Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No-fly zone: Help stamp out pests at home, too...

If they can enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, why can’t they establish a no-mosquito zone over Minnesota? You can quote me on that.
Jim Heffernan, Duluth MN

Monday, March 28, 2011

A degree of separation from Elizabeth Taylor not close enough...

By Jim Heffernan 

I often think of things in terms of degrees of separation – from me – when famous people are in the news. Geraldine Farraro dies; well, I have met Walter Mondale many times, she was his running mate, therefore, while I had never met her, I’m one degree of separation away.

Spending a lifetime in journalism, even in Duluth, offers the opportunity to meet a lot of prominent people, mainly in politics and the arts, as they inevitably find their way to Duluth at some point in their careers. I met quite a few in my years as a newspaper reporter and, for a decade, entertainment writer.

I’ll cite just two examples of people so well known and internationally connected that through them you can be one degree of separation from just about everybody worth being a degree of separation from. I had lunch with the late actor Gregory Peck when he passed through Duluth in the 1970s, opening the door for one-degree separation from just about everybody prominent in Hollywood going back to the 1930s.

And, as with just about every journalist in Minnesota and the country, meeting Hubert Humphrey opened the door to a degree of separation from anybody who’s anybody in American politics in the last half of the 20th century. The same is true of Mondale, of course.

Then there’s Elizabeth Taylor, who died last week. I am a degree of separation from her, probably through Gregory Peck, but more closely through a friend of mine who entertained her at his home, and whose wife felt threatened by the actress’ attentions to my friend.

Such was the power of Elizabeth Taylor.

The contact took place in the 1980s when Taylor was married to U.S. Sen. John Warner of Virginia. My friend was president of a private college in that state, and, with his wife, hosted the senator and his wife – Taylor -- at a dinner in the college president’s residence on campus.

The Warners were charming, of course, according to my friend. Everyone was charming, you’d expect. But my friend’s wife, when recounting the story of the visit, was clearly irritated by Taylor’s attentions to my friend. She described how Taylor took my friend’s arm and walked closely with him as they moved into the dining room, and other attentions Taylor seemed to be paying him, in spite of the fact that Taylor’s husband, the senator, was right there.

It wasn’t serious flirtation, of course, and probably the way Taylor acted one-on-one with everyone she engaged with socially. But what amused me about hearing the scene described was that I’d always thought that my friend somewhat resembled Richard Burton, one of Taylor’s previous husbands. Not a shocking resemblance, but a suggestion. They simply looked somewhat alike – to me at least.

Did Taylor think so too? Who knows? Nothing more came of it, of course, other than an interesting conversation with my friends over gin and tonics.

Oh yes, and it assured me one degree of separation from Elizabeth Taylor. Not close enough, but it’ll have to do.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

UMD beats Yale...

Hey... big win for UMD. It's the Frozen Four for the Bulldogs :-) 

Check it out HERE on the Duluth News Tribune web site.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nuke plant on Lake Superior near Duluth once proposed...

By Jim Heffernan
We’ll never know how close we came to having a nuclear power plant just outside Duluth along the North Shore near Knife River, but rest assured it was once proposed.

I clearly recall the day at the old Duluth (evening) Herald, where I was working in the 1960s, when we were informed that a nuclear power plant was being considered at that location because the cold waters of Lake Superior would be perfect for cooling a nuclear reactor.

We’re hearing a lot now about the possible melt downs in Japan partly because the earthquake and tsunami have knocked out the ability to pump cooling water from the sea into the reactors.

But, in those days long before the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl catastrophes, and a bit before the environmental movement got up and running, Lake Superior seemed an ideal source of cold water for such a facility.

Somewhere in the archives of the Duluth newspaper, most likely in the microfilm record of all Duluth papers, the newspaper with this momentous announcement – with a banner headline extending across the entire top of the front page – lies the record of this short-lived proposal.

At the time, I had the impression that everyone was jubilant. It would mean jobs. It’s always jobs. After all, that’s why they carved up the shore of Lake Superior at Silver Bay a decade earlier for a taconite plant, and then dumped waste from the plant into the lake for a generation.

I believe Minnesota Power and Light (they later dropped the “and Light”) was involved and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey was prominent in making the announcement. This is all based on nearly 50 years of recollection, but it happened.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heading home...

Hi everyone,
Just thought I'd check in so you didn't think I'd fallen off the face of the moon. We've left  temps of 76 and headed north today. The grass is green, the blossoms are out and it's really spring in Perdido Key FL/Gulf Shores AL. And the spring breakers have livened it up. The picture here is of Perdido beach and the Johnson Beach National Seashore where we often walked. Got a spring cold just before we left but am rounding the bend toward good health just in time for winter. I'll be back at it here soon... so stay tuned and think Spring!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rio Pardo remembered...

Here's another link to the Duluth News Tribune Attic (March 6). Rio Pardo, a well known Duluth entertainer of the 70's, was the focus of my very first newspaper column (1972). Learn more about Rio Pardo HERE in the Duluth News Tribune Attic's Area Voices and check out my comment below to learn about the evolution of my newspaper columns. It's always fun to look back!

Jim Heffernan says:
Well now, what a pleasant surprise to find my very first News Tribune column reproduced in the Attic. I had interviewed Rio between sets during his show at Hotel Duluth’s Black Bear Lounge (now Greysolon Plaza’s Blackwater). He was quite a gentleman, very soft spoken, hugely talented. Regarding the run-on first name — Jamesearl: I don’t recall that part of the interview, but I doubt I would have written that and made a point of explaining it if he hadn’t told me. When I started writing my personal column for the paper, I thought it was going to be weekly interviews with interesting people like Rio Pardo — first-person feature stories. I soon ran out of people and time to do interviews so I began making them up.