Where have all the Bozos gone? Calling all Bozos!

Are there any real Bozos left?

The death of the best and brightest Bozo, Larry Harmon, at the age of 83 came as a surprise last night when the news broke and I was watching a ballgame. He was not the original, but he became the franchise.

A true entertainer of children and adults alike, Harmon trained hundreds of other Bozos (and made millions in trademarking the clown and its characture) in the fine art of clowning for kids who mostly believed there was only one Bozo. Each one was carefully selected by Harmon for energy, and a “gleam in their eye,” according to Harmon. They all portrayed Bozo within Harmon’s high standards of performance in their local Bozodoms.

I learned last night there was a 10-year waiting list for the Chicago live Bozo show in the 80’s (portrayed by Bob Bell) and in 1990 when they opened up the reservation list again it took only five hours to book the show for five more years.

I recalled and learned a lot about Harmon last night as I read about his mission. And this morning, while pondering life on a beatiful holiday morning on my deck with coffee I asked myself; “Why is it that there are no longer several significant human icons of quality entertainment and education for children?

It seems all the role-model characters for children these days are people hiding inside animal costumes (of weird colorful concoctions or are of some techno-gadget cartoon/video) with more adult qualities than an entertainer of children should have.

I have a theory on that.

My theory is that as parents became lazier and lazier they allowed televison and video games to supplant human follicking and sharing of the their own inner muse to pass the time. That’s not rocket science, but if you think further about what the children are missing by the type of direct human interaction from say a Bozo or Mr. Rodgers, or even Captain Kangaroo, it seems that we’re behaving as if it’s just not cool to frolic with your children. Give em the easy substitute and they’ll be fine.

Except that as generations pass, the inner muse of children and adults alike becomes muted and eventually goes away. And then it’s really not cool to frolick, you might be outcast or labelled as a pervert of sorts.

But all hope is not lost.

I know there are still people willing to let their inner-Bozo shine, I’ve met one personally in the form of Biffo-T-Clown. He (otherwise known as Steve Dolan) once embedded himself in the Ringling Circus as a reporter for the Daily Californian to write a story about a clowns.

Dolan loved making the children smile so much he made it an annual event for some time. One year, he even got me to serve as the Ringmaster for one night’s show. Later, I watched as a the master Ringling Bros. clown invited Biffo into his trailer to remove their makeup together. That’s the highest honor one clown can bestow upon antoher.

So let’s all remember that clowns are priceless at any age and still a requirement to spread the joy of the human spirit in our world today.

And the next time I call you “Bozo,” or someone refers to you as “a clown” take it as a compliment.

— 30 —

The Milky Road, or is it?

Does technology threaten or enhance reality?


Explanation: Inspired during a visit to Fort Davis, Texas, home of McDonald Observatoryand dark night skies, photographer Larry Landolfi created this tantalizing fantasy view. The composited image suggests the Milky Way is a heavenly extension of a deserted country road.

I use Netvibes to aggregate the content I need/desire on a daily basis and one of my favorite RSS feeds is a daily astronomy photo and explanation. Seeing the beauty and vast space we (really) live in opposed that which society would have us believe we inhabit opens my morning mind and reminds me how insignificant and  fleeting things that bother or innundate us with negativity truly are.

It spurs my spirituality.

Usually, the photos are taken through the Hubble telescope, an observatory, or one of NASA’s roving spacecraft carousing our solar system. They are always fantastic renderings of space and time. But the photo above is a composite of two actual pictures (description above, too) made into one artistic rendering of what could very well be a realistic site.

Except, it’s not.

And that always gives me pause and reminds me of the first time in my journalism career that technology made it easy to do this on computers, unseen and undetected by readers and consumers. At the Daily Californian in El Cajon, California we went to an AP Wire-photo desk and tossed the little blue box that had been churning out black and white photos on film paper via a satellite up-link. On this day in 1992 we had been live with the new digital service (which was essentially a very slow PC-based system that allowed thumbnails to dynamically populate images for downloading. I recall that the average photo took about a minute to render on the screen when one called it up to look at.

I also well recall the day that a group of senior citizens were visiting the paper and I was demonstrating the new technology. They were fascinated, enthralled and stood awestruck as we watched a new photo image right on the screen from top to bottom as it came in. As the top portions filled in, it was obvious it was of a human as the hair and top of the head imaged in. To make a long story short, the photo wound up being a bikini-clad Victoria’s Secret model who had achieved some celebrity status for one thing or another.

The men were cheering each digital sweep placing more and more of the image on the screen, a few of the women laughed and realized that in the universal context of things it was actually pretty ironic. And, of course, a couple of folks were quiet as they’d ever been for whatever reason.

But, I digress.

Shortly after digital photos began to replace film and darkroom development of journalistic endeavors, there was a hubub about a newspaper that eliminated an overhead wire from an upward-looking photo. The wire landed right below the boxers’ crotch in the photo and ran downward through the photo. Even left in, it would not have presented an image that was open to interpretation, it plainly looked like just an overhead wire. But the photo editor airbrushed it from the photo and cloned in similar bytes so it appeared it was not there.

In the discussion of ethics that ensued, the AP showed (and we did our own experimenting about) how easy it would be to do things with digital editing like move a ball approaching a first baseman’s mitt on a close play nearer to (or further away from) and even into the fielder’s glove which would change the reality of the the actual event.

And that’s the rub. Any changing of reality could be perceived as questionable, but we learn through our lives to fudge the lines a bit — especially when art is involved.

So I wonder this morning — as I once again pause on a contrived photo — how will this affect our youth over time. And what standards will their children have for such things? Just in my short time on this spaceship Earth, our children are literally born with the aptitude and chance to use software to create anything. And in another post, I will try to link these thoughts to the future of journalism but it’s Sunday.

And today, I choose to accept this photo for what it is: accurately-presented as a mixture of two images to create one worth seeing, acknowledge its beauty and save it for the future. But tonight, when I enjoy my weekly sojourn into galactic music and relaxation time I will definitely not use the photo as a guidepost upon which to steer this planet. For we would wind up completely off course and drifting aimlessly out of control on our collaborative journey at about 17,000 MPH through space.

Stats prove Vinman’s Vibe (below) on World Series

I’m no statistical genius. In fact, I couldn’t define a flip chart from a headlock, but when it comes to vibes, I’m pretty solid.

We learned yesterday that Fox’s coverage of the Boston Red Sox’s four-game World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies finished with an average rating of 10.6 percent of U.S. TV households, making it the second-lowest-rated World Series ever. But Fox was the top-rated network each night it aired a Series game (USA TODAY, p.1C).

Can you guess which World Series was the lowest? You got it, the 2006 World Series played in late October, in the rain, with pitchers blowing on their hands to stay warm and others checking out their breath-made steam smoke rings between Detroit and St. Louis.

2006 FOX 10.1 17
2007 FOX 10.6 18

Larry Himmel: The toughest story he’s covered…




To say Larry Himmel is or was a personal friend of mine during my time leading the newsroom at a daily paper east of San Diego would be stretching the truth. We were journalism colleagues back then and shared a few assignments, broadcasts and lunches together. Larry was beginning to make a name for himself as a local television commentator and reporter and we co-wrote a few newspaper columns together. He did one of his own for the Daily Californian for a couple of months and, as good people there always did, eventually tired of the publishers’ shenanigans and took his talent elsewhere.

Larry Himmel 

Still, had I walked up to his front door yesterday he would have welcomed me in — I’m sure — because that’s the kind of heart he has. And anyone who has lived in San Diego and had the pleasure of watching him on television for the last 15 years or so knows Larry would do the same for them.

Not tonight.

Earlier today, Larry’s home of 25 years burned in the California fires. Of all the reporting he’s ever done, today’s assignment was surely one of the toughest and most courageous he’s completed. His journalistic instincts took him to his own home only minutes after it had become a complete loss.

I wasn’t going to write tonight, until I saw this report on FOX News and Bill O’Reilly interviewing Larry at about 8 p.m. EST. His home had been gone since the morning. He had secured his family and pets elsewhere before he left home this morning and then had gone to work.

Ironic, that a man with talents the whole country could appreciate goes national in a story about how he covered his own home burning on the news. (click the You Tube link above)

Then I had to write, as writers often must. But I have nothing profound to say. My mother-in-law and her sister had to catch a plane and leave their vacation with my sister-in-law who still lives in San Diego and has almost all of her adult life. I felt removed from that today because I knew they were safe. But I’ve been thinking of others all day:

  • My good friend Howard Owens and his wife Billie who have a large community of family and friends back there after only recently moving to the eastern part of the country.
  • Other friends of mine who I haven’t caught up with in far too long.
  • And all of the 360,000 or so who have been evacuated and are unsure of their situations.

I am certain the news will report many stories of great heroism and human support for each other. Despite all the stereotypes about Californians, when it comes to caring for each other in crisis they know no rivals.

So all there is left to do is go to bed now and pray for these people and that the winds will change.

From the ”You Can’t Make this S*#t Up” File…(true story)

NOTE : The following story is absolutely true. It is being reprinted here from its original post of 2003 which had the permission of its author, Howard Owens. Owens, is a former colleague of mine at the paper in this story. It actually happened and is one of but many such wacky stories Howard and I share from those days. The Vinman is Vince Kern, the editor in this story. I thought readers of the Vibe would enjoy it………..

Well, good


 for Isaac …

By Howard Owens: HowardOwens.com

In any newsroom the clerks play an important role in helping to fill newsholes, gather information and keep a hectic, chaotic office functional. Clerks file obits, keep the police blotter, input weather reports, sort mail, and (in pre-internet days) input letters to the editor. They work for low pay and often deal with scorn or benign indifference from the rest of the staff. At a small paper, few in the newsroom take as much crap as the clerks.

So is it any wonder that during my three years at the Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif., we had a hell of a time keeping good clerks on staff?

It got so bad at one point that our editor, Vince Kern, took to hiring clerks from a temp service. And the first clerk placed with us by the temp agency was Isaac Cubillos. Isaac was a revelation. For a time, he was the best clerk we ever had. He dressed professionally and with flair; he was punctual and efficient. He was conscientious and devoted to his work. Hell, he even made the coffee every morning.

It wasn’t long before Vince decided that he needed to hire Isaac away from the temp agency.

It wasn’t long after that, however, that some of us started to get a feeling that all wasn’t as it seemed. Isaac started taking longer lunches. A few tasks went undone from time to time. Once in a while we didn’t get messages. Then one afternoon when he wasn’t at his desk, I answered his phone: “Yes, I’m calling for your editor, Isaac Cubillos,” the caller said. “Um, well, Isaac isn’t our editor, but I’ll take a message.” The caller was some PR agent, a reasonable enough call for the clerk to get, and for the PR agent to be confused about his title.

But then we reporters started talking. That caller wasn’t the first nor the last to refer to Isaac as the editor. (We would learn later that Isaac was telling PR agents he was editor and receiving free tickets to concerts and plays and other events.)

Vince laughed about it, but we wondered what was going on. We knew next to nothing about Isaac’s true background. He was obviously educated, intelligent and cultured. Why was he clerking? None of us could figure it out.

Then Isaac did a good deed for a reader, and that proved to be his undoing. The reader wrote a letter to the editor, which Isaac dutifully typed into the system, and the op-ed editor published. It praised Isaac by name for his help with some trivial matter.

Not surprisingly, law enforcement detectives read our paper, and within 24 hours of that letter hitting print, two detectives arrived in our front lobby.

Isaac, it turns out, was wanted in some San Diego fraud case. Isaac wound up doing about 18 months in jail, but his short time at the Daily Californian changed his life. He was bitten by the journalism bug. In jail, he studied journalism and ran the prison newspaper.

Upon his release, he landed a staff writer job with a Spanish-language paper in Chula Vista. He did some fairly good pieces there, even winning some investigative journalism awards.

But that isn’t the end of the story. As proof that life is forever filled with irony, I found out while in El Cajon this past Monday what Isaac is doing these days. Would you believe me if I told you that he is now EDITOR of The Californian, the weekly paper that succeeded our old employer?

Fiction has become reality.

I can’t make this shit up, honest.

Of course, not a lot people would believe, probably, that journalism could reform a man, but all evidence suggests that at least in the case of Isaac, it worked. Maybe there is a lesson in that. Or maybe it’s just an aberration.

BTW: The Californian should mention on it’s “About Us” page that East County Online was founded in 1995 as one of the first three weekly papers in the nation with a web site. Furthermore, I wouldn’t mind at all if it noted that the founder was Howard Owens and Steve Saint. I mean, if you’re going to give the history of the company, why not give it all?

Will the REAL 8 Mile Road Please Stand Up,

Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up,

‘Cause All You Other Roads are Just Imitators………

It was the first summery warm and sunny day of the summer and I had been invited to golf with a lifelong friend at Plum Hollow Country Club at 9 Mile Rd. and Lahser in the city just north of Detroit. About a 20-minute drive from my downtown office near Joe Louis Arena, the MGM Casino and the Detroit River and I would be in golf heaven with a dear friend.

I’ve made the drive before several times, and have been on that stretch of road since I was a kid. But now, it’s nationally renown thanks to Marshall Mathers’ story about the real Slim Shady, Eminem. So, naturally, when I drive on the road now I think about all Mathers is trying to say and how Detroit is portrayed versus what it really is and all I’ve known it to be in the decades I’ve lived and worked here.

So, on that day, I hit the Lodge freeway and shot north from downtown to the 8 Mile exit and the beginning of miles of strip clubs, nail boutiques, eyeglass centers, industrial office buildings, fast food joints, auto supply stores and food centers divided by a boulevard upon which high-wire electric wires that run from one side of the county to the other.

And I needed cash for the day.

Once before, on the same route a year earlier, I needed water or Gatorade so I stopped at a small white food center called the Food Center (picture). AS I drove, I recalled it had an ATM so I looked for it again and pulled into the parking lot crowded with noon-time customers, spotted the big ATM letters on a sign by the automatic doors, parked and walked inside.

There were old men standing along the walkway inside the store just talking. There were blue-collar workers standing in line buying quarts of beer to go with lunch. There were old women shopping, and only a few heads turned in surprise at a middle-aged white man in Dockers and a golf shirt strolling in to their world like it was business as usual. My childhood experiences and five years as a minority in an inner-city scrap yard and years in New York city allow me to feel safe and comfortable almost anywhere and I think people sense that.

I took off my sunglasses and smiled at the few people along my path, my eyes darting around for the ATM that was advertised on a sign outside the door. Nothing in the usual spot, so I walked around the register line and got deeper into the store.

“Where is the damn thing?” I wondered, “I know it’s here somewhere…..maybe I better ask someone.”

And as I turned I saw the big orange Lotto sign and register on a counter of its own with a 20-something young woman behind it with her head in her hands and elbows on the counter. I walked towards her thinking she must have been tired or bored from lack of customers, but as I traversed the 50 feet she didn’t move or even look up — at anyone.

Quietly, I walked to the front of the counter and in as low and soft and friendly a voice so as not to intrude excused my self for interrupting her and asked if there was an ATM in the store.

She raised her head above her hands revealing big black eyes, teary, sad and wet.

“Huh?” she managed as if anything else would hurt profusely.

Those eyes…..those sad wet eyes….I looked directly into them and tried to pull the sadness from her. “I’m sorry, miss are you ok?”

“No, I’m not.” she said softly and directly but unashamedly, too. And she looked at me with a “your move” kind of look. I took the challenge to try to make her smile, just wanted her to feel better.

“Well, I don’t know why you’re not ok, ” I said with my best brotherly smile, “but a pretty woman like you should always have a smile on her face and I’m sorry you’re sad.”

She just continued to look at me….almost like she didn’t hear me or it just didn’t register.

“Anyway, miss,” I said still smiling, “could you please tell me where your ATM machine is, I just can’t seem to find it.”

And with all the softness and sadness of someone who had just lost her puppy and then was told their other dog had left home, she looked at me and only slowly and concisely said five words so perfectly sad, as if she was revealing exactly what was wrong……….

“They stole it last week!”

I said thank you and that I hoped she felt better, but by then my head was swimming from it all. Moments inside my own movie, things of my life all coming together to reveal deep meanings and answers social mysteries all wrapped up in a few short moments.

I can’t tell you how deep it was for me….that would be like a lifeguard on a beach telling you about every grain of sand, but I can tell you it was a powerful scene.

What is 8 Mile? Look at the pictures above again…closely. Notice the chipped paint on the old building, the parking lot filled with all American-made cars, the trucks and the road. It’s a combination of things you have to live to really understand. It’s people with good souls who can remain sturdy under tough circumstances. It’s folks who don’t leave when the going gets tough as so many folks did when they fled Detroit in the 60’s and 70’s. 8 Mile is folks who look out for each other and don’t rely on others to come and save them.

8 Mile Road is a road in your city — the one transitory spot where white meets black, where upper meets lower, loaded with drive-throughs, drive-by’s and just plain drive to survive. It’s the road that has it all — a microcosom of your local culture all mixed together in one spot.

What 8 Mile is not is a carnival of suburban hip-hoppers running around like Slim Shady. The psuedo suburban hop-hoppers are likley so protected from anything south of 8 Mile (except for parents taking them to Red Wing Games and such) that the urban world is only known to them through Eminem and other rappers.

But at least they’re getting a glimpse of a certain reality.

Long after Eminem and the movie 8-Mile are out of vogue and forgotten about, Food Land and the real 8 Mile Road will still be there.

And with it all our challenges as humans and all of the stories that never are told.

Next: The Vinman comments on Eminem’s two shows in Detroit this weekend — the only venue he chose in North AMerica to end his world tour.

Same bat blog, same bat blog channel……….

(c) Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2003

All Rights reserved

Quick Photo Update:

This is where The Vinman was for the last few days. I am back now, and will post more on this adventure. But for now contrast the picture above to the picture below…….

The Vinman was also here…….

(c)All Photos Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2003All Rights reserved