Bright Light in Montgomery

Hank William tombstone at the Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo by Steve Beard.

By Steve Beard

The sun was bright and unforgiving as I paid my respects at the gravesite of Hank Williams on a bluff in Montgomery, Alabama. A cowboy hat would have helped. The heat was a far cry from the dreary night of January 1, 1953, when much of the South was covered in snow and ice at the time of the country music star’s untimely death in the back seat of his 1952 baby blue Cadillac on the way to a concert up north. He was 29 years old.

“Praise the Lord – I Saw the Light” is etched in the massive marble gravestone with rays of light descending from the heavens, splicing right through his legendary name. The column is crowned with musical notes. Below, the base of the monument is adorned by a dozen titles of his boxcar worth of hits such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Lovesick Blues,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive.” Hank didn’t just tug at your heartstrings, he yanked them. Yanked hard. Dejection, cheating, and loneliness.

He also wrote loads of gospel songs. “I Saw the Light” was the most famous. No one mistook Hank for a saint, but his fans could relate to his message about one glad morning – someday in the future – when the old will be made new and there will be no more tears or toil. Situated above his first name, there is relatively understated bronze portrait of Hank playing the guitar with his leg propped up on a bar stool. The lyrics echoed through my mind.

I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord, I saw the light Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Duke

Pretty stoked to be in Hawaii on Duke Kahanamoku’s 131st birthday. It would be have been a great gift to him to know that Carissa Moore won the first gold medal in surfing at the Tokyo Olympics. She did Hawaiians proud. “Stopped by to share my leis with Duke to honor our father of modern day surfing and the ambassador of Aloha 🌺 Surfing wouldn’t be what it is today without him and all those who have come before,” she wrote on Instagram.

Duke’s love of the ocean — manifest through his Olympic gold medals in swimming and pioneering expertise in surfing — has been a total inspiration and has only deepened my love for Hawaii and the values of Aloha. Happy birthday Duke! Mahalo.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The return of Emy Lee

Many years ago when high school life was simple and zesty in the early 1980s, I was more than mildly obsessed with an Orange County rockabilly band called the Red Devils. My friend Jonny Ray slapped a blonde doghouse bass while his brother Dave Lee shredded a Gretsch Silver Jet and Scottie Campbell beat the drums. In the center of the stage was siren who shipwrecked the hearts of many young fans. Emy Lee had a voice that was created to shake rafters. Regrettably, the memory of that foursome’s time on the stage is only preserved via a few YouTube videos.

Through the miracle of technology, I was blasted back to yesteryear last Sunday afternoon when I was able to see Emy Lee perform online with fabulous musicians such as Kid Ramos (Fabulous Thunderbirds) and John Bazz (Blasters). Spectacular. One of the strange and wonderful sensations of life is being able to close your eyes and find yourself transported through well-preserved vocals and piping hot music. The brief set with selections from legends such as Billie Holiday, Ruth Brown, Wanda Jackson, and Janis Martin went by with the speed of a bullet train but brought a truckload of satisfaction.

The Los Angeles Times once described Emy Lee as a “magnetic singer” and the OC Weekly referred to her as “Ava Gardner in cowboy boots.” In her brilliant essay in John Doe’s book, “More Fun in the New World,” Maria McKee of Lone Justice fame described Emy Lee as “a gorgeous Puerto Rican girl dressed in perfect 1950s clothes” who “played a Charlie Christian guitar” and was being compared to Patsy Cline. It was all truth. Decades later, I can’t be more grateful for  Stellar Shows and Concerts as well as Campus JAX in Newport Beach for my nostalgic Sunday afternoon Zoom call to less complicated days.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Congratulations, Sir Richard

Sir Ricard Branson posing with a Virgin Airlines flight attendant on voyage from New York to London. Photo by Steve Beard, 2005.

Daredevil. Entrepreneur. Astronaut. Congratulations to Sir Richard Branson for his pioneering flight aboard Virgin Galactic’s spectacular voyage to the edge of space this morning – more than 53 miles above the earth. Quite an accomplishment.

Back in 2005, I encountered Branson while I was munching on coldcuts and cheese wedges in the Virgin Airlines Upper Class Lounge at JFK Airport in New York. Through some fortuitous events, I was able to catch a ride with Branson (of course, he was seated elsewhere), media types, and anti-poverty activists with the One Campaign on a chartered flight from JFK to Heathrow and then on to Virgin’s first landing in Edinburgh, Scotland for the G-8 meeting of international leaders.

(Left to right) Bob Geldof, Djimon Hounsou, Natalie Imbruglia, and Richard Branson at Heathrow Airport. Photo by Steve Beard, 2005.

If you have to party with a billionaire on a transatlantic flight, Branson is your man. He was popping champagne corks and mugging for photos and goofing around on the intercom system. My first impressions: “Branson showed up looking tanned, toothy and exceedingly charismatic. He fits the profile of someone who has attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air ballon.” Ironically, I also wrote: “Most recently, Branson has been trying to muster up the business plan for commercial space travel (Virgin Galactic). If anyone can pull this off, I imagine it will be Branson.”

Virgin Galactic

Well, he pulled it off. Hats off to Branson and the brainiacs behind the endeavor. I really savored this section from the Washington Post coverage (owned by Jeff Bezos) this morning from Spaceport American, New Mexico: “Virgin Galactic seemed intent on making it clear that this was not a traditional NASA launch. Instead of a stoic countdown, there was a party-like atmosphere along the tarmac, a scene as much a spectacle as a space launch that even included a musical guest, Khalid, who debuted a new song during a performance here. The company’s live broadcast of the flight was hosted by comedian and late night host Stephen Colbert, and [Elon] Musk was on hand to watch Branson and the crew take off.”

Every frontier needs fresh pioneers to gamble with gusto. Well done, Sir Richard!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remembering John Lee Hooker (1917-2001)

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd confer with John Lee Hooker on set of the Blues Brothers.

Twenty years after his death, it is an exceptional day to remember John Lee Hooker, a blues guitar legend and King of the Boogie (August 22, 1917 – June 21, 2001). For fans like me, he first emerged on to my radar because of his appearance in the 1980 movie “Blues Brothers” with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.

In respectful memory, enjoy a few excerpts from Charles Shaar Murray’s “Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century” in 2000.

• “Slouched in his chair and protected by his shades, Hooker works through his tales of lust and anger, sorrow and loneliness, regret and despair. They call certain kinds of blues ‘low down,’ and sometimes what is meant by that is a social judgment on certain sorts of Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pauley Perrette and the Psych Ward Sirens

Pauley Perrette wears a Psych Ward Sirens shirt in NCIS opening credits for Season 6 and 7. (Thunderstruck)

By Steve Beard

A dagger went through my heart as I recently watched an NCIS rerun and was abruptly reminded how much I miss photographing roller derby. During the opening credits of season 6 and 7 of NBC’s top-shelf show, Pauley Perrette (aka Abby Sciuto) is wearing a Psych Ward Sirens t-shirt – one of my beloved Houston Roller Derby teams I have shot for the last eight years.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Rosary Beads Owned by Mary, Queen of Scots, Stolen in Castle Heist

Thieves snuck in through a window at Arundel Castle, a 1,000-year-old palace in West Sussex, England, on Friday night, smashing a glass cabinet and—in a matter of minutes—making off with a trove of gold and silver items worth more than $1.4 million, per a Sussex Police report.

Alarms sounded on the premises around 10:30 p.m., alerting authorities, who arrived on the scene after the perpetrators had fled, reports BBC News. Police discovered the likely getaway car—set on fire and abandoned in a nearby town—and an empty display case that once held artifacts including a gold rosary owned by Mary Stuart, otherwise known as Mary, Queen of Scots.

As Ben Mitchell reports for the Press Association, Mary may have carried this rosary on her person as she recited her final prayers in Latin and knelt at the executioner’s block. In a grisly scene, the axman struck Mary’s neck three times before fully severing her head from her body. The House of Howard, a noble English family with ties to Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, has held the rosary in its collections at Arundel ever since.

“The rosary is of little intrinsic value as metal, but as [a] piece of the Howard family history and the nation’s heritage it is irreplaceable,” say authorities in the statement.

Read full story HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Van Doren’s off the wall success

By Steve Beard

I know next to nothing about business – but Paul Van Doren clearly did. He was the founder of Vans, one of the most successful shoe, streetwear, and lifestyle brands in American history.

On May 6, Van Doren died at age 90. He had just completed his autobiography, Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans, shortly before his death. “With success comes reputation, and with hardship comes character,” he wrote. “Even when a cost is high or seems too high, it’s the downsides that create the most extraordinary upsides.”

From a gritty storefront and factory in Anaheim, California, Van Doren leveraged his small family-based shoe brand in the 1960s into a globally-recognized name synonymous with the individuality and creativity of action sports, music, art, and street culture. Tapping into the synergy of the Southern California surf and skate culture, the company today generates more than $2 billion in annual revenues. (VF Corporation – Dickies, The North Face, Timberland – purchased Vans in 2004 for $396 million.) Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Meet the Nun Who Wants You to Remember You Will Die

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble. Credit…Tony Luong for The New York Times

By Ruth Graham,  New York Times  

BOSTON — Before she entered the Daughters of St. Paul convent in 2010, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble read a biography of the order’s founder, an Italian priest who was born in the 1880s. He kept a ceramic skull on his desk, as a reminder of the inevitability of death. Sister Aletheia, a punk fan as a teenager, thought the morbid curio was “super punk rock,” she recalled recently. She thought vaguely about acquiring a skull for herself someday.

These days, Sister Aletheia has no shortage of skulls. People send her skull mugs and skull rosaries in the mail, and share photos of their skull tattoos. A ceramic skull from a Halloween store sits on her desk. Her Twitter name includes a skull and crossbones emoji.

That is because since 2017, she has made it her mission to revive the practice of memento mori, a Latin phrase meaning “Remember your death.” The concept is to intentionally think about your own death every day, as a means of appreciating the present and focusing on the future. It can seem radical in an era in which death — until very recently — has become easy to ignore.

“My life is going to end, and I have a limited amount of time,” Sister Aletheia said. “We naturally tend to think of our lives as kind of continuing and continuing.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nick Cave on Suffering

Nick Cave (2012) by Bleddyn Butcher

In The Red Hand File, punk rock legend Nick Cave, answers questions from fans. What follows is an inquiry from Peter from Hanover, Canada. What follows is Cave’s response.

My question is about how you perceive the utility of suffering. What is the value of suffering to us as individuals, and to us as a species as we go through our life carrying suffering around, like some mind-numbing, soul crushing weight?

Dear Peter: What do we do with suffering? As far as I can see, we have two choices – we either transform our suffering into something else, or we hold on to it, and eventually pass it on.

In order to transform our pain, we must acknowledge that all people suffer. By understanding that suffering is the universal unifying force, we can see people more compassionately, and this goes some way toward helping us forgive the world and ourselves. By acting compassionately we reduce the world’s net suffering, and defiantly rehabilitate the world. It is an alchemical act that transforms pain into beauty. This is good. This is beautiful.

To not transform our suffering and instead transmit our pain to others, in the form of abuse, torture, hatred, misanthropy, cynicism, blaming and victimhood, compounds the world’s suffering. Most sin is simply one person’s suffering passed on to another. This is not good. This is not beautiful.

The utility of suffering, then, is the opportunity it affords us to become better human beings. It is the engine of our redemption.

Love, Nick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment