Art, architecture, history, travel


Stuck in the ’70’s

Something that I care about

If you know anything about me you know I went to high school in the 1970’s. So what’s it like to be stuck there?

  • Disco
  • Oil Embargo
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Inflation
  • Gas is 30 cents/ gal I noticed my keyboard doesn’t even have the cents sign anymore
  • Nixon visits China
  • The Brady Bunch-are you kidding?
  • Peter Max
  • Psychedelic art
  • Bell Bottoms
Osaka Daimaru 1979

Osaka Daimaru 1979


Billy Liar

Billy Liar

Billy Liar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lindley Players present Billy

This West end play, I first saw in London in 1974 continues to enjoy popularity especially as a new generation of boomerang kids finds itself trapped at home. Billy is a sort of  Walter Mitty character with two fiancées and a rather vivid imagination. Here is a review as well as some original ARTWORK. The 1963 movie stared Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie.

A Musical based on ‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse and Willie Hall. Book by  Dick Clement and Ian La Francis, Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Don Black. This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd

This riotous musical comedy, based on Keith Waterhouse’s all-time classic play ‘Billy Liar’, is bound to have you splitting your sides with laughter and tapping your toes to its tunes this summer.

Set against the grim background of 1960s Yorkshire life, it tells of the dreams and lies of Billy as he seeks to escape his humdrum job, his overbearing family and his two fiancées in the search for the bright lights of London in the believe that some of us ‘belong to the stars’


Billy (musical)

Billy (musical) (Photo credit: Wikiublished: 2005/05/03 13:24:35 GMT

BILLY (Sony Music)

Like My Sister Eileen and Auntie Mame, Billy Liar is one of those properties that has succeeded in multiple incarnations. The story of a young undertaker’s assistant who escapes his dreary Yorkshire existence through elaborate daydreams, Billy Liar was first a 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse. The following year, it became a well-received West End play by Waterhouse and Willis Hall, originally starring Albert Finney, who was succeeded by Tom Courtenay. . . .

The lyrics were by Don Black (Bombay Dreams, Dracula, Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, Sunset Boulevard), the music by John Barry, who had already composed the scores for the London musical Passion Flower Hotel and the American road-closer Lolita, My Love. Barry was the winner of several Oscars for his work in films; he and Black had collaborated on the Academy Award-winning song “Born Free” and on the title song for Thunderball, one of several James Bond films Barry scored. In 1982, Barry and Black would reunite to write the score for one more musical, Broadway’s The Little Prince and the Aviator, which closed in previews.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Billy was a brassy, Broadway-style musical, and it took advantage of the services of top-notch American choreographer Onna White. But its trump card was its star, Michael Crawford, who had done the film versions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Hello, Dolly! but was making his musical stage debut. At the time of Billy, Crawford was a household name owing to his role on a recent BBC TV comedy series, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.”

Circle Triangle square after Kandinsky by Ted Gast
Loaves and Fishes Original Artwork by Ted Gast

London:A Toby Jug for myself 1974

May Day Parade 1957. Left to right Georgy Zhuk...

May Day Parade 1957. Left to right Georgy Zhukov, Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin, Kaganovich, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7/29 Monday London

Last day in London. I got up early today to get David a present. I think I have something for everyone now. I got a nice porcelain vase for my grandmother.

Finally found a Toby jug for myself. Harrods didn’t have any. Can you believe it?? After that I came back and went to a pub with Cindy to use the rest of my luncheon vouchers.

Flew back to Chicago on TIA, then back to St. Louis by bus. The longest bus ride of my life. I’m so excited. What a great trip! I had a great time and have so many new friends now. I can’t wait to tell my friends about it.

A week after I got home Richard Nixon resigned. August 1974.

FINIS! End of Post

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was born in 1894 to an illiterate peasant family in Kalinovka, a village near Russia’s border with Ukraine. To supplement his family’s meager income he began working at an early age, but despite this, and despite his father’s second job as a coal miner, Khrushchev’s family was unable to survive as farmers. In 1908 they moved to an industrial center in Ukraine, where young Nikita began working in a factory. It was the beginning of his activist career: at the age of 18, Khrushchev joined a group of workers who had organized a strike protesting working conditions. He was fired.

Khrushchev found another job but continued his activism, helping to organize strikes in 1915 and 1916. In 1917, after the Russian Revolution had ousted the Czar, Khrushchev joined the Bolshevik forces of the Red Army in the Russian civil war, serving as a political commissar. He was now a dedicated communist.

After the war, Khrushchev was given a series of political assignments and received his first formal training in Marxism at a Technical College. After graduation he was appointed to a political post in Ukraine, where Lazar Kaganovich, a protege of Joseph Stalin, was head of the Communist Party. Khrushchev joined Kaganovich in supporting Stalin in his power struggles against Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin. With Stalin’s success, Khrushchev’s career soared. In the 1930s Khrushchev was promoted from one political position to the next, until finally, in 1935, he became second in command of the Moscow Communist Party. In Moscow, Khrushchev oversaw construction of much of Moscow’s subway system, and in 1939 he became a full member of the Politburo.

Khrushchev’s rise to power coincided with one of the darkest periods in Soviet history: the Great Terror. During the 1930s, Stalin began a series of bloody purges to consolidate his power. The terror spread throughout the Soviet Union, and Khrushchev was part of it, denouncing several fellow students and workers as “enemies of the people” and willingly taking part in the extermination of the Ukrainian intelligentsia.

By the time Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Khrushchev had been sent to head the Communist Party in Ukraine, which put him near the front lines. He saw the devastation of war first-hand as the Germans routed the Red Army, then again as the Soviets turned back the Nazi advance.

After the war, Khrushchev was called back to Moscow, where he soon became one of Stalin’s top advisers. When Stalin died in 1953, Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin won a power struggle against Stalin’s successor, Georgi Malenkov, and secret police chief Lavrenti Beria. Beria was executed, and Malenkov was forced to resign. Bulganin became premier, but Khrushchev, in charge of the Communist Party, soon became the dominant figure.

Khrushchev’s leadership marked a crucial transition for the Soviet Union. From the beginning, Khrushchev set out to make the Soviet system more effective by curbing Stalin’s worst excesses. In an historic speech to the 20th Party Congress in 1956, he attacked Stalin for his crimes — acknowledging what many people believed, but which no Soviet leader had ever dared mention. What Khrushchev dared not mention was his own complicity in those crimes.

Khrushchev’s advocacy of reforms contributed to a groundswell of independence movements among Soviet satellite nations in Eastern Europe. While promoting change, Khrushchev would not tolerate dissent: he supported sending tanks into Budapest in 1956 to brutally suppress a Hungarian rebellion. The Iron Curtain remained in place.

In relations with the West, Khrushchev’s tenure was marked by a series of high-stakes crises: the U-2 affair, the building of the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile crisis. At the same time, he was the first Soviet leader to advocate “peaceful coexistence” with the West, and to negotiate with the United States on reducing Cold War tensions.

By 1964, his reforms had alienated too many powerful Soviet constituencies. A group of conservatives led by Leonid Brezhnev ousted Khrushchev, and he retired to a dacha in rural Russia, where he died in 1971.

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Bairisch als Sprachbezeichnung bezeichnet den oberdeutschen Dialekt, der in Ober- und Niederbayern, der Oberpfalz, in Österreich (Ausnahme Vorarlberg) und Südtirol heimisch ist. Im heutigen Bayern gibt es daneben noch das Schwäbische, das Ostfränkische, das Rheinfränkische und das Thüringische. Bairisch war einer der Hauptdialekte im späten 8. Jh. Bei den sprachlichen Merkmalen fällt auf, daß die zweite Lautverschiebung im Bairischen besonders konsequent vollzogen worden ist.


Bavarian, as a language designation denotes the upper German dialect, which is spoken native in Upper and Lower Bavaria, the Oberpfalz,  Austria (with the exception of the Vorarlberg) and South Tirol (Northern Italy). In  Bavaria of today, there also exist the dialects of Swabian, East Frankish, Rhine Frankish and Thuringian. Bavarian was one of the main German dialects of the late eighth century.  What is notable, linguistically is that the second sound shift is particularly consistent in Bavarian.

Simply stated, the Bavarian dialect is not spoken exclusively in the German Land/state of Bavaria, where other dialects are also spoken, but also in other countries such as Austria, Slovenia and N Italy. (trans. tcg)

Does London remind anyone of Italy, 1974? 1974

7/27 Saturday London

Rome Piazza Navonna

Walked down Oxford Street today and then went to Harrod’s. I like going out by myself because I can do what I want. When I meet someone from the group I can stay with them awhile but I don’t feel obligated to stay with them. Harrod’s is really a fantastic place. I still can’t figure out its shape, but I think it’s square. When I ask people on the street where to get things, they name a few shops and then say “Try Harrod’s. It has everything.”

Went to Fortnum and Mason. What a fantastic store!

Men in morning suits assist people with their shopping. It’s really cute. The crowds are similar to those at Via Veneto, but not really. Anyone can walk along Via Veneto and window shop. Not everyone can or would come to Fortnum and Mason. People on Via Veneto are well dressed (those who buy), but in a different way. Some people send their butlers to Fortnum and Mason. No one would do that on VV. The FM crowd is more quaint the people are older and there are more women. Also, FM isn’t as crowed as VV.

The Kremlin Moscow

VV sells more clothes and other things than FM. FM is most famous for its food hall. Personally I like Fortnum and Mason better than the Via Veneto.

English: The Clock striking One at Fortnum and...

English: The Clock striking One at Fortnum and Mason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really liked Billy, the musical we saw. I thought I wouldn’t after seeing the pictures on the marquis. After the play Ann, Lisa and I went to Trafalgar Square and had a riot with the pigeons. I took a little boy’s picture and he thanked me in a cute way. When his sister told him people swam in the fountain on New Year’s Eve; he wanted to swim right away. I helped another boy fish tins out of the water.

The crowds at Trafalgar are different from those at Piccadilly. There are more English at Trafalgar and people of all ages. There are many more young people at Piccadilly. Many families come to Trafalgar. There are more typically English at Trafalgar and more children. From the above stories, I’ve decided people are friendlier at Trafalgar. I had no experiences with kids at Piccadilly. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean I don’t like Piccadilly. Piccadilly is more a night place. I was there during the day and it’s really different; nothing happens. We saw no student hangouts or squares in Moscow, or places where people really hang out, but then Red Square was closed.

The Kremlin seemed really empty, despite the long line everywhere in Russia I wouldn’t call a museum, store, etc. a hangout. Those people were there for a different reason. The Piazza Navona is similar to Trafalgar. There were lots of kids there too, but not with their families. There was a street soccer game. There were old people too, but there were fewer people at the Piazza Navona than a Trafalgar.

Kremlin and Piazza Navona

For Dinner we ate at a Chinese restaurant. I had roast duck that was really good. I tried the girls’ food too: Sweet and sour pork and curry chicken, which was also good. I also had Chinese tea, strange but good. After dinner the girls left and I went to Piccadilly. I saw a building on fire and watched that for awhile.

From what I’ve seen and heard people say, England (at least London) is a lot like the U. S, besides having a common language and history we share many of the same problems: Inflation, housing, pollution, and energy. From signs in the tube it looks like they’re having trouble with mass transit (not enough employees). On top of it all they have Ireland, a sore thumb like Watergate that no one really understands or can explain. Maybe there were the same similarities in other countries, but because of the language barrier I didn’t notice them (not being able to communicate with ordinary people or read signs or newspapers).

7/28 Sunday London

Cheri Queen of the Tootses

Sunday a day to relax. My first day of breakfast since Moscow. I had Corn Flakes. Was it good! Went to Hyde Park with Cheri ‘queen of tootses (toots (toots) pronunciation like took n. Slang. Babe; sweetie. Girl or young woman) , Kim, Susie, Lisa, David and me. Made a hilarious pose with a statue (wait till you see the pictures). Went for a rowboat ride and had a ball. My first time in a rowboat. Ate lunch in the park. Went to speaker’s corner. Located on the corner of Park Lane and Cumberland Gate, opposite Marble Arch tube, Speakers’ Corner is the spiritual home of the British democratic tradition of soapbox oratory.

Every Sunday since the right of free assembly was recognised in 1872, people from all walks of life have gathered to listen to speeches about anything and everything… and to heckle.

The coherence of the speakers varies greatly as do the topics of discussion, but as a whole it makes for great street theatre. So, if you have a burning desire to share your opinions with the world, take something to stand on and start pontificating.

Although Sunday morning is the best time to visit, speakers can now be found on the corner throughout the week.

What are you waiting for?

We saw communists and socialists, but the most interesting was the anti-American. We had just been in the Soviet Union so we had lots to say.

We had fun defending America against him, along with other people. One of his points was that America didn’t send enough aid to countries like Greece, Chile and Bangladesh. Then he contradicted himself by saying we were involved where we shouldn’t be. He said we had no business in other countries like Vietnam. Basically, when we weren’t involved we should have been and when we were we shouldn’t be. Despite what he had to say, the fun was in arguing with him. Even though, I didn’t agree with him, it’s good he had a chance to say it. Some of his speech was sarcastic and funny.
He said he was a CIA agent sent to start revolutions and wars in other countries. When he started attacking Blacks a Black man came over from another soapbox and they started arguing. It was hilarious.

After speaker’s corner I looked at the artwork on the railings and ran into Mr. Cordell. I bought a beautiful acid etching of the Tower Bridge.

For dinner we went to Oliver’s. I went on the metro and passed right by it. The food was good and I liked the dessert, especially. I think Susie had a good time for her birthday. After dinner Kent, Phil and I went out to a Pub and had two pints of beer apiece. We talked and listened to people and watched two dogs playing in the pub, one was a cute bulldog. When we got back we all had to go to the John so bad it was funny.

Another day in London 1974

7/26 Friday London

Claude Monet

Tower Guard Beefeater

The tour today was one of the best we’ve had on the trip, despite the fact it was late. I slept so well last night I didn’t wake-up until 9:10 when I heard a lady yelling, “Has the tour been postponed? I thought, God I hope so. We have been having American style breakfasts here with bacon and eggs and corn flakes. We are staying in an apartment tower kind of thing with a common dinning area somewhere in London. Near the newly constructed BT Tower in the west end near Regent street.  I have been using the stairs instead of the elevator. I have developed a bad cough. Nolting told me to get something for it at the Chemist’s.

Our RAP is named Tobie he is a proper English gentleman with black hair and a beard. I’m still researching grocery stores. I went for a walk tonight with Shelley. We got lost on the way back and nice women helped us. When she was done she gave us a cheerio and walked away. Toby told us that phrase is not used much any more.

Proper Gentleman

Something new in Britain this year is currency reform. Great Britain now has a decimal system like the US with 100 pence to a pound. They no longer use the shilling, sixpence, farthing system with 240 farthing or 80 pence to a pound. The thing I don’t like about the pound is that it is worth about $1.60 so if something is 50p it’s almost a dollar. It would have been bad to miss this tour. I like the idea of not having to go back and forth for lunch all the time. We should have done that in some of the other cities. I really enjoyed many of the sites. I’m glad I got to see the Albert Memorial. accessed 2012 April 4. I’ve got to go back. I was sorry to hear that the Crystal Palace burned down in 1930, but Tobie(our RAP) said there’s a copy in Houston. I liked Westminster very much. O, Rare! Ben Johnson he’ll always have his name misspelled. Westminster is completely different from St. Peters. Westminster is gothic although some of the restorations are in other styles. Westminster has all kinds of famous people buried there. Mainly popes are buried in St. Peter’s. The popes are buried under the main storey in St. Peter’s; each tomb has a little chapel. Just below this window you find the grave of the Unknown Warrior which commemorates the many thousands killed in the 1914-18 war who have no grave. . In Westminster the people buried under the floor. People can walk over their graves, not so for the popes. Another difference: St. Peter’s is a Cathedral and Westminster is an Abbey. St Peter’s is under the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Westminster is controlled by the Queen and is Anglican. The Popes are elected in the Sistine Chapel and the Kings are coronated in Westminster.

I’m glad it wasn’t crowded at Westminster. Chris a buxom, typically British lass and Toby’s girlfriend, said tours usually don’t see anything. We just happened to be there at noon so we got a special benediction.


Some of the most famous to lie here, include the poets John Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning and John Masefield. Many writers, including William Camden, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy are also buried here.

Charles Dickens’s grave attracts particular interest. As a writer who drew attention to the hardships born by the socially deprived and who advocated the abolition of the slave trade, he won enduring fame and gratitude and today, more than 110 years later, a wreath is still laid on his tomb on the anniversary of his death each year.

Via Veneto
Rome, Italy

I didn’t get to see the jewels because of the bomb scare. It really messed things up. When we got to the gate guards wouldn’t let anyone out. I think it was just a scare, no real bomb. Someone said the bomb squad had been drilling, It was exciting, but I had to miss the jewels. The only things that didn’t mind staying at the tower during the scare were the ravens, because their wings are clipped. I’m having a good time here. We went to the Discotheque and I stayed late-then went gambling and won. It was so late there were no buses or tubes. We walked most of the way home.

Travels with my aunt Margaret

Travels with my Aunt Margaret


London to Nassau and Back

Travels with my Aunt Margaret

Margaret Lewis was my wife’s aunt. She lived in New York City but later in life moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. I had the pleasure of taking many nice trips with her. Here is an account of those trips I gave my son while entertaining him on a drive to his college Carnegie Mellon.

Well, I’m back now. I just enjoyed those trips that I had with your mother and Margaret. We went to some special places of course with you kids and Margaret. The first trip we went on well, I took Margaret and your mother to London in 1988. I was supposed to be going to Germany on business and I asked your mother if she wanted to go and she said sure. Somehow Margaret fanageled her way in on the trip and before I knew it they were going to London and I ended up going to Germany by myself.

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But I did spend a couple of days in London with them and that was a blast. And your mother and I got up to Inverness in Scotland and you were a baby but you didn’t make that trip. You stayed home and I went on to Frankfurt to the Achema which is a huge process and chemical engineering show that they have in Germany every three years. It’s really amazing. So that was the first trip that I made with Margaret Lewis. And then I ended up going to Germany again the next year to a trade show Envitec, an environmental trade show, in Düsseldorf and I ended up staying in Duisburg and driving down to the show every day with our German agent, not a secret agent, just a business agent.

That was the year of the Exxon Valdez crash in Alaska and I was in Germany during that crash. I also bought Poppy your famous Steiff stuffed bunny which you still love. The Sahara sand was the strangest thing I ever heard of. Sand from the Sahara desert is carried 4000 miles in the stratosphere by the jet stream to Germany. It is very bad for the cars.

Well, then in 1996 your mother and I went on a Panama Canal trip with Intrav and because my grandfather had told me in your life if there are two places that, if you ever got the chance to go you should go. One was Ephesus in Turkey. With its famous library of Celsus, temple of Artemis, Basilica and tomb of St. John, and nearby the home of the Virgin Mary.
And the subject of St. Paul’s famous epistle in the New Testament. I got to visit Ephesus with Ted D., Roberto and Marisa in January 1978. It was  a very cold winter that year.

The other one was the Panama Canal which he went on with the Shriners in 1974. Well, lo and behold we got this brochure about the Panama Canal and I thought boy that’ll never happen and somehow I talked your mother into it and it was November. It was right before Thanksgiving. We flew to Acapulco and the Mexican Navy was in port and it’s a very small navy but it was fun. We could see the ships from our hotel room.

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating ...

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating the sequence of locks and passages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then we went on the cruise and we went to Nicoya and San Jose, Costa Rica and through the Panama Canal and Miraflores and we stopped in Cartagena in Colombia, which I also enjoyed. Many people on the ship said they didn’t enjoy that. They didn’t like the poverty.

And then St. Martin, which is the half French half Dutch island in the Caribbean. And the Dutch side used to have square coins. They were one of the few square coins in the world. They were 15 cents, 15 Dutch cents. And they were widely sought after by collectors. I got a few of them. They still have square coins in Suriname. They were just about as popular as those triangular Tuvan stamps that Richard Feynman collected. I never got any of those. But I did get a picture. I have a picture of them (view slideshow.) And I have his book and maybe a hat and a t-shirt. And then we went to the Virgin Islands where I had never been but your mother had. And we went to Magens Bay in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas and it’s beautiful. I loved it.

I thought it was more beautiful than Hawaii even though I didn’t put it on my top 10, somehow I think I got confused. Then we went to Puerto Rico for just a day. I’ve always wanted to return and visit the el junque rain forest but haven’t made it yet. The only tropical rain forest in the United States.

I called grandpa from San Juan. It’s just like making a call in the United States you dial one plus the area code and then the number. No cell phones then. Then we flew home.

And we loved that trip so much that the next year Margaret Lewis wanted to repeat that with us and so that was our second trip with Margaret and it was March and it was winter and the port . . . we left from Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, Port Everglades where your great grandparents used to live. We stayed one night at the Caribe one night on the way back, but you kids didn’t like it because there was a mean man who didn’t like kids.

And I remember we had to fly through Detroit on some kind of crummy connection and it was snowing and a big blizzard and we almost missed the flight. There was no one to check the luggage and your mother was busy watching you. It was horrible. Margaret was waiting there for us. She had come from Cincinnati. And she was in a panic by the time we got to the gate. The flight had been called and was leaving in 45 minutes. So it was your mother and I and you and your sister. So we flew down to Florida and we stayed in a crummy hotel where a lot of students on spring break stayed. You had to leave a deposit on everything, on the towels, on the fly swatter, on the refrigerator because they were just used to everybody stealing everything. It reminded me of the special towels they have for gun cleaning at the Lake of the Ozarks.
But Margaret stayed with some friends, with Cookie and Mary Carlyle. When they dropped Margaret off Mary screamed my name going down the road in her mom’s convertible. It was a repeat of  Terry Cannon in Florence in 1975 with the Carmen ghia (see 1975 I had so much fun).

And so we got on that trip and it was a fun trip. And maybe that was ’97. I think actually it was ’96. It was supposed to be for my 40th birthday and I ended up getting a gold diamond ring and a bracelet, an 18 kt gold bracelet, which I still wear. I’ve never taken it off in 12 years and a nice watch which I still have and uh…

I got your mother another watch but it broke a few years ago, but I still have mine. You shared a cabin with Margaret and your sister. Your mother and I had our own cabin. The picture widow in the cabin was so big that you and Marion sat in there every morning and ate your cereal.

Nassau was where your maternal grandparents went on their honeymoon in 1948. We took a submarine ride in Nassau to see the fish in the bay and they just lifted Margaret into the boat and they called her Mama. She didn’t like that. She didn’t realize they call all women that. It’s a sign of respect. So that was Nassau in the Bahamas and then we went back to the Virgin Islands and we went to St. Thomas and St. Croix this time and that was trip #2. That was your second time in the Bahamas. We took you and Marion to Freeport on a day cruise when she was a baby.

Well, then next I think we went to Nebraska or we met Margaret in Lincoln at the Abbotts, at Mike Abbotts. And we rented a minivan so that the 5 of us could ride comfortably out to Alliance. Do you remember what year that was? I think Marion was about 7. So that was about 1997 or 1998 and we rode the horses and we looked at the airplane but we didn’t get to go up in the airplane because the weather wasn’t good.  He was living in Lincoln at the time. Mike had a pond in his yard and we went frog gigging after dark. You kids liked that.Chris owned 49 square miles or sections in the sand hills. His wife was Kim and she was nice. That’s a lot of land. It looked like Mongolia, hills and grass but no trees anywhere. I made you kids ride a horse bareback and without bridles and you fell off in the mud and you still haven’t forgiven me. Margaret had been there before for a big wedding at the ranch. I think it was Dianne. Voss had been to the ranch too.

And then we drove back through Neely and we stayed with one of the Abbott girls. I think it was Helen.The first of the Abbott girls I had met was Andrea. That was a long time ago in New York City. Margaret was there, too. It may have even been before your mother and I were married.  Then we drove home and boy that was a long trip in that car back to St Louis. And then Margaret had to get back to Cincinnati. So that was the third trip with Margaret Lewis.

Well then 2 years later Margaret wanted to treat us to a cruise and that was in 1999 and that was the famous Scandinavian cruise. They lost Margaret’s suitcase and she had to go back to the airport and get it. It was a big waste of time. And once again we started in London and the cruise left from Dover. We took the bus down to Dover. And the interesting thing about that trip uh, except for the end which I’ll get to in a minute, the electricity went out in our hotel in London. We were staying at a very, very fancy hotel in London and all the electricity went out. All the cash registers were down and there was no way to pay for anything so they had to give us our breakfast for free and they weren’t very happy about that. They had a shop in the hotel that sold beautiful colored enameled coins. I bought a German 2 pfennig piece and a farthing for your mother that she wears as a necklace. And that’s also when we saw the eclipse; we saw the famous solar eclipse. The druids at Stonehenge went nuts.

Well that was the trip when you bought the third Harry Potter book. You just sat in the pub and read that book No one had really heard of Harry Potter but you had. You said it was going to be big and you were right.

I got a beautiful silk scarf at Liberty’s from two interns from Madrid. Their English was impeccable. We went to the Bigso store from Sweden and got some cool office supplies on that trip too. We all went to the tower of London and saw the crown jewels. That was neat.

One night we went to dinner at a Pub in the Mayfair district of London. They wouldn’t seat us, because we had you kids with us (view slideshow.)  The first time in London that had ever happened to me. We ended up at an Italian restaurant across the street it was very fancy and very nice. You all behaved well. It made an impression on me because it was the first time I spent more than one hundred dollars for a meal. I think it was more like $125. But we enjoyed it and it was worth every penny.

And then, well I’m just trying to be brief here. Then we went to Germany and we went through the Kiel Canal and to Berlin.The kids and parents stood along the canal and waved as we passed by. In Berlin we took the train from Rostock then had a tour and lunch. We went to the KaDeWe the world’s largest department store and I got donked on the head in the parking garage. We saw the newly restored Oberbaum Bridge in Friedrichshain, Tempelhof airport recently closed and site of the Berlin Airlift. We also saw the recently restored French and German cathedrals at the Gendarmenmarkt.
Also the old Cafe Moscow restaurant in East Berlin where Ted D. and I had eaten so many years ago (Nov. 1977.)  Once a showcase of E. Berlin, it was closed and looked pretty crummy. The thing about that place was it had a huge menu 90% of the things on that menu were never available. It was my fourth trip to Berlin. Of course the old Berlin wall was gone.

Then the ship went to St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and finally Copenhagen.

In St Petersburg Margaret and your mother went to the opera performance while I took you kids to the circus. I tried some Vodka and a man thought Marion was so cute he gave her a little wooden doll with a real fur collar. Russia had really changed since I had been there in 1974. You and I had a little adventure in the Hermitage. Some old ladies from Minneapolis were so incensed that you had sat in one of the chairs in the museum that we got separated from the group, missed the bus and had to take a cab then walk two miles back to the ship which would have been alright except I had Marion’s passport and they wouldn’t let her back on the ship till I got there.

And then on the way back to Dover in the middle of the night our ship was struck by a container ship in the English Channel and we were all almost killed. And they called the general quarters and they had the Delta, Delta, Delta with the emergency command. And they had us put on our life jackets and we stood there for an hour but they determined the ship was safe. We didn’t actually have to get into the lifeboats. But as it turned out we were crossing the English Channel and the container ship was coming through. So we had the right of way but it struck us.

The container ship was owned by Evergreen from Taiwan. Containing paint, it caught fire and burned for weeks in the English Channel off Margate.  

Ok, I’m back. I had to take a break. That was 10 minutes. I’ll elaborate on that trip later. That was certainly – Berlin and St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen – wonderful, wonderful things. We bought Teddy a watch in Copenhagen, I think; it was a watch wasn’t it? It was a very special watch. It had a compass, calculator and many other special things (view slideshow.)

We went to the store where they painted the Royal Copenhagen figures. That was a special shopping street. Margaret liked that. That night we went to the Tivoli amusement park and had a faartarme. That’s a special thing they have for kids in Denmark filled with candy and little toys.

Well, okay, so now I want to get to the last trip before I forget. Um, which was to France? We went to… This time we took Margaret. It was March of 2001. Katie got an internet bargain for us. We got a week’s hotel in Paris and airfare for the 4 of us and then we added Margaret on at no extra charge. So we stayed in Paris for a few days and went to the Louvre with the kids. And that was probably the highlight of the trip was getting the Louvre trip with Margaret. And then we went to the Jardin de plantes which was Marion’s pick. Everybody got a pick.  The cab driver was interesting and he wanted to know why the kids weren’t in school we said spring break and he didn’t understand then we said Easter break. And then we went to museum of Cluny and saw some famous tapestries and Roman baths in the basement. Everyone liked that museum. And of course we went to many book stores. We got around Paris pretty well although we had trouble in the beginning because the hotel that we were supposed to stay in was overbooked. So we ended up getting in the 15th Arrondissement which is a residential area. But Saturday morning we just walked down the big boulevard looking in shops and cafes. We enjoyed that. We eventually ended up getting split up on the Metro but somehow got together again for lunch at the Louvre. We found a nice shop selling office supplies from Japan and I ended up having something strange for lunch. That turned out to be a great day. We had a hard time getting a taxi for five people you had to order them because taxis don’t cruise around the streets the way they used to because of the price of gas. Margaret could barely keep up with us.

We had a hard time picking up the rental car it took over an hour and a half. We couldn’t find the office and didn’t have a GPS. We rented the biggest French car they had but the kids thought it was too small. We should have rented a Buick.

Well, then we drove to Normandy. First we went to Rouen the capital of Normandy. I had read about it in French class. It was beautiful. We saw the tomb of Richard Lionhearted and Mathilde daughter of Henry I and Queen of England and Germany. The Plantagenet family ruled this part of France from England until the time of Joan of Arc. They were all entombed in the famous cathedral, the one that Claude Monet painted for his study of light. We would visit his home in Giverny on the way back.
Also Napoleons home Malmaison.

We drove to Honfleur which was beautiful and on the coast and Winston Churchill had stayed there and it was very near the big port of Le Harve. Margaret and I had crème brulee every night for desert. We stayed in a very nice refurbished old hotel. We loved it.

But we went the other way. Katie had always wanted to go into Mont Ste Michelle. So that’s where we went. And we drove there and spent 3 or 4 hours there and watched the tide come in and out and then we drove back and it was spectacular. On the way there we found a little village that made copper pots just by accident, just little cooking pots. They were very reasonably priced. So we bought a pot and we bought little vases and we had a very nice lunch, and they gave us a little tour of their factory. This was right before the euro conversion in 2002 and the euro stood at about 60 cents to the dollar. Everywhere we went things were very reasonably priced. Marion and I had a seafood cocktail tower in Honfleur which was about oh I don’t know 16 or 18 inches tall and it had every kind of seafood you could imagine from lobster to mussels to clams to prawns and it was delicious.

Back in Paris we drove right by la defense, the business district of Paris. I remember because I did most of the driving. Also, in Paris we went to a special Alsatian restaurant right on the Champs d’Elysees and I told the children it was going to be too expensive. We wouldn’t be able to eat there. But we could just walk along the Champs d’Elysees. But actually we ate there. I think with the 5 of us even with wine it cost about $125. So if we went back today in 2009 it would probably be $300. So anyway that was the last trip that we took with Margaret Lewis. It was trip #5.

This year, 2011 we returned from Rome. It would be at least a hundred dollars a person because the Euro is so strong.

There was one more trip. That was with Margaret, Voss and Tom to Greg and Anne’s wedding in Hamilton, Bermuda. I didn’t go on that trip but  your mother did

Okay, well, this is an addendum to that previous memo because we’ve been talking about it and I’m going back to that ’99 Scandinavian cruise and for the sake of thoroughness I believe our ship was going through the channel and the container was crossing from Dover to Oostende or another port maybe in the Netherlands or Belgium and the international seaway rules state that the ship going the shorter distance, which would be the one crossing the canal would have the right of way over the ship going through the canal which we were coming from Copenhagen which makes sense because it gives you more time to maneuver.

Anyway that accident, as we discovered later on another cruise, was one of the most studied accidents in maritime history.

On our Alaskan cruise we met a pilot and he was amazed that Katie and I had been on that trip. I never thought I was going get your mother to go on another cruise again in our lives. It took some convincing on that Alaskan cruise to the Aleutian Islands, Bearing Sea and Kamchatka. We enjoyed that. We’ve enjoyed all our trips. But that’s for another blog

Las Meninas 1974

European Journal Ted Gast 1974

In the summer of 1974 a group of 30 students and 3 chaperones from Ladue High School in St. Louis went on a five-week study abroad program in Europe, visiting Madrid, Rome, Florence, Vienna, Moscow, Leningrad (former USSR) and London. Here is the appendix to the journal I kept on that tour. I was 17. As I recall the cost for the five-week trip was $1200.


Las Meninas


Oil on canvas this is a really big painting. Baroque court painter to king Felipe IV, during his reign the Spanish Empire would reach its zenith in Europe, Asia and Latin America,  including Mexico. The painting tells an important story. It is the story of the court painter preparing to paint the young infanta with her maids in waiting.  You can see him and the canvas as well as all of the attendants and the girl’s parents in the background.

10’5″ x 9’1″

The Watergate crisis reached its peak as the Committee voted on July 27, 1974, to recommend three articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. By early August 1974, it was evident that President Nixon did not have the support of Congress to continue in office. A delegation of senior Republicans went to the White House to inform the president that he would not survive a vote on impeachment in the House of Representatives, or a subsequent trial in the Senate.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is exiled from the Soviet Union.  His book The Gulag Archipelago can be seen in the windows of bookshops in  all of the capitals of Europe, except Russia.

Movies Popular in 1974

MacKenna’s Gold loser movie showing in Moscow at the time as a supposed blockbuster. Actually it was a cheap Western starring Gregory Peck and Julie Newmar and was the only American film to pass tough Soviet censorship. When I was 9 years old every boy I knew had a crush on Julie Newmar as Catwoman from the TV Show “Batman”.  Other popular movies of 1974 and The Towering Inferno, Chinatown, Murder on the Orient Express, and the Godfather Part II.  The James Bond movie of the year was The Man with the Golden Gun and Blazing Saddles was also a very Popular film. Young Frankenstein all the rage in Puerto del Sol in Madrid.

Julie Newmar



Detail Michelangelo

Deservedly one of the most famous places in the world, the Sistine Chapel is the site where the conclave for the election of the popes and other solemn pontifical ceremonies are held. Built to the design of Baccio Pontelli by Giovannino de Dolci between 1475 and 1481, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned it. It is a large rectangle with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and it is divided into two unequal parts by a marble screen. The screen and the transenna were built by Mino da Fiesole and other artists.

The frescoes on the long walls illustrate parallel events in the Lives of Moses and Christ and constitute a complex of extraordinary interest executed between 1481 and 1483 by Perugino, Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Domenico Ghirlandaio, with their respective groups of assistants, who included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and others; later Luca Signorelli also joined the group.

Swiss gaurd at Vatican

The barrel-vaulted ceiling is entirely covered by the famous frescoes which Michelangelo painted between 1508 and 1512 for Julius II. The original design was only to have represented the Apostles, but was modified at the artist’s insistence to encompass an enormously complex iconographic theme which may be synthesized as the representation of mankind waiting for the coming of the Messiah. More than twenty years later, Michelangelo was summoned back by Paul III (1534-49) to paint the Last Judgement on the wall behind the altar. He worked on it from 1536 to 1541.

Interior Dome of Saint Peters


I sent a package of stuff home today. I tried and tried to get the Putzfrau (maid) to understand that I wanted a box. I couldn’t think of the word in German. I finally learned the word I wanted was Schachtel.

html Diese Idee kennt Ihr vielleicht schon von Karton & Co. Kerstin (6) hat sie aus der Schule mitgebracht: hübsche, bunte Papierschachteln mit und ohne Deckel, die man für viele Kleinigkeiten oder zum Verschenken prima gebrauchen kann.


Ihr braucht pro Schachtel oder Deckel ein quadratisches Stückchen Papier, am schönsten bunt oder bemalt. Dazu Klebstoff und Schere.

FaltanleitungSchachtelAus dem Papierchen faltet Ihr die “Tafel Schokolade” (s. Grundtechniken). Jetzt nehmt Ihr die Schere und schneidet an zwei gegenüberliegenden Seiten die beiden äußeren Faltknicke bis zum ersten Querknick ein. (Auf der Zeichnung sind das die blauen Linien.) Jetzt könnt Ihr jeweils die beiden Quadrate neben den Einschnitten übereinanderschieben und festkleben. Wenn Ihr das an allen vier Ecken getan habt, ist eine Eurer Schachteln schon fertig.

Den Deckel macht Ihr genauso. Weil Papier ja nachgiebig ist, macht es nichts, daß Deckel und Dose gleich groß sind, man kann sie trotzdem übereinanderschieben, und sie halten auch sehr gut zu.

You may already be familiar with this idea from your school.

For each box or lid you will need a squared piece of paper, also scissors and glue… Brightly colored or painted paper works best. Fold as in the diagram.

Now take the scissors and cut two sides across from one another to the first mark (shown on the drawing as blue lines.) Fold the square-cut sides under each other and glue them. After you have done that to each of the four sides, your box is done.

The lid is made in the same way. Because paper is so pliable it doesn’t matter that the lid and the box are the same size. One will be able to stretch them over one another and they stay together very well. (trans by author TCG)


Visit Empress Sisi’s former summer residence. This baroque complex contains an enchanting park, the Palm House, the Gloriette and a zoo. Spend an entire day at Schönbrunn: visit the show rooms with a “Grand Tour with Audio Guide,” admire the splendid Bergl Rooms, and stroll through the “Labyrinth.”

Vienna Schoenbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe. The Habsburgs resided here the better part of the year in numerous rooms for the large imperial family in addition to representational rooms. Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful its splendid furnishings

Soviet Union

Moscow Kremlin Czar Bell

Here is something I remember about Moscow. We arrived in Moscow by plane from Vienna via Domodedovo airport Аэропорт Москва-Домодедово (DME). Our Hotel was a Sputnik Hotel very drab and dreary. With a very interesting shower system. Basically you just shut the door and turned on the water, with a drain in the floor, the whole bathroom became the shower no such thing as a shower stall or bathtub, and better not take anything in there with you like a towel it would just get soaking wet. Typical of other cities in Europe the wash basin was in the room. Sputnik caters to students and Eastern Europeans so not a class of luxury? that most people remember with Intourist. This was the SU as it really was. I remember the breakfasts at the hotel large and lavish including lots of yogurt and fermented mare’s milk from central Asia. No I did not try it. I couldn’t get Roger to try it either. I met many East Germans Cuban and other Soviet allies including a man from Baghdad. I Soon realized he was closer to Baghdad than I was to St. Louis. He gave me a Post card which I still have. They were either working in Moscow or on vacation.

I will now relate my trip to the Moscow Zoo. The Moscow Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world; it is the oldest in Russia. I went to the Zoo in search of the Pandas. Richard Nixon had recently returned from China with two Pandas for the National Zoo in Washington so Pandas were a big deal. I had heard about the Pandas at the Moscow Zoo and I wanted to find them the bad news was everyone else was doing other things, so I had to go by myself. I was just 17 at the time so this was a big deal.  I even had to get special permission. I got detailed instructions and memorized the subway line in cyrillic. I even found my way back. I wouldn’t be so lucky in Leningrad.

Three years later in Belgrade as Ted D. and I had to get to the Bulgarian Embassy in a hurry.  Ted was worried because he couldn’t read any of the street signs.  I said don’t worry I can read cyrillic.

Anyway I soon got to the zoo and found many animals including tigers, monkeys and fish, but I soon found out that Chi-Chi the panda had died in 1969. I found an interesting was of communicating I drew a caricature of a panda in my notebook and showed it to a man with a little boy on his shoulders.  He drew a line across his neck made a clicking sound and said Morte!–DEAD. It was much more difficult getting information back then before the internet, especially about a closed society like the Soviet Union. There were almost no tour books and even a simple map was hard to come by.Getting our visas was also an ordeal, we filled out all our forms in triplicate and sent them in and just hoped everything was alright and that they came back before we had to leave. Susie had problems because she had relatives in the Soviet Union and she wanted to visit them in Leningrad.  She did get to have lunch with her Aunt and cousin at the hotel Astoria and it all turned out alright.

I also remember a night-time boat cruise on the Moscow River I had a nice discussion with a man from Poland, also an Eastern bloc country. This was a formative moment in my love of languages as I realized that each country had its own language.  This man spoke several languages himself including Polish, Russian, German and English.

and an Opera Boris Gudinov at the modern Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin. We visited the Hotel Rossiya downtown the largest in the world at that time, it has since been torn down. We were looking for something to eat the best we could do was some cold salami and cheese with rolls. The restaurant situation in Moscow was definitely for people in the know. We were not in the know.

I first saw the Mona Lisa at the Pushkin art Museum in Moscow. The Pushkin is the grand Art Museum of Moscow. It has copies of many of the famous works of art of the world such as Michelangelo’s David. I had the feeling that the Soviet’s were trying to pass off these copies as the original. The Mona Lisa was on special tour from the Louvre in Paris. It was on a special world tour which included New York and Tokyo. It was one of the few times the Mona Lisa has ever left Paris.

The VDNKh is the Exhibition of economic achievements it is a large fair ground in Moscow. It still exists today. We spent a morning here visiting the various exhibits on agriculture and such things. We were constantly being extolled on the great achievements of the USSR and other propaganda. I remember a huge golden fountain depicting the 15 republics in the Soviet Union. We had a wonderful guide during our stay named Alla. I corresponded with here for many years even into college. She eventually married a Englishman named Tony and moved to London. I never heard from her again. She was very interested in American literature such as Mark Twain and Edie sent her many paperback books.

The Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon

Czar Cannon Just outside Cathedral Square, you find the stunning cannon. The Czar Cannon, built in 1586. It’s considered the largest cannon in the world, sixteen feet long, weighing 85,000 pounds. It was Czar Fyodor I, Ivan the Terrible’s son, who commissioned master craftsman Andrei Chekov to cast the giant bronze weapon to better protect the Kremlin.

Czar Bell At the foot of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, rests a monument to the grand days of the Romanov Dynasty. The Czar’s Bell. It was Czarina Anna I, who commissioned the bell in 1734, a fulfillment of the dream of her grandfather, Czar Alexei. The huge bronze bell was to be the biggest and clearest sounding bell in the world. Unfortunately, before the bell was raised, it cracked in a fire in 1737. Two hundred tons of silence are all that remain.

Tsar Cannon Kremlin


Andrei Rublev Trinity Icon

Mind you, there was one place in Moscow where you could always find something worth buying. The "beryozka", the "silver birch" store. It was such a beautiful name, but what a shameful shop.
Stocked to the hilt with the kind of Western goods ordinary Soviet stores could only dream of, it was designed for foreigners with dollars and deutschmarks, as well as members of the communist elite.

There were guards on the door to keep ordinary Muscovites out. Tinted windows concealed the Aladdin’s cave of French cheese and Swiss chocolate, video recorders and fur coats. And all that was just 15 years ago.

Moscow State Tretyakov Gallery of Art

We went to the unveiling of the Khrushchev grave and tombstone in Moscow. We were among the first groups to see it. He had recently been rehabilitated and his body moved from Mongolia where he died in disgrace.

Our group would also be honored by a special party at the Lenin Library.


1974 Ernst Neizvestny creates tombstone for Nikita Khrushchev at Novodevechiy Monastery in Moscow, the 970-meter decorative relief for Institute of Electronics and Technology in Moscow, and a sculptural monument “Wings” for Institute of Light Alloys in Moscow. Takes part in “Progressive Currents” exhibition at Bochum Museum in West Germany. Great Crucifixion acquired by Vatican Museum permanent collection.

Novodiechy Cemetary

Peter the Great Confronts his Son

Russian Orthodox Church

Canonizes Last Tsar

On the eve of the Orthodox Feast, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Russian Orthodox Church officially decided to canonize Tsar Nicholas II, his wife the Tsarina Alexandra and their five Royal Imperial children, the young Grand Duchess’ Olga, Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia and the young Prince the Tsarevitch Alexei. This debate began over 80 years ago, after the family’s brutal execution at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Nicholas II and his family
Th last Czar of Russia

A little over two years ago, on July 17, 1998, Friday, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children were finally buried in the Tsar’s Tomb at Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg.

The vote, taken by the Council of Bishops during their recent meeting, for canonization was unanimous. Most of the 853 individuals the Council has canonized in the past century have been martyrs who died at the hands of the Soviets.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexy II, and roughly 150 bishops debated, once and for all, the issue of the Tsar’s spiritual life and qualifications for sainthood. Supporters of this action have long insisted that the Tsar was anointed by God and was incapable of stopping the communist takeover of Russia. Those who have opposed the Tsar’s canonization insist that he was weak, aloof and unconcerned about the suffering of his people.://


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

b. 1696 Venice, d. 1770 Madrid I saw this painting at the royal palace in Madrid and fell in love with Tiepolo immediately. Below see his crucifixion from the St. Louis art museum. It has recently been removed from public view.

Painter; Draftsman


Born into a wealthy and noble family in Venice, Giambattista Tiepolo was recognized by contemporaries throughout Europe as the greatest painter of large-scale decorative frescoes in the 1700s. He was admired for having brought fresco painting to new heights of technical virtuosity, illumination, and dramatic effect. Tiepolo possessed an imagination characterized by one of his contemporaries as “all spirit and fire.”

A gifted storyteller, Tiepolo painted walls and ceilings with large, expansive scenes of intoxicating enchantment. In breath-taking visions of mythology and religion, the gods and saints inhabit light-filled skies. His ability to assimilate his predecessor and compatriot Paolo Veronese’s use of color was so profound that his contemporaries named him Veronese redivio (a new Veronese).

Tiepollo Crucifiction Saint Louis Art Museum


Tiepolo’s commissions came from the old-established families of Italy, religious orders, and the royal houses of Spain, Germany, Sweden, and Russia. His frescoes adorn palaces, churches, and villas, and his artistic legacy consists of some eight hundred paintings, 2,400 drawings, two sets of etchings, and acres of fresco. When Tiepolo died at the age of seventy-four, a Venetian diarist noted the “bitter loss” of “the most famous Venetian painter, truly the most renowned…well known in Europe and the most highly praised in his native land.”;jsessionid=16f06j5jjb65e?dsid=2222&dekey=Giovanni+Battista+Tiepolo&sbid=lc04a&linktext=Tiepolo


When we reached London we finally found out what was happening to President Nixon, no word of his troubles reached us while in Russia all word of his troubles had been blocked out the 11 days we were in the Soviet Union. He would resign in shame the day after I got back.

Also saw an interesting protest of Cypriots on the way to our Hotel in London. The problem still exists to this day July 2008.


China’s panda ambassadors

By Kate McGeown

BBC News

World leaders might once have felt slighted if they returned from China without at least one panda.

During the Cold War the animals were given as goodwill gestures, to such an extent that the term “panda diplomacy” was coined to describe the exchange of these furry ambassadors.

Taiwan is the latest potential recipient, after China offered to send two giant pandas to the island to mark a ground-breaking visit to Beijing by Taiwan’s opposition leader Lien Chan.

But for the Chinese, the giant panda is the ultimate gift.

“The panda is China’s key cultural icon,” said Phil Dean at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“It’s a symbol of friendship and peace. It’s cute and cuddly, and sends all the right messages of goodwill,” he said.

Pandering to demand

Panda diplomacy began in earnest in the 1960s and 70s. One of the most famous examples was Chairman Mao’s gift of Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling to US President Richard Nixon in 1972.

Two years later, UK Prime Minister Edward Heath returned from China with two additions for London Zoo, Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia. Some pandas proved less diplomatic than their donors had originally intended. Ming-Ming, a female panda sent to mate with London Zoo’s resident male Bao Bao, was recalled to China in disgrace after the two fought each other and failed to produce any cubs. But despite their occasional refusal to comply with official demands, Chinese pandas have proved important political tools.

In 1964, British diplomats were so concerned about the diplomatic ramifications of sending a panda named Chi-Chi from London to Moscow that one foreign office mandarin was quoted as saying: “It may have important results in exacerbating the Sino-Soviet dispute. I can see no political objection, but you may wish to warn the Secretary of State.”

Panda fever

Eventually, so many pandas were leaving China that conservationists began to complain about the exodus.

Giant pandas are an endangered species, threatened by continued loss of habitat and a very low birth-rate, especially in captivity.

Only 1,600 are believed to survive in the wild, 1,000 of which are in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Nowadays almost all pandas exported abroad are on loan rather than donated – and often their rates are pricey.

When Washington was given Tian Tian and Mei Xiang in 2000, as replacements for its original pandas, they were on a 10 year loan and private donors paid $18m for the privilege, according to the Washington Post.

But the US was lucky – in recent years few pandas have been sent outside China, especially if they are not required for research purposes.

Of course, in China’s eyes, donating pandas to Taiwan does not amount to sending them abroad at all.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, though Taiwan’s government does not agree.

According to Phil Dean, the panda offer may work in China’s favour.

Taiwan does not have any pandas of its own, and Mr Dean predicted that their addition to the island might cause “panda fever” to set in, as excited Taiwanese flock to see the animals.

He drew similarities with the intense American interest in Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling when Richard Nixon brought them back to Washington in 1972.

Pro-independence groups on the island, he warned, would be less keen on the plan.

“It will increase Taiwan’s cultural links with China. It’s a way for Beijing to say it cares about the people of Taiwan, and at the same time remind them that they are also Chinese,” he said.

The pandas themselves are unlikely to be aware of the political fanfare surrounding their visit. Pawns in a political game, they will be merely swapping one zoo for another.

The Lindley Players present Billy

A Musical based on ‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse and Willie Hall. Book by  Dick Clement and Ian La Francis, Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Don Black. This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd

This riotous musical comedy, based on Keith Waterhouse’s all-time classic play ‘Billy Liar’, is bound to have you splitting your sides with laughter and tapping your toes to its tunes this summer.

Set against the grim background of 1960s Yorkshire life, it tells of the dreams and lies of Billy as he seeks to escape his humdrum job, his overbearing family and his two fiancées in the search for the bright lights of London in the believe that some of us ‘belong to the stars’

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/05/03 13:24:35 GMT


BILLY (Sony Music)

Like My Sister Eileen and Auntie Mame, Billy Liar is one of those properties that has succeeded in multiple incarnations. The story of a young undertaker’s assistant who escapes his dreary Yorkshire existence through elaborate daydreams, Billy Liar was first a 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse. The following year, it became a well-received West End play by Waterhouse and Willis Hall, originally starring Albert Finney, who was succeeded by Tom Courtenay.

Story continues below

In between the TV series and the sequel book, Billy Liar became Billy, an elaborate West End musical that opened at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (where The Producers is now playing) on May 1, 1974. (This is not to be confused with the Broadway musical Billy, based on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, which ran one performance in 1969.) Ian La Fresnais and Dick Clement based their libretto for Billy on the Waterhouse-Hall play.

The lyrics were by Don Black (Bombay Dreams, Dracula, Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, Sunset Boulevard), the music by John Barry, who had already composed the scores for the London musical Passion Flower Hotel and the American road-closer Lolita, My Love. Barry was the winner of several Oscars for his work in films; he and Black had collaborated on the Academy Award-winning song “Born Free” and on the title song for Thunderball, one of several James Bond films Barry scored. In 1982, Barry and Black would reunite to write the score for one more musical, Broadway’s The Little Prince and the Aviator, which closed in previews.

Billy was a brassy, Broadway-style musical, and it took advantage of the services of top-notch American choreographer Onna White. But its trump card was its star, Michael Crawford, who had done the film versions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Hello, Dolly! but was making his musical stage debut. At the time of Billy, Crawford was a household name owing to his role on a recent BBC TV comedy series, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.”

Following the opening night of Billy, The Daily Mail wrote, “There is no magic quite like being right there when a star is born,” and that was typical of the raves Crawford received. But his vehicle was equally acclaimed: The Daily Express called Billy “the most successful British musical since Oliver!,” while The Sunday People called it “the brightest British musical for years…it’s going to hoist brilliant Michael Crawford into the ranks of the superstars.”

The success of Billy was a striking achievement for the time. While Andrew Lloyd Webber was already on the scene with Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph…, those were new-style, through-sung pieces. Most conventional British musicals of the time were short-lived, sometimes charming mediocrities, and Billy was the rare home-grown show to win strong acclaim.

Some felt that Billy Liar had found its happiest form as a musical, and that’s because Billy’s active fantasy life, which revolves around his own private kingdom called Ambrosia, was embodied in dream sequences that became production numbers, not unlike the way protagonists’ dreams were embodied in the musicals Lady in the Dark or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In the number “Aren’t You Billy Fisher?,” Billy was transformed into a Fred Astaire-style song-and-dance star from Hollywood. Later, Billy dreams he’s a pop teen idol as he leads the number “The Lady from L.A.”

Notable among the featured players was a young actress with a big voice who had already toiled in the London productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Grease. Playing one of the women to whom Billy is engaged, the hard-boiled Rita, was Elaine Paige, who would get her big break four years later with Evita.

Billy played 904 performances, a very healthy run considering the vast size of the theatre. In 1976, the musical Billy had its German-language premiere at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. In 1991, a major stage revival starring Jonathon Morris (El Gallo in the film of The Fantasticks) was advertised but fell apart prior to rehearsal.

CBS’s London cast recording of Billy was briefly available on a Sony West End CD that quickly disappeared. With Crawford back on the London musical stage in The Woman in White, Billy is now back on CD, this time on the Sony Music label.

Circle Triangle square after Kandinsky by Ted Gast

Loaves and Fishes Original Artwork by Ted Gast

The best number is Crawford’s first solo, the song of a dreamer, “Some of Us Belong to the Stars.” There’s a strong duet for two of Billy’s girlfriends, a soprano (Gay Soper) and a belter (Paige), both awaiting the man they believe to be their fiance. It’s called “Any Minute Now,” and it allows Paige to display the enormous voice that would soon make her a star.

Paige is also heard in the pretty title trio, which adds another of Billy’s ladies to the mix. A production number, “Happy to Be Themselves,” has Billy’s friend explaining to the hero that some folk are content with their commonplace existence. When Billy thinks he may be able to escape his drab surroundings, he has the bright “Is This Where I Wake Up?”

Listeners will note that Crawford was still singing in the light, small, pleasant voice he used before pumping it up for Phantom. Billy doesn’t possess one of the better London scores, and probably falls into the mediocre-but-pleasant category. But as Crawford’s first musical, it’s worth hearing.