A.H. Scott: Happy Time Press Conferences

Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2020





Photography and Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2020


Happy Time Press Conferences (A Dispatch From New York City)


New York City never stops – until one day it does.

I’ll admit that sentence is one that I never thought would be possibly use in describing my hometown.

Welcome to New York City in life during wartime.

‘This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco.

This ain’t no fooling around.

No time for dancing, or lovey dovey.

I ain’t got time for that now’ – Talking Heads, “Life During Wartime”, 1978 [1]

How did I get here? Let me take you back just a little bit over one month ago.

The last week of February 2020, I could see a few things here and there; but, I’ll admit that I just brushed off what I saw as a trickle of anomalies.

Back on that final week of February, when I would pass by one person walking down a crowded New York City street coming in the opposite direction from me in a surgical mask; I would barely pay it any attention at all. I probably chalked it up in my own mind as the person being a hospital worker going on their way to start a shift. I mean to me, it was nothing unusual or out of sorts in seeing a person in a surgical mask and sometimes hospital scrubs under their jackets or coats. It seemed unremarkable back then.

God, it was only a month ago.

February 2020 came and went drifting by with a droplet of ripples as the tide of March 2020 rose upon my hometown.

For those of us in New York City, our arms outstretched in a greeting for embracing family, friends and even acquaintances in hugs; has now transformed into a physical manifestation of estimating social distancing.

Elbow bumps have gone the way of an Edsel.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

In March, the sidewalks were becoming life-size chessboards with all of us spreading out a little more and more.

On March 9th, I caught myself for the first time in my life; making physical movements in public that I suddenly became more aware of.

Oh no, I’m not making light out of how my own body was motioning. Uh-uh. And, it was not a twitch, spasm or malady. On that Monday of March 9th, I felt almost as if I were being choreographed by Bob Fosse in making a few side slides to move out of people’s way. For me in that span of moments walking around the lower east side of New York City, that was when I felt a change within.

There was ‘something’ in my hometown. It was that ‘something’ which my own words find complex to explain in expressing it in writing.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

By March 16th, we pieces upon that chessboard were less and less. The social distancing was taking hold. Or, so it would seem upon the surface. Yet on March 17th, it was evident that some of my fellow New Yorkers seemed not to heed the warning.

Inconsiderate souls make it hard for those of us who follow the rules of social distancing.

For those not familiar with New York City, the subway system is the heart and lifeline for New Yorkers to make our way around our four boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and the one leading to the ferry to Staten Island.

In a time when there should be space between seats on all trains and staggered travel times by New Yorkers; 5 to 10 people is the model for social distancing in a single train car, while 15 to 28 people that are situated ass to jowl with babies crying and kids scurrying about is not.

Oh, and by the way, this event occurred after New York City schools have been closed and the stay-in-place order has been enacted in New York State.

My advice to that oblivious smattering of my fellow New Yorkers is blunt – “Don’t be an asshole!”

Oh, and by the way, this advice goes to the insipid ass-shakers on Florida beaches, parade goers whooping it up with beads and booze at Mardi Gras, and fools that have Coronavirus Parties.

C’mon, what part of social distancing can you not get through your thick skulls? Holes of asses make it hard for the rest of us masses!

Damn, people! Be smart, Be wise.



Now back to this dispatch from New York City. March 27th the subway schedules have been cut-back severely. The ridership is sparse and the train stations are consumed with desolation.

Ironically, as I was riding the subway on that day, a troubadour with guitar strummed and sang a melody in his native tongue. You see, even in the middle of my fellow riders with face masks on and the reality of an unspoken heaviness filled the air; New Yorkers can always find a flicker of faith. I guess that guy with the guitar singing was expressing his own type of faith in these harsh times surrounding each of us.

I’d like to give a word of thanks to the men and women of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for keeping our subways rolling and New Yorkers moving around. THANK YOU, MTA!!

Thank you to all NYPD, FDNY, New York City public employees, hospital workers, delivery workers, grocery store workers, wireless phone store employees, FEDEX, UPS, bodega owners,, USPS, convenience store employees, truck drivers, farmers, for everything you have done in the past days and will do in the present and future.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

Uptown, downtown, east side, west side, and beyond the borough of Manhattan; the shift has taken hold. Pulse of life here is descending in pace from how it was just within the last month of February.

Near my own apartment building, seeing an ambulance with EMTs gathering their equipment was something at this point in time that was ordinary. Yet, for the first time I have ever seen it, there was a second vehicle that rolled up behind it. It was a red FDNY vehicle with two technicians who were adorning themselves in a light yellow, plastic gown over their dark blue uniforms.

Once seeing that, I was totally done emotionally and got myself inside my building and upstairs to my apartment. To know something is far away across an ocean is one thing you come to understand exists. But, seeing it in less than a block’s area of proximity can really scramble your mind a bit.

Sounds of the city are now few and far between, compared to how it used to be around here. Mostly now, all that I hear from outside my apartment are sounds of ambulance sirens, which send an immediate chill down my spine.

When things were ‘normal’, the sirens were most drowned out by the integrated rhythm of the city. From car horns blaring, music wailing from open windows, a swirl of arguments or laughter being heard on the streets, or even that of an errant firecracker being set off beneath the cover of moonlight every now and then was the melody. That’s how it used to be in my hometown.

A light whizz of sound would roll by and fade into distance. But, now those sirens can loudly fill the silence in a five to six mile projection from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital southward to Harlem Hospital, and even further downtown to near where some members of my own family reside in the area around Mount-Sinai Hospital.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

I’ve got to admit it’s quite eerie when those sirens blare and you realize time is of the essence for the ambulance to make it to a hospital. Whenever I hear it, I actually stand still for a few moments.

Damn, even the sound of dogs barking is no more. That would be a relief to hear something aside from the nothingness and the heaviness that is enveloping the air around us in New York City.

Heaviness is that invisible thing you can’t put your finger on it; but, it’s there, all around you. It’s the haunted look in the eyes of the few souls I pass at a safe distance when trying to just purchase a few items at the grocery store. That glint in the eye of another person that appears to exhibit elements of being shell-shocked has arrived in New York City.

Oh, I’ve lived through strikes, blackouts, September 11th, 2001 and Hurricane Sandy; but, this thing – and, I don’t know how else to call it – yet, it is an unseen entity that is taken lives ever so quickly – it is an asphyxiating beast that sees no age, creed, economic status, or artificial borders of humanity.

Unlike the various threads of strife that had been experienced in New York City before, this is not a situation which is uniting but disuniting. Although, we are all unified in our valiant struggle to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, we are doing at arm’s length for the prudency of our health. Or, to be more precise, it is at the pace of six feet of distance. There will be no embraces of sisterhood or fist-bumps of brotherhood.

Going outside has become more slight, strategic and mired in the protocols of the present moment.

Cover up! Glove up! Have your sanitizer!

I use caution with Clorox wipes and gloves whenever I have to embark on a quick trip to get food, supplies, or run a much needed errand around my hometown. Luckily, if I have to take off those plastic gloves, I have my handy Purell at the ready. And, when I am blessed to get back indoors, I wash my hands for more than the suggested 20 seconds. Usually as soon as I get in, I go for a good foaming of soap for over 2 whole minutes and then scrub my hands to the extent of making them look like prunes and become a bit raw at times. But, for me, a little soreness in the present is more than worth it to prevent the spread of this disease.

Wash your hands, wash your hands!!

I guess you could say the isolation has a way of taking a toll on a person. Texting and calling another human being is way different than sitting next to them, touching their hand or looking in their eyes when laughing at memories of days gone by.

There are members of my family that I can’t visit, because of their age and others with medical vulnerabilities. So, my contact with them right now is only a call or texts.

My 80-year old neighbor who leaves next to me used to have his grandchildren stay with him afterschool until his son would pick up after work and a home health aide who’d come by every other day. Now, there are no sounds of youth running up and down the hallways playing. For the past couple of weeks, the only visitor outside of his son coming by to check up on him every day has been a deliveryman with his prescriptions from the pharmacy down the street. Everything has changed, even in the way goods are delivered. The guy from the pharmacy actually has to leave the prescription in a bag on the doorknob without making contact with my neighbor.

You see, as I pointed out earlier; this damnable disease is disuniting us in so many small and large ways. Even to the extent of how a package is delivered to an apartment door.

I make sure I always tell my family I love them when we can connect over the phone or a quick text. You never know what the next 24 hours holds, or even the next 60 seconds in the way the world is spinning today.

Spinning away and slipping away is that topsy-turvy feeling that has a way of coming over a person when they least expect it; as also is that which is the polar opposite that reveals itself to you.

With life whirling and spinning about, things have a way of revealing clarity. For me, it’s pulling my thoughts together in some formation of resemblance’s order.

Labeling three elements loosely in the percolation of the feelings and emotions I have inside of me are the following:

First – Stillness     

Second – The Absence of Distinction

Third – The Un’s Have It

Stillness –

Stillness can be a blessing, as it also can be a curse of sorts. Stillness which is solace is that calming reverie in silence that rejuvenates the soul. Stillness that is stagnancy can reveal itself as a queasiness stirring in the pit of a person’s stomach. For me, I’ve been touched by both aspects of what stillness is. Staying at home, I got a lot of time to feel the calmness of not being out in the calamitous crossfire of Coronavirus. At the same time, this stillness is the unease that can pepper one’s thoughts.

I say to anyone who has any trickle of creative flair in their disposition to find a way to focus a little time in their days creating small bits of something. Anything!

It could be just one silly sentence on a page of paper. But, please make sure it isn’t “Jack is a good boy”, typed over and over again, because that would be another can of worms you would have to be dealing with. Sorry, I just had to toss a little icebreaker in the mix with that one in.

Whew, so I’ll continue with my dispatch.

I haven’t been writing anything at all since this whole crisis has taken shape in New York City. For me, it seems that nothing else has been able to break through, because all the space in my head is engulfed in the here and now of uncertainty.

One thing I am realizing is that I have got to get out of my own head. Unplug from the news for an hour or two. Watch a comedy, game show, or soap opera to take you away from the darkness of the day.

Speaking of the latter; I’d like to give a hand of applause to the casts and production crews of CBS’ “The Bold and The Beautiful” and ABC’s “General Hospital” for allowing me as a viewer to just sit back and enjoy a respite from what exists outside my window in New York City.

Suddenly, I cherish cleaning my apartment, watering my plants and doing a little re-reading here and there. As for exercising, that’s where my friend, Good ‘Ol Mr. Treadmill comes to my rescue. Flip on the radio or pop in a cd and I’m off into focusing my mind and body somewhere else.

Sounds boring, I know. But, it is a window into my world right now.

These things that I have noted above may seem like such frivolous actions to partake in during this era of sadness. And, maybe they are. But, I just have to unplug, unwind and let my senses recharge in some way. 

Not forgetting what is going on, but putting it on pause just for a breather.

What you are reading now is actually the first thing I have written, or even focused on outside of what’s going on outside in the city that I was born in and I love.

Instead of giving anyone who is reading this out there any form of advice I’m going to take my own and make sure a few words get scribbled on a piece of paper or flipped across my keyboard. And, that’s whether I have the motivation to do it or not. I have got to start pushing back against the stagnancy that’s starting to creep up.

The Absence of Distinction –

The absence of distinction has worked itself into my life, as coming to wonder which day starting with the letter T of the week it is without looking at a calendar. Or, exactly what time of the day it actually is without looking at my phone or hearing it on a radio. Days casually slip into becoming a run-on of minutes and hours.

The Un’s Have It –

Unexpected cessation of my daily routine; which may have been boring before this second in life, would be a beacon of hope. Unknown and insidious infection can touch anyone at anytime with a finger of fateful sorrow. Unnerved, unsettled, and unbalanced feeling I have within myself caused by the shift that the present moment has fallen upon. Untaken actions in the past when foolishly being under the illusion that time would continue and anything a person could desire to come to pass would happen down the lane of life.

The un’s have it. And, they maintain the control over the curveballs in our lives that none of us can ever predict or steal the signs of the future to prevent what will happen to any of us.

Unease is that fearing of the evaporation of control many of us attempt to have over our lives. That’s gone, for now.

But, maybe, just maybe something can return.

You know, as I’m sitting here writing this and if I didn’t know it was me writing it, I’d think it were some sort of end-of-the-world, apocalyptic work of fiction. I know that sounds weird, but it’s how it feels to me.

I hope and yes, of course I believe it is not the end of the world or the end of New York City; but, what I have experienced is such a devastating blow to my own simple existence and psyche. I wish I could close my eyes and it would not be as it is.

But, it is real. All of it is real. The first responders and other essential workers that are on the frontlines of keeping this city going are real. The social distancing of keeping away other people and being vigilant in staying home most of the time is real. Even catching a glimpse in the bathroom mirror gazing with a faraway look in my own eyes is real. All of it is real.

Days go by…..dread has settled in. And, that is whether a logical person wants to admit it or not.

I’ll admit it; I am afraid of what happens when the peak of this wave occurs in the coming days.

The pulse of New York City is slowing as its’ heart is breaking with the sorrow of what is happening here and soon to come in days across the United States of America.

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

Make no doubt about, it is us in New York City today. But, to all the small towns, hamlets, cities and states across this country; it is coming to your doorstep also.

New York City may be a bit knocked about, but, New Yorkers are not down for the count.

As I am writing this now in 2020, I by happenstance came upon a quote I wrote back on March 28th, 2012 about fear and courage in the harshest moments. Re-reading my own words, I think they are quite fitting for the present:

“Fear can liquefy your spine or solidify your backbone. Cowering in the face of fear is almost as if you’re wrapping a fuzzy blanket around yourself on a cold night. You will be enveloped in comfort and calmness. Courage in facing your fears is placing an invisible armor upon your heart and standing against the onslaught of criticism and diminishment of a person’s worth. Brisk wind of bitterness will become sand against your face and nothing will come so simple. Yet, each sting of those grains of sand will prove that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be. You do have courage to face fear and stand up straight to any corner of your world. Life may be static in oh, too many moments for all of us. But, there is a satisfaction to be held within the soul, which comes in certain stillness of conviction.” – A.H. Scott, 3/28/12

#NewYorkStrong #AllInThisTogether

Stay home. Stop the spread. Save lives.

So, in this time of unease, maybe I could look beyond New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio or New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to another individual at the federal level of government.

A hero of some sorts; maybe one who holds levers of power way beyond a local or a state official might just be a logical answer to questions which a citizen may seek.

Hey, and if I’m lucky it could be someone born locally. You know, a native New Yorker; just like me.

Who is this person that could be a hero and send the full request of ventilators (and supplies from the national stockpile) to the city of his birth?

“You know, a ventilator is a machine. It’s a very complex machine. And to think that we have to order hundreds of thousands – nobody has ever heard of a thing like this. With that being said, General Motors, Ford, so many companies – I had three calls yesterday directly. Without having to institute – like, “You will do this” – these companies are making them right now. But to think of these numbers, it’s pretty – it’s pretty mindboggling” – President Donald J. Trump, March 21st 2020, in response to calls for him to invoke the Defense Production Act [2]

You would figure that someone born in New York City, specifically the borough of Queens would actually give half a damn or even have a twinge of a pang of solidarity with his fellow New Yorkers. But, then again, the man who now resides in the house of white has no compunctions, pangs or solidarity with anyone.

Pity, that this person can’t even fake giving a fig about others in this time of sorrow and uncertainty.

I just gotta write it as I feel it; but, damn man, where is your empathy, sympathy or even a cast-off crumb of humanity?

Twinge of commonality is nonexistent within him, as that poisonous tinge of a tangerines’ nauseous nightmare is at the core of his consistency.

One would figure that when a person drapes themselves under the hallowed banner of being a ‘Wartime President’ there would be an accentuation of a critical element of leadership. Someone that would take charge, take the helm, grab the wheel of the ship of state.

Hopefully it could be a man that wouldn’t feast on his own pettiness of a bruised ego in not being appreciated and fawned over enough by other elected, public officials who are begging for federal assistance in this expanding pandemic.

“Don’t call the woman in Michigan” – Donald J. Trump, March 27th 2020 (in referencing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plea for medical supplies)

Yet, what occurs from the White House briefing room is a dizzying mash-up of front-loaded “Happy Time Press Conferences” filled with rah-rah’s of Presidential self back-patting, with a side order of sobering scientific reality coming up the back.

Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx seem in some ways  the visual props of propriety that are validate the puffery which is spoken at the beginning of the Press Conference, with Vice-President Mike Pence as the bridge between his boss and the scientific facts.

Although, there a statements made by the illustrative and well-respected Dr. Deborah Birx that have me scratching my head in wondering if she’s picked up her pom-poms to lead us all in a celebratory cheer for him.

“He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data” – Dr. Deborah Birx, March 26th, 2020, Christian Broadcasting Network [3]

It seems just like everything else in the United States of America, division of halves comes into view in that briefing room.

One half is a self-serving smattering of blathering minutes from a man devoted to only himself and his constant craving for the spotlight. He’s gotta get that campaign rally fix any way he can. And, these briefings are his narcotic to hold him over for a good 24 hours.

When a person says they are a “Wartime President”, but act as Chief Commander of Snarkiness; that aforementioned label proves the buck of responsibility is one which does not stop on their desk. Mr. Oh No Not Me acts as if he hasn’t been in office for three years as of now. 

The buck is on your desk and in your briefing room every time that you speak to the American public and world. I respectfully implore you to deal with it wisely, Mr. President.

As for the other half, it is a concise and factual rundown of what’s going with the pandemic is given by medical professionals in the room.

Dr. Fauci speaks with clarity and facts behind what he says, as the man in charge seems to project a clueless character of the magnitude of the tragedy transpiring across this nation.

But it’s nothing new for him to push what is so evident right off the table and onto someone else’s lap. He’s done it before, and he’s doing it right now.

What? Who me? Mr. Responsibility? Oh, no, you must have me mistaken with someone else.

“I don’t take responsibility at all.”  – President Donald J. Trump, March 14th 2020 [4]

Within a ten-minute period of give and take between the most powerful man in the world, President of the United States of America and the assembled White House press corps, the act of cluelessness came about once more:

“I don’t know anything about it” – President Donald J. Trump, March 14th 2020 [4]

Insults and Donald J. Trump are like peanut butter and jelly; they go together even when they are apart.

For me, the final insult among oh too many coming from the occupant of the White House was two seemingly innocuous words from an overall odious quote made on the final Saturday of March 2020.

Specificity of these actions that were pondered by him had been targeted at New Yorkers, as well as the residents of the tri-state area.

“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined.” – President Donald J. Trump, March 28th, 2020 [5]

I’m a mellow and laid-back person, but this really grumbled my granola. Yeah, this is a low blow from someone in the highest position in this country.

Two words, ‘some people’.

No, Mr. President; it is not ‘some people’ that will be the ones who will sign off on that type of critical declaration of quarantine that you bandied about so recklessly.

The signature would not be Vice-President Mike Pence, a Governor who lets spring-breakers shake it while it’s hot on a beach down in Florida, or anyone on a platinum plateau who whispers in your ear of what to do or what to say.

It is you. You, and you alone.

If you huff and puff and tell everybody that you are the Grand Poobah then own it. Own it outright and not hide behind saying something as inane as ‘somebody’ else wants something done; almost like the wizard behind the curtain is pulling the strings. Don’t shrink from it. Don’t shirk from it. Own it! Own that YOU are the person who wants a specific outcome or action taken. Own it!

Because, right now we who are here on the ground in New York City are in need of leadership, not word salad tossed up in the air and hoping it will look good for ‘middle America’ to get your poll position up in excoriating New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as scapegoats.

It’s real – right here on the ground in New York City. It’s not some Happy Time Press Conference you can just half-heartedly adlib from the White House briefing room.

Then there is one Coronavirus Task Force member who sometimes looks so embarrassed when standing behind the President of the United States speaking at the lectern.

It’s almost as if we can all read a thought bubble above Dr. Anthony Fauci’s head that has flashing lights which would say: Let the science speak for itself!

To anyone who is reading this now, I give the platform over to the words from a man of science, Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci’s, January 23rd, 2020 article, titled, “Coronavirus Infections: More Than Just the Common Cold”; published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, he and colleagues Dr. Catharine I. Paules and Dr. Hilary D. Marston delve into Coronavirus and the origins of this pathogen.

In this fascinating article, the final paragraph pretty much sums up the dire situation of this present pathogen and also those in the future:

‘While the trajectory of this outbreak is impossible to predict, effective response requires prompt action from the standpoint of classic public health strategies to the timely development and implementation of effective countermeasures. The emergence of yet another outbreak of human disease caused by a pathogen from a viral family formerly thought to be relatively benign underscores the perpetual challenge of emerging infectious diseases and the importance of sustained preparedness.’ – (source, Journal of the American Medical Association, January 23rd 2020)[6]

I have no doubt that the man which Dr. Deborah Birx described as being ‘attentive to the scientific literature and the details’ did not peruse this article by this member of his own Coronavirus Task Force.

He may call himself ‘a very stable genius’, but, uh-uh, I don’t think so.

And, if the ‘very stable genius’  missed the above mentioned article of Dr. Anthony Fauci, he definitely would have gotten more information about COVID-19 in reading another insightful bit of analysis, written almost a month later.

In the February 28th, 2020 article titled, “Covid-19: Navigating the Uncharted”, of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, along with a pair of colleagues, Dr. H. Clifford Lane and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, gave a bit of roadmap on where the medical community should focus upon involving global health threats of today and tomorrow.

As they write, it is obvious that this current outbreak may just be a harbinger of things to come in the future:

‘The Covid-19 outbreak is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenge of emerging and reemerging infectious pathogens and the need for constant surveillance, prompt diagnosis, and robust research to understand the basic biology of new organisms and our susceptibilities to them, as well as to develop effective countermeasures.’ – (source, New England Journal of Medicine, February 28th, 2020)[7]

Using part of the title from the article listed above, “…Navigating the Uncharted”; for a person calling himself a ‘Wartime President’, he should easily be able to stand at the helm of the ship of state and lead into calmer waters.

But, who the Hell am I kidding in thinking that could be done with the occupant in the house of white.

“It will go away” – President Donald Trump [8]

The first known case of Coronavirus in New York State was diagnosed on March 1st, 2020; that is 29 days ago. And, the roll call of those being called to heaven continues to rise as I write this article on March 30th, 2020.

As I sit here in New York City, I am a witness to tell you that it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, the wave which Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio continue to warn of us here in my hometown is coming within days. And, New Yorkers are in some ways on our own. Oh, of course the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the members of the USNS Comfort Hospital are with us and doing their job. As are the countless and nameless first responders who are selfless in providing courageous care in a war zone of diminishing PPE’s and accelerating numbers of patients stricken with this damnable respiratory disease that was recognized in December of 2019.

Right now, we have the Jacob Javitz Convention Center reconfigured as a hospital, also in a section of Central Park a field hospital being constructed, as well as the arrival of naval ship Comfort along Pier 90 along the West Side Highway.

Oh yeah, this is real!

Those of us who are not touched personally by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and kept safe from the spread are not really safe at all; for we’ve been changed. We’ve shifted who we were the day before, the month before, the year before the droplet of ripples began.

We are New York! We are New Yorkers!

We’ll be here. Different, but still here.


President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines For America



A.H. Scott

March 2020


[1] “Life During Wartime” -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_During_Wartime_(song)

[2] “Trump’s Premature Claim About Ventilator Production” – https://www.factcheck.org/2020/03/trumps-premature-claim-about-ventilator-production/

[3] “Deborah Birx Praised Trump As AttentiveTo Scientific Literature And Details” – https://www.vox.com/2020/3/27/21197074/deborah-birx-praised-trump-scientific-literature-coronavirus

[4] “Trump Says He Had No Idea His Pandemic Response Team Was Disbanded” –


[5] “Trump Considers Quarantine for States Near Epicenter of U.S. Coronovirus Outbreak” – https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-trump-new-york-new-jersey-a8aadeac-fb71-4cdf-97eb-295c7a8f0306.html

[6] “Coronavirus Infections – More Than Just The Common Cold” –


[7] “Covid-19 – Navigating the Unchartered” –


[8] “5 Times Trump & US Officials Downplayed Coronavirus” – https://www.businessinsider.com/five-times-the-trump-administration-downplayed-the-coronavirus-2020-3


About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/a-h-scott-the-spartacus-effect/


Athena Intanate: One Day at a Time

Photo: Athena Intanate


Photography and Text by Athena Intanate, Copyright 2020


One Day at a Time


Too often when we think of travel, we reminisce of far-flung, exotic places, worthy of bragging about and pulling up photos of at the next family gathering. Having come from a country where people normally vacation in, I’ve gotten used to the exoticisation of holidays, and while find joy in them, don’t hold them to as much significance. The role of Instagram and Facebook, and the pursuit of the perfect ‘insta-worthy’ shot has manufactured this ceaseless image of what a ‘perfect’ vacation looks like, and sometimes it just couldn’t be further from the truth.


Photo: Athena Intanate


We seem to forget that sometimes holidays are nestled between the quiet moments. They’re nestled in between the seats of your friend’s car, when you’re driving down tree-lined roads to Future’s bass-heavy music; they’re folded into the tentative mumble of half-formed plans; they’re wrapped in the traipses through touristy sites, even though you’re with locals. Lately it seems as though it’s been harder and harder to enjoy the little things – nothing ever seems grandiose or spectacular enough to participate in, let alone share.


Photo: Athena Intanate


This weekend trip to DC and Maryland was anything but exotic; we drove down to Bethesda, a small suburb just outside of DC, on Friday and I was back on campus by Sunday afternoon. And yet, it was perhaps one of the most contentful trips I’ve taken in a very long time. My heart came back incredibly full, as did my camera roll. The weather’s growing tentatively warmer, and even when the wind requires zipped-up jackets and hoodies to be reluctantly pulled on, there exists an ecstatic happiness within the sunlight. We couldn’t do much within less than 36 hours, so we did the best that we could, spending the sun-swept day in each other’s company, driving between houses, and making new friends over plastic bags of Trader Joe’s peanut-filled pretzel bites.


Photo: Athena Intanate


Sometimes, we just need to take things one day at a time. The best moments are inlaid in the quietest ones, just waiting for our hands to reach out and grab them by their ubiquitous centres. Urgency can be the killer of joy, and travel wasn’t made for it. It was made for us to fully absorb and comprehend all that is going on around us, and for us to learn from and appreciate what we see.


Photo: Athena Intanate


Photo: Athena Intanate


This weekend trip to DC brought me back that sense of wholly contentful peace, and I am so glad that I got to share it with some of my best friends before we descended into the current climate of chaos.


Photo: Athena Intanate

Declan and Andrew, it was a pleasure meeting you.

Solomon, Maya and Charlie, I’m so thankful I have you in my life.


Photo: Athena Intanate


About the Author: Athena Intanate is a freshman enrolled at Haverford College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Athena Intanate, click herehttps://tonyward.com/love/

Bob Shell: Coronavirus and Prison Life


Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020


Coronavirus and Prison Life


Right now the prison I’m in is on modified lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that we’re locked in our cells about 22 hours every day, and the two hours we’re not stuck in our cells, we can go out into the pod, our common area, for recreation and sometimes out on the prison yard for outdoor recreation like basketball, horseshoe tossing, or just walking around. But, due to the virus, only one pod can be on the yard at a time, while normally it’s the whole building. Each building here has three pods, there are four residential buildings, and we have two yards, so it is a logistical juggling act to give everyone some yard time. Pods have around eighty men each, for a total population here of just over a thousand men.

But, even though we’re isolated from other pods, and the pods are cleaned with disinfectant several times a day, there are no restrictions on comings and goings of the staff, who go freely from building to building, pod to pod, and go home at the ends of their shifts and interact with the outside world.

In an article in The New York Times, Amanda Klonsky says that prisons could be viral nightmares.

We have 2.3 million people in prison in this country, a ridiculous number by anyone’s measure. Klonsky says that prisons see a daily influx of staffers, vendors, and visitors who “carry viral conditions at the prisons back to their homes and communities and return the next day packing the germs from back home.” So far, other than putting us on modified lockdown, all Virginia has done is cancel in-person visits.

Klonsky goes on to state the obvious: Prison populations must be reduced. I would add the word drastically. Most of the men I know here in this prison could be released right now and pose no risk to their communities. Many, like me, were never any risk to our communities in the first place. Klonsky says aging inmates should be considered for compassionate release, because we have health issues that are not dealt with in prison and extremely low recidivism rates. We have many inmates here who have serious health issues, are too infirm to be dangerous, and are, in many cases, wheelchair-bound. In my case I get around with a wheeled walker due to long term effects from a stroke I suffered years before my conviction. I’m not a physical threat to anyone, but have been victimized by bullies, had my property stolen, even physically assaulted. Prison is no place for an old man (I’m 73).

Our governors need to act immediately to release prisoners who are at risk and harmless.

Here in Virginia we have no parole (it was abolished in 1996). But we do have “Conditional Early Release” for older prisoners, often called “geriatric parole.” So far since reaching age 65, I’ve been turned down seven times! Typically it is only granted to inmates who are literally at death’s door. Apparently, I’m just not sick enough! I worry about COVID-19 because I am diabetic and have other health issues. According to The New York Times, an authoritative 100 page government report says the pandemic “will last 18 months or longer,” and could result in “widespread shortages that would strain consumers” and the health care system. It also says that “State and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and communications channels, will be stressed and potentially less reliable.” The time for aggressive action is past, but much could still be done.

I’m hopeful that the current viral crisis will finally get the attention of those in power who can do something to fix this terribly broken system that can steal people’s lives for nothing. Keeping people like me behind bars just makes no sense, no matter what perspective you view it from. I’ve been imprisoned since September 1, 2007, for events that never happened, that existed only in the fevered imaginations of police and prosecutors.

If you want to track the spread of the pandemic, look at: http://coronavirus.jhu.edu . The map is updated in real time.

About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/marijuana/


Steve Cohen: American Bandstand’s Untold Story

Bob Horn: Original Bandstand Host

Text by Steve Cohen, Copyright 2020


American Bandstand’s Untold Story


When the TV program American Bandstand passed its 50th anniversary, there was no commemoration. That becomes understandable when you learn that its original host led a sordid life that included a sexual affair with a teenage girl.

The station, where I worked at the time, fired him. And everyone at ABC Television tried to ignore the program’s first years.

The program, starting in 1952, originally was simply named Bandstand. A similar program later went on the air in Baltimore, and that inspired a John Waters film and the stage musical Hairspray. It has a fictional plot about the racial integration of a 1960s teen television dance program, and it reminds me of my own experiences surrounding Bandstand in the 1950s. Our Philadelphia program had a history of racial exclusion that was more complex — and much more interesting. Bandstand had a lurid involvement with sexual assault that hasn’t been fully explored publicly, until now in detail in Part Two of this story. 

Part One

The program’s first host was Bob Horn. Soon after the show went on the air, Horn met a 13-year-old girl at the station and they began a sexual relationship. This went on for almost three years, sometimes in a radio studio while Horn’s records were spinning on the air. Horn was arrested for drunk-driving on June 21, 1956 and was suspended from his broadcasts, then was forced to resign. The sexual relationship, however, was not revealed until later. The sex-with-minors angle was too shocking for public consumption, and the station didn’t dare to reveal it.

Fortunately for the station, the clean-cut Dick Clark was on staff and able to take over. With Clark, the program became more popular than ever. ABC gave Bandstand color cameras and launched it on its network of 67 stations in August of 1957. It became a national institution and Dick Clark a celebrity.

Cameraman Vince Gasbarro said: “Horn was old-looking. Clark looked like one of the kids.” (Horn was 40 when he left “Bandstand” and Clark was a babyfaced 27.) This is what Clark said about Horn:

“He was a man in his late thirties, was heavyset with a double chin, long, narrow nose and greased-back black hair. Off-camera his personality was abrasive, egotistical and aggressive. Most people around the station found him less than charming. I always thought Horn did a poor job relating to the kids. His conversation with them was stilted; he never associated with them as equals. I talked to the kids on the same intellectual level. From the first day, I established the most platonic of friendships with the kids. From the start I was also terrified because what had happened to Horn. I’ve never been sexually attracted to very young girls. It may not be the secret of my success but it sure as hell kept me out of a lot of trouble.”

There’s a dramatic difference between the description of Horn by his adult co-workers and what we hear from his teenage fans. According to show-business contemporaries of his, Horn was a “free-swinging, hard-drinking man” who smoked several packs of cigarettes a day. One singer who appeared on his show says Horn was “a loud-mouth smart-ass with an appetite for girls.” Other acquaintances use words like arrogant and self-centered. The Bandstand dancers, on the other hand, were fond of him.

He was born in 1916 and grew up in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Horn became a radio personality at Philly’s WIP, then moved to WFIL in 1951 because that station offered more money and because ‘FIL had a sister TV station (part of the ABC network) and Horn hoped for a future on television.

Walter Annenberg, who owned WFIL and the Philadelphia Inquirer and TV Guide, asked his station manager, Roger Clipp, in the summer of 1952 to “try a dance program aimed at teenagers.” The show would air immediately after school when kids were home without parental supervision. This was also a time of day when ABC didn’t feed any network product to the local stations, leaving WFIL with a time gap to fill locally. If ABC had not been the poorest of the networks, unable to provide daytime programs to its affiliates, Bandstand would never have been born.

Clipp contacted Joe Grady and Ed Hurst, the hosts of Philadelphia’s most popular afternoon radio program, The 950 Club on WPEN and offered them a deal to switch over to his station and be on WFIL radio and TV simultaneously. For seven years kids had been coming to WPEN at 1522 Walnut Street and riding the elevator to spend a couple of hours at their “club,” which was a small studio without windows. Some of the kids would jitterbug in an impromptu fashion while Grady and Hurst played popular records on the air. 

In 1950 WPEN moved into a modern new building at 2212 Walnut Street. A big studio was on the ground floor, which WPEN used for the 950 Club in the afternoon and for Steve Allison’s talk program at night, while the station’s offices were on the second floor. In this new setting, a greater number of kids could dance while the music played. At WFIL they thought: What a wonderful idea for TV!

One television precursor was the Paul Whiteman TV Teen Club, on WFIL and the ABC television network starting in 1949, which also showed kids dancing. This, however, was basically a talent show and dancing was secondary. Also, the kids danced to Whiteman’s band, not to records.

“Clipp called Grady and me to his office,” Hurst related, “and asked us to start in two weeks. He said ‘Name your salary.’ So we asked our station manager for a release and he said he’d talk to the station’s owner. I was so innocent that I thought they wouldn’t stand in our way. The next day Bill Sylk — owner of WPEN and the Sun Ray Drug chain — called Walter Annenberg and said ‘If you steal my talent I’ll pull a million dollars of Sun Ray advertising out of the Inquirer.’ After that threat, WFIL withdrew its offer to us and that was the end of that.”

If Clipp couldn’t get those people, he nevertheless could steal their format. He picked his own employee, Bob Horn, and copied from WPEN the idea of teenagers in the studio. Horn’s radio program was called The Bob Horn Bandstand, which had a nice, alliterative sound. It reflected the fact that Horn played big band recordings by Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and other similar artists. So, when he went on TV, Bandstand was the obvious choice for a name.

This show debuted on television from 2:45 to 5 p.m. on October 7, 1952.  Although Horn wanted to run it solo, Clipp insisted on copying the 950 Club format with two hosts, and picked a partner for him — the short, bespectacled Lee Stewart. He was born Lee Shulman and started his career as an ad salesman. It was thought that he could bring some of his clients on board as advertisers. Stewart had no charisma and eventually was dropped from the program.

At the start, the set was a three-fold flat and the camera zoomed in to focus on a record player. But soon WFIL built the set that became famous, which is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution, simulating a corner of a music store. Teenagers sat in rows on bleachers that were assembled on one side of the studio. A small table was next to the hosts’ platform, where guest performers would sit and sign autographs. Once or twice on each program, Horn would intone: “We’ve got company” and a recording artist would appear on the set to lip-synch to his or her record.

Horn developed a daily ritual of kids judging new records. He also came up with the idea of a teenage committee, because Horn wanted to insure that a core group of good dancers would show up every afternoon. These kids invented new dance steps and made The Bunny Hop and The Bristol Stomp popular. Horn was a pioneer when he made the youngsters the stars of the show, and when he gave teenagers a forum to set their own standards of music, dance steps and style. But when it came to rock ‘n’ roll music, he was not a pioneer at all.

Horn was from the old school, a radio announcer conversant with varied forms of music, from semi-classical to pop. Horn played mainstream singers like Doris Day and Frankie Laine. He also played show tunes and interviewed Harold Rome, the composer of the Broadway musical Fanny when it played its pre-Broadway try out in Philadelphia in 1954. Horn loved jazz, especially Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner and Sarah Vaughan, and he produced Vaughan’s first Philadelphia concert. He gave special attention to local singers including Sunny Gale, Gloria Mann, Georgie Shaw and Micki Marlo. Horn signed some of them to his own record label which he started with the help of a group of businessmen and musicians including Nat Segall, Artie Singer, Bernie Lowe and Harry Chipetz. All of these singers were white, and their style was pop, not rock ‘n’ roll.

On each program, Horn listed the top songs of the day, although there was no scientific survey. The number one song was whatever he said it was, and it usually was whatever would bring him the most profit. He asked for, and received, whiskey, cash and women from record-promotion men. (My knowledge about this comes from the fact that I worked as record librarian at two Philadelphia stations while I was in school, and then was Night Operations Supervisor at WFIL.)

Horn asked his dancers to recommend new songs. Jerry Blavat, then a youngster on the committee, reports that he turned Horn on to “Sh-Boom” by The Chords, “Little Darling” by the Gladiolas and “Earth Angel” by The Penguins (all were black groups.) Horn bragged to song-pluggers that he “had to shove this music down the throats” of station management, but he was unjustly trying to claim credit for himself. Management was so happy with Horn’s ratings that they let him choose whatever music he wished; he didn’t need to “shove” those songs. When you place those new singers alongside older ones like Etta James, Roy Hamilton and Al Hibbler, you see a substantial list of black artists. The sad truth, though, is that the kids who danced to the records appeared to be almost all white.

At the very beginning, Horn’s Bandstand had some racial integration. One early photo shows the studio with an audience that was almost half black. Harvey Sheldon, a white high school student who later became a songwriter, reported that he jitterbugged with a black girl on the show in 1952 or ‘53 and no one said anything about it. “Bob was color blind,” Sheldon told me; “On the first shows there were black couples dancing on the floor along with white couples. Since he was a huge fan of jazz and so many jazz artists were black, there was no way Bob would allow the dance floor to be lily white.”

But then some people at the station worried that the program could become identified as a black show. “If we don’t do something, they’ll take over” was the expressed fear. These men were, you might say, realists. They felt that if the show was perceived as a Negro show, white teenagers would stay away. To avoid this, co-producers Horn and Tony Mammarella implemented two strategies.

First, they required that boys show up wearing suits and ties. The white kids, especially those who attended parochial schools, normally dressed this way while black kids did not. Dick Clark later wrote that he kept that dress code when he took over because “it made the show acceptable to adults who were frightened by the teenage world and teenage music.” Some observers might say that he was making the show acceptable to people who were frightened by the appearance of blacks.

Secondly, the producer started to require admission cards. Some blacks complained that these cards were sent mainly to all-white parochial schools, but I can’t find evidence of that. Dave Feldman, a Bandstand dancer, suggests one reason why so many of the kids came from Catholic schools: “They were taught that dancing was wrong, and especially that girls shouldn’t dance on television, so they did it to rebel.” Also, the closest school to the studio, geographically, was a Catholic one.

Catholic schools in those days were 99% white. Public high schools were more integrated —  72% white when Bandstand started, according to Philadelphia School District statistics, while blacks were 28% while Asians and Latinos were less than 1%. Consequently, if a majority of the attendees came from the Catholic schools, that made the audience overwhelmingly white.

People would phone the station if they wanted to attend, and callers were told there was a six-month wait. But inside the studio, at the end of each show, committee members gave out reservations for future programs. So if you got on the show once you were assured of returning, as long as they liked you, ahead of people who phoned in or wrote in. The teenage committee administered the reservation list. Horn personally selected the committee, and he happened to choose only white kids to serve on it.

So Horn, in a way, was the good guy who had no ethnic prejudice and who had blacks and whites in equal numbers in the early days of Bandstand. In this, he was ‘way ahead of his time and ahead of what’s seen in the show Hairspray. But Horn also was the bad guy who allowed blacks to be systematically excluded when it looked as if their dancing might dominate the show. All the photos from Horn’s last two years show nothing but white kids in the studio. Some people have criticized Dick Clark for keeping blacks out, but clearly the policy was started by Horn, before Clark.

Walter DeLegall, a black man who was a teenager then, said about the early days:

“I used to dance on the original ‘Bandstand.’ Believe it or not, at that time the show looked like a black blue-light basement party because our crowd would take over the floor when we showed up. Every day after school, we would head for the TV studio which was near my high school —  West Philly High. Black kids from Overbrook High would come also. For the most part, the white kids from West Catholic and Roman Catholic, etc., were intimidated when we got on the floor. They wouldn’t get up unless the bunny hop was playing. Then my crowd all sat down.

“We would do dances like the slop, bop, slow drag and the grind, which originated in the black dance halls. The grind was a very sexy dance that you did on a slow record. I know the producers found it embarrassing.

“After awhile, the producers decided that they wanted to change the image of the show, so they created a new policy. To get in the studio, boys must be wearing a suit jacket and tie. Since no black students went to school dressed like that, we couldn’t get in anymore. The white kids had no problem with the new dress code. We stopped going and so did the black girls, for the most part.”

A black man who grew up a few years after that is Thomas E. Kennedy:

“I grew up at 47th and Haverford, two city blocks from the studio. Black kids were turned back at the entrance without any explanation. This soon became a potential explosive situation, so the studio created an admission system that required passes that were distributed prior to the day of the show. This system permitted the show to legally turn away anyone without the pass while at the same time maintain the lily white studio audience since the passes were only distributed at the all-white West Catholic High School For Boys and the all-white West Catholic High School For Girls.

“For those of you that question or challenge this please try and recall a scene from the shows in Philadelphia where the girls were not wearing Catholic school uniform dresses and the boys were not wearing the white shirt and tie Catholic school boys uniform. This is but one of the many bitter memories that I and many of the people that I grew up with have about American Bandstand.”

Henry Gordon said in 1995 as he looked at an old photo of the kids at Bandstand:

“Anything that looks like a black face in this picture is probably a white face in the shadows. No, the black people who went in that building were there to clean up, as cleaning people. We blacks watched from across the street. There’s an El stop there and we used to watch the kids line up. It was their thing. Segregation such as seen on Bandstand during the late Fifties and early Sixties was characteristic of American society during that time, when ‘separate but equal’ was still viewed as legitimate by many Americans.”   

Black composer Leroy (“After the Lights Go Down Low”) Lovett is from an older generation and looks at things more benignly. He was 30 when Bandstand went on the air and says “Horn played some of our music, but mainly he aimed for a wider audience and the black kids didn’t get much out of it. They were more interested in stations that played r&b all the time,” and they stopped coming by their own choice.”

Deejay Jerry Blavat says: “Blacks didn’t go to public music events. Even when black artists like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino appeared in live shows, 95% of the audience was white. I went to Alan Freed’s concerts at the Paramount and black kids didn’t show up there either. I don’t know why, but black kids didn’t want to come.”

Doris Wilson was a young teenager when Bandstand was in Philadelphia. She says “there would always be a long line. And the blacks were in the back and by the time we were about to get in, it was full. Not being able to get in, that was a way of life then. So, you know, it was no big thing. At the time, I didn’t know it was racism to go somewhere and not get let in. Our parents didn’t teach us what was going on.”

Barbara Marcen, a white regular, remembers a day when one black teenager tried to slow-dance with a white girl. Some of the regular boys — all white — started talking angrily among themselves about how they’d like to beat up the boy after the show. Tony Mammarella had to calm them down.

Frank Spagnuola, a white Italian-American, was a Bandstand regular. He says that he would have loved to see blacks in the studio, “so I could learn their dance steps. But they weren’t there. I don’t think anyone kept them out; they just didn’t come.”

Bunny Gibson was a dancer on the show for two-and-a-half years in the mid-50s. She enjoyed seeing the TV series American Dreams, produced by Dick Clark in 2002, because it recalled one of the best periods in her life. “But I had to take a double-take when they showed black people in the stands,” she says. “That’s not what we experienced.”

When the program went on the ABC network, stations in the South, where racial segregation was the norm, objected to the fact that black dancers occasionally appeared on the dance floor. Although Clark was relatively new at his job, he took a strong stand and told the affiliates that he’d make no changes to meet their objections and so blacks did appear, but infrequently.

Paul Thomas is a black who started dancing on the show in 1961 and says that black kids occasionally came and there was some mixed group dancing starting in the early 1960s. Tallulah Dancier is a black woman who started watching the show around that time:

I would hurry home and watch Bandstand as I did my homework. I never saw black people dancing on the show early on, but that didn’t faze me. I knew sooner or later I would get to go on the show. Before long there were black kids dancing as regulars and ‘American Bandstand’ was one of the few television shows where I would get to see black people as artists.”

By coincidence, on Saturday afternoon February 8, 1964, the day before the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan, American Bandstand had its inaugural broadcast from Los Angeles, three thousand miles from its original home in Philadelphia.

When the program moved to California in 1964, it presented its first regular dancer who was black. But some things still didn’t change. Peggy Waggoner Names talks about her experience: “When I started dancing on American Bandstand in 1965, blacks and whites could dance, but not as couples. My friends Famous Hooks and Lori Montgomery were told they could no longer be dancing partners because of our racial difference.”

Hooks confirms the story:

“The producer told us very nicely that it was okay with him personally, but some stations wouldn’t like it, so please don’t do slow dances together. We thought it was unfair but we followed the rules. You had to line up at the end of each show and the producer picked whom he wanted to come back, so you had to please him. I danced there until 1972 and the policy remained the same. I brought a series of black girls with me so we could do the slow dances together.”

Hooks has a white father and black mother, while Montgomery is white. Hooks credits Dick Clark for personally choosing him to be a regular dancer on the show, the first black to gain that distinction.

From 1965 to 1967 Dick Clark also produced a show called Shebang which spotlighted a Mexican-American regular, Manuel Acosta, who slow-danced with a blonde white girl named Lynn. Maybe this break-through occurred because that show was not broadcast nationwide, but only in California. In contrast, when Acosta once appeared on Bandstand on the full network he was not allowed to slow dance with Lynn.

When Dick Clark wrote in his 1976 autobiography, “Bandstand was a segregated show for years. It became integrated in 1957 because I elected to make it so,” he was being outrageously simplistic.

A postscript was added a decade later in California. One day a group of American Bandstand dancers went to Harmony Park, a popular club in Anaheim, and got drunk. When Dick Clark found out about it he was furious and banished them from attending his show forever. Famous Hooks had known Clark for 40 years and says he never saw the man so upset. When I told Hooks the details about the fall of Bob Horn, he said it suddenly made him understand why Clark felt so strongly about drunkenness.

Watch for Part Two of our copyrighted story, which involves an election for District Attorney and the campaign’s emphasis on teenage sex with radio and TV personalities.

Part Two

In this part of the story we’ll see what Bob Horn did that ended his career and also caused the ABC network and its Philadelphia affiliate to ignore the 50th anniversary of the program’s start.

Most acquaintances describe Horn as arrogant and self-centered, although none of the dancers on his show saw him that way. When Horn got busted, the teenagers were shocked. Stanley J. Blitz, author of “Bandstand: The Untold Story,” defends Horn against accusations of rudeness and says that Horn avoided friendships with co-workers because he had more experience and knowledge and didn’t need to learn from them.

Other deejays of that time, however, were more gracious than Horn. One example is Bob Menefee, the top-paid disc jockey at WIP. Menefee was a curmudgeon on the air. When I took over the programming of Menefee’s afternoon show in the summer of 1953, Menefee attacked me on the air. “There’s a new kid working in the record library,” he told his listeners, “and listen to the junk he picked for me.” Then Menefee came into the record room and said he hoped I wasn’t angry with him for making me the butt of his joke. It was just his shtick. He even went back on the air a few minutes later and said: “Hey, that record wasn’t bad after all.”

Horn, on the other hand, didn’t show such warmth to colleagues. His demeanor was haughty. Record promoters, the men who came around and asked disc jockeys to spin their products, told me that he was more demanding of payola than anyone at any Philly station. It was common for promo guys to give bottles of whiskey as Christmas gifts. Horn would tell them that he wanted cases of whiskey, and named his brands.

His career was brought down by a teenage girl, but she did not come from the studio audience at Bandstand. Mary Ann Colella Baker was a freshman at Hallahan Catholic High School who started attending in 1952 when Bandstand was new:

“Horn was a perfect gentleman, the nicest person,” she says. “He asked a bunch of us to be on a committee to act as examples to other teenagers, and he gave birthday cakes and Christmas gifts to all of us on the committee. When he ran dances out-of-town he always made sure that each of us had rides to get there and back. He took us fishing on his boat and introduced us to his wife and kids. If he did that stuff he was accused of, we never knew about it.”

Barbara Marcen Wilston danced at the show from 1953 to 1959. “I was asked to be a character witness at his trial and I testified that he never tried anything with us. He was going to cut a record with me singing on one side and my dance partner, Tom DeNoble, singing on the other side. Bob got one of his friends to write a song for me, “Since I Met Him at the Senior Dance,” and Bob paid for me to take singing lessons. Then he was arrested and we never made the record.“ She, like Colella, finds it hard to believe that Horn had an affair with a teenage girl.    

“But what did we know?” says Colella. “We weren’t very worldly.” Both of these women admit they were naive kids who even gave out their home addresses to fans without fear of being stalked. Horn was kind and fatherly to these teenagers.

Cuz Bongiorno became a regular at Bandstand early in 1953. “Horn didn’t act like a star,” he says. “He was very friendly. He personally picked the kids to be on the committee by watching us dance and seeing how we got along with people. After you got a committee card you didn’t have to wait in line to get into the show. He also personally picked me up in South Philly and drove me to his record hops. He said ‘If you care enough to want to go to my dances, I’ll drive you.’”

Jerry Blavat started coming to the show in 1953 when he was only 13. “It became a second home for me, an Italian-Jewish kid from a broken family in South Philly. When I danced on TV people noticed me, and it led to my career in the business. Bob became like a second father to me. He’d take me home to spend weekends with his family in Levittown and in the summer I’d be the cabin boy on his boat at Stone Harbor.”

Dave Feldman also started coming in 1953. “Bob Horn complimented me on my dancing ability and for the way I dressed. He asked me to be on the committee and be an example for others. He took my friend Adam and me out fishing on his boat, along with some of his record-company friends,  and asked us for ideas to improve the show. I never saw him drunk or rude or vulgar.”

Several of these men agree that they all were virgins then. “It was an innocent time,” says one of them. “I didn’t know anyone who had sex. Making out in the back seat or copping a feel is the most that any of us ever did.”

That didn’t compare with what Horn was doing. Horn led a double life that included activities his virginal dancers never dreamed of. I used to see Horn with the young girl, Lois, when she accompanied him to the station for his 11-to-midnight radio show. She was an attractive brunette who sat with Bob at a table in a small studio while engineers observed their behavior from behind glass. Horn usually brought an entourage of men with him to the studio, and sometimes additional girls. The men sat on chairs against the walls of the studio and the girls sometimes knelt in front of them and satisfied them. The engineers and announcers looked on with a mixture of envy and horror, and none of them reported what they saw to management.

The promotion men who hung out with Horn fed him records by new artists and Horn was open to their suggestions — partly because he knew it would help the show, and partly because he liked getting gifts from the song-pluggers. One of the gifts from them was Lois. These record-promo men knew of her, and got her into the station to meet Horn. These were the guys I met during my first job in radio, in the music library at WIP, and whom I saw accompanying Horn during his nighttime radio show when I later worked at WFIL.

When Horn was arrested for drunk-driving on June 21, 1956, hardly anyone aside from station staffers and music industry insiders knew about his sexual life, and it didn’t come to light even then. Still, within hours after his DUI arrest, Horn was suspended from Bandstand. Why did the station move so quickly to dump Horn?

Channel 6, WFIL, was owned by Walter Annenberg, whose newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, campaigned against drunk driving, so he didn’t want to let Horn off lightly. The disc jockey might have gone back on the air after a few days, however, if the city’s district attorney hadn’t made a phone call to the station. Victor Blanc, the DA, was investigating what he called “teenage sex rings.” He phoned Lew Klein, an executive at WFIL who was a lodge-brother of his, and warned him not to reinstate Horn because “there’s more to the story; this is only the beginning of Horn’s problems.”

The district attorney phoned Klein as a personal courtesy, and to serve the public interest.

Annenberg asked Horn to confirm or deny that he knew the teenage girl who was cooperating with Blanc’s investigation. When Horn admitted that he knew her, Annenberg ordered him to resign from the station. Four months later, Horn was arrested on morals charges.

At his trials, Horn said that he first met Lois when she came to his office at WFIL one evening in 1954 and after that he saw her frequently at the West Philadelphia restaurant where he ate dinner. He admitted that he gave her birthday presents — a record player one year and one hundred dollars cash another year. Horn said he went to her home once for a party. When questioned as to why a married man would do this, Horn responded by saying that Lois knew many of his friends and “drifted into the same pattern as I did. She has an uncanny way of getting to know people. She isn’t reluctant or shy. She just walks up and introduces herself. I’ll bet she knows more artists in the business than I do.”

Horn described his pattern of hanging at a bar with song-pluggers and music publishers every evening after Bandstand finished, from 6 to 8 p.m., then going to a restaurant for dinner. He had a wife and four children, aged 2 to 7, at home, but visiting them would require an almost-two-hour round-trip to come back for his 11 p.m. radio show, so he stayed in Philadelphia. Lois testified that Horn took her to apartments where she willingly had sex with him, and she specified four dates starting in 1953 when she was 13. Horn produced alibis for those dates and Horn got a break when the judge refused to allow testimony about any other times. To discredit Lois’s reputation, the defense produced a man, with no connection to Horn, who testified that Lois once accepted money to have sex with him. A 1957 jury deadlocked, then a judge acquitted Horn at a second trial, this one without a jury.

Seven months after his first DUI incident, and just before he was to go on trial on the morals charges, Horn was charged again with drunk-driving when he sped his Cadillac the wrong way up a one-way street in North Philadelphia. Maybe he was on edge because the vice trial was about to start a few days later. In any event, he struck another car and left a 5-year-old occupant of that car paralyzed. He was convicted and sentenced to jail for that, but not for his sexual activities.

Horn ended his career working in Texas using a pseudonym. Because of the sex accusations, the drunk-driving and a jail term, there was no chance he’d get another chance on the air in Philadelphia. A family member revealed that one day Horn felt so depressed that he put a pistol in his mouth and his wife had to talk him out of committing suicide. In 1966, in Houston, Horn died of a heart attack at the age of 50.

       *        *         *

Despite Horn’s risk-taking, his sexual activities would never have come to light if it weren’t for two outside factors. One, a district attorney’s re-election campaign. And two, a scandal at another Philadelphia station. Let’s consider these other events in 1956:

The era was one of sexual repression. The Mann Act was law, barring anyone from transporting a person across state lines for an “immoral” act, even when it was consensual.  People were routinely arrested when they drove across a state border and had sex. Oral sex was labeled an “unnatural act” and people went to jail for doing it.

Abortion was illegal, and scandalous. Some of the biggest headlines of the year concerned the Kravitz case in which an upper-class girl died during an abortion that was arranged by her mother so the girl wouldn’t bear a child out of wedlock. The mother was put on trial for manslaughter. Also in 1956 a 19-year-old model accused vocalist Joe Valino (a Sinatra sound-alike whose real name was Joe Paolino) of getting her pregnant then taking her to a doctor to have it taken care of. Valino was convicted of arranging an abortion and his singing career virtually ended.

In this climate, Philadelphia’s new district attorney decided to make sexual misconduct in broadcasting a public issue. District Attorney Victor Blanc was a friend of my father’s who appeared to be intelligent and reasonable. When I saw him socially, he did not seem like a zealot or a crusader. But he was an ambitious politician. He had become District Attorney when Richardson Dilworth resigned that office to successfully run for mayor in 1955. Now Blanc was running for election to a full term and he sought a hot campaign topic.

Blanc had a love-hate relationship with show business, and even got personally involved in it. A low-budget sexploitation film called “Models, Inc.” was distributed by Philadelphia film executive Jack Harris. (Harris is the man who, in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, produced the film “The Blob” one year later.) “Models Inc.” was based on a Senate investigation of modeling schools, and in its original form the film opened with a statement by U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver, who was running for Vice President in 1956. Harris replaced the Kefauver footage with a new opening that he shot with Vic Blanc talking into the camera and warning the public of the dangers of sex.

Harris also made the film’s title more suggestive by changing it to “Teenage Models, Inc.” Harris replaced the Kefauver footage with Blanc so he could get on the good side of the district attorney — especially since Harris distributed sexually-suggestive films. He certainly didn’t do it because Blanc had greater public recognition. Everyone in the country knew Kefauver’s smiling image; virtually no one knew the ordinary, middle-aged face of Vic Blanc.

Blanc tried to become a recognizable figure that year. He made national headlines when he shut down a Philadelphia movie theater that was showing Brigit Bardot’s “And God Created Woman,” charging that it was obscene. It was odd that Blanc replaced Kefauver in “Teenage Models, Inc” because Kefauver was the DA’s role model. The Tennessee senator had achieved national prominence when he waged a public crusade against crime bosses with televised hearings. Blanc decided to go on a crusade of his own and he chose entertainment celebrities as his target.

When Blanc’s campaign was launched, friends of Walter Annenberg hoped that the DA would find some dirt on WPEN’s popular night-time talk host, Steve Allison, because Allison often criticized Annenberg and the Inquirer. The Inquirer’s publisher supported the work of the House Un-American Activities committee and its crusade against “Communist sympathizers” in the entertainment field. In 1951 Ed Sullivan was so consumed with anti-Communist zeal that he wrote a lengthy accusation of choreographer Jerome Robbins for supporting “the Commie cause.” Sullivan’s home paper, the New York Daily News, thought the article was too angry and too personal and refused to run it, but the Philadelphia Inquirer published it on page one. Allison thought this decision was reprehensible and criticized Annenberg for it.

Allison differentiated himself from Bob Horn as a performer, saying he was not a disc-jockey but, instead, a man who discussed issues on the air. Allison coined a new name for himself: a “controversialist.” He was advertised as “the man who owns midnight.” Cardinal Spellman was once a guest on his program, and Philadelphia Mayor Dilworth appeared frequently. Allison’s show also attracted a different type. His 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. radio show took place in a club-like setting where food and drinks were served, so it was a magnet for playboys, for girls who wanted to taste show biz glamour, and men who wanted to arrange introductions and get some action.

People who hung out at WPEN learned that Allison had a yen for women who wore white, like waitresses and nurses. One of the regular attendees at the broadcasts was Bernie Jacobs, a man who ran a modeling agency. He usually brought some of his young clients with him and arranged dates — photographic and otherwise — for them. One night he asked one of his models to put on something white, then introduced her to Allison. This model, a 17-year-old mother named Dorothy who was separated from her husband, later testified that the “controversialist” took her upstairs to the record library after he signed off his show and they performed sexual acts on each other. Dorothy said that she did it willingly.

Allison said it never happened and Steve’s wife provided him with an alibi, consisting of a log she kept of his activities. It said that his guests that night were movie star Denise Darcel and crooner Johnny Desmond and that he went home immediately after the broadcast. This log was entered as evidence at Allsion’s trial, and it — combined with a parade of civic leaders and city officials as character witnesses — got Allison a not-guilty verdict. But Dorothy provided some shocking testimony, saying that she and Allison repeated their sexual acts on several other nights, and that he once asked her to drink some water and try to urinate on him. Jacobs took the witness stand and backed up Dorothy’s story.

After his dalliance with Dorothy, Allison allowed these men and girls free reign around the station. There were trysts of another Jacobs model and another WPEN announcer, and other girls had encounters with a publicist and a photographer, respected professionals who were in love with their wives and felt they were just having some harmless, job-related fun on the side.

Some of the Allison crowd got involved, also, with an aspiring model named Maxine. She was petite, less than 100 pounds, with a big bosom. She was 17 when I met her in 1956. The man who introduced us told me that she liked to pose for photos — the kind you could not take to your drugstore to get developed — and she would do some other things, but would not allow sexual intercourse because she had a boyfriend and didn’t want to cheat on him. This was her unique moral code. I found her to be a cheerful person, eager to please, up to a point.

A suburban dog breeder named James Worden frequently attended the Allison show and sometimes invited men and women whom he met there to parties at his estate, which he called Hound Dog Hill. Worden’s parties included nudity and sexual promiscuity. Dorothy — she of the Allison incidents — testified that she stripped and played “a game called 69″ with Worden’s wife at Hound Dog Hill while guests took photos of the two of them together. The partygoers at Worden’s place knew to stop short with Maxine when she attended, because of her strict rule. But at one gathering, one guy didn’t follow the rule and went all the way. Maxine went to the cops and hollered rape. Prosecutors decided there weren’t strong enough grounds to indict the man for that, but Maxine’s story about what went on at the party triggered Philadelphia District Attorney Blanc’s investigation of sex involving radio and TV personalities.

The DA spent considerable time and money on his probe, renting a center city storefront as an unmarked headquarters instead of using his own office in City Hall. It seems curious that a public official needed to rent a private headquarters, but Blanc felt that some city officials, if they knew what he was doing, would tip off their friends who were being investigated. Mayor Dilworth and his administration had a reputation for honesty, but the city’s officials did socialize with media people and Blanc feared that information about his crusade with leak out.

Blanc’s sting operation was hush-hush except for the private phone call that Blanc made to his friend at WFIL, towards the end of the investigation, to alert him to the Bob Horn problem. Blanc’s secret headquarters was at 1927 Chestnut Street while my father’s optical store was a block away at 1835 Chestnut. I didn’t know it at the time, but Blanc must have been on his way to or from his secret lair on some occasions when he stopped by to see my dad.

In the course of his probe Blanc discovered connections between many disparate people. For example, Bernie Jacobs, the man who ran the modeling agency and set Steve Allison up with his accuser, also arranged modeling jobs for Lois, Horn’s accuser. On one of those jobs Lois gave oral sex to one of the Allison crowd for $40 and on another job had sex with a man for a hundred dollars, all this when she was 15 and in the midst of her relationship with Horn. In addition, the girl who accused Joe Valino of arranging her abortion was one of the models who attended the Allison show and met men there. So, simultaneously, the DA was investigating Horn, Allison and Valino and people associated with them, and everything came to a head, so to speak, at the same time. The DA announced his indictment of Horn and Allison at the same press conference, in October of 1956. In all, 27 men were arrested.  Blanc boasted that he had “smashed the ring in local aspects” and the FBI would clean up the interstate angles.

What were the results of this elaborate investigation? Well, Blanc won his election, and that was the reason for all this, wasn’t it?  He defeated Republican Emil Goldhaber by a vote of 303,000 to 235,000. To put this in perspective, when the later-to-become-famous Ed Rendell was elected District Attorney in 1977 his vote total was much less than Blanc’s — only 212,000. On the other hand, Blanc’s total and Blanc’s margin of victory was not anywhere near what his predecessor, Richardson Dilworth, had achieved in 1951.

Other results: Some of the men were convicted of participating in “unnatural sex.” Others were charged with corrupting the morals of minors, but the judges in the majority of these cases decided that the men were dealing with girls who were already corrupted, so they either acquitted the men or gave them light punishment. One man, convicted and fined fifty dollars, went on to a career as a philanthropist and supporter of political candidates up to the 21st century. Allison and Horn were each acquitted, but neither one of them got their jobs back.

Coincidence played a major role in this drama of entertainment history. These happenings would never have become known if one man had just listened to Maxine’s restrictive instruction. A generation later, courts began to rule that a woman has the right to say no at any point in a relationship. Philadelphia’s broadcasting sex scandal of 1956 was an early object lesson. If only this man stopped where Maxine drew the line, then she wouldn’t have gone to the cops, then Horn would not have been investigated, then he would have remained on “Bandstand” and Dick Clark may not have become a star, etc, etc and so on.

I’ll close with a personal reminiscence. On the day that Allison was indicted, he was about to receive an award for public service from the City of Philadelphia. Bob Adleman, the public relations man for WPEN, arranged an elegant event at Longchamps Restaurant on Rittenhouse Square where Allison would accept the honor. After the indictment was announced, Adleman hastily wrote a press release to save the city from embarrassment. (I was in his office as he wrote it. Just out of school, I was apprenticing in public relations under his tutelage.) He announced that the luncheon was being postponed because there was a labor dispute at the restaurant and city officials didn’t want to cross any possible picket line. (There never was any picket line. That was Bob’s invention.) “The event will be re-scheduled later,” his press release said. Of course it never was. Bob was a PR pro who really knew how to spin a story. He later became a Hollywood screenwriter.

Disgraced in Philadelphia, the 41-year-old Allison found employment at radio station at WWDC in Washington. The station advertised, “Trouble’s in town, sporting the monicker of Steve Allison. Not nasty trouble. Sort of healthy trouble. Steve’s a one-man F. B. I., Fearless Broadcast Investigator. He tangles nightly with the bigwigs on every hair-raising issue.”

When Allison met the 19-year-old news editor of the station, Sam Smith, Allison explained why he had to leave Philly: “Look, all I did was put my cock in the mouth of some under-age girls. Show me a guy who hasn’t done that and I’ll show you a queer.” 

Allison then moved to California. He died in Hollywood in 1969, age 53. Vic Blanc became a judge, then resigned when he developed mental lapses which would today be labeled as Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 1968 at the age of 71.


Editor’s Note: This is a repost with permission granted by the author, Steve Cohen. For additional access to Steve Cohen’s writings on art, theater, music, books and travel, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/gehry/


To access Mr. Cohen’s web site, click herehttp://theculturalcritic.com

Athena Intanate: Love is a Lamp-Lit Room

Photo: Atena Intanate, Copyright 2020

Photography and Text by Athena Intanate, Copyright 2020


Love is a Lamp-Lit Room


I never particularly liked my dorm room until I started putting up my photographs in it. Its yellowed cinder block walls are sticky with age, and the carpeted floor is in dire need of a deep clean. My bed’s propped next to the wall with a gaping one foot gap, unable to be bridged because of an oddly situated pillar jutting out from the corner. But just like any new place, I needed more than to simply occupy that irregularly cuboidal space. I needed to make it mine, in order to make it a place I desired to be. 

Bedrooms are very private spaces, where we are allowed to feel all our emotions in their completeness. We sleep there, we dream there, but we cry, think, and laugh there too. University has been daunting and breathtaking to experience all at the same time, and if my bedroom was a person it has been the one that has comforted me most. There is sadness and despair, that is undeniable, but they are sutured in such close proximity to happiness and love that the fluidity that exists between each individual emotion amalgamates them. This is why I had one protagonist situated in one room – to represent the ever-changing nature of how we feel. ‘Love is a Lamp-Lit Room’ is, if anything, a self-portrait of how I navigate this turbulence. 

There exists a certain shard of despair in needing to get up and go to work at 5am five times a week, as I do. I fumble in the dimness, struggling to tie the laces of my shoes.

After eight hours of shifts on top of four hours of class, sometimes I am rendered exhausted, emotionally drained. All I want to do is curl up and bask in silence. 

Is the selfie a mark of vanity? Or is it a sign of self-love?

Happiness can be found in people, but also the things that I loved doing in the past. Reading has become conflated with homework, but can it bring happiness too? 

These were all thoughts that swirled around in my head as I attempted to reconstruct my own narrative into 35 frames. 

But at the end of the day my room is loved, as am I. I am enfolded in softness – the yellow glow from my bed-side lamp reminds me so.


Portrait of Athena Intanate by Cindy Ji, Copyright 2020


About the Author: Athena Intanate is a freshman enrolled at Haverford College, Class of 2023.