Without Akeeba and Rose, We Wouldn’t Have Neil Leslie Diamond’s Touching Story

Two generations ago, Rose Rapaport met and married a man with the funny name of Akeeba “Kieve” Diamond. The Polish and Russian immigrants fell in love, got married, and to Brooklyn and the world they gave a baby boy.

For his first name they picked Neil, normal enough. For his middle name they went with Leslie, a girl’s name mostly, but that didn’t seem to bother him much. Neil Leslie Diamond went on to become Pretty Dang Famous. You might have heard of this singer, songwriter and guitarist. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. I almost typed indicted, but no. Not that type of funny stuff for Neil Diamond, we don’t think.

I Am Hair Man (From Getty Images)

I Am Hair Man (From Getty Images)

I remember in the 1990s, seeing the deeply black-haired man perform in the round in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. In the middle of his set, with the crowd of all ages screaming happily along with his hit songs, the power went out. So Neil Diamond put the microphone in its stand, dropped his black tux pants to reveal bright red boxer shorts, and continued singing a cappella. His powerful voice filled the cavernous football stadium. People shut the hell up and listened. When the power came back on Diamond picked the microphone back up and said: “The show must go on.”

That was funny.

And cool for a guy who has become curiously hip after a career in which at times he has been considered the butt of pop culture’s wink-winks, as unhip-as-they-come.

When Diamond was growing up in Brooklyn, he thought he was going to become a laboratory biologist. At NYU, he was a member of an NCAA championship fencing team. High and Mighty. Instead, a taste of songwriting for $50 a week won him over.

“It was a real hand-to-mouth existence in those early days. I’d have whatever dry cereal there was in the house for breakfast, 30 cents to spend on lunch and a hot dog for dinner. I did that for years. So there was definitely a hunger in me, of various kinds, to succeed,” he is reported as saying about that time.

Yeah. The songs rolled out. Funny stuff and deep stuff and stuff that made people scratch their heads.

In 1979, he had a hit with “Forever in Blue Jeans,” and “Saturday Night Live” funny man Will Ferrell later worked him over good as a lounge lizard, but it also made a damn fine commercial for The Gap and likely a second boatload of bucks, didn’t it? He starred with Barbra (where’s your third ‘a’ Babs?) Streisand on the duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” but ditched her for a planned movie to instead play a cantor in a 1980 remake of “The Jazz Singer.” That soundtrack gave him three hits, “Love on the Rocks,” “Hello Again” and “America,” but it also earned him the first-ever Razzie Award for Worst Actor.

He may have had a bit of an identity crisis from that sort of public skewering.

Take his hit “I Am, I Said,” which goes: “I am, I said. To no one there. And no one heard at all. Not even the chair.”

“There’s a mystery to writing, and you don’t really know where most of it comes from,” he said.

So write and play songs from wherever he did. He liked to put names in their titles, that is clear.

His Billboard Top 40 hits include “Holly Holy,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” — mother, Rose, remember — “Desiree” and, of course, “Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good).”

That last infectious tune came out in 1969, but it was decades later that it was adopted as a crowd sing-along. You’ve been out in a bar somewhere where a band covers the song or a DJ plays it, or in a baseball stadium between innings when they throw it on the PA, and the collective might of all those voices hits the resounding oh-oh-oh, right?

Neil Diamond doesn't know about any stinkin' rivalry.  (From Getty Images)

I never knew The Babe. (From Getty Images)

Or you’ve seen this phenomena on TV, after it spread to the big leagues, very famously to Fenway Park in Boston during the World Series, where they even brought the man who wrote it to sing it out on the diamond live and in person, where I thought Brooklyn’s Neil Leslie Diamond must surely be cringing inside somewhat while I watched on my flat screen, what with Yankees-Red Sox rivalry raging all these decades and all. Busting the curse of the Bambino, anyone?

Here’s something funny. Neil Diamond finally revealed in 2007 that he wrote “Sweet Caroline” as an ode to Caroline Kennedy. The song came out in 1969. She would have been 12. “Hands. Touchin’ hands. Reachin’ out. Touchin’ me. Touchin’ you.”

Innocent enough?

“I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday,” Diamond said in a story on wcbsfm.cbs.local.com. He got that chance when he performed for Caroline on her 50th birthday.

Where's your bucket?

Where’s your bucket?

Next weekend, my dear wife Karen and I will be in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., so she can check both seeing a Neil Diamond concert and the cherry blossoms blooming around our other national monuments off her bucket list.

Here’s the link to the wikipedia site for Neil Diamond.

Here’s the link to Neil Diamond’s site.

Here’s the link to the site for Neil Diamond’s quotes.

Here’s the link for the story about “Sweet Caroline.”

Here’s the link to the lyrics of “Sweet Caroline.”

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Hugh Beaver – The Record Recorder

Tell me, what is the faster game bird in Europe? The Golden Plover, or the Grouse?

I know we’ve all debated this very question over the years, and I can tell you with some authority that the answer is the plover.

This is because this is the question that caused an argument between two gentlemen at a shooting party in Ireland in 1951 that eventually led to the creation of the Guinness Book of Records. One of these gentlemen involved was then the managing director at Guinness brewery, Mr. Hugh Beaver.

Mr. Hugh Beaver, back in the day, in a nice hat.

Mr. Hugh Beaver, back in the day, in a nice hat.

Beaver, quite correctly, figured that lots of people around bars, pubs, hunting grounds, bowling alleys, and perhaps even Volvo dealership breakrooms may be having these types of debates every day with no way to solve them. So he set about working on a book that would tell us what is the fastest, longest, largest, and most bedazzled anything ever.

Today of course, we have the internet, which I’m sure has hurt the book’s sales somewhat, but the legend stands. I myself remember poring over the many records as a young one, eager to learn about who the world’s most popular television star was (David Hasselhoff, I believe) or how long a grown man could willingly grow his fingernails (way too long).

Once the idea was born, Beaver got right to work. In 1954, he commissioned two fact-finder brothers in London to compile all the records into one book, which was to be given away for free. The book found amazing success, and unexpectedly became the number one bestseller of England’s Christmas season in 1955. Since then, its various editions have sold more than a hundred million copies, solving bird-related arguments for men carrying shotguns everywhere.

The Beaver Family, today.

The Beaver Family, today.

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Nudie Cohn: Original Bedazzler

Good morning and welcome to another educational installment at the Blog of Funny Names. On this sunny, flower-blooming spring day, it only seems fitting to post about this colorful character. As his Nudie-mobile proudly proclaims, that’s Nudie Cohn!

Now don’t you go thinking this has anything to do with Live! Nude! Girls! No, folks, this here is the original rodeo tailor, creator of rhinestone-covered suits worn by everyone from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to John Lennon, ZZ Top, k.d. lang, and Elton John. So who was this little man and how did he outfit celebrities for 50 years? Let’s dive right in!

Born in 1902 in the Ukraine as Nuta Kotlyarenko, Nudie Cohn rose to fame as the creator of the “Nudie Suit.” When he was 11, his mother, Pearl, sent him and brother Julius to America to escape Czarist Russia, telling them the streets of America were paved with gold. Little did she know, little Nuta would one day make a $10,000 gold lame suit for a young rocker named Elvis Presley.

Nuta’s older brother Sam had arrived in Brooklyn earlier that year, shortening his last name to Cohn. When Nuta was processed at Ellis Island, his name was mangled by an agent who proclaimed him Nudie Cohn. He would later declare that the agent did him a great favor that day.

Nudie, who had apprenticed as a tailor in Russia, settled into Brooklyn, using his skills, dreaming about becoming a cowboy star, like his idol, Tom Mix. As Nudie entered his teen years, he worked odd jobs, including boxing in exhibition matches, billed as “Battling Nudie” at an intimidating 106 pounds. He traveled the nation back and forth, eventually winding up at a boardinghouse in Mankato, Minnesota, where he fell for the owner’s 18-year-old daughter, Helen. He was 30.

They married in 1933 and the next year opened Nudie’s for the Ladies near Times Square, where they outfitted burlesque queens and strippers. By the 40s, they sold the business and set up a tailor shop in Hollwood, California. He sought out country-western musician Tex Williams, who had just left Spade Cooley’s (another awesome name) band. Nudie was paid $850 to outfit Tex and his Western Caravan, and his career took off.

Roy and Dale became regular customers, but Nudie remained popular with stars as the decades passed.

"Nudie: the rodeo tailor"

“Nudie: the rodeo tailor”

Here he is with clients and friends over the years.

same book

same book

Nudie created the wardrobe for Bye Bye Birdie, designed Hank Williams’ white suit with musical notes, a wagon-covered suit for Porter Wagoner, and the iconic costume worn by Robert Redford in Electric Horseman. Stars loved his suits as much as his outrageous personality, and his close friends included Michael Landon and Merv Griffin.

According to his granddaughter, Jamie Lee, he often bought items with dollar bills sporting a sticker of his face covering George Washington’s. “When you get sick of looking at me,” he would say, “just rip [the sticker] off and spend it.”

Nudie passed in 1984 at the age of 81, and Dale Evans delivered the eulogy. His legacy continues in the very fabric that he stitched, including a white Nudie shirt owned by Roy Rogers, which sold for over $16,000 at a Christie’s auction. Go, Nudie!

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Funny Names in the News 100! The Mega Sized Centenarian Edition

Hello everyone, Dave AND everybody’s favorite Finn, Arto here (and hold tight, because there’s another blogger returning for a triumphant cameo)! We’re doing a post together, for the first time in… a very long time, because today marks a very important event*: Funny Names in the News turns 100!!! We’ve come a long way since FNITN debuted back in the “Florence Colgate” era, and we’ve seen 100 weeks of noteworthy names in the news. To celebrate, we’ve decided to take a look at some of our fellow centenarians. Over to you, Arto!

Arto: Yes, we are going to take the opportunity of the 100th Funny Names in the News to celebrate people who have reached 100 years in another, perhaps less prestigious field. One called life. (Electric word life, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time, but…Hmmm, I seem to have veered off course.)

Dave: A Prince reference!!! Well done. From a great song, Let’s Go Crazy! Well… let’s go crazy, if we haven’t already!

A bundle of animal crackers, earlier. This batch likely untouched by Schreckengost hands.

A bundle of animal crackers, earlier. This batch likely untouched by Schreckengost hands.

Arto: Let’s do it, Dave! Diving right in, I’m delighted to report that a relative of an old blog favorite appears on our list. Viktor Schreckengost, who lived to the respectable age of 101, was a hugely influential industrial designer and artist, and best of all, related to baseball great Ossee Schreckengost!

Dave : Ossee Schreckengost!!! One of the first posts I ever wrote! That guy’s a legend. Remember when Rob used to post awesome stories about Rube Waddell and Ossee Schreckengost? How Ossee’s contract demanded that Rube not eat crackers in the bed they shared? Those were different times!

Arto : That’s right, Dave! No word on Viktor’s penchant for animal crackers though.

Next up, we look at legendary Hong Kong businessman and filmmaker Run Run Shaw, who along with his brothers founded Quentin Tarantino’s favorite Asian film studiothe imaginatively named Shaw Borthers Studios. Run Run proved his longevity by marrying his second wife in Las Vegas at the age of 90, as you do. He was also a huge fan of Mr. Bean, proving once again that laughter helps you live to 106, even if you’re laughing at a mute Englishman incapable of completing even the simplest human task without soiling himself.

How this scenario unfolded is unclear. What is clear is that if you saw it and your name is Hildegaard, you will surely live to the age of 187.

How this scenario unfolded is unclear. What is clear is that if you saw it and your name is Hildegaard, you will surely live to the age of 187.

As a funny name bonus, Run Run’s nickname as a child was Uncle Six, because he was the sixth child. How they got to uncle from there, I’m not sure, Dave.

Dave : Everything can be called uncle. Case in point, the region containing your brain’s amygdala is called the “uncal region.” If you get uncal transtentorial herniation, then bad things happen… large pupils that don’t react to light, potential loss of consciousness. OK, I need to stop! Less med school… more names, more names!

Arto : I’m glad you said that, Dave. Whatever it is you just said.

Oh I got more of where those names came from, all right. Famous actors and entertainers who lived to 100 and beyond include Oscar BrodneyOlaf Pooley, and everyone’s favorite Latin American ventriloquist, Señor Wences.

Dave: OMG!!!! I LOVE SENOR WENCES!!! s’alright? s’alright?!? Seriously, last Thanksgiving that’s what my family and I watched in a nice cabin.

Dr. Viktor Hamburger, immediately after discovering element #219, the Hamburger.

Dr. Viktor Hamburger, immediately after discovering element #219, the Hamburger.

Arto : I’m convinced that having a funny name spurs longevity in a person. Just look at Dr. Viktor Hamburger, lived to 100. Or Elsie Quarterman, 104. William Augustus Bootle, 102. Fulgence Carpentier, 103. Funny named centenarians are everywhere!

Dave : This is the best thing!!

Arto : Whoa, was that a baseball? Yikes, something just flew by and shattered a window behind us!

Dave : No way! What’s going on?

Arto : Are you saying someone particular might be nearby?

Dave : Hmm… hadn’t thought of that…

Wait… I have a strange feeling… a feeling I haven’t experienced in a while….

It feels like… baseball… but not a “Mark” type of baseball… a Californian type of baseball…

It can’t…

No, it must be…

It’s Rob!!!

Yes, he really is that tall... tall enough to tower over six-foot-one* me. But he's still my LITTLE brother!

Yes, Rob really is that tall… tall enough to tower over six-foot-one* Dave.

My tall brother Rob is taking a break from his busy consulting work in the LA area to once again grace us with his presence and esoteric baseball knowledge, and to pitch in with his info on funny named centenarians from the world of baseball!!!! He’s written 54 posts for us, but life got busy and we haven’t seen him since he let us know about Dizzy Dean, Daffy Dean and the Gashouse Gang in January 2014! Welcome back, bro!

Take it away Rob!!!!

Rob: Thanks Dave, it’s good to be back! We have a few doozies from the “baseball centenarians” crew today:

Theodore Roosevelt Radcliffe (1902-2005) had quite a name as it was. Yet Radcliffe may be best known as “Double Duty” Radcliffe, a nickname gained after he caught one game and pitched the next during a Negro League World Series doubleheader. As a writer put it, Radcliffe “was worth the price of two admissions.” Apparently, he also felt the need to live two lifetimes in one.

Howard Hoffman “Howdy” Groskloss (1906-2006) was your typical Ivy League gynecologist second baseman. Yes, you heard that right. Howdy played three seasons as a second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, amassing a respectable .261 batting average with 21 RBIs over his short career. Yet he wasn’t a guy who just liked to hit. Howdy attended Yale while playing for the Pirates. After his career, he became a gynecologist, and also served as a flight surgeon in the Navy during WWII. I guess it’s not surprising that a doc would live past 100. However, he had to survive some Poison – in the form of Hall of Fame teammates Paul “Big Poison” and Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner – to get there. (those are two of my favorite ballplayer nicknames!) He also played with a guy named Pie – Hall of Famer Pie Traynor, that is. Practicing gynecology must have felt pretty mundane after getting to play with the likes of those guys. But who said ballplayers can’t make good docs? (okay, no one has ever said that)

Dave: I certainly wouldn’t say that!

Arto : I think I said that once in the summer of 2006, but I may have been under the influence of some spoiled tomatoes at the time.

Dave : That’ll do it. Well folks, it’s been a wonderful ride. Thanks for joining us for 100 wonderful FNITNs, and hopefully we can find some 200-year-olds when we finish our next hundred! Enjoy your Fridays, everybody! See you next week…same FNITN time, same FNITN channel!

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Key and Peele’s East-West College Bowl Funny Names Video – New

Our regular Tuesday correspondent had to miss this week due to something wild and crazy, and Dr. King Token White Guy Dave (me) is super busy with two final exams on Friday morning, so how about we just leave you with this amazing video from the vault… Key and Peele’s “East/West College Bowl” preview. This video is replete with amazing names, and always a pleasure to re-watch this is a NEW one… these are always a pleasure to watch! Enjoy!

None of these names are quite Orison Whipple Hungerford, Jr. but they’re also pretty fantastic! Which one’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments section!

UPDATE: It appears this is a different East/West College Bowl video – one never previously shared on the Blog of Funny Names! Woohoo for new discoveries! You can see the other one in the suggested links after the video!

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