Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Monday, September 17, 2012


Like most husbands and many unmarried men there are two things I have learned to stay away from: Baby Showers and Tupperware Parties.  Mary understands this and hasn’t mentioned either in an attendance fashion for years.  In fact, I thought that Tupperware parties were a thing of the past.

Not so much.

Mary brought me an article from the OC Register discussing the recent Tupperware Jamboree held in Anaheim.  The Jamboree is an annual event celebrating the top salespersons for the product.  The top three of this year all happened to have one thing in common:  They are female impersonators.

Whew!  Roll over Earl Silas Tupper, and maybe Brownie Wise, who thought up the whole idea of selling from women's homes.

Although Tupper found a use for the new material, plastic, by using its memory and elasticity to form a seal that made foodstuffs last longer in 1936 and introduced it commercially in 1946, it wasn’t until his partner, Wise, hit on the idea to empower women in the home with a way to make some money by using their domestic and social skills, that he made any real money

Eventually he did what most men do when they are out-thought by a woman: he fired her in 1958 and stole her idea.

When World War II ended the returning men decided they wanted their jobs back, thank you very much, and that they wanted their women to return to the kitchen.  That home salesroom for Tupperware gave these women a chance to make a little money, exercise their independence, and  develop skills that allowed them to move into the entrepreneurial aspects of American (and eventually global) commerce.

Dee W. Ieye
Kevin Farrell
Last year’s worldwide sales were $ 2.6 billion and Aunt Barbara (aka Robert Suhan), Dee W. Ieye (aka Kevin Farrell) and Kay Sedia (Aka Oscar Quintero) all had sales over $200,000 last year.  Let’s set things straight (no pun intended), these ladies are not part of the LGBT movement.  They are more in the pattern of comedic entertainers, who find their slightly over-the-top personas are non-threatening and attention getting.  They ease the tension at their gatherings and lessen the feeling that the hostess is using her friendships for personal gain.

All of them graciously acknowledge that they never would have their success had it not been for the originator of the idea, L.A.’s Pam Teflon (Jeff Sumner), whose mother prompted him to sell Tupperware as Joan Crawford in the mid-1990s.  He was so successful that he made U.S. News and World Report, NPR and a feature story in the LA Times.

The irony that these three men are breaking sales records in a market that was designed to make women successful is not lost on them.  The original concept of rewarding women for hosting a sales activity remains intact, and the success these three entertainers have is shared by a multitude of soccer-moms and stay-at-home wives in Orange and San Diego Counties.  More so than in Los Angeles where there are more drag queens and fewer stay-at-home moms.

Although the closest relationship to Tupperware and  lobster may be that left-over lobster salad can be preserved, I found it interesting that the most recent “Lobstermen” in Maine are now women, brought into the workforce because of the economy and a falling price in lobster.  NPR did a feature on one of the lady Lobstermen that you might find interesting.  Here is a link to the four-minute feature.

Next posting I’ll be focusing on something a little more personally familiar.  Want to learn the latest on the Tooth Fairy?  Check out my next post.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond - Hollywood Star on Walk of Fame
August 21 was fast approaching and I hadn’t a thought as to what to get Mary for her birthday…until she saw that Neil Diamond was coming to the Honda Center in Anaheim after being in nearby Hollywood getting his Star on the Walk of Fame and mentioned that she might like to see him.  We had seen him twice before, the first more than thirty years ago, when he was doing a summer tour at huge venues, including the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and the last, to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary at the Hollywood Bowl.  Good idea, Mary! 

Turned out that getting tickets was a bit of a problem.

We usually try to go to New York the week after Thanksgiving and have used the American Express Platinum Concierge service to get theater tickets to what are often sold-out performances, but all of their allotted tickets to this concert were gone.  They did offer an alternative, a VIPpackage offered by another company.  For a flat price one would get favorable seating, a special “goodie bag”, and ushered down the red carpet.

One also got some interesting seat companions.

The concert could not have been better. Neil shared the microphone on only one song, a duet of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with one of his backup singers.  In the 1977 show we saw at The Greek he shared the stage on “Song Sung Blue” with Helen Reddy and The Fonz, Henry Winkler.  He is effortlessly able to fill an entire program with solos from the seventy-three singles he has written in a fifty year career.

The featured song of the evening and his concluding number before encores was “Sweet Caroline”, which has become a signature song, evoking from everyone the “Oh, oh, oh…life has never been so good good…so good” chorus. But for me, and it turns out to be a reflection of my softer side, since it is rumored that sixty year-old women openly weep when he sings it, the favored song is “Play Me”.  The simple lyrics, “You are the sun/ I am the moon/ you are the words/ I am the tune/ Play Me” haunt me as I write this some three weeks after the concert.

Other sections of the lyrics, especially, “Songs she sang to me/songs she brang to me” have caused both negative and some positive comments, the latter from Dave Barry, who applauded the courage to rhyme rather than be grammatically correct.

Neil and Katie
Possibly because he is still a relatively recent groom, to his third wife, longtime manager and thirty year junior, Katie McNeil, Neil seemed to relish the attention he gathered from those in the seven rows in front of us.  For a period of several minutes he openly flirted and danced, if you can call it dancing when one partner is standing at eye level to the other, with the crowd, establishing a rapport that subsequently turned the crowd in front of our eighth-row seats, standing, and shouting, screaming and singing in what I would describe as a geriatric mosh-pit.

Mary was most impressed by those few minutes of quiet when she could talk to our neighbors, an eclectic group from all over the world, who seem to follow the concerts as if they were the equivalent to Grateful Dead Deadheads, sans dope, abandoning family, friends, and occupations for a life on the road.  One lady brought two seven-year olds; another was with a companion, having travelled from Germany to see her 60th Neil Diamond concert.  Since the cost of our seats approached $300 before parking, I worried less about the Euro crisis.

The fact that I overheard Mary on several occasions telling about the evening makes me think I made a hit with my present and it was one of those gifts that I could truly share.  Now, if I could only get those songs out of my head: “Touching hands/ touching you/ touching me…”

In my next Post I’m going to tell you a bit about what has happened to Tupperware Parties.  Please come visit.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Walter Reed

Not too long ago Mary and I found ourselves in the Bethesda, MD area where we were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Navy Dental Corps.  Weather was great, accommodations lovely; but I had no formal dress shoes for the Black Tie event.  So, off we went to the military clothing store in the basement of what is now called the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital.

We were struck by the fact that everywhere you looked there were amputees.

FDR Memorial
I have a close friend who lost the use of his legs in a tank in Viet Nam.  Gerry says he has probably gone through five wheelchairs in the 43 ensuing years. When I asked what changes he has seen he stressed that materials allow the weight to be about 30 pounds now, against an earlier version, which weighed 65 pounds.  FDR, recovering from a weakness from his bout with Polio had a chair that is depicted in his Washington, DC Memorial as weighing close to 80 pounds before it was captured in marble.
Eric Lorence

As to why there has been a decrease in the number of spinal injuries and an increase in the number of surviving amputees, Gerry speculated that the Armored Vehicles and Humvees are better able to absorb shocks from IEDs than the tanks of Viet Nam.  The explosives have also become better, as have medical treatment protocols and facilities. Warriors who would have died from the same injuries in earlier wars are surviving to be fitted with prostheses and reenter productive society.  Those who might have died from spinal injuries are living.

And competing.
The Blade Runner

As I write this the Paralympics are ongoing in London.  The name comes, not from the fact that the contestants have fewer limbs, but from the fact that they are “on an ongoing parallel path with the Olympics”.  The idea started in 1946 as a vehicle for WWII injured veterans to regain dignity and honor.  Now open to all manner of physically handicapped persons, including “The Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius, who also ran in the Olympics, it has become a showcase for literally more than a thousand contestants.

Jerrod Fields
I was remindedthat my interest in this group goes back to my high school days, when with a friend, Chuck Walker, I did a series of radio shows where we would read scripts inferring that we were Paralyzed Veterans, a lie I justified as being okay because the cause was worthwhile.  The Paralyzed Veteran Association has continued its good work and Gerry is a proud member, as are more recent heroes like Jerrod Fields.  Others, like Steve Street, who has ALS, and Scott Servern, who was struck by lightning while an Army Reservist, work to expand the community and the goals of the organization.

In my early days in the Navy I had an engineering friend who was working on his Doctorate at MIT, trying to invent a mind-operated arm.  Dave’s dream is now everyday reality and the hands and arms, and occasional other body parts are more likely to be myoelectric driven than driven by cables.  And the materials have affected the weight of prostheses too.  As with Gerry’s wheelchair, which can pop off its wheels and store easily in a plane or car, the artificial legs, arms, feet and hands, contain carbon rather than just metal, strong and light, allowing ease of movement.

Which means these young men and women can actively pursue a variety of sports.  When I was in Washington, DC in the late sixties I had occasion to see competitive wheelchair tennis players warming up on a court I used to play on.  That sport, has evolved to a whole new set of rules because the chairs are lighter and configured for speed and quick adjustment.  A more interesting competitive sport for the handicapped is soccer, which uses a singularly developed chair.

A company I consult for is in the Medicare alternative care business.  Recently I was discussing with their Medical Director cost-containment by controlling cost and fraud on medical devices, a key point in the Affordable Care Act.  He mentioned that prior to their contracting for wheel chairs (at about $3,000) the fee-for-service community was billing the state or federal government $12-15 thousand a chair.  One can only speculate what portion of that was kicked back to the doctors whose sole discretion described the need for the chair(s) to a subsidized population, many of whom were injured by gunshot or vehicle accident.

But that should not detract from the brave souls I saw at Walter Reed.  A Dental Officer I met at the reception said she treated one survivor who was essentially a torso and a head; younger than 25 and with a positive attitude toward finding a meaningful, productive place in society.

To paraphrase Dickens, “God bless them, every one.”

On a lighter note, my next post will describe a recent trip to a Neil Diamond concert, where the audience contained fans whose ages ranged from seven to more than Neil’s seventy years.  Oh, oh, oh, times have never been so good… so good…so good…so good!