Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
The Little Drummer Boy was originally a Czech song called, “The Carol of the Drum.” Katherine Davis translated it into English in 1941.
Henry Onorati did some arranging on this song for Jack Halloran in 1957. The Jack Halloran Singers recorded the song, but when Halloran’s record company refused to release it as a single, Onorati gave the song to Harry Simeone. Simeone hired the Jack Halloran Singers to record the now-famous version of this song.
The original version, quite honestly, never did anything for me. Though an obviously wonderful story, the song is bland.
Not so dull was the idea to pair a famous crooner with a rocker in 1977 to sing Drummer Boy and Peace on Earth.
Last December 20, Paul Farhi wrote an article in the Washington Post entitled, “Bing and Bowie: An Odd Story of Holiday Harmony.”
One of the most successful duets in Christmas music history -- and surely the weirdest -- might never have happened if it weren't for some last-minute musical surgery. David Bowie thought "The Little Drummer Boy" was all wrong for him. So when the producers of Bing Crosby's Christmas TV special asked Bowie to sing it in 1977, he refused.
Just hours before he was supposed to go before the cameras, though, a team of composers and writers frantically retooled the song. They added another melody and new lyrics as a counterpoint to all those pah-rumpa-pum-pums and called it "Peace on Earth." Bowie liked it. More important, Bowie sang it.
The result was an epic, and epically bizarre, recording in which David Bowie, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, joined in song with none other than Mr. "White Christmas" himself, Bing Crosby.
In the intervening years, the Bowie-Crosby, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy," has been transformed from an oddity into a holiday chestnut. You can hear it in heavy rotation on Christmas-music radio stations or see the performance on Internet video sites. First released as a single in 1982, it still sells today -- to add to its quirky afterlife, it's part of an album that's ranked as high as No. 3 on the Canadian charts this month. How did this almost surreal mash-up of the mainstream and the avant-garde, of cardigan-clad '40s-era crooner and glam rocker, happen?It almost didn't. Bowie, who was 30 at the time, and Crosby, then 73, recorded the duet Sept. 11, 1977, for Crosby's "Merrie Olde Christmas" TV special. A month later, Crosby was dead of a heart attack. The special was broadcast on CBS about a month after his death.
The notion of pairing the resolutely white-bread Crosby with the exquisitely offbeat Bowie apparently was the brainchild of the TV special's producers, Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, according to Ian Fraser, who co-wrote (with Larry Grossman) the song's music and arranged it.
Crosby was in Great Britain on a concert tour, and the theme of the TV special was Christmas in England. Bowie was one of several British guest stars (the model Twiggy and "Oliver!" star Ron Moody also appeared). Booking Bowie made logistical sense, since the special was taped near his home in London, at the Elstree Studios. As perhaps an added inducement, the producers agreed to air the arty video of Bowie's then-current single, "Heroes" (Crosby introduced it).
It's unclear, however, whether Crosby had any idea who Bowie was. Buz Kohan, who wrote the special and worked with Fraser and Grossman on the music, says he was never sure Crosby knew anything about Bowie's work. Fraser has a slightly different memory: "I'm pretty sure he did [know]. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did."
Kohan worked some of the intergenerational awkwardness into his script. In a little skit that precedes the singing, Crosby greets Bowie at the door of what looks like Dracula's castle (actually, it's a set that's supposed to be Crosby's rented London home). The conceit is that Bowie is dropping by a friend's house and finds Crosby at home one snowy afternoon.
They banter for a bit and then get around to a piano. Bowie casually picks out a piece of sheet music of "The Little Drummer Boy" and declares, "This is my son's favorite."
The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just "Little Drummer Boy." But "David came in and said: 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?' " Fraser said. "We didn't know quite what to do."
Fraser, Kohan and Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios' basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote "Peace on Earth," an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal.
And that was almost that. "We never expected to hear about it again," Kohan said.
But after the recording circulated as a bootleg for several years, RCA decided to issue it as a single in 1982. It has since been packaged and repackaged in Christmas compilation albums and released as a DVD.
It's still the most played Christmas duet on WASH-FM (97.1), airing once or twice a day when the station plays nothing but holiday music, said Bill Hess, WASH's program director. Hess likes how the two men blend their voices. The real clincher, he says, is Crosby, who has been associated with holiday music for generations. " 'White Christmas' really helps sell it," he says.
Also among the song's fans is Roger D. Launius, who remembers watching the original Crosby TV special while he was a graduate student and the parent of two children, ages 1 and 3.
"It was a very hectic time in my life, and the song was very peaceful and beautiful," says Launius, chairman of the space history division at the National Air and Space Museum. "I don't remember anything else about the special, but I remembered that song."
Launius hadn't given it too much thought until about seven years ago, when his now-adult daughter sent him a Christmas CD. Among the selections was the Bowie-Crosby duet.
The other day at his office, Launius checked the hard drive on his computer. Yep, there it was. With a couple of clicks, Launius let the warm harmony, and the memories, come flooding back.
What were the top news stories in Franklin the past year?
I will count down what I believe were the top ten Franklin news stories in 2007 beginning this Saturday.
I'll post a story each day right through to the end of the year.
I don't even know what the top ten are at this point because the way things are going, a lot could still happen in the next few days.
Get ready for FRANKLIN'S TOP TEN NEWS STORIES OF 2007, starting Saturday.
Amber Hodgson is a sweet young woman who works at the state Capitol in Madison.
She started as an intern in the office of state Senator Alan Lasee and now works for state Senator Jeff Plale. Amber was interviewed by USA Today about her experience with a puppy mill.
Newsweek also just did a feature article on puppy mills.
It has come to this.
Santa is a bad role model........because America has too many fat kids.
From our own U.S. Surgeon General:
The U.S. surgeon general, Rear Adm. Steven K. Galson, was accused of calling out Santa for being a poor fitness role model.
"It is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise," the Boston Herald quoted him as saying. "It is absolutely critical ... Santa is no different."
A skinny Santa is unimaginable.
We need to stop this talk of Santa going on a diet.
The Friday before the election, “during school time, hundreds of Franklin High School seniors of voting age were taken to an Assembly and then drilled by school personnel about why they should vote for the referenda.
Doors to the Assembly reportedly were locked so no one could leave and no one could enter to see and hear what was going on.
The impropriety of this action by Franklin school officials is clear. The surprise Assembly on the Friday before the election should never have taken place. I’m not sure if the Assembly was illegal, but it certainly was extremely unethical.”
Former Franklin School Board President Scott Bauer writes about the "Assembly" in a long piece he did on Janet Evans' blog today. Bauer writes:
"Before the day of the vote, some issues came up regarding a high school presentation. My two middle-school aged children were also forced to bring home “Vote Yes” literature – a direct violation of district policy. The community was in an uproar. Our district was being slammed in the press and on the radio. People were furious that the district had stooped so low as to use our children as pawns for this referendum. Now, I’m not saying that this was the district’s intention. I was told that these events were the result of miscommunication, and I guess it’s likely that could be the case. However, whether or not you intentionally harm or offend those you are expected to represent, I always feel an apology is in order. I suggested that we apologize. In return, I was told that I was betraying people. I was called all kinds of names. I was once again being accused of being divisive, uncooperative, and disrespectful. I was admonished and scorned. In the end, even though district policy was violated (as far as I’m concerned), I was told we did nothing wrong, had no reason to apologize, and, therefore, would not apologize. In my opinion, we just drove the wedge a little deeper between the board and the community."
The “assembly” was reviewed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. The investigation included a questionnaire filled out by former Franklin superintendent William Szakacs. I have obtained a copy of his answers to the questions about the “assembly,” and will release them soon.
Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, who conducted the investigation of the Franklin assembly, has informed me of the following in an e-mail:
Thanks for your interest.
No "charges" were issued. I use the term "charges" in quotes because the matter is probably at most a civil forfeiture action. This has the same punitive impact as a municipal ticket for things like speeding or a parking violation.
That no charges were issued does not mean that the matter is dead. The problem with this entire area of the law is that - well - there is no law.
That is, there is no clear Wisconsin case law on what a public entity like the School District can and cannot do with public funds to "educate" their constituents on matters like school finance referenda.
As a lawyer, like you might well imagine, it is a bit less than ideal to file a case and not really know what the law is.
I am also mindful that the superintendent has now left the District and this too has been a factor leading to the manner in which I have elected to handle this matter.
Short of going to court to "make law," there is a procedure available to District Attorneys (and I mean by this the elected DA, not me) whereby the prosecutor can submit a fact scenario to the Attorney General for an opinion on the law. Once issue, that opinion has value as "precedent."
I am seeking approval to take that route. Admittedly, in a perfect world without an active caseload, I would have completed this by now. I regret the delay and I assure you that your inquiry will inspire me to move this along with all available dispatch.
Bruce J. Landgraf
Assistant District Attorney
While state law is unclear on this issue, it appears that Franklin violated their own district policy by trying to indoctrinate and influence Franklin students on how to vote on the referenda.
This is yet another example of how this school district’s administration can’t be trusted.
I am glad the DA’s office is continuing to pursue this matter and will keep you informed of their progress.