Monthly Archives: May 2015

Rest easy, old friend

I’ve always been a person who’s never been completely comfortable or confident, but I still remember the first time I actually felt cool.

I was a junior at Somerset Area High School and, at the time, a popular activity on the social calendar was keg parties at David Berman’s house. It was in Berman’s backyard where I first met Mike Hinton, and one of his younger brothers, Joe.

Now, I hadn’t met the Hintons before this party, but I sure did hear about them. The Hinton brothers were cool, or so was the word. After hanging with both in Berman’s backyard, those stories were validated. Actually, they were shattered. Mike and Joe were beyond cool.

And I left that party feeling better about myself, a rarity during my incredibly awkward teenage years. I wasn’t the only one. Brian Lizambri rode home with me. Like me, he didn’t know Mike and Joe before the party. And, like me, he left that party with a strong understanding of why we heard about the boys from Shanksville well before hanging out with them at Berman’s. I still remember B and I talking about how we hoped to hang out with them more often.

Over the next few years, I had the pleasure of spending time with Mike and Joe Hinton. From all those keg parties in the countryside of Somerset County to beach volleyball games at Seven Springs to sitting around parking lots looking for something to do, if they were there, I wanted to be there. The best part? They seemed as happy to see me as I was seeing them. Joe and I even formed a “gang” we dubbed, “The Vultures.” Membership was exclusive – a two-person crew that came about when we each noticed we were getting ready to hit on the same female at a keg party somewhere in Zehnersville. The last time I saw Joe in a social setting, he greeted me with our old Vultures signal. It made my night.

It’s never easy pinpointing characteristics or traits that make some people great, but that’s not the case here. Mike Hinton had a way of making you feel welcomed. He listened. He gave your words weight. You felt like you mattered. It doesn’t get any more genuine than that. If you’re looking for greatness, look no further.

My only contact with Mike in recent years came via Facebook and Twitter, but when word of his untimely death got to me in a text from P.J. Brown Saturday afternoon, a flood of memories came rushing back, including one I’m not sure I ever shared. The day before I moved into the University of Pittsburgh, the crew was at Seven Springs to play beach volleyball. I left early for another destination, but left my volleyball with the boys. Mike brought the ball back to my house, and when I returned home, it was sitting by the front door. As I approached, I noticed a piece of paper with the ball. It was a note from Mike. Now, when I return home from vacation in two days, I’ll dig through old photos to share, but the details of the note will remain private. Rest assured the note – worn and faded – still sits among those old memories, a wonderful reminder of an amazing time of my life.

Time made better by Mike Hinton – a husband, father, brother, son and friend to many.

Rest easy, old friend.

The Man Channel

Cable and satellite TV packages often come with hundreds of channels – everything from the major networks to something called BYU Television.

No matter the package, whether it’s economy-sized or a deluxe model, each shares a characteristic –  a laundry list of crappy channels. Take a week, and tally the times there’s nothing worth watching.

There’s no getting around the truth: Cable sucks, so do satellites.

No wonder increasingly large numbers of people are getting their views in via Netflix or Hulu. Why pay hundreds for an inferior product?

Well, cable and satellite companies, I’m offering a solution to help your dwindling business. It’s a channel of awesomeness – a guy-centric lineup of excellence sure to bring men ages 18 to 49 back time and again. And, yeah, I get that Spike and Esquire Network are supposed to be for guys, but those channels are about as enjoyable as Sprout.

Here’s a partial lineup:

Cheers – Quite simply the finest sitcom in television history. Find me a white, 40-something guy who didn’t want to be Sam Malone.

Wings – The most underrated sitcom in history. Lowell Mather and Antonio Scarpacci for life.

The Goldbergs – The best show on TV today.

The First 48 – The best reality show in history, and a weekly hour that shows how phony all the CSIs and Law and Orders are.

Joe Kenda: Homicide Hunter – The baddest dude on the baddest channel.

Magnum, P.I. – Combine Sam Malone and Joe Kenda, you get Magnum.

The Last Man on Earth – The second-best show on TV today.

Intervention – Nothing more raw than watching a 24-year-old who’s been strung out on meth for 8 years. Even if the show ends happier than most Entourage episodes.

Gangland – For the inner gangsta in all of us.

ESPN “30 for 30” films – The only good thing ESPN has done (with the exception of not renewing Bill Simmons’ contract) the past decade.

The Office – Michael Scott. Dwight Shrute. Enough said.

Of course, there’s room for 1980s music videos, The Sopranos, Entourage (the first six seasons), Saved by the Bell, The Middle, the first three seasons of The Real World,The Monkees, The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart,  early episodes of Behind the Music, Rhonda Sheer “Up All Night” Clips and quality movies like Dazed and Confused, The Karate Kid, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Dodgeball.

Book review: “Face the Music: A Life Exposed” by Paul Stanley

Each night is the only night that counts to the people at that show. They weren’t at the show the night before, and they won’t be at the one tomorrow. I won’t let them down.

Paul Stanley's "Face The Music: A Life Exposed" covers everything from the origins of KISS tro many of the band's misfires in the 1980s to the powerful lineup in place today.

Paul Stanley’s “Face The Music: A Life Exposed” covers everything from the origins of KISS tro many of the band’s misfires in the 1980s to the powerful lineup in place today.

That passage is from the 65th chapter of Paul Stanley’s autobiography, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” which was released April 8, 2014, and it’s as fitting a description for the frontman and driving force of hall of fame act KISS as any before or since.

Stanley, who formed the band in the early 1970s with original members Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, never takes a night off on stage. Part inspiration, part perspiration and total determination, Stanley – at age 63 – still completes aerial stunts onstage in massive, platform shoes. In his book, Stanley credits the massive KISS Army for his ability to perform such acrobatics at an advanced age.

If you’ve seen KISS in concert, you know what I’m talking about. Stanley reveres his position in the band and in rock history. Confident, sexified and strut-tastic, Stanley sets the bar high for rock frontmen. He’s as good as it gets, and he basks in it.

Stanley, the last original member of KISS to pen an autobiography, takes the same approach to his book, and with a thoughtful retrospection one might expect from someone who’s had significant ups and a few downs during an epic four decades with KISS. Stanley delves into his upbringing – from his detached, unemotional parents to his difficult older sister to the pain he felt growing up deaf in one ear, which was also deformed.

A prevailing theme in the book is Stanley’s struggles with self-confidence stemming from his deformed ear. He sought fame, fortune and women in an attempt to mask the pain. None of it ended up working, though he achieved all his goals in ample proportions.

Stanley eventually found peace, and fathered four children. He cooks, he cares and he’s optimistic. Unlike books by Frehley and Criss, Stanley holds no grudges and it comes across as painfully truthful. Stanley doesn’t hide his disappointment in Frehley’s and Criss’ poor play as the reasons why KISS’ reunion in the 1990s fell apart. He openly makes fun of some of the music he made in the 1980s. He even holds no punches with Simmons, whom Stanley said takes far too much credit in the band’s success.

But Stanley never comes across as bitter. It’s just not in his nature.

That’s is why I dubbed Stanley, “The Walt Disney of rock and roll” following a particularly excellent KISS show at Star Lake Amphitheater in Burgettstown. (Sorry sponsors, it will always be Star Lake.)

Stanley’s tale is beyond extraordinary, yet it comes across as relatable. It’s well-written, thoughtful and, just like Stanley on stage, it doesn’t let the reader down.

Paul Stanley’s inspirational quote of the week

Part inspiration, part perspiration and part showman, Paul Stanley is one of rock’s ultimate frontmen, a persona so grand, I’ve dubbed him “The Walt Disney of Rock and Roll.”

Stanley’s lyrics are filled with imagery – visceral and inspirational. It’s the latter that’s inspired a new feature for this blog:

Paul Stanley’s inspirational quote of the week.

Every week, we’ll draw inspiration from Stanley’s often over-the-top lyrics. Apply them in life, and happiness is guaranteed.

“I know life sometimes can get tough!
And I know life sometimes can be a drag!
But people, we have been given a gift,
we have been given a road
And that road’s name is… Rock and Roll!”

There, feeling better?