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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.


Entries in CBS (4)


Jean Stapleton

Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker) passed away at the age of 90.  For me, it is the end of an era because I am proud to say that I knew her well.

The first Broadway show my mother took me to when I was about 10 years old was "The Bells Are Ringing" starring Judy Holiday.  The plot revolved around a telephone answering service.  (For those too young to remember the days before Voice Mail, these services took phone messages for you.)  In the show, the plot revolved around a company known as "Susansa-phone."   Jean played one of the operators, and I can still hear her shrill voice as she sat at the switchboard and answered: "Susansa-phone."

That show exposed me to the magic of theatre and forever changed my life.

Fast Forward to the late 60's.  I got a job at CBS Television City in Los Angeles and was working in an office near the four sound stages where shows like "Carol Burnett", "Glen Campbell" and "Jim Nabors" were taped. One of the perks of employment there was the opportunity to sit in on studio rehearsals and even the taping of shows.

Jean Stapleton and I exchanged greetings several times in the hallway outside my office and eventually Jean (being the sweetheart that she was) began to tell me about this new show she was in called "All in the Family."  She told me that CBS had only ordered THREE episodes of the show, and that she believed that it would NEVER be aired.  CBS, after all, was the very conservative network that had cancelled the controversial Smothers Brothers show several years before.

I was so intrigued by what Jean told me that I made it my business to attend the very first taping of "All in the Family."  As the first scene played out, the audience members... who were initially blissfully unaware of the content of the show... began to howl in disbelief!!!  They had never heard any dialog like this on television.  Neither had I.  And I began to reflect on what Jean had said about the show never making it into viewers' living rooms.

It WAS aired, though.  But at the beginning of the first several episodes, CBS put up a full-screen disclaimer warning viewers of the sensitive subject matter to come.  The rest is history.

As the show continued over the next weeks and months, Jean and I cemented our relationship.  She even helped me try to get other work in the entertainment business.  I eventually moved back to New Jersey, but we never lost touch.  

Jean and her late husband, Bill Putch, operated the Totem Pole Playhouse (a Summer Stock theatre in Pennsylvania) and Jean invited me and my then-fiance' Ronni, to visit.  And we did.  We watched a performance of "Butterflies are Free" starring an unknown actor named John Ritter and we had dinner and spent some wonderful time with Jean and Bill.

I saw Jean last in West Palm Beach in 2000, when she was touring in a play about Eleanor Roosevelt.  And all those years later, she still remembered our conversations at Television City.  And I can honestly say she remained the same gracious, down-to-earth human being I had come to know and love.  R.I.P.


Shakespeare and The News

I am an actor.  I am also a former newscaster.  Some would say they are one and the same.  And there's a lot that can be said to bolster that argument.  In fact, for several years running I managed to act AND anchor the news on the same night!

I was the weekend News Anchor for WPEC, the CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida.  I anchored the 6 and 11 PM newscasts.  But one year I was also cast as Brabantio, Desdemona's father in the Shakespeare play "Othello."  Brabantio only appears in the first 22 minutes of the play, so I figured out the logistics of squeezing in a performance between newscasts.

When I finished the 6PM news... I got into my car and drove the half-hour to the outdoor amphitheater in Jupiter, Florida's Carlin Park.  I got into costume and was ready to go.  At 8:22, I made my last exit. (I could never stick around for Curtain Calls.)  Then I would quickly get out of costume... rush to my car... drive the half-hour back to the news studio... and change back into my suit for the 11PM news.

The next day, I had people calling me to say that they watched me in "Othello" and got home in time to catch the 11:00 news.  They couldn't help but wonder if we hadn't taped the news earlier (a cardinal sin in the news business.)  But I assured them that we hadn't... and that, like a magician, I had managed to pull off this sleight of hand. 

I am currently performing in “Twelfth Night” for two long weekends, but no longer have to deal with the “nooz.”  So I could accept the substantial role of “Sir Toby Belch” and not have to worry about leaving the show early.  More on “Twelfth Night” in the weeks to come.


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.