Four Preps News Flash from Bruce Belland!

July 26, 2020

   Hi Everyone!
   Well, I’ll start this out the way everyone does these days, “I hope this finds you safe and well.”
   I miss you all and want to give a special shout out to those of you who take the time to get in touch now and then and ask, “What’s up?”
   Thank you! It means a lot to this old softy.
   I’ll bring you up to date on the book in a minute.
   But first, a word of tribute to another dear friend I’ve just lost.
   30 years after I had the privilege of working with and being mentored by the great George Burns, I ran into him at a restaurant on L.A.’s Westside.
   He had just turned 96.
   He claimed he remembered me, “Oh yeah—the little guy who sang all the solos and was the cut-up in the group! How are you kid?!” (He called everyone “kid” because he said it saved him from having to remember names.)
   We chatted for a few minutes and then I congratulated him on his good health and wonderful longevity. (He loved to wisecrack, “I can’t die. I’m booked!”)
   However, on this night he responded to my congratulations with misty eyes and a trembling voice that whispered, “Except it’s no fun anymore… all my friends are gone!”
   With the losses of so many of my good friends recently, like Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Diamond Dave Somerville, Tim Conway, Fred Willard (their tributes are all in my past Newsletters) and Carl Reiner - who I did not know but long idolized– even at my age I’m beginning to feel a little lonely myself.
    And now Regis Philbin has passed.
   Where do I start in remembering Regis?
   We first met in San Diego where he was hosting a talk show on a local TV station around 1966.
   We hit it off immediately and started trading smart ass wisecracks on day one. It never stopped over six decades, and he was a worthy opponent for the friendly verbal duels we engaged in.
   I loved his sometimes overwrought responses to little things and sometimes to life in general.
  Even as the years passed, he continued to radiate energy. It was impossible to get bored talking to him.
   In my upcoming book, I write about the Preps doing 150 college concerts a year for 3 straight years in the ’60s.
   Regis attended Notre Dame and for his entire life was a diehard fan of the Fighting Irish.
   He called me in the mid 60’s all excited because he’d heard the Preps would be doing that year’s Homecoming concert in South Bend. He ordered me to do “one hell of a good show” or I’d hear from him!
   Of course, the success of the school’s after game concerts were dependent on the game’s outcome earlier that day.  
   We were lucky when we did our show for the Irish fans—they had won that day’s game in a squeaker just before the final whistle.
   Sometime after that, Regis contacted me totally stoked about being invited to perform after that year’s up-coming Notre Dame homecoming game. He wanted me…. well, let me excerpt a portion from my book about that whole (mis)adventure.
(Excerpt from book)
   Naturally, when our Saturday night concert follows that weekend’s football game, our audience’s mood can be seriously affected by the final score. Luckily, this year the Irish win and our concert is a success.
   It’s hard to capture in words, what a thrill the response of a happily victorious Homecoming audience of 5,000 can give four guys who’ve invested so many hours polishing our show.
 Some years later, Notre Dame alumnus Regis Philbin asks me to write a comedy Act he can perform at that season’s homecoming post-game show.
   The Irish lose in a heart breaker.
   No one gets drunk like an Irishman… except a Notre Dame Irish fan whose team just had its ass kicked.
   That night at the show in an off-campus venue, poor Regis walks up to the mic and the heckling starts.
   Regis had asked me to put together a “smart” nightclub act he can bring into New York and I’ve written him some sophisticated, very chic, faux Noel Coward material… which is exactly what the boozed-up brutes do not want to hear.
   After the show, Regis calls me in L.A. and is apoplectic (as only Regis can be). 
   He howls “My God Bruce – they hated me!  They hated everything I did. I was lucky to get out of there alive!”
   Regis was never a master of understatement.
   He gets even with me many years later when the Preps re-form in 1989 and appear on “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.”

   I had discovered Kathie Lee when I produced “Name That Tune” and on the air that day, she points at me and graciously says to Regis, “This man is responsible for my career”.

   To which Regis replies “Oh yeah? Well, he nearly ended mine!”
   He forgave me and we remained lifelong friends.
(End of excerpt)
   “Reege” was a wonderfully witty and deft conversationalist and I will always treasure his company and the verbal sparring we engaged in over the years.
   RIP the man who inspired the phrase, “Outregis”.
   Outrageous, but never outclassed or out quipped.  
   Please say “hello” to my pal George Burns for me.
   Now re: the book. I’ve altered my plans for its release. My original intent was to self-publish which I may still elect to do.
    But, I’ve had some interest expressed by reps of some of the big-time publishers and am readying my manuscript and accompanying photos to send to them for consideration.
   Then I had a technical screwup that cost me a lot of time.
    I’m amazed that a techno klutz like me can even manage to turn a computer on.
   (In fact, all the scripts I wrote for shows like “McCloud”, “To Catch a Thief” and “Knight Rider” were written out longhand by me on yellow-lined paper and transcribed to script form by an eagle-eyed secretary who could actually read my scrawl. I counted on her to decipher my scribbles but then she retired – probably cross-eyed by that point.)
   So, I forced myself to learn how to type.
   Not “touch typing” mind you, but staring down at the keyboard and stabbing away at it with my two index fingers – just like Andy Rooney and other former war correspondents used to do.
   Then along comes word processors and then computers.
   I had a book to write, so I had a wonderful computer mentor teach me just the handful of things I needed to know to get the book into written form.
   By this time, I am dealing with macular degeneration and consequently type all my work in size 48(!) Tahoma font so I can read it easily.
   However, publishers want submissions to be in Times New Roman size 12 font, so after three years and a dozen drafts, I finished the manuscript.
   But, with my less than perfect eyesight, I screwed up and clicked on several very wrong options while converting it to size 12 New Roman font. When I did so, the smaller sized print totally screwed up all my margins, the spacing of sentences, paragraphs, borders, etc.
   I consulted my webmaster and another computer whiz and they both agreed that the only safe and sure way to correct the spacing—which I only trust myself to do—is to go through the entire book in the smaller size font and make the spatial corrections.
   That meant “Mr. Magoo” Bruce had to rustle up his magnifying glass and go through every page all over again. It’s taken me a couple of weeks.
   I took some consolation when I read that Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber had a cat named Otto who got access to the computer on his composing piano and literally wiped out the entire score to his sequel to “Phantom of the Opera”.
   At least he had a cat to blame.
   But finally, the text is ready.
   Then there’s the matter of the photos. Nearly everyone who’s written me about looking forward to the book has urged “Please…include a LOT of pictures!”
   Well, I’ve got plenty of them, although I hadn’t really realized how many until I began to go through my memorabilia—13 steamer-trunks full. I anticipate the final selection of pics to be completed in another few weeks.
   But believe me, the photos I’m finding, including quirky candids of me with all kinds of celeb will be worth the effort.
   Phew! I know many of you are getting tired of my excuses, but don’t give up on me.
   It’s coming!  
   At the risk of being maudlin about another dear friend I just lost—and turning off those of you who aren’t a sucker for a loveable dog—I have to pay tribute to another pal who left us recently.
   He was a cockapoo (half poodle – half cocker), named “Duffy.”  

     Simone and I rescued him when he was a year old. 
   He died in his sleep on June 27th at the age of twenty years and six months, which the vet tells me is a pretty good run for a pooch.
   Duffy and I were best friends.
   We live in the hills and our daily walks always encountered lots of squirrels and rabbits, lizards, and now and then, even a curious coyote.
   Little 26 pound Duffy was always at the ready to protect his Poppa. And every day since he died, around the usual time of day for our walk, I wish I could still grab his leash, fetch him somewhere in the house and take off for the nearby woods together.
   Our only disagreement was that he was a Charger fan and I like the Rams.
   Despite that, he gave me so much love and devotion, I hope he’s up in Doggy Heaven cavorting with Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Benji!
   Believe me, he’ll give them a run for their money.
   So long little pal.
   Thanks for 20 years of romps and laughs… and a loving lick on the face now and then.
   That’s all for now… I’ve got more trunks to look though.
   As for Covid19, what can I say about this fearful plague… except as always, PLEASE take good care of yourself and each other.
   I love y’all!
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