October 30, 2014

“Enjoy every sandwich.”

Warren Zevon’s sardonic views on life and death are apparent in many of the songs he wrote.

An early example is “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” which first appeared on Zevon’s self-titled 1976 album.

Those words were later used as the title of the posthumous biography written about him by his ex-wife Crystal Zevon and as the title of a 2-disc anthology of his music.

The sentiments expressed in that song reflected Zevon’s attitude and lifestyle during his first decades of rock stardom, which were heavily fueled by alcohol and drugs.

“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” was his version of The Who’s famed line “Hope I die before I get old” or the earlier saying “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse!” 

(To read about the real origin of the “Live fast, die young…” quote, which is often misattributed to actor James Dean, click this link.)

In the fall of 2002, at age 55, Zevon uttered a different, more poignant quip about life that became equally famous among his fans — “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Earlier that spring, Zevon had released the album My Ride’s Here. At the time, he said it was “a meditation on death.” A few months later, Zevon publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

One of the many longtime fans who were saddened to hear that news was David Letterman. During 1980s and 1990s, Zevon was a favorite musical guest of Letterman on his late night shows. Over the years, they became friends.

On October 30, 2002, Warren Zevon made one last appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. At Letterman’s request, he was the sole guest for the entire show.

During the course of the show, Zevon performed three songs: "Mutineer" from his 1995 album of the same name, “Genius” from My Ride’s Here and one of Letterman’s old favorites “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” from Zevon’s classic 1978 album Excitable Boy (the album that included his biggest hit, “Werewolves of London”).

Before Zevon sang his first song, Letterman talked with him about his life and his medical condition.

Zevon’s usual dark humor showed through in much of their conversation.

For example, when Letterman initially brought up the lung cancer diagnosis, Zevon joked: “I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for twenty years.”

Zevon’s answer was more serious when Letterman asked him if his approach to life and music had changed since he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

He told Letterman:

“You put more value on every minute...You know I always kinda thought I did that. I really always enjoyed myself. But it’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute.”

Letterman asked if being aware of having terminal cancer gave Zevon some knowledge about life and death “that maybe I don’t know.”

In his reply, Zevon used the sandwich line again, making it forever memorable.

He answered thoughtfully:

“Not unless I know how much, how much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”

After this final appearance on the Letterman show, Zevon survived for about nine months — long enough to finish one more studio album, titled The Wind.

It was released on August 26, 2003. Less than two weeks later, on September 7, 2003, Zevon died.

I’ll admit that I teared up when I first listened to one of the songs on that album, “Keep Me in Your Heart.”

I do, Warren.

And, at age 65, as I become ever more aware of the fragility, beauty and shortness of life, your words “Enjoy every sandwich” resonate ever more loudly in my mind.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Further reading, viewing and listening…

     • YouTube videos of Warren Zevon’s appearances on Letterman shows

     • The official Warren Zevon website

     • The Warren Zevon Other Page

     • The AmercianHitNetwork.com post about Zevon’s last appearance on the Letterman show

     • The American Spectator post about Zevon’s last appearance on the Letterman

October 11, 2014

“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” (and finger-eating wolverines)

On October 11, 1975, at 11:30pm Eastern Time, a new TV comedy show debuted on the NBC network.

It opened with a wacky skit featuring three comic actors who were virtually unknown at the time.

In the skit, a frumpy-looking East European immigrant with a heavy accent is being tutored on how to speak proper English by a well-dressed teacher.

They are sitting in comfortable chairs next to each other in a small room.

The teacher starts a repeat-after-me type lesson with an unusual language exercise about wolverines…

       TEACHER: “Let us begin. Repeat after me. I would like...”

       IMMIGRANT: (With a noticeable accent.) “I wude like...”

       TEACHER: “...to feed your fingertips...”

       IMMIGRANT: “...to feed yur fingerteeps...”

       TEACHER: “...to the wolverines.”

       IMMIGRANT: “...to de woolvur-eenes.”

After a couple more odd exercises about wolverines and badgers (or, “woolvur-eenes” and “bed-jurs” as the immigrant pronounces them), the teacher suddenly gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the floor, apparently dead from a heart attack.

The European immigrant looks confused for a moment.

Then he gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the floor, copying the professor.

Next, a Stage Manager walks into the scene, smiles into the camera and says, for the very first time, what would soon be a well-known line:

       “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

The three not-yet-famous comedians in the skit were: John Belushi a former Second City improv performer who went on to become one of the most beloved comic actors in the world prior to his tragic death in 1982 from an apparent drug overdose; Michael O'Donoghue, a former National Lampoon magazine writer picked as head writer for the new show (who died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1994 at age 54); and, the fortunately still living comic legend, Chevy Chase, who was best known at the time as a cast member of the National Lampoon Radio Hour.

All three were among the amazingly talented group of original cast members of the show, which was officially titled NBC’s Saturday Night when it started airing in 1975, but soon came to be called Saturday Night Live, or SNL for short.

The revolving, evolving group of comic actors who performed comedy sketches on NBC’s new Saturday Night series were collectively dubbed the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

The voice heard after Chevy Chase on the historic first episode was that of longtime television show announcer Don Pardo, reading the names of the performers who would be appearing (a function he continued on SNL until his death in August 2014). The first host was my favorite curmudgeon, the great George Carlin (1937-2008).

I was watching the premiere of SNL that night and watched the show almost every weekend for nearly 20 years. Nowadays, I record the show on DVR and watch the opening long enough to hear the famed line “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

I check out who the guest host and musical guest will be. Then I usually fast forward a lot, though skits that rarely strike me as funny as anything done by the early “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” I often have no idea who the guest hosts or musical performers are and don’t understand most of the jokes that include current pop culture references.

Yep, I’m nearly as old as John Belushi would have been if he’d survived his oversized lust for life and I’m nearly as much of a curmudgeon as George Carlin. I miss them both.

Of course, there are some things I do like about the modern world. For example, I can now rewatch old episodes of Saturday Night Live any time I want as streaming video on my iPad.

And whenever I get nostalgic and rewatch the opening skit that turned the lines “I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines” and “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night” into catchphrases, it still cracks me up.

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Related viewing, reading and listening…

October 08, 2014

“The Famous Quotes of October 8th,” a short film script by Robert Deis…


An old, gray-haired man is sitting at one of the tables at an outdoor café in Key West, sipping Cuban coffee, reading the Key West Citizen newspaper.

A very beautiful young woman and extremely handsome young man sit down together at a table nearby.

They are wearing expensive-looking dark sunglasses and have an air of celebrity.

The old man notices a pretty waitress at the café point at the young man and hears her talking to another waitress.


“Who's that behind those Foster Grants?”

The old man recalls that question started out as an ad slogan for Foster Grant sunglasses. (According to the trademark filing for the slogan in the US trademark database, it was first used in commerce on October 8, 1959.)

The good-looking young man also overhears the waitress. He looks up at her, takes off his sunglasses, gives her a big, flirtatious grin and responds, slurring the words just enough to indicate that he’s somewhat drunk.


“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.”

The old man remembers that those are lyrics from the song by George M. Cohan titled “The Yankee Doodle Boy.” (Written for the stage show Little Johnny Jones, which was first performed in Hartford, Connecticut on October 8, 1904.)

He wonders if the young man might be a Broadway star who is familiar with the famous musical or if, perhaps, he’s a movie star who has seen the classic 1942 film about Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, in which James Cagney sings the song.

The young woman wearing the Foster Grants seems hurt that her male companion is flirting a bit too conspicuously with the pretty waitress. She leans over and speaks to him in a voice that’s low, but clearly intended to be loud enough for the waitress to overhear.


“Keep the home-fires burning.”

The old man hears her, too, and recalls that those words come from song that was popular during World War I. (Lyrics by Lena Guilbert Ford, music by Ivor Novello. First published as sheet music under the title “‘Till the Boys Come Home” on October 8, 1914, later retitled and better known as “Keep the Home-fires Burning.”)

The handsome young man frowns and seems annoyed that someone would try to rein in his behavior and tell him what to do. He pushes his chair back, stands up a bit unsteadily, and says in an angry tone.


“I am not a number – I am a free man!”

The old man is surprised to hear the young man quoting a line from a TV series he enjoyed in the late 1960s: The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan. (The line was used in the opening segment of each episode starting with the show’s second episode, “The Chimes of Big Ben,” which originally aired in the UK on ITV on October 8, 1967.)

The angry young man stalks off, leaving the beautiful young woman in tears.

The older man feels sorry for her and recalls a line spoken by the character Puck in William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was entered into the Stationers’ Register (England’s early version of a Copyright Office) in London on October 8, 1600.

We hear what the old man is thinking as a voiceover.


“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”


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Related reading, listening and watching… 

October 06, 2014

Mae West was very good at being bad…

Mae West (1893-1980) was like Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Dorothy Parker all combined in one package.

She was sensuous, smart and funny. She was a singer, actor, playwright and screenwriter – and a genius at generating and capitalizing on sex-related controversy.

Indeed, the first play she starred in on Broadway (which she also wrote under the pen name “Jane Mast,” produced and directed) was titled Sex (1926).

Sex scandalized the prudes and censors of the day, got Mae arrested for “obscenity” and made her one of the hottest and most sought after celebrities in the country.

She moved on from being a stage superstar in the Roaring Twenties to film superstardom in the Thirties.

Among her most famous and most quoted films was I’m No Angel, which was released in the U.S. on October 6, 1933.

It was West’s second hit film with Cary Grant as her leading man.

Their first film together, released earlier that year, was She Done Him Wrong.

In that one, Mae purred the famed line: “Why don't you come up sometime and see me?” – which is usually misquoted as “Why don't you come up and see me sometime?”

In I’m No Angel, West plays a man-hustling, lion-taming circus star, who likes to “find ‘em, fool ‘em and forget ‘em” – until she falls in love with Cary Grant.

You probably know some or all of Mae West’s most famous lines in I’m No Angel even if you haven’t seen it. The most quoted quips from the film include:

“I’ve been things and seen places.”

“Oh, Beulah...Peel me a grape.”

“When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.”

“It’s not the men in your life that counts, it’s the life in your men.”

Near the end of I’m No Angel, West also gives a sly, self referential nod to her misquoted line from She Done Him Wrong by saying: “And don't forget. Come up and see me sometime.”

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 6:

“California, here I come, right back where I started from.” - The chorus of the well known song “California Here I Come” by Buddy de Sylva, Al Jolson and Joseph Meyer. It was introduced in Jolson’s musical show Bombo, which opened in New York City on October 6, 1921.

“There is no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe.” - President Gerald Ford’s infamous flub in his October 6, 1976 presidential debate with Jimmy Carter, which made him seem unaware of the Soviet domination in Eastern Europe.

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Related reading, viewing and listening…

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