Charlie Brennan’s Strange St. Louis

charliestrangestl 625x352 Charlie Brennans Strange St. Louis

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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