The Media Blitz Begins

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Steve Potter

Steve Potter of STL TV will do my first interview about my book The Colorful Characters of St. Louis on Sept.  14 for broadcast later.

This will be the fourth time Steve’s interviewed me for a book. He’s always thorough. I look forward to our time together.

For me, it’ll be the official start of the selling season. People who want to write a book should realize that their job isn’t over when they turn in the manuscript. They have to push it to the public. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. On the other hand, I do enjoy talking about what I’ve found out. I’ll start that in my discussion with Steve.

 

 

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He Won’t Stop Dancing

 

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Beatle Bob

One day twenty years ago, Bob Matonis went to a rock concert. He went to another one the next night, another the night after that, and still another the night after that. On February 24, 2016, he claims, he spent his 7,000th night in a row away from home and at a live music show. Even if he’s missed a few nights, it seems the man better known as Beatle Bob never stops. Figuring just about everybody who’s hit the club scene has seen hit, he’s been out a lot.  “As long as there’s good bands out there, local or national, I’ll keep it going,” he said. Matonis maintains a Beatles moptop on his head, in honor of his all-time favorite foursome.

One night early in 2016, when he made his presence known at a concert in Blueberry Hill’s basement, the Duck Room. That night, he introduced a concert by singer and steel guitar player Roger Clyne. Thoughout the concert, Beatle Bob gyrated back and forth near the side of the stage.

Ron Stevens, a longtime local radio personality, said Matonis displays a passion for music in a town that loves music. “It’s very difficult to go out and appreciate live music without encountering Beatle Bob.”  Stevens encountered Beatle Bob when he crashed a party at Stevens house. But Stevens didn’t mind. “When Beatle Bob crashes a party, it’s a compliment.”

The story of Beatle Bob is one of 80 in my book The Colorful Characters of St. Louis,  which is coming out in mid-September. Join me at the book’s release party, from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at the Royale, 3132 South Kingshighway on the South Side.

Colorful Characters Goes to Press

the Colorful Characters of St. Louis coverfrontAfter more than a year of writing, rewriting, editing, designing, proofreading, and sweating, The Colorful Characters of St. Louis went to press last week. It’s great to come that closer to getting the final product in the middle of September.

With the final book comes the final cover above. It’s not that much different than before.  As with earlier versions, the faces of Colorful Characters Phyllis Diller, Steve Mizerany, Josephine Baker and Yogi Berra are outside. One newcomer is a living Colorful Character, Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, on the upper left hand corner. He’s the owner of The Royale at 3132 South Kingshighway on the South Side. I’ve known him since I wrote a story about a 2008 presidential election watch party in his courtyard for the old South Side Journal. I can say he deserves to be among the eighty Colorful Characters of St. Louis. The Royale will be the locale for my book release party from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, October 2. When you come, make sure you shake his hand. He’s looking forward to hosting you.

 

Champion of the Poultry Pilferers

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One of my favorite colorful characters terrorized canine and chicken critters for a couple of decades around the turn of the 20th Century. Tom Goabout was a champion of stealing chickens and swiping dogs.  Once police caught up with him after he’d stuffed two hens into a gunny sack in one yard  and then jumped a fence to another yard, where he placed two ducks into another sack. The cops nabbed him and used the birds for evidence.

From 1885 to 1905, the Post-Dispatch devoted deep vats full of ink to Goabout’s various incarcerations in the city jail, the city workhouse, and state penitentiaries. Close to 70 stories in all.

But he always made his way out again to terrorize chickens, dogs, and owners of both.  There were those who said Goabout had hypnotic power over dogs he pursued to purloin. “It is his boast that he can enter a strange yard or house on the darkest night and make away with the fiercest bulldog . . . or any breed of dog without arousing the suspicions of the owner and without arousing the suspicions of the owner and without permitting the animal to make the slightest noise or resistance,” the Post-Dispatch said. He’s one of 80 folks in my book The Colorful Characters of St. Louis, set for release in mid-September. To get one of the first autographed copies anywhere, mark your calendars and come to my book release party from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at the Royale, 3132 South Kingshighway in South St. Louis.

 

 

 

 

 

That Funny Lady on Mason Avenue

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Phyllis Diller

Phyllis Diller grew up in Ohio and probably never heard about a St. Louis hoosier before she lived here in the 1960s. But her monologues sounded like the latest gossip from a house on a Jefferson County back road with a rusted 1949 Ford pickups on blocks out front. The neighbor – “Mrs. Clean” – always bragged how she could eat off her kitchen floor, Diller told her audiences. “You can eat off my kitchen floor. Mustard, ketchup, baked beans.” Her mouth opened wide as she let loose with her eveready cackle.  Wherever she went, and in all of her pictures, her blonde hair stood up up like she’d just been shocked, and her eyes and mouth stayed wide open.  She’s one of eighty folks in my book, The Colorful Characters of St. Louis, which will be out in mid-September.

Diller wanted a central place in the United States where she could rest between gigs. Her kids already had spent time with relatives of her husband in a second floor apartment above the Eagle Drug on the southeast corner of Vandeventer Avenue and Shaw Boulevard, a short walk from the Missouri Botantical Garden. Now The Bug Store occupies the first floor. So she knew our town and was open to moving here. From 1962 to 1965, home was an eleven-room pink stucco colonial house on Mason Avenue in Webster Groves.  In the family’s basement were sack dresses Diller wore on stage, wig trees, feather boas, two pipe organs, a piano, drums and horns.  Diller left St. Louis and moved her family to Los Angeles in 1965,  but always remembered St. Louis with fondness.

When Bill Veeck Came to Town

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The Mighty Eddie Gaedel at Bat

With all the stunts he pulled, Bill Veeck was better suited to own a circus. He wound up filling more seats for baseball teams he owned in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis with tacky gimmicks like scoreboards that exploded after home runs, live lobster giveaways, and hiring a clown as a coach. The Hall of Fame baseball team owner is best known for bringing in a dwarf named Eddie Gaedel for one at-bat for his lowly American League St. Louis Browns.The American League brass grumped, but the stunt earned Bill Veeck guffaws from fans.  But in St. Louis, he might have been known for something much bigger, had he succeeded in his campaign to make the Browns the city’s only ball team.His weapon was flamboyant deeds meant to lure Cardinal fans to Browns games.

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Bill Veeck hard at work

Veeck might have done it, if Cardinals owner Fred Saigh hadn’t faced fifteen months in jail for tax evasion and had to sell his team. When Anheuser Busch announced in February 1953 it would buy the Cardinals and keep them in St. Louis, Veeck knew the game was over. He couldn’t compete with the beer barons. He sold the Browns to Baltimore businessmen who moved the team to their city and renamed it the Orioles. Veeck is one of eighty folks with St. Louis connections in my upcoming book, The Colorful Characters of St. Louis. Watch for it in mid-September. Then get your autographed copy at my book launch party from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, at the Royale, 3132 S. Kingshighway, on the South Side.

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Leroy “Satchel” Paige signs a contract with Browns owner Bill Veeck in 1951. All photos courtesy Missouri History Museum.

That Guy on the Overpass

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Raynard Nebbitt and his sister on his bridge over Interstate 44

For years, motorists on Interstate 44 passing through Webster Groves honked at that guy who always stood on the Rock Hill Road overpass. So did engineers on trains on nearby tracks. Everything went fine for Raynard Nebbitt until a nearby resident who worked at night complained all the honking kept her up. Then Nebbitt’s defenders asked the Webster Groves City Council to come to his defense. The council did more than that. It named the overpass after him. Raynard Nebbitt is one of eighty people of note in my book The Colorful Characters of St. Louis.

Now here’s an update: since the beginning of the day, Monday, Oct. 17, people have been viewing this post again and again. Here’s an update. As of today, Sunday, Oct. 23, there were just under 35,000.