Archive for June, 2012

June 25- July 08 (2012)


I couldn’t resist making this my Random Pic of the Week.  It’s my 100 year old Grandma Wingert surrounded by 100 roses I bought for her. There are 101 flowers in this photo!

I had heard this Elvis song before and liked it, but it was while I was driving around Sioux Falls, South Dakota in my rented Camaro listening to Elvis Radio on the satellite that I really became attached. I had never been aware of this song during my Elvis fandom years as a kid. Here’s“Power of My Love.” No wonder the chicks dug him!

I was on vacation June 30th through July 5th, so I didn’t have a chance to update Wally’s Week from my vacation “hotspot.” So now you get TWO weeks’ worth of Wally’s Weeks…

Monday the 25th – TWO, COUNT ‘EM, TWO ICONS! –I was up early for another Garfield session, and today our cast was amazing. Two terrific icons from my personal file of fandom!! Of course the lovely and talented Laraine Newman, and joining us for this episode was the amazing-on-so-many-different-levels Mark Hamill! I had worked with Mark on “Avengers” a year or so ago, but this time we really got a chance to talk in depth about a lot of things that interested us. Can you believe HE got nervous when he worked with Adam West? I told him Adam was probably nervous working with HIM! We had a lot of fun and the 5 part episode we recorded is going to be phenomenal. We got half of it done, and we’ll record the second half on Tuesday. I got home to walk Roxy and then head over to “The Tonight Show” for the taping. Today was the day that the full cast list for the anime cartoon “Tiger and Bunny” was announced. I had mentioned before that I was working on a new anime cartoon but couldn’t talk about it until it was officially released. I’ll be playing one of the title roles of Tiger…an almost-past-his-prime super hero who gets teamed with a hot, young, up-and-coming super-hero named Barnaby Brooks. Barnaby’s super-hero armor has two long shafts projecting out from his helmet, so Tiger has given him the nickname Bunny. It’s been a very fun show to work on so far, and the directors is giving me a lot of leeway with the character and is allowing me to change-up certain lines to give him more personality and quirkiness. I’m anxious to see how the anime-viewing public likes the English version. After “TTS” I came home to grab a quick nap, then I got up later in the evening to do some auditions and some other work around the house. My trip to South Dakota was coming up in about 6 days so I had a lot of prep to do. I worked all night and got to bed as the sun rose early on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday the 26th – BATMAN TO RIDDLER TO JOKER! – I was back at Buzzy’s Recording in Hollywood for day 2 of the 5-part Garfield session. I gave a set of “Batman” 1966 TV episodes to Mark Hamill, who said his nephews love the show. I had originally gotten them from my pal Scott Sebring who had created a great set of box art to with the discs. In addition to being a whiz with graphics, web design, photography and video and audio editing, Scott dresses up as the ’66 Batman from time to time for events. I told him that Mark was thrilled with the artwork on the DVD set, and Scott pointed out that it was interesting that “Batman” gave a set of “Batman” TV episodes to “The Riddler” to then give to “The Joker.” I thought that was pretty wild. When I told Mark he said, “My pop culture meter is spinning off the charts!” Mark said if there’s ever any “Star Wars” stuff he can sign for me I should let him know. Hmmmm….I started thinking about all the stuff in my house that needed his autograph. I also told him that I would round him up a 1966 style Batman cowl that his nephews could run around in while watching the DVDs. In the Garfield episode, he plays a villain, but he also plays a young rebel leader from space. It was awesome watching him work because he made the character sound similar to Luke Skywalker. Too cool! I’ve often said that while recording “The Garfield Show” I have the best seat in the house for some amazing entertainment. Between Frank Welker, Gregg Berger, Laraine Newman, June Foray, Stan Freberg, Mark Hamill and all the other amazing performers who grace our microphones, it’s really a wonderful time! When the session wrapped I was on my way home to walk Roxy. With only minutes to spare I got in my car and made it to “TTS” for the taping. We had an early call-time so it I just made it in time! After the show I came home to do work, and then took my pal Brittney Powell to dinner. We drove in the Torino, and as I pulled my car out of the driveway I saw a little kid in a red kiddie car driving on the sidewalk. He turned to look at my shiny red Gran Torino with his mouth agape. As I drove down the street I saw him in my rear view mirror still watching me drive off. I’m sure in his little imagination he thought his little car was just like mine! We had a great dinner at Jerry’s Famous Deli, then I went home to work on more trip preparation.

Wednesday the 27th – SAD ANNIVERSARY! – It was one year ago today I had to let my collie Sassie go. She had gotten very lame through a long bout with nerve damage and deterioration. Seems like only yesterday when I had to make that awful decision. I still miss her. I was up mid-morning to walk my new collie Roxy, and get ready for the US Airways session at Voice Trax West. A new friend I met at the recent Voice 2012 conference was there with her husband. Michelle and Justin Rojas were visiting from Texas and were going to the Anime XPO this coming weekend. I invited them over to watch the US Airways session, as Michelle’s very interested in doing VO. Then we went to the Coral Café to get lunch, where we were joined by my friend Edi, and my old pal Dan Roebuck (who just happened to be in the area!). I was driving the Torino so it was a blast showing it off. We all went over to Studiopolis so they could watch the dubbing session for “Tiger and Bunny.” Kevin Michael Richardson and Frank Welker were there working on “Transformers,” so they came out and took a look at the Torino. Frank has a vintage BMW that’s very nice, so it’s fun to talk cars with him. I got in the studio, did a quick bit for “TTS” and e-mailed it in, and then we did “Tiger and Bunny.” As 2:30 rolled around Michelle and Justin took off for NBC, as they were my guests for the taping of “TTS” that day. I was lucky to get them in, since Justin Bieber was on the show. The majority of the tickets were spoken for a month ago. But there were openings on the waiting list so we got lucky! Mila Kunis was also on the show to promote “Ted,” so when I got to the studio I went to her dressing room and knocked. I’ve seen her many times at recording sessions for “Family Guy,” but I hadn’t seen her lately. Years ago I walked into Mel’s Diner in Sherman Oaks to get seated and heard a girl’s voice say “Wallyyyyyy!” I looked toward the back of the restaurant and it was Mila sitting there with friends. She’s one of the nicest people in all of Los Angeles, and I’m thrilled that she’s having so much luck in her career! I poked my head in her dressing room and she got out of her make-up chair and gave me a hug. I thought, “Oh yeah! Check it out. That’s ME hugging Mila Kunis!” It was a very fun day; just the thing I needed to keep my mind off the sad anniversary. After the show I found Justin and Michelle standing outside the studio. We were surrounded by a sea of 16 and 17 year old girls who were there to see Justin Bieber perform. I got a fun idea. I told my pal Justin to stand about 10 feet away from me. Then I yelled, “Hey Justin!” Boy! You should have seen the heads turn! Every 16 and 17 year old girl in the place looked around thinking they were going to see Justin Bieber. But it was my pal Justin Rojas instead. We had a good laugh out of that! I came home to walk Roxy and meet with Sean my computer guy. He was trying to set up my new tablet that I had just bought, but it was looking more and more like I got a dud. So the next day I had my assistant Sara take it back to Best Buy for a refund. I grabbed a nap on my couch, but when I woke up and sat up, it felt like fire running down my right thigh. I must’ve slept on a nerve wrong. I hobbled upstairs and the pain subsided. I did some auditions, did work around the house, and finished up my i-Tunes additions for my upcoming journey to South Dakota for the 4th of July week, and my Grandma Wingert’s 100th birthday celebration!

Thursday the 28th – WINDING DOWN! – I continued getting ready for my Sioux Falls trip. I packed a little each night so I didn’t have to run around in a mad rush the night before my flight left on Saturday. I got a hotline call to be at NBC by 2pm to record a comedy bit. I had lunch with my friend Esme Bianco from “Game of Thrones” at Paty’s in Toluca Lake. I hadn’t seen her in a while and it’s always fun catching up. My chiropractor doesn’t work on Thursdays, so I couldn’t go in for an adjustment. I’m sure it’ll work itself out eventually. I showed Esme the Torino and she loved it. While at Paty’s we saw young actress Bailee Madison and her dog Maddie, a large Labradoodle. Next to our table was a Labradoodle puppy who, strangely enough, came from the exact same breeder! Of all the weird things! I forgot my NBC ID at home, so I had to tell the guard at the NBC gate. He let me in with no problem (after almost 3 years of working there he recognized me) and I recorded some comedy bits. Then I just waited around for the taping at 4:00. After we wrapped I went home to meet up with Perry Zombolas, a former animator from “Family Guy” and “Invader Zim.” He drew the caricature of me on my business card. He had never seen my collection of stuff so I gave him the grand tour. Then my pal Edi stopped over to do some work. When we finished I took a nap, got up, and did some more trip prep. I finished packing, went through my very confusing bank statements, (Bank of America changed their format and it looks like it was typed out like a 3 year old. I’ve GOT to change banks!) scanned some checks for a deposit, filed my business receipts, etc. It was a VERY busy night!

Friday the 29th – HIATUS!!! – It was the final day of tapings before our week-long break over the 4th of July holiday. I had a TON of stuff to do. My contractor and pal Terry came over to meet with a termite inspector. While doing some work Terry noticed a bunch of hidden termite damage to my front doorway. Since all that’s covered by the homeowner’s association, it needed to be documented and an estimate needed to be submitted to the association. I had my pal Terry there to answer any questions the termite guy may have had. I sped off to NBC, taped the final show, bid farewell to everyone, then headed to the bank to make a deposit. I also stopped by It’s a Wrap to see if they had anything that tickled my fancy. But their selection hasn’t really reached me of late. I guess it’s all cyclical. I made it home to continue throwing stuff together for my trip. My assistant Sara came over to help me take Roxy to Lassie Land in Canyon Country so she could go to “collie camp” while I was away. I figured that it would be fun for her to hang out with her friends and relatives while I was in South Dakota helping my Grandma Wingert celebrate her 100th birthday. We sat with Pat and Carol and chatted for awhile, and then we made our way back to my house. Carol didn’t want Roxy to see me leave, thinking it might hurt her. But I’m sure Roxy would have fun with her former family, playing with the other dogs and getting lots of pets from Pat and Carol. So we snuck out and made our way down the road. I got home and continued prep for my trip. I got on-line, paid for my luggage, checked in and printed my boarding passes, and hit the hay.

Saturday the 30th – TAKE OFF TO THE GREAT WHITE NORTH! – I got up at noon and Sara came over to begin her housesitting duties. I loaded up my Mustang and headed to LAX. Traffic was kind of crappy, but I wrote it off to the upcoming holiday week. People must’ve been trying to get out of town like me. I checked my bag, went through security, and had a nice flight to Denver. When I got to the Denver airport I couldn’t believe how many cute girls I saw in short shorts and cowboy boots. I really LOVE that look! In the airport a gal that sat across from me was reading “50 Shades of Gray.” I grabbed some food at McDonald’s and waited for my flight. This would represent the last time I ate at a chain restaurant for the duration of my trip. I promised myself to not eat anywhere that offered food I could get in L.A. I was going to stick to the eating institutions that were uniquely South Dakota. On the plane to Sioux Falls, the gal next to me was reading a novel called “Civil War.” I happened to look over to one of the pages and I saw the words HANK PYM. What? Then I saw the word S.H.I.E.L.D.! It must be some sort of novelization involving Marvel characters. The line I read was, “Hank Pym had been a super-hero himself; Ant Man, Giant Man and Yellowjacket.” I was dying to tell her about my involvement with that character on the “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” series, but I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to come off as being “that guy.” As we started to descend into the Sioux Falls area, a beautiful sunset was peering through the clouds. Just then “Mountains and Sunsets” from the soundtrack of the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice” came on my i-Pod. It was one of those “moments” that was pure magic. A great impromptu musical score to a wonderful and beautiful visual. As the plane lost altitude, I could see fireworks displays going on all around the area. Fireworks are legal in the towns outside of Sioux Falls and clearly those people LOVED their fireworks! It was a stunning sight to be landing at 10:15pm and seeing fireworks all around below me. I de-planed, got my luggage and got my rental car. A brand new Camaro convertible. I would end up hating that car by the end of the trip. First off, they don’t put any English on any of the instrumentation any more. It’s all little symbols that you’re supposed to guess at what they represent. The visibility of this car was awful. Tiny front window, even tinier back window, and the convertible top caused all sorts of blind spots. I was convinced that I would get into a car wreck by the end of the trip. I even considered turning around and returning it. From the sounds of the weather reports it was going to be triple digits all week long anyway, so I really wouldn’t have need of a convertible. But I soldiered on. I met up with my folks at the Fry’n Pan restaurant and had a delicious hometown burger. Then I checked into my room at the Hilton Garden Inn, one of the newer hotels in Sioux Falls. The air conditioner in my room worked perfectly! A cool and constant 66 degrees in my room! I unpacked and went back outside to the 24 hour Wal Mart to pick up supplies. Snacks, water, distilled water for my Neti pot, Diet Pepsi and Cokes in the little glass bottles. I also stopped through the Taco John’s drive-thru and got a taco burger and two soft tacos. (I really miss Taco John’s!) I brought my supplies in and unloaded them. I started to think about how cool it would be if on July 2nd (my grandma’s 100th birthday) the weather hit 100 degrees, and how I could go about getting a photo of those lighted signs that tell you the time, date and temperature. That was my goal! But I was beat, so I hit the hay.

Sunday the 1st – HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY GRAMS! – I slept remarkably well and got up to shower before my grandma’s party. I stopped at B&G Milky Way, one of those novel little ice cream shacks that only open in the summer, and got some delicious sloppy joes! Something else I really missed about Sioux Falls. I ate them on the way out to Grandma’s place. She lives in an assisted living facility, and is pretty much independent. They look in on her periodically, but she runs her own household still at the age of 100! She’s remarkably “with it!” I had Elvis Radio on Sirius XM playing on the car stereo, and as I drove around the ever-growing town of Sioux Falls, “Memory” by Elvis came on the radio. Another great musical moment to underscore my activities! In fact, it made me a little emotional as I drove around familiar territory. I pulled into grandma’s and went inside to say hello. I went in with some other relatives and it was a tearful reunion. She was very glad to see me. We talked as she sat in her chair, but then the time came for her to put on her nice shirt and jacket for the party. I helped her up from her chair and had fully intended to walk her to the bathroom so she could change. But as soon as stood up she walked right out of my arm, and toddled off on her own! WOW! Still so mobile at almost 100 years old! FABULOUS! The party was wonderful. Lots of friends and family came from all over and grams was delighted! I emceed the party and mentioned that I had seen on the way in that the Oreo cookie had also just turned 100 years old like grams. Apparently 1912 was a year for making sweet things! My cousin Jeannie and her husband and daughter sang spirituals at the piano. Then Jeannie accompanied me on “How Great Thou Art,” and my cousin Willy Wingert (yup, that’s his name…only a one letter difference in our names!) sang “In the Garden,” a song he had sung at his father’s (my dad’s brother and my grandma’s other son) funeral. Grams was singing along with the songs and having a good ol’ time! My sister Peggy read a prepared statement that left no eye dry. I had 100 roses delivered to the party, each marked with a different year from grandma’s life. We took a bunch of photos of grams surrounded by the flowers, and then I let the party guests take flowers with them when they left. Some of them picked specific flowers marked with years that had a personal meaning. I gave grams the flowers that were significant in her life, and my cousins took flowers marked with the dates of their births. By the end of the party only a small bunch of flowers remained, so we gathered them up and put them in vases for grandma’s apartment. What a day! The first person I’ve ever really known to hit a century! On the way back to the hotel I remembered my high school girlfriend Sondee mentioning in an e-mail that she had a store on Minnesota Avenue and that she was there 7 days a week. So I turned the Camaro around and headed over. Sure enough, there she was at 5:00 on a Sunday afternoon. So I went in and surprised her. Her husband Marlin came in soon after and we all had a great chat. I went back to the hotel and changed into my shorts and t-shirt, and got out of my “dressy” party clothes. My sister Bonnie (my youngest sister) wasn’t able to attend the party because she was still at a training seminar in Omaha, but she had made it back by the evening. She and her husband Roger put together a wonderful slide show of Grandma Wingert’s life, complete with photos of her as a child with her siblings. In just a few minutes, and with beautiful musical accompaniment, she had illustrated through pictures, her family’s history. I even learned a few things I didn’t know about grams. Everyone at the party loved it. She and Roger (and my nieces) hosted a barbecue for the family at their house, and my cousins from Idaho were there, as were my Sioux Falls based nieces and nephews. My brother-in-law Roger knows how to cook up a great steak! But it was getting late, so I gave my Idaho relatives as hug and a kiss goodbye and made my way back to my hotel. I wasn’t really tired, still being on L.A. time, so I took a walk on a hot summer night in the area around my hotel. A beautiful full moon was just days away, and because the conditions in Sioux Falls had been so hot and dry, the mosquito population was nearly non-existent. Which was alright with me! After my walk I went upstairs to my room and retired for the evening. What a day!

Monday the 2nd – IT’S OFFICIAL! A CENTURY! –We decided to have my grandma’s party on the Sunday the 1st so more relatives could attend. But her official 100th birthday was today. I stopped by Taco John’s again for another taco burger, and made my way out to join my folks and grandma for lunch. My cousin Emilie was there too. A nice elderly gentleman named Forrest rolled up to the table and congratulated my grandma on her birthday. Many of the other residents came over to give their fond wishes as well. But Forrest used to live out in California in the Thousand Oaks area. We talked at length about his work in the aircraft parts business, and though he loved being in South Dakota now, I could tell he missed California a little bit. We walked grams back to her room, and as I gave her a kiss and hug goodbye, I told her, “Watch out for that Forrest guy. I think he likes you!” That made her chuckle out loud, and I left the room to the strains of my centurion grandmother giggling. It was a great feeling. I picked up my old pal Scott (we were radio DJs together back in the late 70’s and early 80’s) so we could take a road trip to Mitchell. We also stopped by and got my pal Bob (whom I’ve known for about 40 years) to join us. I wanted to get my Mitchell anyway, since I spent a fair amount of my youth there visiting my Grandpa and Grandma Wingert. There were lots of things I wanted to see. Scott had to pick up a gun he had ordered at a store there, so I figured we’d kill two birds with one stone and drive over together. What fun! While driving down a street in Sioux Falls, I spotted a lighted sign that displayed “07/02/12 – 100 degrees.” That’s what I was looking for! 100 on my grandma’s birthday of July 2nd! I pulled a quick U turn and parked. I grabbed my camera to get a picture, but in the few minutes it took me to pull over, the temp went up to 102 degrees! RATS! Bob suggested if we peed on the sensor, it may go down a few degrees. We laughed until we cried! But it was just the start! I had my i-Pod cranking through the USB port of the Camaro. All the great songs were popping up! It sure brought back a lot of cool memories. In Mitchell, I saw my grandparents old house (which had changed quite a bit!) and their old neighborhood. My childhood dog Ralph is buried in their garden, and I noticed that the new owners had built a garage over that area. So ol’ Ralphie is underneath the concrete there somewhere. I drove by the park we used to play at, and it had changed almost completely. Except for one or two of the things in the play area. They still had the old “spider-in-a-derby” climbing/ladder thing there (which had to be 40 years old by now!) and some of the swings looked familiar. The old metal slide was gone, replaced by a newer, twisty fiberglass slide. (I can still remember that old metal slide and how hot it would be on your butt in the summer after baking in the sun all afternoon!) We drove down Main Street, saw the world-famous Corn Palace, and drove past the old mall. But it was really hot outside! I stopped at the Zesto to get some sloppy joe’s and a shake. On the way back to Sioux Falls, we spotted a sign for a café called Eat at Joe’s. A long time ago, when Scott and I were on the radio as young DJs, we did a comedy bit about Joe’s Garage and Grill. Where you could get food and your car worked on at the same time. The directions to the fictitious Joe’s were so complicated and hard to follow that it was funny. Made even more humorous by the fact that I read them super fast so nobody could possibly understand them let alone follow them. It basically amounted to “go through the cornfield two miles, put your car in reverse and go back a mile and turn left at the sign with the bullet hole in it. That’s Joe’s.” Joe’s Garage and Grill’s motto was “By the time you find us you’ll be good and hungry, and your car will need major repair.” When we pulled off the highway to see the real Joe’s, we laughed ourselves silly to discover that there was actually a garage there too! Well, actually a car wash, but it was good enough for us. Were we actually young prophets back then, heralding the advent of a real Joe’s Garage and Grill? Or did some radio listener love the idea so much that he actually made it a reality? It was made even more hilarious by the fact there’s a cornfield right across the street from Joe’s! We got gassed up, bought some t-shirts at Joe’s, took some photos and video and headed back down the road. We made it back to Sioux Falls much too fast! I wanted the road trip with my old pals to last the rest of the day. But since Mitchell is only about 70 miles from Sioux Falls, it only takes an hour to get back and forth. I had missed my pals. But we agreed to meet for dinner later. I got to my room, made some calls and showered off the day’s grime. I met my folks, and Scott and Bob and their wives at dinner. The waitress who waited on us was cute, so I started chatting her up. Come to find out she was planning on coming out to L.A. to try to get into the hairstyling business for film and TV. Of all the weird coincidences, though I scarcely believe in them anymore. After dinner I took Scott home in the Camaro with my i-Pod blaring away. It was one good song after another, and Scott made me keep driving around the neighborhood until they were over. Finally he had to get inside his house to prepare for his next day’s work. So I dropped him off and headed back to the hotel. Though the instructions to get the top put down in the Camaro were very confusing, I was determined to get that top down at least once during the trip. I stayed out in the hotel’s parking lot for about an hour with a little penlight, reading the convoluted instructions. Make sure the cargo screen in the trunk was secured. Remove the cover for the top from the trunk. Unlatch the top. Hit the button to lower the top. Once the top is lowered secure the top cover over it. Geez. My Mustang is SO easy compared to this. Just one more thing to hate about this Camaro. Bad design all the way around if you ask me! Since I wasn’t tired (at this point it was only about 11pm L.A. time) I decided to drive all around Sioux Falls with the top down and enjoy the 78 degree, breezy summer night. I drove past my old house, my old apartment, past my old high school, way out to the east side of town, past the playhouse where I participated in many plays, past my old haunts and hangouts, and then back down the streets again. I decided to drive out to the Sioux Falls (the landmark after which the town is named) and check it out. I wasn’t sure if it would be closed off or not. Now you must know that, when I was in high school back there, the area around the Sioux Falls was an absolute toilet. Lots of scary people hanging around, lots of drug use…bad news. But in recent years the city spent a lot of money renovating the area, and it’s beautiful. First, the street that takes you past the falls has all been redone. I turned into Falls Park and didn’t see any signs about restricted visiting times. There were no gates to keep me out. Plus, the entire falls area is illuminated by an array of new lighting fixtures. It’s pretty stunning. Made all that much better by the beautiful full moon that loomed over the falls. I tried to shoot it all on my video camera, but wasn’t very successful in capturing just how magical a time I was having. Between the cool summer breeze blowing through my hair, the great songs popping up on my i-Pod, the moon and the falls, it was a perfectly meditative way to spend an evening. In fact, I think I spent about an hour and a half there just sitting there vegging out, thinking about life and the world. It was similar to how I like to spend my evenings in Palm Springs. It was a very spiritual and enjoyable experience. But I was getting tired so I headed back to my hotel and turned in for the night.

On a breezy, warm summer night…I parked next to the Sioux Falls. Beautiful!

Tuesday the 3rd – MORE FUN WITH FRIENDS! –A friend from Minneapolis drove all night to Sioux Falls to see me. Sherlyn and I were good friends back in the late 90’s, and in the past 14 years she’s gotten married, moved to Arizona, then Texas and now Minnesota. She figured it was worth the four hour drive to see me. She and her cousin Christina made the road trip and met me for lunch at Johnny Carino’s. I was eating there with my sister Peggy and a young friend of hers, my folks, and Scott and Bob. It was great to see Sherlyn again and I appreciated her making the trip. After lunch we drove to the B&G Milky Way and got ice cream. Then we went shopping at the mall and rode on the little train they have there. But they needed to go back to the hotel to grab a little sleep, as they had been up all night. I got back to my room and made some calls and sent some text messages. My old pal Dave Baumeister drove in with his wife and kids. We all drove over to Godfather’s Pizza and met up with my folks for some delicious pizza. Then I drove Dave over to their new house to check out their new dwelling. They had lived in Yankton, South Dakota for many years, but now were moving back to Sioux Falls. I’m glad I got to see them. I got back to check on Sherlyn and Christina and they were up and getting ready to go out. We went to a place called The Attic to meet up with an old pal of mine from radio and TV class in high school. Kevin was now working at a local TV station as a cameraman, and we had a blast talking about the old days, our radio and TV class teacher, past pals, etc. The waitress served me my Diet Coke and I took a swallow. YUK! She thought I said Jack and Coke, not Diet Coke! Which is weird since I stood about 8” from her face and clearly said DIET COKE when I ordered. Having never had alcohol in my life I gagged and ran to the bathroom to try and expel the horrible tasting crap from my throat. Gross! After much hacking and spewing, I finally got the taste out of my gullet. No tip for her! I took Sherlyn and Christina on a tour of Sioux Falls, and I took them to the falls again. We had a great time with the top down, watching the falls and enjoying the rather warm summer evening. Christina got a lot of great photos on her camera of the falls and surrounding area. Even though as I was walking back to the car I stepped in a divot in ground and twisted my ankle quite badly. Luckily I was wearing boots, so it helped to support my ankle quite a bit. The girls were getting tired so I went back to the hotel to drop them off. I had considered going back out to the falls to enjoy more of the evening, but I had to hit the hay since I wanted to get up fairly early the next day for the 4th of July!

Wednesday the 4th – HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! – When I got up my ankle hurt and my lower back hurt. I don’t think these hotel beds agree with me very well. Sherlyn and Christina had to head back to Minneapolis to be with her kids for their 4th of July celebration. So I met them in the hotel lobby and saw them off. I drove out to Hardee’s to have lunch with my old pal Lindsey, who used to live here in L.A. We got caught up on all that was happening, and how different life in Sioux Falls is than that of L.A. After dropping Lindsey off, I went to visit grams at her apartment. When I arrived she was in a 4th of July celebration in the dining room and she was eating a red white and blue popsicle! She said it was pretty good! She saw me and immediately got up out of her chair and grabbed her walker and sped over to meet me. It was nice getting to spend some time alone with her chatting and laughing. She’s remarkably sharp for someone her age. We talked for a good half hour or so. But it was hard to say goodbye. She got teary-eyed, which made me teary-eyed. I told her I would definitely come back for her 101th (as I called it) birthday. She said OK and we shook on it. I told her if she’d be here, I’d be here. It was a deal. As I was about to leave the complex I noticed that the 4th of July celebration was closing with the Lord’s Prayer. So I stopped for a bit and listened and prayed along silently. As I was leaving the building, I saw grams coming back out of her room with her walker heading back to the dining room. I shouted one more “I love you” as I walked out (and she responded with the same) and I left wondering if she really would make good on our deal. She’s lived quite a life! Outside the building I could smell charcoal as people began their 4th of July barbecues. I stopped over to my friend Steve Hatt’s house to say hello. I hadn’t seen Steve since he came out for the big Starsky & Hutch reunion show in February. After our visit I went to B&G Milky Way again, got a few more sloppy joe’s and a shake, and slowly drove past my childhood house. It had changed quite a bit, like everything had, but it was good to drive around the old neighborhood again. I headed down the highway to my sister’s house just outside of the Sioux Falls city limits. Outside of the city limits meant that I could buy fireworks and blow them off! Something we can’t do in L.A.! It was blazing hot outside, and I pulled my Camaro on to a dusty side road and parked in front of a seasonal fireworks stand called Pyro King. I bought a huge assortment pack and sped down the road. Pizza was delivered for dinner and we waited for the sun to go down so we could start our pyro party. My nieces and nephews were all there, and they brought some of their own fireworks too. My sister has a section of her garage dedicated to cat rescue, so I went out to the “cathouse” to play with the four cats she was sheltering. I sat on the recliner and the cats would hop up on my lap, stay for a while then climb down to go play. As I sat there in the recliner I got sleepy, so I took a little cat nap while listening to my nephews light firecrackers outside the garage. It was strangely peaceful and relaxing. I had four cats inside (only one of them was black) but my nephews had a whole pack of a different kind of Black Cat outside. It had been forever since I got to light up a pack of Black Cats, sparklers, smoke bombs and snakes. I was getting impatient for the sun to go down so I could sate my pyro urges. Though it was still hot and miserably humid in the late evening, I ventured outside to get my punk lit. My niece said one of her friends posted on Facebook “Hell called and wanted their weather back.” Hell can have it! I was done with this miserable weather! In spite of the heat, we had a blast blasting off all sorts of pyrotechnic playthings. When my nephews saw how cool the assortment I bought was, they took off to go buy their own. So we had lots to go around. Plus, all of my sister’s neighbors had their own displays, so everywhere you looked in the immediate area there were beautiful, sparkly displays lighting up the sky. Not to mention ours. Much better than just sitting back and watching somebody else do it! But my punk was burning low and my assortment box was all blown. So it was time to head down the road back to my hotel. I said my goodbyes to everybody and hit the highway. All the while looking out at the infinite number of amateur pyrotechnicians who were celebrating the 4th with their own array of fireworks. It was spectacular! On the way to my room my pal Scott called and wanted me to meet he and Bob for drinks at a local bar. My old friend Unzi, from the old radio days, was also in town for a family reunion! We had a blast sitting on the patio in the hot summer evening, talking and laughing about the old days. It was the perfect close to a marvelous trip. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t absolutely magical about this trip was the horrible weather, which was consistently over 100 degrees every day! I returned to the hotel, checked in to my flight, printed my boarding passes, and spent a few hours packing my stuff back up for the trip back to L.A. What a trip it had been!

As you can see, my nieces and nephews had a great time helping me light off our fireworks!

Thursday the 5th – BACK HOME! – My dad met me at the hotel to pick up some stuff that I couldn’t fit into my luggage. They’ll ship it to my house instead. I checked out of the hotel, and I drove to the airport to turn my car back in. On the way, Elvis Radio played “A Stranger in My Own Hometown.” The lyrics are…”I’m like a stranger in my own home town. My so called friends stopped being friendly. But my home town won’t accept me. Just don’t feel welcome here no more.” I thought about how this couldn’t be further from the truth of my situation here. It was a wonderful time with great friends and I didn’t feel at all like a stranger, even though I hadn’t lived in Sioux Falls for over 25 years. As I pulled into the rental car lot, “My Way” began to play. Now THIS song had poignancy! Especially the part where Elvis sang “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.” It was another one of those perfectly timed musical moments. I turned the Camaro back in (I couldn’t wait to get rid of that car!) and then met with a few friends from high school. Karen and Signe were back-up singers in my Elvis act in 1978. We laughed about the old times, and strangely enough Signe’s young nephew ALSO does Elvis. I’m sure she has a good time telling him about her own experience singing Elvis music. Karen’s daughter wants to move to L.A. to get into entertainment news reporting. It was great seeing them again. I got on the plane for the short trip to Denver. A gal who was also on the plane explained that her friends in Denver were going to meet her for lunch to help her pass her long layover to Seattle, but they texted her at the last minute and bailed. I told her I’d love it if she had lunch with me on my layover. Her name was Maggie and she works with autistic kids. We had a great lunch, talking about our activities and work. Then I got on the plane for home. Two hours later we touched down at LAX! I was ecstatic! As fun as trips and vacations are, it’s always good to be back home! I wasn’t in town 30 minutes before I was driving down the 405 freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Welcome home huh? I guess not everybody took off for the 4th of July week. I finally got home and was happy to see Spook. Later that night my friend Edi drove me up to Lassie Land so I could pick up Roxy. Roxy was elated to see me, but then she got a bit distant. I honestly think she was a little mad at me for leaving her! On the way home she turned her back to me and looked out the back window. I was crushed. But once I broke out the grilled chicken, she was her old self again and all was forgotten. Edi and I took our dogs down to the Studio Café and had a late dinner on the patio. Then I went home to unpack after a very long day.

Friday the 6th – FINAL DAY OF HIATUS! – I slept late and my back really enjoyed being in my own bed again. I took Roxy for a walk, then went inside to do some work. I started compiling my journal of my past two weeks’ worth of adventures for Wally’s Week. Since I was on vacation, I wasn’t able to update Wally’s Week for the previous week, so I’d just post two weeks’ worth. I drove Roxy over to Rusty’s for a bath, and a teeth cleaning. She was in need of a good dental cleaning. Then I drove over to Regenix for my follow-up visit. I got back to Rusty’s to pick up Roxy and drive her back home. Then we went for a nice walk. I hopped on the computer again to continue writing about my adventures, and my pal Scott Sebring and his wife Vickie stopped by to grab some items for the upcoming San Diego Comic Con. My pal Brittney Powell stopped by to do some work, and Edi also came over. I figured we all needed to catch up, so we went to grab dinner at Panera. I got home and hopped in the sack and grabbed a nap with Roxy on the bed. I woke up late in the evening and continued working around the house, writing Wally’s Week, and getting the house ready for the maids’ arrival on Saturday morning.

Saturday the 7th – SUNNY SATURDAY IN SO CAL! –I got up in time to meet the maids but they were running behind. So Roxy and I laid around on the bed for a little while and lounged. Then we went for a walk. The maids arrived shortly after noon and started cleaning. It wasn’t my usual crew though, and I caught one maid throwing away one of my cereal boxes I had on display! I told her if it’s not in the trash can, it’s not trash. I’ve got to get my regular crew back who knows the ins and outs of Planet Wallywood. An old friend came by with her kids to meet me and tour the house. I hadn’t seen Michelle in about 14 years, so it was fun to catch up. When they took off I walked Roxy down the street again for a bit, then came back in to get ready to meet my friend Edi for lunch. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny, lazy Saturday afternoon. Though I had errands to run, I think they’re going to have to wait. I’m having too much fun being a bum. I hopped in the Torino and drove over to pick up Edi, her daughter Emily and Edi’s cousin Kylie. We had a great lunch on the patio at Paty’s, and the afternoon was beautiful! Then I got home and prepared for movie night. We watched “The Artist” on Blu Ray, followed by the newly released Blu Ray version of “Barbarella.” Wild movie! I had never seen it all the way through before. After the guests left I fed and walked Roxy, then watched a two-part “Wonder Woman” episode from the second season boxed set. Roxy, Spook and I were all on the bed and it was great having some time with the fuzzies again. We hadn’t gathered like that in a few weeks. By the time I got to bed it was about 7am Sunday morning!

Sunday the 8th – SUMMER’S HERE! I woke up around 1 to walk Roxy and it felt like it was about 95 degrees out. But even though it felt hot, it didn’t come anywhere near the discomfort I felt the previous week in South Dakota! The L.A. weather forecast calls for highs in the 90s this coming week (hitting 103 on Thursday!) but it still won’t be as miserable as the weather was in Sioux Falls last week! So I think I’ll do alright with it. Even though we have several more months of summer to get through until the fall arrives, I don’t think it can compare to the misery I felt in my homestate over the July 4th week. I napped awhile longer then got up for evening church. I walked Roxy over to church and afterwards she got lots of hugs and kisses. She loves going to church for that very reason. I got home and my pal Amanda came to town to have dinner. So I picked up my assistant Sara and took them to dinner at The Counter. We had some good hamburgers and conversation. Then we got a few grocery items at the store and headed home to stash them. Amanda had an early call-time for work the next day so she took off. I spent the rest of the evening working on Wally’s Week, doing auditions, paying bills and trying to settle things that needed to be done before the start of the new week. Back to work, and back to life as I know it.

And how was YOUR week??!!

Pics from the Week

My cousin Willy Wingert and the matriarch of the Wingert clan…Hazel Wingert! Getting ready for the 100th birthday celebration!

Here’s grams with my cousin’s new baby…an almost 100 year age difference between the two! Amazing!

My home away from home…B&G Milky Way. Great shakes and delicious sloppy joes! MMMM!

My pals Bob and Scott outside the REAL Joe’s Garage and Grill!

How could I leave without a souvenir Joe’s Garage and Grill t-shirt?

Outside KELO, my old stomping grounds, a bronze tribute to Captain 11 (my favorite children’s TV host from my childhood) stands proudly
Let’s play Freezeberg, crew!

My old pal Sherlyn in her room, getting ready for a night on the town in the big city of Sioux Falls!

On the 4th of July, Sherlyn gets ready to head back to Minneapolis. It was an all-too-brief visit!

My friend Lindsey shows off some wild beasties she found in a cornfield.

Looking strangely similar to another portly orange cat I know well, “Mister” comes up to say hi as I relax in my sister’s “Cat House.”