The Coolest Music

By Anita Garner

This show is filled with good music – all kinds of music. Click the picture to hear my mother’s contribution.

Sister Fern’s on the soundtrack of the second season of this hit Netflix show.  I watched the episode she’s in and it’s equal parts action and music, more music per show than I’ve seen, maybe ever.

Thanks to Numero Group, the fabulous restoration label that introduces Fern’s songs to a world she couldn’t have imagined.  Bravo to show creators and producers, writers and directors and music supervisors for their choices of vintage music.

Mother’s heard in the first episode of season two, singing a song she wrote and recorded in Nashville in the 1950s.  Here’s a sample of other songs in that same episode.

“Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale
“My Way” by Frank Sinatra
“Comin’ Home Baby” by Mel Tormé
“You Must Be An Angel” by Richard Myhill
“Beyond The Sea” by Bobby Darin
“I Wonder What the Future Holds for Me” by Glenn Snow
“You Only Want Me When You’re Lonely” by Jim Boyd

Right there in that list we’ve got some doo wop, some twang, some groovy finger-snappers and Sister Fern, who is sometimes unclassifiable.

Show description: Created for Netflix by Steve Blackman and developed by Jeremy Slater, it revolves around a dysfunctional family of adopted sibling superheroes who reunite to solve the mystery of their father’s death and the threat of an impending apocalypse.

A creative show with inspired music choices. Rock on, all y’all!


1959. New girl in town. Preacher’s kid fresh off The Glory Road.

By Anita Garner

Anita Faye Jones, new girl.

Our family had just arrived from the Deep South and I would be attending high school in glamorous Southern California.  Daddy was one of those preachers who believed Jesus didn’t want to see makeup on a woman’s face.

This redhead has a thick Southern drawl but no discernible eyebrows
and lashes. They’re there.  They’re blonde.  You just can’t see them. 

But I know this girl.  If you tell her wearing makeup is a sin there’s every chance she’ll hide a makeup kit with a girlfriend, disappear into the bathroom at school after the official picture (the one her parents will see) is taken, and add some color.

The trick is to get to school early. Pencil in those eyebrows.  Lay on mascara and lipstick, then scrub it all off before heading home.  You could survive high school that way and then move away from home one minute after graduating.

Get yourself a roommate and rent an apartment.  Bleach a rebel-blonde streak, pile on makeup and head to a photo booth.

1960 version of selfies

You have to have the duck-face poses. It’s part of the growing up process.

Within a few months, I went blonde, lied about my age, started singing in nightclubs and Daddy stopped speaking to me. Eventually we made up (sort of) over rice and beans and cornbread at his kitchen table.


A contractor bakes bread for his community.

By Anita Garner

I love AARP.  I joined way back when they sent me that first “Hello you’re getting older” letter and I haven’t looked back.  AARP  Magazine’s current issue features stories about people getting on with it, doing what needs to be done.  It’s inspiring to learn about Jeff and his community and how they’re adjusting to what’s going on right now.

Jeff Owens’ backyard bakery

Jeff Owens bakes loaves of bread for his neighbors in a wood-fired oven in his backyard. In ordinary times, Jeff, 53, works as a masonry contractor in Riverview, Michigan.

Craftsman Bakes Bread in Backyard for Neighbors in Need

Mason Jeff Owens turns his outdoor oven into a community bakery

When all this started, people couldn’t find bread in the stores. My neighbors knew I baked, so they started calling me. I’m a mason, and I had built a wood-fired oven in my backyard for pizza parties. I started baking loaves of bread and giving them away to friends, neighbors, health care workers and people in need. With my wife, two kids and stepmom helping, we’re up to baking more than 100 loaves a day, every weekday. People sign up online and then line up in their cars for pickup.

Many of the people who pick up for themselves also have “bread buddies” — people stuck at home who they deliver to. We also have helpers — I call them my breadheads — who deliver 27 loaves a day to the local fire department, which takes them to senior-housing communities, and another 27 loaves to hospitals.

Everything is sanitary. We all wear gloves, and we wipe down our stainless steel counters constantly. The bread bakes at 350 to 470 degrees and goes right into paper bags. And people say it’s the best bread they’ve ever had. Someone wrote on our Facebook page, “It’s love in a paper bag.”

jeff owens checks on bread in his backyard oven

Nick Hagen

Jeff Owens checks on bread in his backyard oven.

The whole thing has become a project for our community. We use 100 pounds of white flour a day, and a lot of that is funded through donations. I ran out of seasoned wood, so my breadheads bring it to me. A local Masonic Home donated a 1940s-era 20-quart mixer after they heard that I was using a 6-quart home model. I needed help refurbishing it, so one of my breadheads drove two towns away to pick up a used commercial bread hook for mixing, and another welded it for me, all within 24 hours. The mixer is a real World War II–era machine. We call her Messy Betsy. She’s really helped the effort. When I needed a gasket to seal the door to the oven, a neighbor offered one from an oven they were discarding.

Bread recipients have been so eager to help out that we got a Salvation Army collection kettle for cash donations. We don’t need much for the bread, and this way the money can go where it’s needed.

The process never really stops. I fire up the stove at night, and by morning it’s the perfect temperature for the first batch.








Back to the 90s with Mr. Nice Guy

By Anita Garner

With Dick Van Patten at a Hollywood charity event

In 1998 I mentioned to my friend, Barney Martin that I was working with Dick Van Patten on a project.  Barney had worked with him in a movie and a couple of TV shows and said, “You’re gonna love him.”

The event would be a big dinner hosted by a charity to honor a major donor.  I was hired by the organization to write a speech for the celebrity presenter.  The donor was a man known for his difficult personality, but Dick had made a commitment to the cause so he agreed to deliver the speech.

Of course such a speech should be filled with warmth and I’d have to rely on Dick for that.  Other celebrities had already been contacted and declined to participate. It didn’t feel strictly coincidental that many  show biz people invited to speak were all of a sudden otherwise engaged.  Dick would carry the program.

We met several times at the usual Studio City chat spots, Du-par’s, Nat’s Early Bite, Jerry’s Famous, Art’s and Sportsmen’s Lodge. A steady stream of performers stopped by our table to schmooze and share stories about Dick’s own fascinating family. Everyone in town seemed to know and love the Van Pattens. Dick promised me, “We’ll have you over for dinner soon.  Pat feeds everybody.”

So a lot of laughter at our meetings but not much I could use to enhance the reputation of the recipient.  Dick told me not to worry about it, just write down anything and he’d take it from there.   But I did worry.  He was doing a favor for a cause he believed in.  I was being paid and I was meant to do the heavy lifting and come up with good things to say. I made some notes on index cards about the donor’s purported good works.

The big night came and Dick and I arrived together, walked the red carpet, took our seats at a table up front, ate dinner, then he was introduced.  I handed him our notes.

He bounced up onstage, greeted everyone and acknowledged a wave of applause.  He glanced at the note cards only once, winked at me and skillfully moved into telling entertaining stories.  He shared charming anecdotes that vaguely included the recipient without resorting to outright falsehoods.  You could enjoy the evening’s entertainment without realizing there was very little said about the honoree.

Most people present would leave the ballroom that night without ever knowing which end of a donkey the big donor represented, because of the delightful performance by Mr. Nice Guy. Classy.