CVIndependent

Fri02282020

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I’m starting a new streaming-radio gig on iHub Radio (ihubradio.com), That’s Life, after 10 years of doing a call-in talk-show about politics (which I’ll still be doing on iHub as well). That’s Life will be an hour-long show airing weekdays that explores the things that make us all able to relate to each other—subjects like, “Did you ever see your father cry?” or, “What’s the worst job you ever had?”

Well, that covers two shows during my first week. I admit that I’ve struggled to come up with ideas that span all cultures and ages, and will lead to an entertaining daily show.

This brings us to the amazing group of seniors who attend the weekly You Don’t Have to Be Hemingway writing club; I wrote about them in 2014. The group recently held its sixth twice-a-year “recital,” led by creative director Helen Klein, whose idea it was to start this group. Other participants were residents Phyllis Tucker, introduced by Helen as the queen of Las Serenas, the Palm Desert residential complex where the group meets; Jean Ashworth, once with NASA; Karyn Marmo, whom Helen describes simply as “very funny”; multilingual Rosie Nathan; and Janet Arnot, “grandma deluxe and aerospace aficionado.”

Although they are not professional authors, these women produce stories, memoirs and poetry that are touching, revealing, humorous and enlightening. Most of the writing is done in response to “prompts” that Helen proposes—topics like, “What is your best memory?”; “What do you wish you had known when you were younger?”; “Do you remember something you gave away that you wish you had kept?”; and “Imagine three figurines, a bowl, and a lace doily, then write a story about it.”

You know … prompts that are rather similar to the topics that will be covered on my radio show.

One of the most touching readings was by Phyllis Tucker, “Basking in Beauty,” about the beauty of the innocence of a child bringing the promise of a better tomorrow; the beauty of friendship and being part of the older generation; and what is learned from making mistakes along the way. She recognized the beauty in all of life, and love, and asked, “Who would want to live without it?”

She also expressed her humorous side with “Rudolph’s Resignation Letter,” about the red-nosed icon deciding to take a position with another herd.

Helen Klein wrote “Vertically Challenged,” about her own efforts to transcend being an ever-shrinking short woman. “Everyone is taller than me,” she lamented, “but I think about the list of ‘shorties’ including Harriet Tubman (civil rights pioneer), Charlotte Bronte (of the famous literary family), Clara Barton (the nurse who started the American Red Cross), and John Hancock (a leading patriot during the American Revolution and the first Governor of Massachusetts).” Good company to be in. She completed her story with, “Now if I could only find something to wear!”

Jean Ashworth has recollections of a simpler life growing up in rural Canada in “And They Call It Progress.” Jean considered what her grandparents might think of how life has changed. “I don’t think after having seven children that my grandmother would have thought much of Viagra!”

Rosie Nathan wrote about “A Big Stack of Records” she once found, noting that everything will die one day, but music will live eternally. Another of her stories was “Surprise, Surprise,” about a man suffering color-blindness who finds sunglasses with “magic lenses” and cries with pure joy when he finds himself in a technicolor wonderland. Rosie also tackled “Springtime Again” with images of flowers blooming, the sun shining, clear air, the smell of oranges, and a nest of robins. She’s carried away with the enchantment of it all.

Karyn Marmo penned a three-part account of “Passing the Baton,” involving a dog for which she was baby-sitting … and her husband’s efforts to buy the dog. “I didn’t want another dog. It looked like a small sheep with no hair. At the vet, it took a split second for the dog to need to be muzzled, looking like a miniature Hannibal Lecter.” By part three, “The little dog I swear I didn’t want is now the little dog I love.”

Janet Arnot’s contributions included “It’s the Pits,” recounting the time the gorgeous love of her life had just proposed … to her sister. “There he is,” she recounted. “I want to be swept up by him, the man of my dreams. I look across the room and see them holding hands and then he gets down on one knee. This isn’t how I pictured it.”

Helen closed the recital with “Say What?” “I consider myself a pretty nice person, a good-natured, even-tempered individual, but sometimes I get really pissed off! I may be in my 90s, but I certainly have all my faculties.” She then proceeded to rap!

These women—with their imaginations, energy and talent—are inspirations to me, especially now that I need a broad, all-encompassing subject five days a week. Some questions I’ve come up with so far came straight from “Hemingway” prompts:

“Who have you always wished you looked like?”

“What was your first time away from home, and how did you handle it?”

“What’s the most disturbing call you’ve ever received?”

“What do you remember most about your mother?” (Jean recalled that her mother only ever wore one perfume. “Whenever I feel myself missing her, I put some on.”)

“What was it like where you grew up?”

“What’s your favorite memory?”

I have my own story for every question. If you do as well, call me when I’m on the air at iHub Radio, and let’s talk.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal” Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Those of a certain age will remember Ish Kabibble, the zany cornet player with the strange haircut who played with bandleader Kay Kyser in the 1940s and 1950s, appearing on radio, television and the big screen.

Kabibble was born Merwyn Bogue in 1908 in Pennsylvania. According to his daughter Janet Arnot, a Palm Desert resident, he originally studied piano, but didn’t like it—however, he liked the sound of the trumpet. Bogue got one when he was 12, and learned on his own how to play “God Bless America.” Hanging around speakeasy clubs, Bogue fell in love with Dixieland jazz.

While in his third year of pre-law studies at West Virginia University, Bogue was playing with small bands. At a dance in 1931, bandleader Hal Kemp asked from the stage, “Is there a trumpet player in the audience?” Bogue sat in, and within months, he heard from Kay Kyser, an old friend of Kemp; he asked Bogue to try out for first chair in Kyser’s band. Musician friends told him he had to know how to triple-tongue; he learned, practiced and played without a hitch. Bogue got the job.

“He got this telegram,” says Arnot, “saying, ‘No whisky, no mustache, clean cut.’”

His father agreed he could drop out of school and pursue music, but he had to promise he would someday complete his degree—a promise he finally kept at age 70.

One of the comedic songs in the Kyser repertoire was a song, “Isch Gabibble,” taken from a mock-Yiddish expression meaning, “What, me worry?” (Yes, it’s the same slogan adopted by Mad Magazine.) When Kyser became host of the popular ’30s radio program Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, Bogue portrayed a silly character called Ish Kabibble, called down from the bandstand to join Kyser on the stage as a comic sidekick. Bogue wore his dark hair with funny bangs, and dressed like a bumpkin. He would tell funny jokes and poems, and is known by music-lovers of the time for his chant, “boop boop dittem dattem whattem chu,” in the band’s hit “Three Little Fishies,” which topped Billboard’s pop chart in 1939.

In spite of the funny persona, Bogue was a standout soloist with Kyser’s band for nearly 20 years, and he served as the business manager for the orchestra.

One of Ish Kabibble’s poems flows easily from Arnot:

I sneezed a sneeze into the air.

It fell to earth I know not where.

But you shoulda seen the looks on those

In whose vicinity I snoze.

As for family life, “Dad met my mom (Janet Meade), when she was 17, and he was 21,” says Arnot. “She was with a date at a dance where he was playing. He saw her in the audience and said it was love at first sight. They started dating, but her father was upset that she was involved with someone in show business. She snuck out to see dad secretly, a daring thing to do at 17.”

They married a few years later. He had a gig in San Francisco that would pay no money, but would provide food and lodging and get them to California. He played at small places along the way, and by the time they arrived, he had 17 cents in his pocket—and some Lorna Doone cookies.

“They had to wait for another band member to show up to get enough for the toll to get across the bridge,” says Arnot. “They stayed married for over 60 years, dying within eight days of each other in 1994, and every year on their anniversary, he always gave her a box of Lorna Doones.”

Arnot is the youngest of Bogue’s three children.

“I was really too young to experience much of his time with Kyser,” she says. “After Kyser retired, dad teamed up with Mike Douglas (before he became a big talk-show host) doing something like a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis act. They had summer bookings all over the U.S., so we traveled in the back seat of a Ford woodie station wagon. For us kids, it was an adventure.

“In 1955, after he and Douglas split, he started a six-piece Dixieland group called The Shy Guys. He was often gone five months at a time, but whenever he was home, we were his priority. He was easy-going, caring, kind, a devoted father and husband. Mom was a trouper, but it was hard.”

When Arnot was 12, her dad was booked to play throughout Nevada.

“I was already enrolled in school. Mom said we were selling our house, putting stuff in storage, and going to be with my dad,” she said. “I remember once he was playing the lounge at the Fremont Hotel in Las Vegas. Kids couldn’t go in there, but sometimes, they would let us go behind the curtain. I would peek through a rip and watch his show. I especially remember one night after the show, we went to a restaurant with the rest of the band, and dad let me order a bowl of chili. Imagine, chili at 2 a.m.!

“That tour ended in Lake Tahoe, and mom decided she wanted to travel with dad, so we stayed with friends and went to school there,” says Arnot. “At 16, I was acting up so they sent me back. My dad greeted me with, ‘Whatever happened up there, you’re forgiven for being a troublemaker ... but you’re grounded!’ He was so trusting. I realized he deserved someone who would respect him. I turned over a new leaf.”

When Bogue was drafted in 1944, no less than Gen. Douglas MacArthur tapped him to join Kyser in entertaining the troops.

“He always felt a little guilty,” says Arnot, “because other guys were getting killed, and he was playing. But he brought so much joy to the troops.”

As for Arnot’s life: After a brief stint as a nun, she married, raised three daughters, and is now the grandmother of eight. Arnot was attendance clerk at Nellie Coffman School for nine years. Her parents were desert residents when they passed away.

“My dad was always happy when he could make people smile,” she recalls. “He was so compassionate. When I was 12, in my third junior high school, I remember crying to him that I didn’t have any friends. ‘I will always be your friend,’ he said. And he was.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors