Mr. New Year’s Eve

Before there was “Dick Clark’s Rockin’Eve,” and before there was “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly,” there was only one man who owned the annual celebration in Times Square:  Mr. Guy Lombardo.  Along with the Royal Canadians, Bandleader Guy Lombardo was known for his big band, swing style of music and for making New Year’s Eve a night to remember.

Bandleader Guy Lombardo, Mr. New Year's Eve

Beginning in 1929 on radio, and then transitioning to TV in the 1950’s all the way through 1976, the year prior to his death, Mr. Lombardo’s name was synonymous with the world-famous celebration in Times Square. What’s more, he and he alone is credited with popularizing the use of “Auld Lang Syne” at New Year’s celebrations in America.

Well, as far as my family was concerned, New Year’s Eve just wasn’t New Year’s Eve without watching Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians ring in the New Year on TV. How we looked forward to tuning in and watching him entertain us with his warm, homey smile and his baton at the ready. His music had a smooth style, easy on the ears, and he rang in the New Year with a panache and elegance that hasn’t quite been seen since, and is long gone from our cultural landscape.

I remember looking forward to watching Guy Lombardo on TV. When he came on live from the Roosevelt Hotel or later, from the Waldorf Astoria, it meant the New Year would be here soon. Like any kid, I loved being able to stay up. Even though we were in Queens, just a subway ride away from Times Square, we never got to see the ball drop in person. I suppose my family wasn’t interested in being pushed and shoved by the crowds the evening’s festivities would attract, or standing outside in the cold, frigid Manhattan air.  So, from the comfort of our home, wearing our flannel pajamas, we’d gather around the black and white television console like millions of Americans, to watch Mr. Lombardo conduct the Royal Canadians.

For Guy Lombardo was and always will be Mr. New Year’s Eve.  And somewhere, up in the sky, at this time of year, he must be holding his baton again and smiling. I bet anything, he’s thrilled to pieces to know that we’re still singing his signature song, “Auld Lang Syne.”  Let’s take a cup of kindness yet and let’s sing another chorus for Guy Lombardo and for all the memories he gave so many of us. And, let’s give a toast for the delight he brought to the greatest generation and to those of us who are their children. Those of us who remember.

Indeed, thinking of Guy Lombardo on this night of all nights, brings me back to our little brownstone in Flushing.  When we were young and greeting a new year was still exciting, and not necessarily a reminder of getting older and the sands of time slipping away sort of thing.

Happy New Year, Mr. Lombardo.  Happy New Year, Everyone!

On Notice—For the Holidays!

In honor of the season of joy and goodwill, I bring you my On Notice list–just for the holidays. So serve yourself a generous slice of fruitcake or mincemeat pie. Break off the head of that gingerbread cookie, warm from the oven, and put on some Christmas music, too. Then, sit back and enjoy!

Pretty to look at, but don't try to eat gingerbread. It's on notice!

Gingerbread: I’ve never been one for gingerbread. Yuck. There’s no disguising the strong taste.  Basically, any dessert item that contains chocolate is my preference and let’s be honest: gingerbread and chocolate don’t mix. Ergo, I’m putting gingerbread on notice!

Pressure and/or Stress: There’s all kinds of pressure and stress during the holidays–pressure to decorate, buy the perfect tree, send out holiday cards, get gifts for everyone while staying within budget, participate in cookie exchanges, and go caroling with friends. I, for one, am ignoring the pressure, and plan to enjoy my holiday stress-free.

Annual Holiday Letters: There are three kinds of mail you get this time of year from distant family and friends.  1) A holiday card with a personalized message; 2) A holiday card featuring a photo of the sender, with family, and a pre-printed message; 3) Or the annual letter that details every family member’s achievement, report cards, health issues, vacations, etc.  Well, I’m ok with the first two (though I always favor a personalized, written message over a pre-printed one). But please, consider the environment and the stress that most of us are already under, when sending a 3 or 4-page annual letter.

Airports: Airports are bad enough. The mob of people checking bags, going through security this time of year, not to mention the blizzard weather conditions, makes flying not worth it. If you ask me, best to stay home. You’ll thank me later.

Mincemeat: What exactly is this and does anyone really eat it anymore?  Unless you’re a descendant of Charles Dickens, I see no point to mincemeat pies.  The same goes for fruitcake. And, I don’t care what they say, putting any kind of meat in a dessert—minced or chopped—should be against the law. 

Gift cards: These are becoming more and more popular. But if you ask me, gift cards are a gift cop-out.  Basically, you’re telling your friends and loved ones, you don’t really care enough to consider what they’d like, so you’re giving them a gift card.  I ask you, is that really in the true spirit of Christmas?  Do you think the Three Wise Men brought along gift cards with the frankincense and myrrh??

Standing in Lines: There’s no getting away from the crowds this time of year, and with crowds come the lines. Lines at the post office, department stores, the movies, the grocery stores, the liquor stores, you name it.  Do what I do when I have to wait: Bring a book. Might as well make the most of your time in line.

I asked my son to decorate cookies for a cookie exchange. This was his best effort.

Cookie Exchange: Why must the holidays be all about sweets? My must we have cookie exchange parties that make those of us who cannot bake feel bad? Why not have a party where you bring your favorite take-out food? Remember, I’m going for less stress, not more.

Calories: And while we’re on the subject of sweets, I’m putting calories on notice. For once, calories should do us all a favor and go on hiatus. Come back in January. Be kind.

Christmas Songs: While fun at the beginning—like an old friend making its annual pilgrimage—even the best Christmas songs can overstay their welcome. Yet somehow I can’t stop listening to these catchy tunes.  Luckily (or not), these songs are played everywhere and there’s no escaping them. At least they’re not songs about clowns. I really don’t like clowns.

So that’s my list for the holidays.  What’s on your list?

Wishing you a very Happy (and stress-free) New Year!