Charlie Brennan’s Incredible St. Louis

charlieincrediblestl 625x352 Charlie Brennans Incredible St. Louis

October 18, 2017

Condolences to Mugsy Andria, the Kenison family and everyone at Andria’s Restaurant in O’Fallon, Illinois after last Friday’s passing of founder Sam Andria at 88. Sam was a great saxophone player and performed with Herb Drury and Stan Kenton in the Ozarks, East St. Louis, and Gaslight Square. He and his wife, Mary Margaret “Mugsy” Butler opened the Andria Liquor Store on Nameoki Road in Granite City and ran it for 22 years. They served food as well and many of their customers were local steel workers. In 1978, Sam, Mugs, and their daughter, Maureen, opened Andria’s Restaurant and saw everyone from Don Ameche to Noel Picard to Whitey Herzog walk in the door.   After 39 years, son-in-law Larry Kenison and grandson, Max Kenison, still operate the restaurant. Hold up a bottle of Andria’s Brush-On Steak Sauce in your toast to the late, great Sam Andria!

Between the Yankees and the Astros, I have to go with the Astros for the American League pennant because their owner, Jim Crane, grew up in Dellwood and attended Lutheran North High School. Crane made a ton of money in the air freight logistics business after he formed a company with a $10,000 loan from his sister in 1984. Before that he was a pitching standout at Central Missouri State where he still holds the record for fanning the most batters in one game (18). His dad died when he was in college and Crane almost quit school but his college baseball coach talked him out of it. Can’t wait to read his autobiography!

Nerinx Hall High School alum Jenna Fischer is best known for playing Pam Beesly on The Office, for which she received an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress and two SAG Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Comedy.  However, she struggled for eight years in Hollywood before achieving success. So, she has penned a memoir, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, designed to help aspiring actors make it in show business. It comes out in paperback on November 14.

The Wall Street Journal reports that comic Jerry Seinfeld has kept every joke he’s written since 1975 on yellow legal paper and organized alphabetically.   Similarly, the career of the late comedienne Phyllis Diller, who lived with her husband and five children at 30 Mason Avenue in Webster Groves in the 1960s, is featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Among the displays, a steel cabinet “gag file” filled with 50,000 Diller jokes on index cards. Her jokes are also organized alphabetically (are comics OCD?) but hers are typewritten while Seinfeld uses a Bic ballpoint pen.

October 11, 2017

Did you know Missouri’s constitution provides a pension to people who are poor and legally blind, but a recipient must be someone who “does not publicly solicit alms?”   In other words, if you’re a beggar, you lose your pension. St. Louis University Law Professor John Amman says the law dates back to 1921 when Helen Keller and others were trying to help blind mendicants get off the streets.

Here is the daily meal plan for Darrell Conners, trainer at 20 Minutes to Fitness in Clayton: for breakfast, he eats a quarter cup of oats and 8 oz. of egg whites; for lunch, it’s 7 oz. of tilapia, 6-7 asparagus spears, and a quarter cup of brown rice; for dinner, Darrell pigs out on 5 oz. of turkey cutlets, a cup of sweet potatoes and more asparagus. Why? He will be showing off his six-pack abs Saturday at the St. Charles Convention Center for the 2017 Pink Muscle Fest. The bodybuilding competition will benefit breast cancer awareness and research.

Seems like this would be the time of year to watch John Carpenter’s Halloween, with actor Donald Pleasence, as the brave Dr. Sam Loomis, chasing the psychotic Michael Myers through neighborhood streets. But when he got to St. Louis in the fall 1980 to film John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, Pleasence was not too brave. He stayed at a hotel near the Arch where management warned him our downtown wasn’t safe. According to his co-star Adrienne Barbeau, Pleasence took the warning very seriously: every night he hired a cab to take him to a restaurant directly across the street.

Speaking of Halloween, can you recall a scarier St. Louisan than Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell? Nash came to St. Louis in 1840 to head up Missouri Medical College. People claimed he stole corpses from graves. Tour guides at Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal still insist he tried to preserve his dead daughter’s body in an alcohol-filled brass cylinder inside the cave. McDowell is portrayed as a vampire in the 2010 novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. FYI: his medical college merged into the Washington University School of Medicine in 1891.

Bellefontaine Cemetery is combining ghosts and beer this weekend during the “6th Annual Historic Beer Barons Tour.” Sample local beer, wine and food while walking around the graves. Actually, the cemetery just might be one of the most beautiful settings in St. Louis and the final resting place for a number of our famous beer barons. Get tickets at Next weekend in the graveyard: “Yoga and the roots of feminism.” Not kidding.

October 5, 2017

While it may seem mass killings are a modern phenomenon, one of our country’s deadliest acts occurred on May 18, 1927 when Ed Kehoe bombed school buildings in Bath Township, Michigan, killing 45 people including 38 schoolchildren and himself. 58 others were injured. Sadly, the murders had a local connection as Kehoe worked as an electrician in St. Louis for several years before moving to Michigan. Why is this horrific event, the worst school massacre in U.S. history, largely forgotten? Kehoe’s infamy was probably diminished when, two days later on May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in “The Spirit of St. Louis.”

Leonard Slatkin, Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for 27 years, is out with his second book, “Leading Tones: Reflections on Music, Musicians, and the Music Industry.” He recounts how he conducted the soundtrack for “The Exorcist,” how his mother played the haunting cello for John Williams’ “Jaws Theme” and how, believe it or not, the first live production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” was with the SLSO at Powell Hall in 1971. That’s right: we beat Broadway AND London’s West End.

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, has funded a new garden with plants, fountains, benches, winding paths, a gazebo and a long, cascading waterfall in Clayton’s Shaw Park. Called “Chapman Plaza,” it’s now open at the southwest corner of Forsyth and Brentwood Boulevards and worth a visit. Chapman has had quite a run: Barry-Wehmiller had revenues of $20 million in 1988 and is expected to have revenues of $2.4 billion this year.

Comedian Bob Newhart joined me on KMOX and we got a nice phone call during the segment from another funny guy, Greg Warren. Warren, who lives in Kirkwood and has been seen on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central Presents, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and more, explained how his comedy career was inspired by Newhart, especially after hearing his 1960 album, “Button-Down Mind.” Speaking of Newhart inspirations, I’ve said in the past Chicago’s statue of Bob Newhart inspired me to chair the St. Louis campaign to erect a statue of Chuck Berry in 2011.

“That you are going to America is bad, but I really don’t know what other advice to give you…Outside of New York, the only endurable place is St. Louis.” Friedrich Engels

September 26, 2017

How hot is it? Patty DeForrest, Director of Parks and Rec for the City of Clayton, has just announced her city’s Shaw Park 50-meter pool will remain open for lap swimming through Sunday October 1. Four weeks beyond Labor Day? Unheard of! “With this incredible weather, it just seems to make sense,” she told me.

On October 16, the Lift for Life Academy charter school will officially open the newly renovated Staenberg Arts & Activities Center (formerly Flanagan Paint store). The Center will feature music and art rooms, an exercise and wrestling studio, fashion and culinary workspaces and counseling. Shopping center developer Michael Staenberg, founder of The Staenberg Group who has given away $100 million in the last ten years, tells me he doesn’t believe in making anonymous donations because he wants to set an example for others. For Staenberg, it’s been a long journey since he had a paper route in his native Omaha. Among his customers? Warren Buffett.

Staenberg cites the late builder and philanthropist I.E. Millstone as one of his mentors. Millstone built both the luxury condo tower at 801 S. Skinker Boulevard and the infamous Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex.   Millstone once explained to me his Pruitt-Igo and Skinker buildings were exactly the same. Pretty incredible considering one was a symbol of upscale St. Louis and the other the symbol of St. Louis’ decline.

Look for POCO (“Heart of the Night,” “Crazy Love”) to perform in Steelville October 27th and 28th and in Godfrey on December 15th. In fact, founder Rusty Young appears at Vintage Vinyl Records in University City at 6 p.m. on Wednesday September 27. Why the frequent visits? Young now lives in Steelville. He’s releasing a new CD, “Waitin’ For The Sun.”

Are you disabled and facing state cuts to your home assistance? I would like to talk with you. Contact me:

September 19, 2017

In this week’s column, how about a few photos and videos from my weekend in St. Louis? Warning: Some of the following videos contain graphic language. This was the scene at Tucker and Clark around 5 p.m. on Friday —black and white and rather young.
(Photo by Charlie Brennan, KMOX)Note the cameras. I count five in this photo.
(Photo by Charlie Brennan, KMOX)People even showed up in wheelchairs. With cameras.
(Photo by Charlie Brennan, KMOX)The mood was light but got darker when the police appeared.
(Photo by Charlie Brennan, KMOX)Police on bicycles entered the area. You might not think they would be effective (they’re on bikes!) but they did get people to move away from the building, the old police headquarters.

Police on bicycles told people to, “Move back!”

Not everyone listened. Follow the lady in red.

Protesters got angry with the police (Caution: language).

Protesters who did not “move back” got pepper spray in the face. Like this guy….

And this dude…

To escape this reality, I went to the Korean Culture Festival at the Touhill…

img 6168 Charlie Brennans Incredible St. Louis

Korean Culture Festival at the Touhill (Photo by Charlie Brennan, KMOX)

See you next week.

September 14, 2017

Big thanks to Roy Gillespie of the Teamsters who (again) helped KMOX raise about 8 truckloads (and still counting) of cleaning supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston. Little known fact: Gillespie grew up at 2428 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana. Who lived at 2300 Jackson? The Jackson Five. In fact, Roy was lab partners with Jermaine Jackson in Science Class at Beckman Junior High. (When it came to lab work, Jermaine told Roy, “Let’s Get Serious!” Not really.)

Thanks also to NFL Hall of Famer and former Ram Aeneas Williams who was on hand as were “Big Easy” Lofton and “Handles” Franklin of the Harlem Globetrotters. Again, it’s a small world: Williams and Lofton both attended the Carter G. Woodson Middle School in New Orleans.

As for Aeneas Williams, did you know he received no college athletic scholarship offers coming out of high school? Dartmouth offered him an academic scholarship. Instead, Williams attended Southern University and studied accounting his first two years. He walked onto Southern’s football team his junior year. The rest is history. By the way, he does have a degree in accounting.

Hats off to City of Clayton Parks and Rec Director Patty DeForrest who is keeping the outdoor Shaw Park municipal pool open for lap swimming through Sunday September 17. She defies conventional wisdom which closes pools after Labor Day. I can’t find another city pool in the Midwest that stays open this late. In St. Louis, the weather always allows for swimming well into September. After all, it is still summer.

Since the Cardinals open at home April 5, 2018 against the Diamondbacks, how will former Cards skipper Tony LaRussa, now with Arizona, ride into Busch Stadium in his red jacket with D-back players watching from the visitors’ dugout?

For the first time in 30 years, Donnybrook will air on a Friday night, not once but twice! To make room for the Ken Burns 18-hour PBS series on the Vietnam war, Donnybrook will air on KETC at 7 p.m. on Fridays September 22 and 29.

September 5, 2017

One of the hottest food guys in Chicago is a St. Louis expat. Michael Ciapciak owns Bang Bang Pie and Biscuit locations (Logan Square and Ravenswood) where he serves pies (of course), biscuits (of course), pot pies, and grits. It’s where people line up and down the street in the heat, rain and cold and buy pies until they run out, which they often do. Ciapciak, who once worked for Zoe Robinson at Il Fratellini in Clayton, attended St. Louis University where he studied…English!

Driving on Manchester in Maplewood, one sees “Route 66” street banners. How can this be? Everyone knows “Route 66” is on Chippewa and Watson with attractions like Ted Drewes, the Donut Drive-In, and Crestwood Bowl. The two streets practically run parallel to each other, so “Route 66’ can’t be on both roads, right? I mean, New York doesn’t have two Broadways, does it? Well, it turns out the Explore St. Louis website has an alternative “Route 66” which also includes Lindell, Skinker and Manchester. Don’t worry, there is no way tourists would be confused by any of this.

Hats off to SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook who talked about his great school and played the piano with his wife Mary on my radio show last week. (Seems to be a trend here because UMSL Chancellor Thomas George plays the piano at the Cheshire Inn in his spare time). Pembrook is so unassuming, he lugged his own keyboard, assembled it on a stand and used a screwdriver to break it down after the show. Chancellor Pembrook brought NO posse of roadies to do the heavy lifting. Maybe that’s why SIUE has the lowest tuition of all four-year institutions in Illinois.

Speaking of tuition, St. Louis Magazine reports MICDS high school tuition is $26,500. Fontbonne University tuition is $25,500, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That means, for some, the cost of education decreases from high school to college.

August 30, 2017

Quick: who has more U.S. locations, Edward Jones or Starbucks? (Answer below)

Well, it’s about time! The St. Louis Public Library Children’s Library downtown will offer its first Drag Queen Storytime on Saturday September 30th at 2 p.m. The Library points out, “Families can listen to stories, dance and make crafts with local performers who are volunteering their time.”   (In other words, don’t worry: we are not paying the drag queens with taxpayer dollars).

“Larger than Life” starring Bill Murray, Janeane Garofalo and Matthew McConaughey is playing on STARZ this week. Although it is not very entertaining—except for one hilarious scene with Murray driving a truck—the movie was partly shot in our area in 1995 so St. Louisans may enjoy seeing their town on screen. I appeared as “an industrial worker” seated next to Murray in a bar in Granite City. It took about four hours to fix our lighting and the scene lasted about sixty seconds, if that. Maybe some reader will remember the name of the bar. Was it “Way Home?”

No Charles Brennan film festival would be complete without a screening of “The Big Brass Ring” starring William Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne and Miranda Richardson. This movie, filmed here in 1998, was so bad it skipped the theaters and went straight to Showtime, which was especially disappointing since it was Orson Welles’ last script. The late George Hickenlooper, a Dogtown native, directed. Hurt chewed him out mercilessly on the set underneath the Gateway Arch. The acrimony was awkward and fascinating at the same time.   I played the role of a reporter asking Hurt some questions, as did Don Lemon, now of CNN fame. Alas, the Oscars snubbed all of us.

Remember Robert Lee, the sports broadcaster reassigned by ESPN so he would not be seen—heaven forbid–in Charlottesville? Upon hearing that story, I called Robert E. Lee, who works at St. Louis Music on Ferguson Ave. He told me “on a daily basis” he meets people who are amused by his name and it helps him stand out, a good thing in his profession, sales management. Often, he will hand someone his credit card and get asked, “Did you know your name is Robert E. Lee?”

ANSWER: St. Louis-based Edward Jones has 12,000 branch offices and Starbucks has 7,500.

August 22, 2017

Richard H. Weiss profiles Martin Mathews, founder of the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, in the new book, “I Trust You With My Life.” Among the many great stories: in the 1970s, Mathews oversaw Mathews-Dickey and, to make ends meet, worked as an overnight doorman in the classy condos at 625 South Skinker Blvd. This is where publishing scion Michael Pulitzer, former CIA Director Sidney Souers, and other high society types lived. In 1975, G, Duncan Bauman, publisher of the Globe-Democrat, gave Mathews his newspaper’s annual Humanitarian Award. Residents of 625 South Skinker picked up their morning newspaper to discover the city’s most prestigious honor had gone to…their doorman!

5-time Grammy nominee Kenny Wayne Shepherd told me on KMOX his career’s most embarrassing moment happened here in St. Louis. He was opening at the Trans World Dome in 1997 for the Rolling Stones during their Bridges to Babylon Tour. Shepherd’s guitar was tethered to the equipment with a 25-foot cord, but in his mind he must have thought he had a wireless gig. “I was on a stage the size of a friggin’ football field. I took off running and the cable came flying out of my guitar in the middle of my solo. I had to scurry around in front of 80,000 people trying to find my guitar cable to plug in.” But all’s well now: his new album “Lay it on Down” is #1 this week on the Neilson/Soundscan Blues Album, Rock Album and Internet Album Charts. For the complete interview, listen Tuesday August 23, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

Those of us attending this month’s Salvation Army Doing the Most Good Awards Luncheon at the Chase got our money’s worth from former NYFD Battalion Chief Richard Picciotto. As keynote speaker, he delivered the best speech I have ever seen. Seriously. We laughed, cried and then sat in silence listening to his account of responding to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, which tragically had 99 elevators but only 3 stairwells. (Architect Minoru Yamasaki also designed Lambert Airport). If you ever get a chance to hear Picciotto, take it! Or, you can read his book, “Last Man Down.”

I paid about $110 this year for an unnamed media subscription. Last week, I got a renewal notice in the mail bumping me up to $240. Thinking that was too expensive, I called the unnamed media subscription folks to cancel my subscription. The congenial fellow responded by offering me another year at about $110. Pressing my luck, I declined the offer and asked again to cancel my contract. Wait, I was told, there might be another option. Would I be interested in $25 for five months? Although I’ll have to do this dance again in January, I agreed.

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