USA Today:

        As a New York Times story this week illustrated, Oklahoma City loves and needs its NBA team, the Thunder.
        As it pertains to why the city needs the team, writer Tom Spousta cites an Oklahoma City chamber of commerce estimation that each of the eight Thunder's home dates lost because of the strike would cost $1.3 million. He also explained that hotels that were selling out on game days were trying fill rooms offering rates for less than $100 per night and waiters who are seeing their tip total slashed by 80% or so.
        As it pertains to why the city needs the team, writer Tom Spousta cites an Oklahoma City chamber of commerce estimation that each of the eight Thunder's home dates lost because of the strike would cost $1.3 million. He also explained that hotels that were selling out on game days were trying fill rooms offering rates for less than $100 per night and waiters who are seeing their tip total slashed by 80% or so.
        But the city loves the now three-year-old Thunder as well. "It's a love affair we have here," local businessman Ed Lynn told Spousta. "It hurts. It isn't just a sporting event, it's a social experience for us."
        Fan T.J. Nance said, "It's the only thing we can agree on, other than conservative politics."
        So, when J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones, as part of their tour to NBA cities, tried to convince fans on the streets of Oklahoma City that the Thunder were moving back to Seattle to become the Seattle ThunderSonics, it's not surprising that they were surprised and even a little upset.
        But considering that all's well that ends well for the locals, we can chuckle at a harmless prank.
When I first located and read this article, a smile immediately crept across my face because of the incredulity of the premise — and the lady in yellow made my smile even broader since she obviously didn't have a clue about what she was talking.

It is not enough to say, "Welcome back, OKC Thunder! Welcome back, NBA!" Why not? In Oklahoma City, businesses which have their livelihood based on regular NBA seasons playing their regular preseason games as well as during the regular season, have been irreparably harmed and no remedy is present in the new agreement to make them whole. Regular employees and local businesses which are predicated upon the NBA preseason and regular season existing have lost substantial amounts of income and business and no remedy exists in the new agreement to make them whole, either.

Regardless of owner/player economic issues, the fans who buy tickets to these games and have been powerless to influence the outcome even though they are the singular group which drives the economic engine to make the owners make a profit and funds the players for their largesse player contracts.

And so it is that fan scars, perhaps deep, exist from this lockout which involved the owners and players dispute. The third leg of the stool, the fans and their funding for the latter, had no voice as a factor in that resolution.

Hopefully the Thunder organization will address those fan scars and will bump back the Thunder to the place that it was before the lockout when the Thunder were the winners of the Northwest Division. But don't look for the Thunder organization to pay money to those business who lost income during the lockout or give something to the fans for enduing the senseless events which occurred since the end of the last season.

Not even an apology. Neither the owners nor the players have it within themselves to say, "I'm sorry," to the fans and businesses which rely on business as usual. Whether the Thunder, and the NBA, will be as popular in late December 2011 as they were in May 2011, before the owners' lockout began, remains to be seen ... but my guess is that it/they will be.

In the meantime, a sense of humor is not a bad thing to have. I've looked for but could not find this lady's dad's website,, she said ...

Smiles are good.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Count Gregore & Retro Metro OKC

Collectively, Wayne Coyne and the Oklahoma Gazette's annual Halloween Parade have doubtless captured the fancy of the contemporary grizzly and ghoul market in the city. But, in my youth, the one and only person that did that was Count Gregore, also known as John Ferguson.

One could not have possibly grown up in Oklahoma in the late 1950s through the late 1980s without knowing about the dreadful Count. From May 1958 until 1988, about 30 years running, WKY-TV's late Saturday night Shock Theater (beginning at 12 o'clock midnight) was broadcast throughout central and at least southwestern Oklahoma (but, as you will see from an interview below, it was evidently seen in other parts of the state as well). I graduated from Lawton High School in 1961, and, before doing so, our television antennas could be appropriately aligned to be able to pick up Count Gregore for Shock Theater parties with my Lawton High School buddies. This was before the days of cable television and during the days that house-top TV antennas in Lawton could be rotated to receive television signals emanating from Oklahoma City.

The 83 year-old but still fearful Count will be the speaker at the December 12, 2011, 2nd Annual Holiday/Christmas/Whatever Party of Retro Metro OKC. This post features the history of Count Gregore — speaker at that meeting and festive occasion.

Ann DeFrange, Oklahoman reporter, wrote a fine piece in 2008 which gives a better summary of John Ferguson's public life and the development of the character that he is most remembered for than I could. She wrote the following:

Count Gregore Lives On
John Ferguson Followed His Star
By Ann DeFrange, The Oklahoman
May 21, 2008

        Count Gregore, an Oklahoma television icon, turned 50 years old this month, although he appears to be ageless, John Ferguson, his creator, is 80 and almost as immortal.
        Ferguson and the Count scared generations of children in Oklahoma in the past half century.
        Ferguson describes himself growing up in Indiana as small, anemic, poor and a bad student. As a high school freshman, he was 5 feet tall and weighed 90 pounds. But, "I was a dreamer," he said. His mother's movie magazines and some acting classes offered an "escape mechanism" and in the 1950s, he went to Hollywood. He worked at a gas station until he managed an interview with the prestigious William Morris talent agency.
        He was told he'd never make a leading man, and that television was preempting movies. But in Hollywood he met Billie, married her 53 years ago, and moved to Oklahoma.
        He sold men's clothing in a Tulsa store. Upstairs was the studio of KVOO radio where Ferguson fell in love with radio. He narrates his life story like a radio drama.
        He followed his star, he said, behind a touring dog act and upstairs to a microphone. He coincidentally auditioned at a station in Muskogee the day they fired their announcer. Then he moved to that company's television station.
        In 1955, after he had been in the business for only 18 months, he got a job at WKY Channel 4 in Oklahoma City which had been in business only since 1949.
        He was staff announcer and ad salesman. The small-screen world was black and white and "everything was live, even commercials."
        Opportunities for creativity were ample, because there were no rules and no technology to rely on.
        He was one of the pioneers of the medium. His early contemporaries are a roll call of local broadcast history — Wakefield Holley, Joe Jerkins, Bill Howard, Wally Kinnan, Hi Roberts, Johnny Shannon, Steve Powell, Bill Thrash, Ed Birchall.
        But he kept thinking: "I'm an actor. I want on that stage so badly."
        In the afternoons, Channel 4 ran a kids' space adventure with a cast of one — Danny Williams. Ferguson developed his own character. "It had to be villainous, evil."
        Inspired by Ming from the "Buck Rogers" comic strip [ed. note — sorry Ann, but that would be from Flash Gordon, I'm pretty sure], he painted on a Van Dyke beard and mustache, shaped his eyebrows like V's, greased his hair to a point on his face and called himself the Duke of Nukedom.
        Williams added him to the script, which was more like a scenario, allowing the actors to spontaneously improvise.
        So, before "Star Trek," there was Bazark and Ubik. Sometimes one of them went to Earth and visited the Circle 4 Ranch, setting for another kids' show.
        In May 1958, when Williams moved to radio, WKY-TV planned a show to follow, "Saturday Night Wrestling." "Shock Theater" showed classic horror films with a live host, so Count Gregore came to live and stayed on local TV until 1988.
        Ferguson has appeared on every television station in Oklahoma City and made other appearances as Gregore. He and the Count frightened generations of children in Oklahoma, who had never played gory video games or seen sophisticated scare movies.
        He still uses his original cape. And he has the voice, a soft, but harsh whisper; the pointed eyebrows that bore into you and leave terror in your heart and a nostalgia for the good old days when scary was deliciously innocent.

Retro Metro OKC 2nd Annual Holiday/Christmas/Whatever Party! The person you have been reading about above is the featured speaker.

All Retro Metro members and their guests, as well as all non-members who have a passion for Oklahoma City history, are invited to attend. Click here for a PDF flyer describing this outstanding event.

The party will be on December 12, 2011, at 6:30 pm at Bellevue Health and Rehabilitation Center's dining room, 6500 N.Portland, which is at the southwest corner of the Bellevue facility.

Here's a map — the red arrow points to your destination.

Hors d'oevres, soft drinks, and wine are provided.

One provider is due singular attention: Ed Lynn, owner of Buffalo Wild Wings at 4130 NW Expressway, is donating 250 wings for the event, a magnificently generous contribution.

Retro Metro OKC is more fully discussed in this blog post, but, briefly stated, Retro Metro OKC is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization which endeavors to make Oklahoma City history more accessible to anyone who wants to learn more about it. Its website is and its Facebook page is here.

Videos. Here are some videos for you to enjoy ...

The Oklahoman's Dave Morris & Angi Brus Intverview
John Ferguson ... How He Got His Start, May 2008

John Ferguson Describes Changes in Horror Films, May 2008

The Count's Top 10 Favorites, October 2008

Excerpts from Nightmare Theater
KSBI-TV Channel 52, Cox Channel 6, October 31, 2011
The Brain That Wouldn't Die

When the Count appeared on Channel 5, his program was called Nightmare Theater (I don't know the dates). This past month, on Halloween, KSBI-TV Channel 52, Cox Channel 6, presented a special showing of Nightmare Theater for its audience, and it contained some video of the Count unlike what we've ordinarily seen, focusing on his singing and dancing capabilities!

Nightmare Theater Opening & 1st Vampira Sequences (2:00)

The Movie — The Brain That Wouldn't Die
To save viewer pain, I've truncated the movie to 1 minute,
57 seconds (opening title, head scene, closing title)
Notice that the opening and closing titles are not the same.
This 1962 movie was simply awful!

The Count Sings With Vampira (3:17)

The Count Dances With Jackie Short (2:42)

The last two clips involving singing and dancing performances may have been from the July 2011 Improv Festival Oklahoma mentioned below, I don't know. For now, at least, the complete Nightmare Theater presentation is at KSBI's website: Part 1 and Part 2.

Closing Notes. At right is a WKY-TV ad on Saturday February 2, 1974, featuring none but the fearful Count.

A March 24, 1974, a note in the Oklahoman's TV section shows Mr. Ferguson looking at a drawing of himself, as perceived by a loyal fan. Ferguson hoped that the fan would identify him/herself so that recognition could be properly attributed — either that or maybe the Count had something more sinister in mind for the artist — who can say? His Channel 4 show ended in 1988.

Even so, the Count continued to grace our television screens and civic affairs for many years. He hosted programs on Channels 4, 5, 25, 43, 52, and Cox Cable.

Mr. Ferguson serves the public in other ways, also. He is presently a member of the Mayor's Committee on Disability Concerns. In 1981 he was a judge at the 3rd annual Paseo Harvest Moon Festival. On June 3, 1997, he was honored by fans and fellow performers at the "First Annual Gregore Retirement Roast" in Bricktown at Pearl's Crabtown. In April 2008, he was recognized at Muskogee's ninth annual Barebones Independent International Film and Music Festival for his contributions to Oklahoma television and media arts. In the October 28, 2008, Oklahoman, David Zizzo reported that,
And Ferguson still can’t quite put his finger on why the count was — and is — so popular.

"I'm surprised to this day," he said.
But, in the article, Zizzo succinctly and accurately gave the explanation ...
It's because Ferguson is so good at bad, or at least acting that way.
In July 2011, he performed at and haunted the third annual Red Dirt Improv Festival Oklahoma at the City Arts Center, Oklahoma City.

Tom Fowler wrote Ferguson's biography and hopefully copies will be available for sale and book signing. Also, check out John's Facebook page.

Also, check out this Rosebud Radio link for a soon to be launched internet radio station which will broadcast Old Time Radio on Friday afternoons and nights, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. From 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM will be Count Gregore's Suspense Theater, which Rosebud Radio says will feature the finest mystery radio shows such as Boston Blackie, Perry Mason and The Thin Man, and from 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM Count Gregore's Theater of the Macabre is scheduled. His part of the schedule is in dark red, below:

Very plainly, what Ann DeFrange said in 2008 remains true today, "Count Gregore Lives On!"

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Well, Shut My Mouth!

Just when I kinda thought I'd correctly pigeonholed some if not most members of the Oklahoma City Council into one place or another, I'll be darned if I didn't have to eat my words at about 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday November 15, 2011, and I'm gladly eating them. And, you know, those words taste pretty good.

I figured that Ed Shadid's pending motion to include sexual orientation in the list of protected employees, i.e., "The City of Oklahoma City will not discriminate against any applicant or employee because of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, religion, sex (to include sexual orientation), age, disability or political affiliation," had a fair chance of passing ever since Pat Ryan said that he favored the motion when Shadid first brought it to the floor on October 25, 2011.

In my earlier post on October 19, I said, "One can make book on the odds that that if Ward 2 council member Ed Shadid moves approval of something, Ward 8 council member Patrick Ryan will oppose it."

Well, I was dead wrong. Truth is, I would probably have said the same thing about Gary Marrs, but again I would have been dead wrong.

Yesterday, at 10:15, by a vote of 7-2 which included both Ryan and Marrs on the "aye" side, City Council adopted Shadid's proposal and sexual orientation is now in the class of city employees who may not be discriminated against in hiring, firing, placement, and other workplace circumstances. The complete video of yesterday's lengthy discussion is presented in this article, below.

Skip Background and Go Straight To The Videos

Background. By way of background, at the October 18 Council meeting, Dr. Shadid wondered out loud why Oklahoma City didn't have such approbations in place concerning its city employees and on October 19 at his Facebook page he announced that, "Next Tuesday I will introduce resolution prohibiting discrimination among 4300 city employees based on sexual orientation."

He did. On October 25, after lengthy discussion his proposal was deferred until November 15. Following that, even the conservative Oklahman did not come out against the proposal but did say in its October 29 editorial that it was proper that the matter was receiving public attention and deliberation.

An October 25 Journal Record editorial by Ted Streuli was less reserved. Among other things, he said,
And in this week’s metaphor, Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid is the flag atop the pole. Shadid suggested that Oklahoma City should add a clause to its employment policy that says the city won’t discriminate against someone based upon sexual orientation.

And as sure as the flag points north in a southerly wind, out came the hems, the haws and the unabashed bigotry. Posts on local news sites quickly revealed many wearing the cloak of ill-informed opinion over a suit of irrational hatred.

Yep. The flag went up and the windbags started blowing hard. That was an easy prediction.

In the council chamber, only Pat Ryan supported Shadid’s proposal. Meg Salyer, running the show in the mayor’s absence, remained neutral. Every other councilor squirmed like a sinner in the front pew.

David Greenwell and Larry McAtee said they wanted to study it more.

Study what, gentlemen? Whether it’s a good policy to allow discrimination in the city’s employment practices? Whether it’s OK to discriminate against this particular group but no other?

Yet the biggest head-scratch of the day came from Skip Kelly, who is black. He said the city didn’t need to make a change unless empirical data showed it should. We didn’t need empirical data to prove that some employers refuse to hire people with disabilities. Or those older than 40. Or Jews. Or Muslims. And surely Councilman Kelly doesn’t believe we needed empirical data to prove that people of color face discriminatory employment practices. Some truths are self-evident.

Here’s the test: If you can hear Bubba saying "I ain’t hirin' no (insert slur here)" then you can bet your last Southern Cross lapel pin that members of the group referenced have been victims of discrimination.
Personally, I think that Mr. Streuli was over-broad when he said, "Every other councilor squirmed like a sinner in the front pew," most notably concerning Pete White who would be expected to favor Shadid's proposal and had voted against deferring the matter when the initial deferral vote was taken. But, to be sure, I was also scratching my head over Skip Kelly's remarks at the October 25 City Council meeting.

The November 2, 2011, Oklahoma Gazette also carried a couple of relevant pieces. Clifton Adcock, who (in my opinion) has already distinguished himself as the preeminent journalist who covers local politics in the city, wrote a good summary of what occurred at the October 25 meeting (even though he did not report that Patrick Ryan said that he intended to vote for the proposal). In the same issue, part 1 of James Cooper's lengthy article on the local gay community was published, and in the November 9 Gazette issue, part 2 was published as well. In part 2, Cooper wrote,
Victor Gorin, who used to write for the Gayly [Oklahoman] and still lives in OKC, recalled an encounter with law enforcement at Angles [a local pub frequented by the LGBT community].

Just moments after leaving the club late one night with a friend, Gorin (pictured) soon realized he was alone and his friend was no longer at his side.

"All of a sudden, I realized I was talking to myself," he said. "(The police) had grabbed him and taken him off in the patrol car, and then I thought, 'Victor, go home.'" Then, on Jan. 6, 1983, the tension between the police and the community reached a tipping point as the front door of Angles came crashing down.

"That was the last straw," the owners told the Gayly [Oklahoman]. "That was the night that they took several people out and put them up against the patrol cars like they do when they frisk them, and took their night sticks between their legs and just beat the hell out of them, beat them on the back and everything else."

Another Angles patron, Robert Bigger, allegedly encountered Van Schuyver after he left. Bigger claimed he was forced from his car before having his face smashed into the vehicle, according to The Daily Oklahoman.

Bigger eventually filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City and Van Schuyver. According to The Daily Oklahoman, Van Schuyver suggested that the chief of police at the time "specifically advised" him to treat the gay community on N.W. 39th Street with such force.

Meanwhile, in February of that year, Cotton-Eyed Joes Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City.

The next month, Gravel reportedly hired former Oklahoma City Councilman Eric Groves, the same lawyer representing Angles, and blamed the mayor and the OKC police chief for their inability to stop police violence and harassment on N.W. 39th Street.

Later that year, rather than face a prolonged, expensive legal battle, the original Angles owners offered to settle out of court and drop the lawsuit, but only if Oklahoma City made significant changes.

The city obliged. On Sept. 13, 1983, the city reportedly settled the lawsuit for $1 in damages and agreed to pay approximately $28,000 in legal fees to the Angles owners.

"The City Council did the right thing," Groves told The Daily Oklahoman. "This was a good solution to a tough problem."

Moreover, the city agreed to provide gay-awareness training for its officers henceforth and obey a permanent injunction against the Oklahoma City police that prevented them from coming onto N.W. 39th Street and harassing the gay community. The City Council settled with Gravel, as well, and agreed to pay him $25,000.

Van Schuyver reportedly resigned before a police disciplinary review board had a chance to make its recommendation. The city agreed to pay Bigger $15,000 to drop his suit.
Mr. Cooper was one of the eleven citizens to speak at the November 15 City Council meeting. His video particularly appears below.

The Videos. I've broken the November 15 discussion before City Council into segments so that you can look at either the parts you want or the whole of the discussion. Speakers are shown in the same sequence as they spoke during the meeting. As for citizen comments, I've selected a few which I considered deserving of individual treatment, presented immediately following the general citizen comments video. Other citizen opponent comments I've not singled out since none added anything substantive to the discussion presented here. That said, all 11 citizen speeches are in the main citizen video below.

Ed Shadid (11:09)
Skip Kelly #1 of 3 (6:42)
Larry McAtee (6:16)
Pete White (4:36)
Kelly #2 of 3 (4:55)
All 11 Citizens (37:35)
Opponent Paul Blair (2:35)
Proponent Muneer Awad (2:59)
Opponent Tom Vineyard (3:59)
Proponent Robert Lemon (4:28)
Proponent James Cooper (3:37)
Proponent Ryan Kiesel (2:48)
Proponent Nathaniel Batchelder (2:38)
Proponent Scott Hamilton (3:20)
David Greenwell(4:48)
Skip Kelly #3 of 3 (1:03)
Gary Marrs & The Vote (5:12)
The Final Vote (0:43)
Conclusions. Every reader and listener will have his or her own conclusions about what happened concerning this resolution on November 15, 2011, and that's fair. We all have the right to speak, to form opinions, and/or to advocate what we personally think is "right." Since this is my blog, I'll give mine here.
  • I am proudest of ...
    1. Ed Shadid for having the ideals and courage to advocate those ideals so that others could follow, and, as well, whether they would or not. Shadid has already demonstrated his willingness to stand alone, if need be.
    2. Pete White for his unwavering support for the rights of all citizens ... with Shadid on the Council, he now has an ally in advocacy of and for the common men and women in our city.
    3. Patrick Ryan for setting aside his differences with Ed Shadid and announcing on October 25 that he wanted to be present to cast his vote for the resolution and for him doing so on November 15.
    4. Gary Marrs for having the gumption to search his conscience and speak and vote in favor of Shadid's resolution on November 15. Not even Ryan spoke on November 15, but Marrs did ... when he didn't have to.

  • Deserving Of Credit But No Cigars. Although all three voted for the resolution, only one spoke during either the October 25 or November 15 City Council Session.
    1. David Greenwell softly indicated his approval on October 25 but spoke ambiguously on November 15. Perhaps, one day, he will find more willingness to assume less of a wallflower and more of a leadership mantle, but in this matter he did not assume such a role.
    2. Mick Cornett voted affirmatively but he also chose not to speak at a time that leadership counted. For his vocal silence, he gets a "no cigar" vote from me.
    3. Meg Salyer spoke at neither session but did vote in favor of the resolution. But, for her vocal silence, she also gets a "no cigar" vote from me.
  • Council Members Who Disappointed. Two fall into this category.
    1. Larry McAtee. Ward 3's City Council member presented no surprise in his negative vote. That's just who Larry is.
    2. Skip Kelly. Ward 7's Skip Kelly's negative vote is not only one of my most surprising revelations, it is also my greatest disappointment. Skip, as an Afro-American, should be the 1st in line of the Council members to understand and grasp the notion that, in America, all minorities should be protected against the majority and citizen speakers like Paul Blair and Tom Vineyard. But, by his persistent advocacy on both October 25 and then again three times on November 15 and his vote on the latter day, he of all City Council members represents my personal greatest disappointment.

      I regard Skip as a friend. I know that he favors civil liberties being extended to all. Why he would vote as he did, and vocally objected as he did, on October 25 and again on November 15 remains beyond my understanding. One member at OkcTalk opines that he was pandering to his political base, but I truly hope that Skip is above that sort of thing when human liberties are involved. It is my hope that as time passes he will come to see, and have, a better day, and come to grasp that not only Afro-Americans should have protection under the law.

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