Tag Cloud
"Flagler's Folly" "Good Lovin" "It's a beautiful morning" "Lilies of the Field" "Living in the Moment" "Lonely Too Long" "The Bells are Ringing" "The Eighth Wonder of the World" Academy Awards Actors Equity Association Alice's Restaurant all in the family American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Ann Corio Archie Bunker Arsenic and Old Lace Assignment Desk banana split Basin Street Blues Bill Cosby Bill Putch Boston University Buddy Hackett Carol Burnett Cary Grant Casa Portagioia CBS Colin Firth convertible Coral Sky Amphitheatre Cortona Cortona Mix Festival Frances Mayes Dean Martin Diahann Carroll Dingbat Dixie Cups Dixieland Dr. Herman Einstein Drunken Porter Eddie Brigati Edith Bunker Esther Cohen Flagler Museum flea market Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers Glen Campbell Gloria Leroy Gypsy Rose Lee Hamlet Hard Rock Hardy Mintzer Harvey Edelman Harvey Korman Henry Flagler hollywood Jason Mraz jazz Jean Stapleton Jeremy Irons Jim Nabors Joey Bishop John Ritter Judy Holiday Key West Kim Zimmer Kravis Center Las Vegas Latin Casino Lena Prima Lenny Kravitz London Louis Prima Lucille Ball MacBeth Martha Raye Milton Berle music Neil Fishman new orleans News Anchor No Strings Once Upon A Dream Othello Over-Sea Railroad Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival Peter Lorre Phyllis Diller Phyllis McGuire Pincus Zuckerman Republic Airport Richard Burton Rod Stewart Roxie Roker sam butera Sammy Davis Jr. Sandy Hackett School for Scandal Screen Actors Guild Shady Grove Music Fair Shakespeare Sidney Poitier Sinead Cusack Sir John Gielgud Sir Toby Belch sitcom Smothers Brothers soap opera Solara Sonja Henie Storrowton Music Fair streaming Surprise Susan Lovell-Brigati Sy Kravitz Television City The Beaux' Strategem The Doctors The Rascals This Was Burlesque Tim Conway To Bed A Fortune Totem Pole Playhouse toussaint Toyota Trudy Styler Tuscan Sun Festival Twelfth Night Vacation Valley Forge Music Fair Vietnam walk of fame Wedding youtube
Reviews and News

The latest review of SWING is by Yahoo! Contributor Mary Beth Magee.

If you have Amazon Prime you can now 'borrow' the Kindle version of SWING for FREE!

Here's another book review, by Scott Eyman of the Palm Beach Post.  

The list of positive reviews for SWING continues:

I highly recommend this book. I usually listen to audio books, but this is one book in print that I couldn't put down. Don't even think about it. Just read it! This is a good one.  

"SWING" is a great read, and a more than impressive, heartfelt, first novel from this author. Bravo!  

A great read about perseverance and acceptance and a trip to the world of Swing.

Here is my recommendation...buy it for your IPad or eReader, download some Louis Prima songs, put your earphones in, turn up the volume and enjoy it.

Alan Gerstel's Blog
headshot of Alan Gerstel, author


Click here to buy the book on Amazon.

It is also available as an ebook.



The Dixie Cups


When I was in high school many eons ago, I had a passion for music.  I played piano, sax and clarinet and joined whatever school bands I could.  I was a member of the orchestra, the dance band and the marching band.

But I had the most fun as a member of the Dixieland band “The Dixie Cups.”

I played clarinet and we also had a trumpet player, a trombone player and a drummer (my best friend, Brian Bell.)  Our slogan was “Save your Dixie cups.  The South will rise again.”  (What did four boys from New Jersey know?)

We played “When the Saints Go Marchin In”… “Basin Street Blues”… and so many other songs connected with New Orleans.  And we had fun doing it!!!

I can recall how the audiences reacted to our music and how pumped up we got from the response.

It wasn’t until many years later, when I learned that Louis Prima was my birth father, that I understood why I was so stoked by the music.  I had been playing the same music that my birth father was raised on… and made a name for himself with… good old Dixieland.

What are the odds that an adopted teenager would be playing his birth father’s music without ever knowing it?  I’d say the odds were pretty long.


All In The Family


As I mentioned in a previous post, I worked at CBS Television City in Los Angeles as a young man.  The years were 1969 through 1972.  During that time, many very popular shows taped there, including Carol Burnett, Glenn Campbell, Jim Nabors, Merv Griffin… and All in the Family.

I remember the buzz surrounding All in the Family when it was in rehearsal.  We heard that it was ground-breaking television and it would keep the censors busy.

At first, it seemed unlikely that CBS would air it, as CBS had canceled The Smother Brothers Show just a few years before because they were too “edgy.”  Now came All in the Family.

I sat in the studio and watched some of the rehearsals for All in the Family and became friendly with Jean Stapleton who played the “dingbat”, Edith Bunker.  She told me privately that CBS had only ordered three episodes of the show and she didn’t think the network would dare to actually put it on the air.

The day of taping, CBS staff members had to go to The Farmer’s Market next door to recruit audience members.  No one had ever heard of Jean or Carol O’Connor, who played her husband, Archie.  And the network was trying to keep the show under the radar until it decided if it would actually air it.

I stood through the taping of the first episode, and heard the audience laugh in disbelief.  NO ONE had ever heard any language like that on network television and people were absolutely incredulous.

I too was incredulous.  But to CBS’s credit… the show DID air… and it made television history.


Do you think any network would attempt a show like that today?  Don’t you wish they would?


Carol Burnett - CBS Television City


At the tender age of 25, I found myself employed at CBS Television City in Los Angeles.  That made me an observer to history in the making.  During my years of employment, numerous TV shows were videotaped there and as an employee, I was able to watch rehearsals and watch the tapings themselves.

One such show was The Carol Burnett Show.  Anyone going to YouTube can find clips of the famed comedienne’s shows.  But I had the privilege of being able to sit in the studio as Carol, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence went through their skits without an audience.

Without having to censor themselves, the cast members just let it all hang out.  Many of us are aware of the pure joy of watching Tim Conway cracking up Harvey Korman whenever he could.  But trust me, the shackles came off in rehearsals, and Tim would do and say things he could NEVER get away with on the air.

And the spirit of fun was infectious.  Even the crew got involved.  The men’s and ladies’ rooms for the cast and crew were directly off the stage to the left.  During a break in rehearsals, Harvey Korman went to the men’s room to pee.  The Director had a camera on a long boom push through the men’s room door and then he “punched up” the shot of Harvey at the urinal on all the monitors in the studio.

And let me add that Carol Burnett, even at the peak of her stardom, was the nicest, most down-to-earth performer I have ever met.  I only wish they would re-run her shows today.



The Jive Aces

I was introduced to The Jive Aces by a friend who knows that I am the illegitimate son of Louis Prima.  He encouraged me to watch a YouTube video of the band performing "Bring Me Sunshine."

The Jive Aces is a British "Swing" band that performs many of the songs that my birth father did... and they liberally pay tribute to the man who was a "Swing" legend in the last century.  One of my birth father's signature musical moves was to start a song slowly (He would encourage his band to "play pretty for the people") and then break into a wild up-tempo rhythm with his sidekick, Sam Butera, wailing on the saxophone.

When I first saw the "Bring Me Sunshine" video, I was amazed at how faithfully The Jive Aces seemed to capture the "Louis Prima sound." But the homage doesn't end there.  One shot focuses on an outdoor sign for an ice cream shop that features "Banana Splits."  One of my birth father's hits was "Banana Split for my Baby" ("and a glass of plain water for me.")

I watched the YouTube video roll through the credits with the last shot being of a pair of black and white "Swing" shoes (that had been featured throughout the music video).  The camera panned from the shoes a few feet down the sidewalk to reveal Louis Prima's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (That final homage took me by such surprise that I wound up sobbing.)

 See it for yourself.....


Age 67

I find myself in a statistically odd situation and I try not to obsess over it.  But facts are facts, and I can't help wonder how it will all turn out.

My birth father, Louis Prima, died on August 24, 1978.  My adopted father died on April 28, 1978… just four months earlier.  They were BOTH 67 years old when they passed away.

I am now 67 years old.

I can’t help but wonder if I will beat the “curse.”  My 68th birthday is in August… August 11, 2012 to be exact.  Will I make it to 68?  Or will I join both my fathers and die at 67.

Stay tuned.  Tape at 11.


Berkeley Square... a romantic fantasy

I admit that I am a hopeless romantic.  So it should come as no surprise that I would plan an anniversary gift for my wife that would be "over the top."  And I did.

Ronni and I had been married for 34 years at the time and hadn't worn our wedding rings in decades.  They were clunky rings that were in fashion when we married, but proved to be unwieldy for my puppeteer wife (who would put her hands inside foam creatures to manipulate them... and for me, a TV News Anchor who fiddled with it while on the air).

Ronni and I both loved Rod Stewart's version of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and we were headed to London on a business trip with our adult sons in tow.  But months before our trip, I went to a local jewelry store and picked out new wedding bands.  Ronni's friend, who was making costume jewelry, had her "try on" one of her rings (so that we could determine Ronni's finger size.)  I even withdrew money to pay for the rings slowly from the ATM so that Ronni wouldn't notice.  I did everything so stealthily that she didn't have a clue. 

I also downloaded "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" to my cell phone.  My vision was to take Ronni (and our sons) to Berkeley Square where I would play the song on my phone and Ronni and I would dance romantically before I presented her with the rings and ask if she would marry me again.

But it was not to be.

When we arrived in London, our hotel was not far from Berkeley Square (pronounced: Barkeley) and we had the cab driver drop us off.  It was evening by this time and we had to walk past rows of parked cars to get to the gate leading to the Square.  As we approached the gate, we could see that it was locked with a chain.  A sign proclaimed:  "Closed for renovations."

Months of stealthy preparation passed before my eyes.  "Closed for renovations?"  I spent months planning every detail, however this was one detail I had no control over.  But I salvaged what I could of the moment.  I played Rod Stewart on my phone and gave Ronni her new ring, with our sons (who were in on the surprise) applauding in the background.  Not quite what I had wanted, but a warm, romantic moment nonetheless. 



Youtube streaming New Orleans Jazz Festival 2012.

Kudos to YouTube for live streaming the sounds of the New Orleans Jazz Festival the past few weekends.  I knew nothing about the streaming until I went on YouTube to check out a video and stumbled upon it and became mesmerized.

I was thrilled to watch Allen Toussaint and his band!!  I couldn’t turn it off, and in fact, I ordered one of his CDs.  I’d rather have been there in person, particularly since that Festival honored my birth father, Louis Prima, two years ago.  I have the large poster from the Festival painted by Tony Bennett hanging upstairs.

I had thought of attending the Festival in the past, but was worried that the crowds would be overwhelming. (I am a claustrophobe.)  But everyone seemed to have space to move around and the weather looked very comfortable.  So maybe next year!

I should also mention that my sister, Lena, is singing at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone in the heart of the Big Easy.  I’m looking for a way to get there just to see her perform again.  She has golden pipes and the talent to go along with them.  She obviously inherited the singing talent from our shared father that I wish I had.  Oh well, I’ll have to settle for being an actor rather than a singer.

The festival is over, but more info on the acts and streaming is detailed on the Youtube Global blog.


Page 1 2 3