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The Idle American
The Business of Smiles...
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 • Posted October 12, 2011

When balance prevailed in the world—on the scale of your choosing—folks sought, claimed and ingested daily intakes of humor, whether from media, across the backyard fence or in the workplace. But no more.Now, humor matters least when it should matter most. Remember Will Rogers? His ready wit made a world smile during an era when frowns better expressed its dismal mood. And, in a different sort of way, so did Paul Harvey, mostly through rose-colored lenses, in his daily radio broadcasts to a nation….When icons such as these take their leave, unfilled voids remain….*****Fred Rogers brought smiles to youngsters’ faces during daily visits to his TV neighborhood. Few in the world of entertainment—make believe or otherwise—have done more to develop healthy views of self. His approach to life was freely shared. He called for rose-smelling along the way at a pace regrettably misplaced in the dim long ago.“Dr. Rogers,” no doubt a title that made him squirm, was never a “fit.” His comfort zone precluded lofty titles; he was a commoner by choice. The humblest of entertainers, he endeared himself to a national audience like few others.Another of his ilk on a regional level was Dallas’ Jerry Haynes. For more than three decades, he donned a red-and-white striped jacket and perky straw hat to warm children’s hearts daily as “Mr. Peppermint.” He was like Rogers in many ways. Both men called strong resolve into play when reality set in….*****Haynes died a few days ago, succumbing to Parkinson’s disease after a battle of several years. He was 84.Through it all, he was “game-faced,” always smiling—even when it was difficult to do so. A few months ago, his family discussed funeral plans. He was asked where he’d like to be buried.“Surprise me,” he said, smiling….*****It takes more to make folks smile these days. When there’s time—and maybe there never is—find some tapes of old radio shows—the kinds we simply wouldn’t miss in decades long ago. They languish now on dusty shelves. You’ll wonder why we found them so drop-dead funny, but we did!We smiled when the Duke of Paducah finished each Saturday night vignette on The Grand Ole’ Opry with his trademark close: “I’m goin’ back to the wagon, boys, ‘cause these shoes are killin’ me.” Earlier on the same radio show, we chuckled with Minnie Pearl’s unvarying claim—“just so proud to be here,” and laughed deep into our belly’s smallest creases on hearing her drivel about goings-on in Grinder’s Switch. The same was true when laughter filled homes during every opening of Fibber McGee’s closet door. Each week, the opening signaled crashes, gongs and glass-breaking for a full 30 seconds.Oh, it should be added that much of radio’s magic hinged on all members of the family huddling around the radio. We did so gladly, unaware that the smiles we shared were part of the glue that held us together….*****No doubt, you have your own favorites, perhaps from the bygone days when TV sitcoms resulted in laughter that flowed freely, even in mixed company. I was always partial to Red Skelton, a gentle entertainer who made it big both on radio and TV. We welcomed Skelton’s closing statement each week: “Good night, and God bless.” These days, faces redden—or they should—with TV shows and movies whose “off the charts” smut often is passed off as humor.So, when a movie-goer sees TWO CONSECUTIVE PICTURES that entertain, inspire and delight, it should be so noted. And that’s what I’m privileged to do in this writing. The plot is simple, and dips into “cornponiness” in a spot or two, but Seven Days in Utopia is truly a FAMILY MOVIE! So is Dolphin Tale. In the latter, grandparents get a two-for-one special: Enjoying the movie while stealing glances at grandchildren’s smile-splashed faces. Enjoy ‘em! Have no fear of anything verbal or visual to “smutten things up.” If you go, you’ll leave the theatre the way “Dr. Paul Harvey” made his radio exits, wishing listeners a cheery “Good day!” And on the way home, try whistling—or hum if that’s easier—“When You’re Smiling.” Frank Sinatra, Frankie Lane, Nat King Cole and Louie Armstrong sang the 1928 ditty best. But we can all try….*****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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