Category Archives: Entertainment

Getting Ready for Talk Radio

Moebanshees Lair promoI’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit nervous about tomorrow night. I’ve been interviewed for television news programs before, have spoken before large crowds, and even appeared as a guest on Chris Matthews’ Hardball on MSNBC. But, I’ve never done a live radio show before. There will be no retakes.

Tuesday night (February 8) I’m the weekly guest on the Internet Talk Radio show Moebanshee’s Lair. The visionary talk radio program was launched by Asylums Gate in June 2008, and covers topics such as the sciences, environmental issues, criminology, history, politics, mysteries and more. I’ve had my hands and feet in a few of those over the past two decades — still have them in a couple.

Still, I find myself surprised whenever someone is interested in what I have to say.  To me, the real interest lies in the subjects I just happen to write about. (Yeah, I know; I just violated that spurious rule about never ending a sentence with a proposition. But I simply couldn’t force myself to write something like … about which I happen to write — or whatever.)

At any rate, I’ll have to remember not to talk too fast. Or speak too loudly (a family curse). I’m prone to do both — especially if I’m nervous. I’ll just have to be strong. Confident. Act like I know what I’m talking about. (Did I mention I love breaking rules?)

Past guests on Moebanshee’s Lair have included legendary Latin jazz guitarist Eddie Benitiz, anthropologist John Sabol, animal rights activist Amanda Sorvino, retired L.A. police detective & author Steve Hodel (The Black Dahlia Case), and actor Michael Patrick Boatman (Spin City, Arliss,Hamburger Hill). I am humbled.

The radio show airs Tuesday evenings from 10 p.m. to 12 midnight eastern daylight time, is hosted by Moebanshee and is carried on Like I said, I’ve never done this before, but I think you just go to that link and can tune in by a link they’ll provide. And yes, I really am looking forward to talking about that which has mattered to me over the course of my life (so far), and it’s always a good thing reminding people of the many unsolved murders we still have here in Iowa.

I will stick Post-It notes on my telephone that say things like “Slow down” and “Don’t speak too loudly.” They only need to hear me on the other end of the line, not in Argentina.

And I will be strong. After all, if I can play hardball with Chris Matthews, this should be a piece of cake! I hope you’ll tune in.

“Special Agent” Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Honored by FBI

I was just six years old when “The FBI” starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., first premiered on television in 1965, but I vividly remember watching nearly every episode over the next nine years because of the things I associate with the program; it was broadcast on Sunday nights and my family spent nearly every Sunday having dinner at my Grandma Ewing’s home.

FBI Director Robert Mueller and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

FBI Director Robert Mueller and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

When I think of the show, the vision that springs to mind is my dad sitting upright in Grandma’s recliner with a TV tray in front of him, spooning hot chili into his mouth (while never taking his eyes off the TV), Mom sitting on the corner of Aunt Mabel’s old worn chair, and the five of us kids sitting cross-legged on the floor adding oyster crackers to our own bowls of chili and hanging on “Agent Lewis Erskine’s” every word while Grandma kept poking her head into the living room long enough to ask if everyone was getting enough to eat.

Each week’s episode closed with the same voice announcing, “This has been a Quinn Martin Production.”

In the years following the series run, I never gave much thought to whatever happened to Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and certainly had no idea that once his “fictional” show ended he’d continued his relationship with the FBI, participating in charity events and helping raise money for families of agents killed in the line of duty.

Today’s FBI Press Release showed me just how busy Mr. Zimbalist has been. During yesterday’s ceremony at the Los Angeles Field Office, FBI Director Robert Mueller presented Zimbalist with an honorary special agent badge for embodying the qualities in the FBI’s motto: fidelity, bravery, and integrity.

The FBI says Zimbalist inspired a generation of real-life FBI special agents, and I don’t doubt it for a moment. That’s not counting the number of other FBI-inspired television series over the past four decades.

I’m thinkin’ J. Edgar Hoover would’ve been proud.

Christian the Lion headed for the big screen

Okay, I confess — I’m one of those millions who just can’t get enough of this almost 40-year-old true story about Christian the Lion and the YouTube video that helped bring about its resurrection.

My obsession, however, was further fed last night when the Animal Planet channel aired its hour-long television special A Lion Called Christian featuring clips and narrative (and oh-so-much-more) from the original Christian the Lion documentary film, Christian the Lion (The Lion Who Thought He Was People) made by Bill Travers.

But, the Animal Planet channel didn’t stop there.

Recognizing one hungry audience, they served up the best hors d’oeuvres fit for a king’s pride: Christian the Lion Videos from the documentary; Christian the Lion Pictures, Christian the Lion Puzzles, the first chapter from the Christian the Lion book, and, in what I expect will draw even more interest, a Christian the Lion Movie Site where fans can cast votes on the upcoming feature film’s preferred theme song, who’s going to play Ace Bourke and John Rendall, who will direct, and even marketing campaigns for the film’s trailer. (Sony Pictures has begun the process of acquiring rights to the book, and though negotiations are in the early stages, we all know they know a good thing when they see it.)

Sure, I’ll admit I’d hoped for a feature film and had even given thought to who might portray Bourke and Rendall, but in this day of numerous Facebook quizzes where users cite top television series and films and recording artists, I still found the Animal Planet survey worthy of each and every click. After all, I’m already vested in this story; Christian has laid claim to a big part of my heart.

Of the five categories where visitors may vote (Theme Song, Casting John Rendall, Casting Ace Bourke, Director, and Marketing Campaign), I differed in the majority choice in all but one — the marketing campaign for the film’s trailer — but then, that one is/was pretty much a given. Its most popular answer lies in those numbers on the YouTube videos…millions of universal hearts gathered there, indeed.

If you missed the not-to-miss Animal Planet documentary on Christian and Ace and John, take heed: it will air again on Thursday, April 9, at 6 pm CST and on April 10 at 1 a.m. CST. Be sure to check your own local listings — this you don’t want to miss.

"Pull" on Amazon Shorts

From the moment I first heard about the new Amazon Shorts program, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. As a writer who’s frequently interviewed other authors, what could possibly be better than getting to read non-fiction articles and essays by some of my favorite novelists, or an author’s account of why he or she decided to write a particular book?

I not only wanted to read these shorts, I wanted to write some myself. My mind went wild with all the possibilities — expanding on my cold case series of unsolved Iowa homicides, or being able to write longer pieces than what the newsweekly that normally publishes my work could possibly allow?

My Amazon Short, Pull, is the first in this writer’s latest journey, and though I’ve published hundreds of articles over the years I couldn’t be more excited if this was my very first.

It’s actually an excerpt from my novel, which began as a memoir and slowly transformed into a work of fiction. I’m not quite sure if I molded my characters and their actions into other people or events I personally preferred, or if they spoke to me and said this is who I am, so let me tell you the way it could have been or how I wish things could have been different.

Like any piece of fiction, there’s kernels of truth sprinkled throughout Pull. Yes, the Clydesdale horse was real. Yes, the abandoned schoolhouse did exist, and my father really told us we’d be walking home if we crossed that gravel road. And yes, my brother and sister did cross that road in the summer of ‘69 and my father did run out of cigarettes.

He always said to us, “Let’s set ‘em on sick’em.” I am, Dad. Still.

Hugh’s story behind the photos

Johnny Cash and Hugh WaddellPhoto by Mark Seliger, Rolling Stone Magazine
Johnny Cash and Hugh Waddell

As some of you may or may not have noticed, I changed a couple of photo credits on my Johnny Cash/Hugh Waddell story. Though the photos had been provided to me by Cumberland Publishing for use with the article, they formerly did not state who’d taken the photos. That’s now included, and Hugh even provided some background info on the stories behind the photos. (Again, with permission to reprint!)

Here’s what author Hugh Waddell had to say about them:

I love your website. Change it to JODYROCKS.COM. It is so cool. AND how nice to see the article we did. Oh, at the article page, how about those photo credits? Can you change ’em? The one of John and myself was made by Mark Seliger for Rolling Stone Magazine at Red Rocks just outside of Vegas in 1993 (actually during a shoot for Stone and he was burning off a few left over frames on a roll of film).

Rolling Stone Mark sent me a portrait-sized copy of that picture, as I not only set up the photo shoot, I also found the Winchester lever-action rifle our cowboy Johnny is holding, by calling the non-emergency phone of the Las Vegas PD at 2 AM, and asking them to dispatch out over the radio, did any cops on duty have a rifle in their collection for use at 6AM for a Rolling Stone/Johnny Cash photo shoot. (By 9 AM it gets over 100 degrees in the desert, so you have to shoot early – the photos, not the gun.) I got 4 calls from cops within thirty minutes and they all met at the Hilton by giving our bus (Johnny’s bus he called JC Unit One – yup, it said so on the side rear) a police escort to the photo shoot location.

We were originally going to shoot at the theatre stage at the Hilton where John was appearing, but that would have been too – how shall we put it – too Wayne Newton.

The other shot is by Jim Marshall, who also did the famous “Johnny Cash giving the finger” photo. This was a promotional photo that Columbia Records put on a post card and used to promote the Folsom “live” album. That photo, of course, was shot at Folsom Prison in ’69. He (Jim Marshall) signed a print of this to me back in ’88 and I used it in the book.

Hugh also went on to tell me about some great bargains he was finding on QVC at 2 a.m. and some especially good deals last night on The Home Shopping Channel, but, alas, I don’t want to embarrass Johnny Cash’s former road manager by telling the whole world what he really finds entertaining at 2 a.m.

(See there, Hugh? I don’t print everything on my blog. :-)

Jody (who hasn’t yet checked to see if is available)

Update: Did I say Johnny Cash Rocks?

Okay, since I received such a nice e-mail from Hugh Waddell today, and because it’s the last day of November, I thought I’d take another peek at my website stats so I could give him an update on how many people visited my site to read the article on his book, “I Still Miss Someone: Friends & Family Remember Johnny Cash.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, nearly a thousand visited that particular page last month, but I honestly didn’t except that number to quadruple in just one month. Yes, more than 4,200 people visited that individual URL to read about Hugh’s book on Johnny Cash, with 900+ viewing the image of the Man in Black at Folsom Prison.

Did I mention Hugh has compiled one terrific book? And what a superb job Cumberland Publishing does with creating some very beautiful books? And now, after having interviewed Earl Hamner and James (Jim) Person, who wrote Earl’s bio “From Walton’s Mountain to Tomorrow,” I’m really looking forward to working with the folks at Cumberland Publishing again. Stay tuned for more updates on the terrific interview with Earl and Jim.

Goodnight, John-Boy.