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    Esther Blumenfeld  

    The purpose of this web site is to entertain.  My humor columns died along with the magazines where they were printed, although I cannot claim responsibility for their demise.  I still have something to say, and if I can bring a laugh or two to your day, my mission will be fulfilled.

    Everyone I know thinks he has a sense of humor.  Here is my unsolicited advice. If you try to be funny and no one laughs, don’t worry about it.  However, if you try to be funny and no one EVER laughs, you might have a little problem.

     

    Friday
    Jan252019

    ADVENTURES IN THE CLASSROOM

    For 8 years, my co-author, Lynne and I were hired to teach classes in The Continuing Education Department at  Emory University. This only supported the old adage, “Write a book and you are an expert.”

    Based on our books, THE SMILE CONNECTION and HUMOR AT WORK, we alternated between two classes, “Adding Humor to Your Life: The Salt-Free, Low-Calorie, Polyunsaturated, All-Natural Guide for Feeling Good”, and” “Writing Humor: But Seriously Folks!” The writing class taught people that it’s not so easy to write funny, and we discouraged as much of the competition as we could.

    When our third book, MAMA’S COOKING: CELEBRITIES REMEMBER MAMA’S BEST RECIPE, gained some success, the Director of Continuing Education asked if we could now add, “Writing a Cookbook for Fun and Profit” to the mix. Cooking has never been one of my favorite activities, but I learned a great deal about writing a cookbook, and was happy to pass this knowledge along to my students, although I also learned some useful tricks from them.

    A young man in the class told me that he thought that my cookbook class would attract, “some really interesting women who liked to cook,” and he figured that it was cheaper to pay for the course than to take several of them out for dinner. It seemed to have worked, because after the second class, he, and a very pretty woman student, never showed up again.

    However, the class was very popular and ended up with a waiting list. I discovered that all kinds of people want to write cookbooks for various reasons. Organizations want to raise money with club member recipes, chefs want to sell cookbooks at their restaurants, and some collectors of old family recipes want to share recipes handed down through the ages.  I had to caution them that a “fistful of flour” depends on the size of a baker’s hand.

    Some students had unrealistic expectations.  You can’t put a book together in November and expect it to be ready by Christmas. So, here are few questions I had them ponder on the first day:

     How many Mac and Cheese recipes do you want in your club cookbook? And how do you pick the best one without ending up with half of your membership not speaking to you—ever again!
    If you volunteer for the local Zoo, are you sure a cookbook is the best way for you to raise money?
    Do you know the difference between “4 servings” and “Serves four,”—especially if your guests are teenagers on a football team.
    Be sure to know the difference between 1 tsp and 1 tbsp. After all, cooking  also involves a bit of science and math. If it’s wrong in the book, forget the profit part.

    And, students had to recognize that selling a cookbook involves, as Mama, from the musical GYPSY, would say,  “You’ve got to have a gimmick!” Cookbooks have long shelf lives, because most of them are purchased by collectors. Many of these people don’t cook—they read—and they like to have cook book collections in their kitchens.

    Some authors have wonderful gimmicks, and their cookbooks are very successful. One of my favorites was MANIFOLD DESTINY, by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller. It was a book with recipes for cooking meals on your car engine.  Internal combustion took on a whole new meaning for me.

    The gimmick that went wrong was the best seller, WHITE TRASH COOKING, published in 1986, by Ernest M. Mickler. Mickler didn’t get into trouble because of his recipes, but because of the photo of an unattractive woman on the cover of his book. Unfortunately, Mickler didn’t get her permission, in writing, to use the photo, and when the book was a huge success, the Ledbetter family of Alabama, shared all of the profits from his book with their attorney.

    Also, I found it of greatest importance to warn my students not to poison their readers.

    In 1992 Ballantine had to recall  GREAT CAKES by Carole Walter, because on pg. 499,  she had created a cake frosting decorated with lilies-of-the-valley, a poisonous flower. I understand that   both the American Medical Association and the NY Botanical Garden agreed that it looked great, but wouldn’t  recommend it for their cafeterias.  Ballantine suggested that people who had purchased the book cross out the recipe on pg. 499 or return the book for a refund.

    Of course, a poisoned cake might have its advantages, but only to Stephen King.

    In 2018, TALES FROM A FORAGER’S KITCHEN” by Johanna Holmgren was also recalled by Rodale Books for its recipe for “Chocolate Dipped Fungi.”

    Only one of my students found a real publisher for her cookbook.  It was on book shelves for about 10 minutes, but I was gratified to have been acknowledged as one of the people who had led her to her success.  I only wish she hadn’t misspelled my name.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Jan182019

    TALK ISN'T ALWAYS CHEAP

    From the e-mails I received, I know that many of you enjoyed the stories of my mishaps on radio and television. So, I will continue to share some of the weird encounters I had promoting my books, but this time, in front of live audiences—-while on the speakers circuit.

    Sometimes my co-author, Lynne and I were hired as a team, and sometimes I was on my own. Usually, we were keynote speakers at large banquets. That is the reason I detest meetings. I don’t just detest them—-I hate them! As a keynote speaker, it often meant sitting through minutes of the last meeting, and suffering through award presentations given to people I did not know. And, the worst part was that I had to look interested, because I was sitting on a dais facing an audience.

    The meeting that is forever burned into my memory was when a woman was presented an award for being the employee of the year. Lynne and I were facing the audience, as she sauntered behind us on her way to the microphone. Unfortunately, she suffered from extreme flatulence, and as she marched in slow time behind us, she provided her own drum roll all the way to the mic.

    We didn’t dare laugh, and of course the audience had no idea of what was going on. After her emotional acceptance speech, she once again passed behind us, and passed, and passed, and passed. Luckily, we had given the Master of Ceremonies  a funny introduction to our speech, so we could finally burst out laughing. We had learned from Ann Landers, “Always give the person introducing you a written introduction, so they won’t drone on and on.”

    Then there was a convention meeting held in Tampa, Florida. We arrived, after a prolonged cocktail hour, and everything we said (including “Hello”) was hilarious. We noticed that the hotel banquet room was darker than usual, so we couldn’t see the audience, since the lights were in our eyes, but luckily, we were up on a stage where the they couldn’t get to us.  After all a crowd can get hostile if they stop laughing.

    Things went swimmingly well—too well.  I noticed that my feet were wet. I looked down and saw that Lynne and I were standing in a puddle of water which was coming from behind the stage. Either someone had left a toilet running or a pipe broke.  I whispered to her, “Don’t touch the mic!” The pay was good, but not good enough to get electrocuted.  Finally, the water stopped running, and, just as we were coming to the end of our talk, a janitor came on stage with a bucket.  I said, “Guess, it’s time to mop this up.” The audience thought it was part of the act and we got a standing ovation.

    I could tell you about the time that the house was full, and a busload of senior citizens were seated in the wings. They really enjoyed our talk.  As a matter of fact, a man laughed so hard that his teeth blew onto the stage.  He got up, walked onto the stage, popped his teeth back into his mouth and took a bow.

    And then there was the time that our publicist booked us into a club to do a stand-up routine to promote our book, “In-laws , Outlaws and Other Theories of Relativity.” The comic who owned the club introduced us by turning his back to the audience and dropping his pants.
    That’s one way to crack up an audience.

    We bombed, but I survived to tell you the tale. Yes—-there are more—-perhaps for another day.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Jan112019

    NOW YOU SEE IT--NOW YOU DON'T

    After reading about my radio interview misadventures, some of you e-mailed me, “Did the same things happen on TV?”  All I can say is that, “It’s more difficult to hide the boo-boos on television than on radio.”

    My co-author, Lynne and I were invited to be interviewed on a television news show in Atlanta. It was our first television gig, and we were nervous. The show producer had provided questions to the publicity person at our publishing house, so we felt prepared.

    I was seated next to the interviewer, the camera lit up, She put her highly made-up face next to mine and said, “Is doing humor anything like doing drugs?” I kept my composure, turned to my co-author and said, “Lynne, would you like to answer that?” To this day, I don’t know what she said.

    When we wrote our celebrity cookbook, MAMA’S COOKING, we were scheduled onto a television news show in Tampa, FL. We were supposed to cook a dish in a few minutes on the air. So flying from Atlanta to Tampa we had to pack a pan, utensils, and all of the ingredients for the dish. Oh, Yes, This was before 9/11.

    The studio had a working stove, but no refrigeration, no sink, no water, and nowhere to put garbage. On the program we quickly chopped, stirred and cooked. When the show was over, the camera men ate the food. So, we had to get the Hell out of there—fast—before they died!
    But, there was no place to dispose of the grease in the pan. I spotted a hole in the floor and dumped the grease on the big cables down there. Then, we ran!

    CNN’s World Headquarters are in Atlanta, so being scheduled on a call-in television talk show at 3:00 a.m. is not unusual. It was dark outside, but when our car dropped us at the studio, it was amazing—-so much light and so much activity in the middle of the night. But then, it’s not the middle of the night in other cities around the world. We were placed on chairs in a studio with a monitor in front of us. The two interviewers were somewhere else, but we could see them on the screen, and for the audience, it looked as if we were in the same room.The subject was humor, and the calls kept coming.  All went well until a man called in and growled, “My wife doesn’t have a sense of humor!” I said, “How long have you been married?” He said, “Forty years!” I said, “Believe me, Your wife has a sense of humor.”

    My favorite late night TV interview (can’t remember the city) was a show that featured several guests. I was seated in the “Green Room” waiting for my turn to be interviewed. There was a TV monitor in the room, so those waiting could see what was happening in the studio. I remember there was a man doing bird calls. The other “acts” in the room looked much more interesting to me.

    There was a man who had 8 cats in a cage. He was going to demonstrate a video for cats that he had invented. He claimed it was a calming influence, and that his cats loved it. The other “guests” in the room were a hypnotist and her husband. He was her subject. I said, “Are you sure that you can hypnotize him on television?” She said, “I can hypnotize him anywhere,” and she did!—-right before it was announced that they would be next on the air. At that, she snapped her fingers, and snapped her fingers, and snapped her fingers, but he wouldn’t wake up (or whatever you call it) so she and her Zombie husband had to go on air the way they were.
    Much of the interview involved, “This has never happened to me before,” and lots of finger snapping.

    Next came the guy with cats in the cage. The cat man had given his video to the engineer, so it came onto the screen.  He opened the cage and, happy to escape, the cats ran all over the studio.  It was lots of fun watching the cat daddy, the host, and a the stage crew trying to herd those cats. None of us paid attention to the video. By the time, I came on, to talk about my latest book, the host was close to catatonic. He said, “So tell me about humor.” I said, “You must be kidding!” as a cat ran across my foot.

    When my husband, Warren, and I, went trips, our publicists would schedule both of us for interviews. In Las Vegas, we went on a show, where the interviewer was beautiful—probably a former showgirl. She had the deepest cleavage of any interviewer I had ever seen…even compared to the guys with open shirts and gold chains. And, her fingers sported the longest red talons I had ever seen anywhere. She could have been on the endangered species list. Talking with her hands, and getting to the heart of a matter, takes on a whole different meaning when she swung those nails in my direction.

    Finally, she slapped Warren’s book, JUMBO SHRIMP,  to her enhanced bosoms, and said, “Give me an oxymoron.”With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Well, I can give you a firm maybe.”

    And that’s as good as it gets!

    Esther Blumenfeld


    Friday
    Jan042019

    RADIO DAZE

    In the 1980’s and 1990’s, radio talk shows were very popular. Those were the days when people listened and talked. During the seven years when my seven books were published, the publicity folks, at my two publishing houses, would book interviews all over the U.S. and Canada. I did hundreds of these dog and pony shows.  Later, when my husband, Warren had his oxymoron books published, his publishing house would do the same for him.

    Many of these interviews were broadcast from home hook-ups, and that was fun, because I could do them from my house, and in my jammies, and no one would know. In those days, we had one phone line and no cell phones, so to avoid conflicting appointments, we posted our scheduled interviews  on our refrigerator. When we took a trip, the publicity folks would book us wherever we traveled, and often Warren and I could do shows together.  However, sometimes, we got booked into studios that were unknown to our publicity folks. That came from the— “Any port in the storm”— mentality.  So, I thought, You, my dear readers, would enjoy some of those “off the wall” experiences.

    It was assumed that hosts of these radio shows would have read (or at least browsed) the books, before an interview. However, in some cases this was too much to hope for. But, then, a producer would usually give a host an inkling of what he or she was supposed to talk about.

    One dark and stormy night (Don’t all good stories start this way?) I had a scheduled interview with a station in Philadelphia. The phone rang. I picked it up, and the voice on the other end of the line said, “I’m the newscaster. The host of the show was in an automobile accident. I know nothing about you or your book.  We are on the air!” He then said, “Hello, Esther. Tell my listeners something about yourself and your book.” I got through that until the first commercial, and then I said to him. “I will tell you what questions to ask during the commercials, and we can get through this.” It worked. Happily, the radio host recovered from his accident, but I’m not so sure about the newscaster.

    One Thanksgiving, I was scheduled for a one-hour, call-in show in Buffalo, NY.  Most people were watching football on television, and the folks who did call in wanted tips on how to cook a turkey. Desperate times, call for desperate measures. Finally, the host shouted into the phone, “You’ll never guess who’s on the line!  It’s your Aunt Ruth!” My dear Aunt lived in Buffalo, so we had a really nice, really long, long chat. So it went. Then another person called in and said, “I’ll bet you don’t know who this is.” I faked it! You can do that with distant relatives.

    The next week I gave a talk in Knoxville, TN and was scheduled into a small radio station. One man called in and said, “My cows have a sense of humor.” All I could come up with was, “I’ll bet they do!”

     Doing a radio show, in a studio, is usually a very unsanitary experience. People and their desks and waste baskets are usually extremely grungy. After all, no one can see them. It’s not like being interviewed on a television show. So, when Warren and I were invited to be interviewed on a radio show in Phoenix, we didn’t dress up. Warren wore shorts and flip flops. When we entered the studio, we were surprised to see men in suits and women in dresses, wearing sensible shoes.

    We were seated in the sound booth, when the engineer came out, and before clamping earphones on our heads, he said, “Are you talking about your Ministry?” I replied, “No.” “We just minister to each other.”  He didn’t laugh. I suspected this was going to be sort of a religious experience. The woman interviewer came into the booth. She was a pleasant older woman with white hair, braided on top of her head. She wore tiny eye glasses, and a black skirt. Her white blouse had a Peter Pan collar tied at the neck with a bow.

    She had obviously read our books. Her questions were quite insightful, and the interview went well. However, when Warren was asked a question, he would start his answer with a little, “Whoop!” When we left the building, I said, “Warren, what were the little “Whoops” all about?
    He replied, “She had her hand on my knee!”

    Is that called, “Sacrificing for your art”…or what!”

    Esther Blumenfeld


    Friday
    Dec212018

    THE FOOFNAGLE NEWSLETTER  


    (Atlanta Magazine,The St. Petersburg Times and other papers that needed to fill space.
    December, 25, 1981, Blumenfeld and Alpern)

    After reading in great detail about too many things, we decided that the trend in holiday newsletters has gone too far. This year, therefore, we are sending our own version of a message to all our “friends.”  If you too are fed up with hearing more than you ever wanted to know about your friends and relatives, please feel free to use this one. We guarantee it will remove your name from their mailing list next year.

    DEAR——

    Happy Holidays to all our friends! Time once more for the Foofnagle Newsletter. And a busy year it’s been indeed! Much to our surprise, Fermin was offered a promotion, and is now the Second Associate Agricultural Coordinator for Fast-food Worm Farms, Inc. He has more responsibilities and just loves everything about the new job. His boss says he is progressing so rapidly we may soon be able to move from our ultra-contemporary, split-level home, in suburbia to the inner city, where we can joyfully and enthusiastically renovate an old dilapidated house into a showplace in just six short years.

    In his spare time, Fermin has taken up karate, off-loom weaving and songwriting.The music industry here is booming, and we just know Fermin’s fantastic country western rock song, “You Don’t Need No Ears To Hear My Beat” will be a hit. Keep your ears to the charts! All the Foofnagle relatives love it. In fact, Cousin Lulu is getting married again for the third time and wants it played when she walks down the aisle.

    Our lovely daughter, Flossie is really growing up. This year she’s been on the Honor Roll twice and won first prize in the school Talent Show for playing “Jingle Bells” on her nose.This resulted in her election as vice-president of the Future Organists of America. Isn’t she wonderful?  As for daughter, Bootsie, she’s sprung up four inches this year, is out of her training bra, and has six new rubber bands on her braces.  She twangs a mean harmonica in the high school marching band, and still finds time for her volunteer work at the Line Dancing School for the Unbalanced.

    Little Fermin Junior took his first steps on September 14 right after lunch. And, he was only 11 months old. Pretty soon he will be playing soccer just like his father used to—-anyone can see he has the arches of a pro.

    We did take one teeny little vacation this summer, driving cross-country in our camper, promoting my new sensitivity training program called PIT-PAT: Pull In Touch, Push Aside Tension. I am very encouraged by the response, and soon hope to be accredited by the National Psychological Facsimile Association. The two month trip was breathtaking. Such Vistas! Isn’t America  darling?  We wound up in Toocomecarry, Maine, and spent a glorious week there at the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Sex Clinic.  What an uplifting experience!

    Well there’s much more, but my homemade bread is rising (made from wheat grown in our very own naturally fertilized window box), and I’ll have to say goodbye until next year.  May your news be as thrilling as ours.

    Hugs and Kisses, Fanny, Fermin, and the three precious Foofnagles.

    P.S. The Pit-Pat seminar is available by correspondence. Simply mail $79.95 along with a self-addressed envelope to: Fanny Foofnagle, PIT-PAT at my address. Financing Available.
    Happy Holidays and a resolute New Year to all!

    Esther Blumenfeld