Twenty area musicians, including singer-songwriter Eric Salt of Watertown, will perform a benefit Concert for the Troops on Saturday to raise funds for troop care packages.
(Photo courtesy of Beth Oram)
(Note: This is a special online exclusive version of the Globe West Arts column)
The first time that Bobby Blair decided to honor the war dead in Iraq and Afghanistan with his own handmade memorial, he had no idea how long it would take him. He just sat down and wrote the name, age, rank, and state of every recently fallen US service member on an individual poster-board sign.
"By midnight my magic markers had run out. In the morning, I got some more. By noontime I was done. Then I went out and put them up," said Blair, who placed the placards along the roadside in his hometown of Holliston. "I suppose I should have asked someone. But I didn't. I just did it, and it went over well."
And so it's been since the start of the war. Each Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the 56-year-old Vietnam War veteran, whom locals call the honorary mayor of Mudville, writes until his hands are stiff and smeared with ink, and he doesn't ask for help. He's hand-lettered nearly every sign, even the year that the memorial to 1900 fallen service men and women stretched 34.4 miles into seven different towns. So it's fitting that Blair would quietly go it alone with another project as well, until help found him last spring.
"We all know the signs. Usually, you drive by and your heart just breaks when you see them. But last year, I just kept thinking, 'What can I do?'" said Holliston resident Ruthann Baler. "So I called Bobby. I thought he might need help with the signs, but he surprised me. A lot of people don't know this, but not only does he put the signs up, he sends weekly care packages to the troops and he's been doing that every week for the past five years. So, he said he needed help with that."
Baler, 48, was the right person to ask. A press consultant and a singer-songwriter, she soon had a 20-act fund-raising concert in the works -- and then another and another. All told, they have raised $2,000.
At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, 20 area performers once again will take the stage at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post for the next Concert for the Troops. They hope to raise another $3,000 for the care packages for local members of the military, and to also collect essentials (like razors and toothpaste) and treats (like pickles or dried fruit) to pack inside them.
Performers range from experienced singer-songwriters such as Tom Driscoll of Holliston, Dawn Kenny of Waltham, and Dan Cloutier of Ashland (who backs up Richie Havens at Amazing Things in Framingham the following week) to budding high school talents. Each will perform two songs.
"Monetary-wise, it's been a godsend," said Blair, who, with the help of American Legion Post 47, sends one package to each US service member from Holliston once a week. "Right now we're up to nine local men [on active duty], the most we've ever had. So, it's gotten expensive. It can cost up to $25 per package just for postage."
But costs won't stop this retired postal carrier. Blair simply remembers all too well what it's like to go without the daily necessities in a war zone.
"One thing they always ran out of in Vietnam was toilet paper, and boy, you don't know how essential toilet paper can be. We used to end up using the Stars and Stripes, which is a military newspaper, and, trust me, it wasn't Charmin," said Blair.
Saturday's performers include Jim Cormier, Katie Frassinelli, Ira Kittrell, and John Powers, all of Holliston; Joe Fredette and Alan Crane, both of Framingham; Dawn Kenney of Waltham, Eric Salt of Watertown, Craig Sonnenfeld of Brookline, Kim Jennings of Worcester, Tom Tincler of Walpole, and Phil Kissinger of Foxborough.
Concert for the Troops will take place 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at the Holliston VFW, 310 Woodland St. Admission by donation (kids free) includes refreshments. Cash bar. Items needed for care packages listed at Baler's web site. Anyone seeking more information is urged to call 781-254-7449.
-- Denise Taylor
Starting tonight, The Odd Couple (Female Version) is coming to The Center for Arts in Natick.
The feminized take on the classic roommate mismatch is based on the Tony Award-winning 1965 stage classic starring Walter Matthau and Art Carney and later became a hit TV show.
The Odd Couple (Female Version) fast-forwards to the 1980s and replaces the bachelors with female alter-egos. Legendary playwright Neil Simon co-wrote this feminized version of his bachelor comedy, which enjoyed a yearlong run on Broadway in 1985 starring Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno.
The Odd Couple (Female Version) runs March 23 through April 1. Tickets are $18, available at the TCAN box office at 14 Summer St., Natick, by phone at (508) 647-0097 or www.natickarts.org
-- Erica Noonan
But the owners of both places say there is plenty of room for everyone. Ken's has hordes of loyal regulars who have been coming for decades, says owner Tim Hanna. And Metro 9 is shooting for a younger audience, offering the feel of a high-end downtown Boston steakhouse for $45 or $50 per guest, instead of $80 or $90.
And Tim Hanna may have some changes in store for the 4.25 acres of land his parents bought 60 years ago for $7,000. He's thinking of building a small shopping mall or hotel adjacent to Ken's.
Read more in today's Globe West.
-- Erica Noonan
(JoDee Messina visited her old elementary school, the Miller School, in Holliston, in September 2005, Globe Photo by Robert Klein)
Country singer JoDee Messina grew up in Holliston, but that's not where she got into country music. She told the Herald News in Joliet, Ill. that she actually got into country when she went away to a private school.
"I had gone away to a private school for a year, and there were kids from all over the country. One of them was from the South and would listen to it. I just kind of gravitated toward it because it was real. It was so relatable to me," Messina said in a Q and A with the Herald News.
Messina says the best part about being famous is that she can speak out for the underdog. The worst part? Not being able to use the restroom in peace and quiet.
Happiness and relief are expected to be the order of the day as a military unit returns from Iraq. A welcome home ceremony is scheduled in Boxboro for the 220th Transportation Company.
Members are shown below on the bus from the airport where they landed today.
Among those returning is Staff Sergeant James Hamm of Holliston.
His mother, Christine, says she hasn't heard much from him since he was deployed a little over a year ago.
Mrs. Hamm is a member of a "family readiness" group and experts have told the group that their returning loved ones may have a difficult time adjusting to Stateside life.
"I'm not overly concerned, but it's good to know what to look for," Mrs. Hamm said.
(Globe Staff Photo by Janet Knott)
As theatrical parts go, they don’t get much bigger than the one being tackled by Nik Walker, the teenage son of Channel 4's Liz Walker, over the next two weekends.
In Newton Summer Stage’s production of Stephen Schwartz’s “Children of Eden,” the 18-year-old Brookline actor plays the role of Father. As in God.
Director David Bloom says Walker, who shone as Colehouse Walker in Summer Stage’s 2004 production of “Ragtime,” can handle it.
“Nik is the kid where you know that if he wants to he’s going to make it,” Bloom said. “He has an amazing voice, but he also has a vivaciousness on stage too that you really can’t quantify. He can play the highs of creation and the lows of the flood with such passion and compassion that it’s really remarkable.”
Bloom said his entire teenage ensemble has an outstanding job with the ambitious show, in which the cast of 43 must get through 43 musical acts spanning whole biblical book of Genesis, from creation to the new start after the flood.
“Children of Eden,” which also features elaborate sets and a 17-piece orchestra, runs July 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29 at 7:30 p.m., and July 23 at 2 p.m. at Newton North High School, 360 Lowell Ave. in Newton. Tickets are $10 to $15 and patrons can call 617-559-6443 or visit Newton Summer Stage online for more information.
-- Denise Taylor