Category Archives: Mark’s Messages

“The Joe Report” Continued to Add Subscribers and Break G.I. Joe Fan Readership Records in 2015

Our stats in 2015 were staggering. Everything trended higher and higher. Our most read article was an exclusive interview we held with Hasbro's own, Derryl DePriest. But that was only one of hundreds of new

Our readership stats in 2015 were literally staggering. Everything trended higher, with our most-read article being an exclusive interview with Hasbro’s own, Derryl DePriest (see HERE). (Graphic: WordPress)

Conquering the World— Shaded countries indicate where our readers resided in 2015. We're still working on ways to crack China's governmental censorship, Greenland's lack of humans, and the Middle East's fanatical dislike for action figures and toys in general. Oh well, onward and upward! (Graphic: WordPress)

Conquering the World?— In this official statistical map provided to us by WordPress, the shaded countries indicate where readers of The Joe Report resided in 2015. As you can see, other than North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran and Greenland, we’re doing VERY well! (Graphic: WordPress)

Bottom Line: We had a very good 2015—thanks to YOU, our loyal readers. Article publication was up. Reader comments were up. Overall viewership from fans in countries all around the world—was up, up, UP. We want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for your faithful subscriptions and insightful intel. Without your assistance, production of The Joe Report would not be possible. We’d also like to wish everyone reading this message a very healthy and Happy New Year in 2016. We’ll see you all again, next year. GO, JOE! —Sincerely, Mark Otnes, Editor of The Joe Report.

Please Remember Those Who Died Today, 9/11/2001


Bottom Line:
We will never forget 9/11. Please take this moment to remember all of the innocent civilians, first responders and military personnel who lost their lives that day. May they rest in peace.

Death of a Real-Life American Hero———Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles “G.I. Joe” Gliniewicz, Killed While Pursuing Three Suspects in Illinois

Slain police officer,

Slain police officer, Charles “G.I. Joe” Gliniewicz of Illinois. (Photo: Fox Lake PD)

In an all too common story (nowadays), we’ve just received news that another member of America’s “thin blue line” separating civilized society from anarchy and chaos—has been killed. In this particular case, the slain police officer in question, Lt. Charles Gliniewicz of Fox Lake, IL, also had a unique nickname that may be of interest. That’s right. It was “G.I. Joe.” We’re not sure how or when Officer Gliniewicz was tagged with that specific appellation, but it will certainly strike another chord with readers of The Joe Report. As of the writing of this article, Gliniewicz’s killer (or killers) remain at large and a massive manhunt is currently underway. According to the latest intel from NBC News:

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“A growing manhunt continued on land and in the air Tuesday for three suspects believed to have gunned down a police officer in northern Illinois during a foot chase. The slain officer in Fox Lake, a village on the Wisconsin border, was identified as 30-year-veteran Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a married father of four boys. Colleagues nicknamed him “G.I. Joe,” the mayor said.”

The Manhunt is On— For the killer or killers of Lt.

Armored Up— The manhunt is on for the killer—or killers—of Lt. Gliniewicz. (Photo: nydailynews)

“Gliniewicz radioed to dispatch before 8 a.m. local time that he was chasing three male suspects engaged in suspicious activity, Lake County Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Covelli told reporters. The officer then lost contact with the dispatchers. When backup arrived, officers found the injured Gliniewicz lying in a marshy area and stripped of his weapon and pepper spray, Covelli said. He died at the scene, reported NBC Chicago.”

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Killed in the Line of Duty—Lt. Gliniewicz on duty in his Fox Lake PD squad car. (Photo: Fox Lake PD)

Gliniewicz was remembered Tuesday for his enthusiasm and dedication to law enforcement, including working with children as part of a local Police Explorers unit. ‘He would always try to help everybody,’ youth member Thomas Ashbacher told NBC Chicago. ‘He would give his shirt off his back if he could.’ Ashbacher said Gliniewicz went by G.I. Joe because of his past military career, and was always patient when it came to showing kids the ropes of law enforcement training. ‘He could be tough,’ Ashbacher recalled, ‘but he could also be the most friendliest guy [to] you.”” 

Bottom Line: Our sincerest support and prayers go out to the family of Lt. Gliniewicz and to the other members of the Fox Lake PD and to all other police departments nationwide.

A supporter of Fox Lake Police Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz who was also known as

Honoring Gliniewicz— A supporter of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz holds up his handmade sign in memory of the slain police officer in Illinois. (Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young)

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Remembering Martin Luther King on MLK Day 2015

DiD's Martin Luther King action figure features extraordinary facial and clothing details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: DiD)

DiD’s Martin Luther King action figure features extraordinary facial and clothing details. (Photo: DiD)

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DiD has introduced two versions of MLK, one speaking and one not (shown above). You also have a choice of preacher’s robes, black suit-n-tie, and an outstanding speaker’s podium. We’re not sure about this face-sculpt, however. It seems a little off. (Photo: DiD)

Bottom Line: I was only 7 years old when the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. At the time, I was probably out playing in the backyard with GIjOEs or other such action figures, wholly unaware of the tragic events that had just occurred in faraway Memphis, Tennessee. Now, 47 years later, I’m an adult and I’m still playing with my Joes out in the backyard. But I never “dreamed” that MLK would someday be immortalized into a 1:6 scale figure as well. Surprisingly, after a quick Google search, I discovered that such a figure has indeed been created. And it’s AMAZING!

As you can see by these photos, the new MLK figure is yet another outstanding creation from DiD based on a real-life historical figure, and it comes with a variety of related clothing and accessory options. We’re not going to review this figure in any detail here, but the pics provided by the company speak volumes.

After reminiscing about MLK (the man), we realized that while most of the world has heard his marvelous “I Have a Dream” speech, many had probably never heard the final speech he gave prior to his death. Surprisingly, and very sadly, it proved to be quite prophetic. Please take a moment to remember this important American by viewing the short video clip below.

Absolutely AMAZING details and likeness. WOW! (Photo: DiD)

DiD’s new MLK figure boasts absolutely near-perfect details, fit and quality. WOW! (Photo: DiD)

The MLK speech podium is a miniature 1:6 scale work of art all unto itself. Imagine all the uses for this! (Photo: DiD)

MLK’s speech podium is a miniature 1:6 scale work of art unto itself. (Photo: DiD)

The detail and accuracy of the podium's microphones lend superb realism to this diorama! (Photo: DiD)

The detail of MLK’s podium microphones lend realism to ANY 1:6 “speaker” diorama. (Photo: DiD)

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Who is it? Is DiD’s closed-mouth headsculpt an overweight Eddie Murphy or MLK? The jury’s still out, but take a look at his superb suit details; perfect fit, nice tie and you even get little “equality” and 1:6 scale “Jobs & Freedom” buttons. March on! (Photo: DiD)

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Goodbye, Elly May———’60s “Beverly Hillbillies” Actress and Icon, Donna Douglas, Dead at 81

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A natural beauty, Donna Douglas appears in this 1959 publicity still taken for an uncredited supporting role as a chorus girl in the movie musical, L’il Abner. (Photo: moviespictures)

From Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans, Douglas moved on to become a model, actress, spok

America watched “Elly May” grow up on TV, her character evolving over a decade from naive and innocent to self-assured and strong. Despite early criticism of the show, Douglas’ portrayal of Elly was undeniably that of a strong-willed, self-determined, and independent woman. As Uncle Jed worried about finding her a fella, Elly remained content just to spend time with her “critters.” (Photo: CBS)

Growing up in the 1960s, my brother and I were constantly subjected to a TV sitcom-diet of shapely and sexy “sirens,” each seemingly more beautiful than the one before. From Mary Ann and Ginger on Gilligan’s Island, to Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie, Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Julie Newmar’s ultra-sexy Catwoman on Batman, we could barely change the 3 or 4 channels on our little black-n-white television without finding another stunningly gorgeous woman—to idolize.

Sadly, on the first day of 2015, the world lost one of classic TV’s most beloved sitcom goddesses, the wonderful Donna Douglas, who died peacefully (of pancreatic cancer) in a hospital in Louisiana at the age of 81. Douglas was (of course) best known for her superb portrayal of Miss Elly May Clampett during 9 seasons of CBS’ unforgettable “hick-com,” The Beverly Hillbillies, but her amazing career entailed MUCH more than that. According to the obituary published by Fox News/AP:

By the time the show ended, Douglas' character, "Ellie Mae," had matured into an independent, free-thinking woman, an unexpected role model for many. (Photo: CBS)

By the time the show ended, Douglas’ character, “Elly May,” had grown and matured into an independent, free-thinking woman, and unexpected role model. (Photo: CBS)

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“Douglas appeared in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,’ a comedy about a backwoods Tennessee family who moved to Beverly Hills after striking it rich from oil on their land. As Elly May, she seemed blissfully unaware of her status as a bumpkin blond bombshell. Typically, she was clad in a snug flannel shirt and tight jeans cinched with a rope belt, and she seemed to prefer her ‘critters’ to any beau. Chosen from more than 500 other actresses, Douglas said she felt at ease playing the role because, like her character, she grew up a ‘poor Southern tomboy.’ Her childhood in Pride, Louisiana, came in handy when she was asked during her audition to milk a goat.” According to Douglas:

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“I had milked cows before,” she recalled in a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. “I figured they were equipped the same, so I just went on over and did it.”

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Hubba-hubba, Hillbilly! In yet another stunning publicity still, Douglas showed off her gorgeous gams and pre-Hillbillies hair-do. (Photo: Paramount)

The Fox News/AP article also quoted Douglas’ cousin, Charlene Smith, who added:

Takin' a dip in the "CEEment pond," Douglas shows off her famous figure in a '60s publicity still taken during her decade on The Beverly Hillbillies. Va-va-va-VOOM! (Photo: CBS)

Takin’ a dip in the “CEEment pond,” Douglas shows off her famous figure in another ’60s publicity still taken during The Beverly Hillbillies. Va-va-va-VOOM! (Photo: CBS)

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“She was always happy, and she really loved animals — just like her character on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ She was a wonderful lady, a very good Christian lady.”

As action figure fans, we’d be sorely remiss if we neglected to mention Douglas’ legal wrangle with Mattel over the Elly May Barbie doll. According to Wikipedia:

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“On May 4, 2011, Douglas filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Mattel and CBS Consumer Products used her name and likeness for a Barbie doll in the Classic TV Collection without her authorization. The suit alleged that packaging for the ‘Elly May’ Barbie doll featured a photo of her portraying the character. Douglas maintained she never endorsed the doll nor gave Mattel permission to use her name to promote its sale. On December 27, 2011, Douglas settled her suit against CBS Consumer Products and Mattel, in which she had been seeking at least $75,000.

Donna Douglas, later in life,  and the Barbie doll made to represent her famous Elly May character. (Photo: zap2it)

Donna Douglas in 2011, sued Mattel over its “Elly May” Barbie doll. A settlement was reached. (Photo: zap2it)

In the lawsuit, Douglas claimed that CBS and Mattel needed her approval to design the doll, while CBS and Mattel maintained that they didn’t need her consent or approval because the network holds exclusive rights to the character. Details of the settlement were confidential; both sides claimed to be content with the outcome.” —Fox News/AP

 Bottom Line: We “shore is” going to miss Donna Douglas! She was a beautiful, talented and generous human being and stood as a shining example for us all. Thank you, Donna, for all of the wonderful memories and inspiration. Rest in Peace! 

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Happy Birthday to Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols (82) and to Marvel Comics’ Icon, Stan Lee (92)

Nichelle Nichols helped break down TV's racial barriers during the 1960s as she portrayed the feisty, intelligent and capable, "Lt. Uhura" in "Star Trek." (Photo: CBS/Paramount)

Nichelle Nichols broke down TV’s racial barriers during the 1960s while portraying the feisty, intelligent and ever-capable, “Lt. Uhura” on NBC’s ground-breaking sic-fi classic series, Star Trek. (Photo: CBS)

The camera LOVED Nichelle Nichols and wasted no opportunity to zoom in for yet another stunning closeup. Now, with the release of Star Trek on fully remastered DVDs, the benefits to fans are obvious (and appreciated). (Photo: CBS/Paramount)

The camera LOVED Nichelle Nichols and directors wasted no time or opportunity to zoom in for yet another stunning closeup. Now, 45 years later, with the release of Star Trek on fully remastered DVDs, the benefits to fans are clear and obvious. WOWZA! (Photo: CBS/Paramount)

Two Television and Pop Culture Icons Share the Same Birthday
—Exactly 10 Years Apart!

I met Nichelle Nichols in person for the first and only time in Dallas, TX at (of course) a 1980’s Star Trek convention. The auditorium where she was scheduled to appear that evening had quickly filled up with hundreds of faithful, adoring “Trekkies” (myself included) and the anticipation at seeing and meeting the beloved actress was palpable.

Fans looked about anxiously, watching all the doors, wondering from which direction she might first appear. The energy in the room crackled and felt like a bottle of corked champagne, ready to burst open at the first sighting of her. Fortunately, Nichols didn’t keep her eager audience waiting long; emerging through the room’s main double-doors, she walked up the center aisle amid thunderous applause and declared:

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“Thank you for coming! Thanks so much! Thank you all!”

Nichols was both a trend-setting actress as well as superb role model, helping to break through racial barriers on television and elsewhere. (Photo:

Sexy and in-charge at home (above) and on-screen, Nichols was both a trend-setting actress as well as a superb role model for all African-Americans during (and since) the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s. Her tremendous successes have helped other aspiring actresses break through both real and perceived barriers on TV and elsewhere in the entertainment industry. (Photo: misssixtiesfashion)

Nichelle Nichols (Photo: Imdb)

Nichelle Nichols (Photo: Imdb)

At the time, Nichelle was probably just about 50, and looked every bit as beautiful as her devoted fans expected. She took her place behind the podium’s microphone and then launched into an enjoyable half-hour monologue of memories and comments about Star Trek and the rest of her life up to that time. Afterwards, she fielded questions from the audience and then offered to autograph anything and everything we cared to put in front of her. The entire audience stood up as one and a line was quickly formed. She greeted us all with great warmth, kindness and generosity and signed all sorts and sizes of Star Trek photos, posters, action figures, props, costumes and t-shirts, along with the occasional forearm or hand of a fan who had forgotten to bring anything along. (All I had was a postcard. D’oh!)

One of the most sought-after EBONY covers EVER produced, the January 1967 issue featured a stunning Nichols as she ascended Star Trek's famous "Jeffries Tube." Oh, heavenly Body! (Photo: EBONY Magazine)

Oh, Heavenly Body! One of the most sought-after EBONY covers EVER produced, the January 1967 issue featured a stunning Nichols as she ascended Star Trek’s famous “Jeffries Tube.” (Photo: EBONY Magazine)

This may sound silly, but while waiting in line, I was struck by the beauty of Nichelle’s hair. I know, I know. But when I finally reached the head of the room, and was standing only a foot away, it was also the only thing that I could think of to say to her during my alloted 15 seconds. So… after I handed her my vintage ’70s Uhura postcard to sign, I remember (somehow) commenting, “Your hair looks beautiful!” Fortunately, she was VERY happy at hearing my (clumsy) compliment and replied:

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“Thank you very much! That’s so nice of you to say!”

There wasn't a bad angle from which to photograph Nichelle Nichols. And every episode which featured her was instantly made more exciting and interesting for her millions of fans. (Photo: CBS/Paramount)

There wasn’t a bad angle from which to photograph Nichelle Nichols. And every episode which featured her was instantly made more interesting and EXCITING to millions of fans. (Photo: CBS/Paramount)

Bottom Line #1: That’s my entire Nichelle Nichols story. As I walked away, I thought to myself, “Well, that went pretty well. She seemed happy about the hair comment.” It may not seem like much to anyone else, but to me, that brief time with her will always be a treasured memory. What a wonderful, classy lady. Happy Birthday, Nichelle! 82 never looked more beautiful! Thanks again for signing my postcard and for all the joy you’ve brought to the world. Live long and prosper!

Comics legend, Stan Lee turned 92 today. (Photo: Stan Lee)

Comics legend, writer and movie actor, Stan Lee, turns 92 today. (Photo: Stan Lee)

Bottom Line #2: I also wanted to mention that (coincidentally) on this day, December 28th, exactly 10 years prior to the birth of Nichelle Nichols, comics legend, Stan Lee, was also born. And as faithful readers of The Joe Report already know, I am a HUGE fan of Mr. Lee and his work, his countless comic book creations and especially of his SyFy Channel reality-competition show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” Over the last 92 years, Lee has clearly demonstrated he has the “Midas Touch” of creativity, and the entire world is certainly a more wonderful place for his having lived and worked among us. Happy Birthday, Stan! Thanks so much for EVERYTHING you do! 

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73 Years Ago Today, Japanese Sneak Attack at Pearl Harbor, HI, Kills 2,403 U.S. Servicemen

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

After being struck by 7 Japanese torpedoes, the Battleship USS West Virginia burns and then sinks during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Punch Bowl National Cemetery, Oahu, HI. (Photo:  Pestovich)

Victims not on the USS Arizona were interred at Punch Bowl National Cemetery, Oahu, HI. (Photo: Pestovich)

Bottom Line: Rest assured, we will never forget. In addition to the 2,403 U.S. servicemen who were killed on this day in 1941, another 1,178 were wounded. 68 American civilians were killed as well, and another 35 wounded. As members of that “greatest generation” continue to pass away, the responsibility to honor their sacrifice and remember and retell the events of that terrible day has fallen to subsequent generations. So, if you haven’t already, please take a moment to explain the importance of Pearl Harbor to your children, many of whom may never learn about it in school (you’d be surprised). While you’re at it, please thank an active-duty serviceman or woman you may know for everything that they do now, or have done in the past, in service to our country.

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Raising Your Own U.S. Flag On the Same Pole as 1814’s “Star Spangled Banner” in Baltimore, MD

Oh Say, Can You See? The mammoth (32' x 40') size of the original "Star-Spangled Banner" (and this modern-day version) dwarfs my newly unboxed 3' x 5' version by comparison. Volunteer flagmaster, Brian Reynolds, holds the lanyard steady against a strong breeze while I hurried to take this snap. All I could do was worry, "what if a gust came up and he let go accidentally?" But Reynolds knew his business and held the line securely until I returned and hoisted my flag all the way to the top. What an unbelievable thrill and honor! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Oh Say, Can You See (how BIG that flag really is)? The mammoth (32′ x 40′) size of the “Star-Spangled Banner” (still) flying proudly over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, MD, dwarfed my new 3′ x 5′ version by comparison. Volunteer flagmaster, Brian Reynolds, is shown holding the lanyards attached to my flag against a strong breeze as I hasten to take a quick pic. Fortunately, Reynolds knew his business and held the lines securely until I returned, whereupon he handed them over to me and urged me to finish hoisting the flag all the way to the top of the mast. What an incredible honor! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is the exact spot from which the original "Star-Spangled Banner" was flown in 1814 as Francis Scott Key looked on eagerly, waiting for the bomb bursts and smoke to clear, wondering if "our flag was still there." (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is the exact spot from which the original “Star-Spangled Banner” was flown in 1814 as Francis Scott Key looked on anxiously, waiting for British bomb bursts and smoke to clear, wondering if “our flag was still there.” Indeed it was! How do we know exactly where the flag flew during revolutionary times? By the Civil War, the flagpole had been relocated more towards the center of the fort, but original, buried supportive cross timbers were later discovered in THIS off-center spot, confirming it as the flag’s original 1814 position. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Unique, Unannounced Honor Enjoyed by a Fortunate Few While Visiting the Site of America’s Original “Star-Spangled Banner” 

I held my newly purchased (15-star) historic U.S. flag close to my heart as I eagerly (and somewhat nervously) walked up the hill towards one of the most famous battle sites in early American history, now a revered national shrine, the pentagonally-shaped Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, MD. I couldn’t help but imagine the hundreds of soldiers running up the same hill in 1814 to face the onslaught of British guns and return fire from their own, pitifully outmatched cannonade. Indeed, it was at this revered place that Americans defended their new nation once again against the British during the War of 1812. Only this time, soldiers faced the added threat of a mighty Royal Navy positioned ominously (just out of reach of fort guns) in Chesapeake Bay. As I approached the fort, I realized that it was exactly 200 years ago, on September 13–14, 1814, that Francis Scott Key had viewed the decisive battle while onboard ship and penned an immortal poem he titled, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A superb bronze of Francis Scott Key stands in the middle of the theatre room, facing a giant video screen which surprises visitors by raising to reveal the actual fort and flag outside. Don't forget to stand! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A superb bronze of Francis Scott Key stands in the middle of the visitor’s center, facing a giant video screen which surprises visitors (after showing a short instructional movie) by suddenly raising up to reveal the actual Ft. McHenry (and its flag flying) just outside. What a view! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The view of the main gate of the fort as you walk up will put a lump in your throat as you watch the giant flag blowing high overhead. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This view of the fort’s main gate (as you walk up) will put a lump in your throat while you watch its giant flag blowing high overhead. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Before purchasing my souvenir flag, I had watched a short movie in the fort’s visitor’s center (see photo above). In its largest room, there are numerous exhibits and artifacts as well as an impressive bronze statue of Key standing facing a giant movie screen. The center’s history-recap video does an excellent job laying out the positions of the attacking British ships, the fort’s defenders, and the ensuing battle, but the real show-stopper comes when the film is over. Suddenly, without warning, as the national anthem begins playing, video of the fort segues into the raising of the wall-sized movie screen, revealing the actual fort and 15-star “Star-Spangled Banner” flying up on the hill outside (see at right). It was breathtaking!

By that time, the national anthem was playing full-blast and visitors were expected (but not required) to stand up and hopefully sing along (there were 2 big signs now visible which read, “PLEASE STAND”). Yes, it was a surprise, but when I realized that the video portion of the presentation was over and that we were now in a moment of actual citizen participation (like at a football game), I quickly stood up and placed my hand over my heart. Sadly, a quick glance around the room full of about 40+ visitors revealed that I was 1 of only 3 people doing so. My heart sank for a moment until a little boy of about 8 years-old realized what was going on and stood up as well (completely on his own) and looked over at me while holding his hand over his heart. “Thank goodness,” I thought, “Patriotism and love of country isn’t completely dead.” As the anthem ended, the remaining 35 or so (all still sitting down) now began to look visibly uncomfortable—even guilty—and avoided making eye-contact with one another as they stood and filed silently out of the room. It was sad. But no matter. Little did I realize that—joyous moments were soon to come!

In a view afforded to a lucky few, volunteer "flag master," Brian Reynolds prepares to hand me the lanyard to which I would clip my flag and then joyfully raise it up the giant flagpole. You cannot imagine the excitement! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

In a rare view afforded to a fortunate few, volunteer flag master, Brian Reynolds, prepares to hand over the lanyard to which I was to clip my flag prior to raising it to the top. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Undeterred by the lackadaisical crowd, I wandered through the gift shop, picking up a souvenir lapel pin and a 3′ x 5′ copy of the famous flag. In 1814, there were only 15 states in the Union, and its sparsity of stars struck me as quite “colonial” looking. I also happily noted that the flag was Made in the USA and took my items up to the register to pay. While waiting for my credit card to be processed, the lady cashier looked at me keenly and leaned over the counter in a somewhat secretive fashion, whispering in hushed tones the following surprising intel:

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“You know… Since you’re buying this flag here in the official Ft. McHenry gift shop, you’re allowed to fly it from the mast up at the fort; the very same one the Star-Spangled Banner flies from!”

My jaw dropped open and my eyes widened with disbelief as I considered her dubious claim. She acknowledged my surprised reaction and assured me her statement was true, adding:

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“If you take this flag over to one of the Park Rangers at the main desk and show him this receipt, one of them will radio up to the flagmaster at the fort and request that he meet you there. Then he’ll show you how to properly hoist it up the flagpole, all official-like and everything.”

This is the first-known photo ever taken of the Star-Spangled Banner, in 1873. As you can see, after almost 60 years, souvenir hunters had cut much of its length away, as well as a sizable chunk of its blue field as well. It would be many more years before such pilfering was finally halted and the remainder of the flag protected. (Photo: Smithsonian)

This is the first-known photo ever taken of the Star-Spangled Banner and it dates back to 1873. As you can see, after almost 60 years, souvenir hunters had already cut away much of its original length, as well as a sizable chunk of the blue star-field as well. Unfortunately, it would be many more years before such patch-pilfering would be halted and its remaining material finally protected. (Photo: Smithsonian)

Stop the Madness! Before any more pieces were snipped away and lost forever, restoration experts at the Smithsonian began their arduous restoration of the flag. Note how much of the length had been lost already. What a shame! (Photo: Smithsonian)

Stop the Madness! Before any more pieces were snipped away and lost forever, textile restoration experts at the Smithsonian began an arduous preservation job on the flag. Notice how much of its length had been lost already. Where are those pieces today? (Photo: Smithsonian)

A “Flag Fan’s” Fort-Flyin’ Fantasy

WOW! I was struck dumb by the idea I’d be able to fly MY own flag from the exact same pole as America’s Star-Spangled Banner. I didn’t know what to say. Other than, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! What an honor!” After all, there had been no signs posted describing this unique opportunity and the cashier didn’t exactly trumpet it to me (or the world) in a blatant attempt to sell more flags. Rather, it appears the fort’s staff genuinely reserves this unique offer for visitors who A: buy a flag there at the center, and B: appreciate what a rare opportunity it is to fly it over the fort. I had purchased my new flag solely as a souvenir to fly back home on holidays, etc., but flag fans (such as myself) get REALLY excited about owning flags once flown over iconic landmarks such as state capitals, etc., and Ft. McHenry is where our country’s “Star-Spangled Banner” was originally named and ultimately paid for with the blood of many valiant Americans. I could see what a privilege and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this was for ANY U.S. citizen and I couldn’t believe the good fortune that had befallen me that day.

O'er the Ramparts We Watched! As seen from above, the pentagonal shaped Ft. McHenry is surrounded by star-shaped ramparts where cannons and sharp-shooters were positioned. (Photo: wloy.org)

O’er the Ramparts We Watched As seen from above, the pentagonal Ft. McHenry is surrounded by star-shaped ramparts upon which cannons and sharp-shooters were once positioned. If you look carefully, you can see guns from the Civil War-era still pointing out towards the bay. (Photo: wloy.org)

Walking the ramparts of the fort is a pentagonal pleasure! Most are overgrown with neatly trimmed grass and paved with gravel footpaths. From every point on the fort, you can see the flag flying proudly. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Walking the ramparts of Ft. McHenry is a patriotic pleasure. They’re reinforced with neatly trimmed grasses, ringed with cannons and paved with bricked footpaths. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Upon reaching the fort, I found volunteer flagmaster, Brian Reynolds, waiting for me at the base of the flag-tending platform. Reynolds was a very kind man and told me that he loved volunteering a few days a week at the fort and being responsible for raising and lowering the flags. As you might’ve guessed, he worked quickly and knowledgeably, pulling hard on lanyard ropes and efficiently working the pole’s clips and clasps. Before I knew it, he had handed me a thick rope and instructed me to attach my flag at a certain point and then “hoist it quickly and steadily almost to the top.” I did so until the flag rested just beneath its giant namesake and he suddenly remarked:

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“Okay, that’s good, stop it right there. Most of our flag-raisers want to take a picture of their flag when it’s raised to this point, positioned just beneath the Star-Spangled Banner.”

Picture Perfect! My flag was barely visible next to the real McCoy, but it'll look great when I displayed it back home. After this photo was taken, I finished hoisting it all the way to top and held on tight! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Picture Perfect! My flag (the little guy) was barely visible next to the fort’s full-sized Star-Spangled Banner. After this photo was taken, I hoisted it the rest of the way up the towering flagpole and held on tightly as it snapped and flew in a brisk breeze. What a magnificent sight! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

I agreed with Brian’s idea wholeheartedly and as he held the ropes, I moved more into the fort’s interior to take a quick pic (see above). Afterwards, he handed the lines back and encouraged me to hoist my flag all the way to the top so that it was officially flying alongside the Star-Spangled Banner. I did as he suggested, and I have to admit, at that moment a chill went up my spine.

Shielding the sun from my eyes, I watched as the two flags flew together over the fort. After being lost in thought for a moment, Reynolds and I smiled at each other and I knew it was time to bring mine down. Working the lanyards as he had taught me, I lowered my flag at a brisk, yet steady pace until it was once again in my hands. Finally, carefully, we refolded the flag, placed it back in its box and Brian signed the flag’s official COA (Certificate of Authenticity).

Ready, Aim... Civil War-era guns line a parapet, aimed out at the bay. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Civil War-era guns line a parapet, aimed out at the bay. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

You'd Better Back Off, Dude. This closeup of one of the fort's guns reveals it packed a serious punch. Look at the size of those cannonballs! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

You’d Better Back Off, Dude. This closeup of one of the fort’s guns reveals they must’ve packed a serious punch. Look at the size of those cannonballs! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The original cross-brace that once supported the Star-Spangled Banner was found buried in its original position and is now on display in one of the rooms at the fort. Don't miss it! (Photo: George Price)

The original cross-brace that once supported the Star-Spangled Banner’s flagpole was found buried in its original position. Excavated and preserved, it now rests under glass and on display in one of the rooms at the fort. Don’t miss it! (Photo: George Price)

Along the drive leading up to the fort's visitor center, each state has a plaque with the date it was admitted to the Union. I had to take a pic of the one for Texas, 'natch! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Along the drive leading up to the fort’s visitor center, each state has a plaque with the date it was admitted to the Union. I had to take a pic of the one for Texas, ‘natch! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The visitor's center is a modern masterpiece of history presentation and preservation. Remember, don't forget to stand during the anthem! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The Ft. McHenry visitor’s center is a modern masterpiece of historic presentation and preservation. Remember, don’t forget to stand after the movie—during the anthem. OOHrah! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Coming or going, you'll want to snap a quick pic of the fort's national monument sign. It also reminds visitors they're entering a "national shrine" as well. Please remember to pay your repects. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Coming or going, you’ll want to snap a quick pic of the fort’s entrance sign. It also reminds visitors that they’re about to enter an “historic shrine.” Please remember to pay your respects. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

What a Flag! To demonstrate the actual size of the Star-Spangled Banner, Park Rangers host special presentations such as this flag-holding event enjoyed by a group of local students visiting the fort. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

What a Flag! To demonstrate the actual size of the Star-Spangled Banner, Park Rangers host special presentations such as this flag-holding event held on the day of my visit. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This vintage rendering of the Battle of Baltimore depicts the high lobbing of explosive shells bursting above the forts defenders, raining white-hot shrapnel down upon them. (Photo: wikipedia)

The Bombs Bursting in Air— This vintage rendering of the Battle of Baltimore depicts the high lobbing of explosive shells bursting above the forts defenders, raining white-hot shrapnel down upon them. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Bottom Line: On my way out, I passed a group of students and others who were listening to a Park Ranger describe Ft. McHenry, 1814’s Battle of Baltimore and our flag’s place in history. The highlight of THEIR day must surely have been that they were allowed to hold one edge of the flag and then make it “wave” and undulate while the ranger spoke. They were enthralled by his speech and my faith in the modern-day mission of this special place was restored and reaffirmed.

To learn more about the Star-Spangled Banner, we recommend that you visit the Smithsonian’s website HERE and then read up on the Battle of Baltimore HERE. Of course, if you’re fortunate enough to visit in person, Ft. McHenry is easily accessible by foot, car, bus and (land or water) taxi. It’s definitely a “must see” for all flag-loving, patriotic Americans. Finally, after visiting the fort, try to take a quick jaunt down to Washington DC and view the actual flag that Key wrote so lovingly about exactly 200 years ago. It’s been restored, preserved and safely secured inside the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. And if you want to see the REAL DEAL being hoisted at Ft. McHenry, watch this out-STANDING 5-minute video:

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All-Volunteer Group of G.I. Joe Fans Combine Forces To Create A “Dirty Dozen” at Joelanta

PoP's "Dirty Dozen" at Joelanta 2014 consisted of (from r to l): Bryan Tatum, Haz Ardis, Brad Curry, NAME, Keith Mayo (back), Chung Kim (front), Terry Lee Stair Sr., NAME, Kids name, Jim Moore and NAME. The final member, NAME, is not shown. Each generous member gave freely of his time to assist sole-proprietor, Mark Otnes, hand out free candy, business coupons and gift buttons. Whatta group! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

PoP’s “Dirty Dozen” actually consisted of 13 volunteers at Joelanta 2014 (11 of whom are shown here), including (from l to r): Bryan Tatum, Haz Ardis, Brad Curry, Chet Peters, Keith Mayo (back), Chung Kim (front), Terry Lee Stair Sr., Tearle Ashby, Michael Dickey, Jim Moore and John Keater. (Scott C. Stewart and Gordon Mayfield are not shown). Each member generously gave of his own time to assist sole-proprietor businessman, Mark Otnes, hand out free candy, savings coupons and free gifts including 50th Anniversary GIjOE buttons, t-shirts and action figures. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Carlos Morrison, holds up the MIB "Sergeant York" action figure he had just won as one of Patches of Pride's "instant winners" at Joelanta 2014. Free packets of "PoP Rocks" candy were handed out by members of PoP's elite "Dirty Dozen" volunteers, and on the back of Carlo's pack of candy was a sticker declaring him as an "instant winner!" After showing the candy wrapper to one of the Dirty Dozen, he was awarded his free gift. Now THAT'S "Joe Karma!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Carlos Morrison, holds up the MOC “Sergeant York” action figure he had just won from Patches of Pride at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Spirited Group Donates Time and Effort To Help Sole-Proprietor Advertise His 1:6 Business

“This guy came by my booth handing out free packets of candy and saying, ‘PoP Rocks! PoP Rocks!’ At first, I thought he worked for a candy company or something, but then he said he was helping out with something called, ‘PoP’s Dirty Dozen.’ I turned my packet over and on the back it said I was an ‘instant winner!’ That was pretty cool.” —Carlos Morrison

The “Spirit of Joe Karma” was clearly alive and well at last month’s Joelanta GIjOE and Action Figure Show held in Atlanta, GA. During that event, 13 diverse individuals came together in the spirit of helpful camaraderie and selflessness to aid a man most of them had never met, fellow “Joehead” and 1:6 scale entrepreneur, Mark Otnes of Patches of Pride (PoP).

Lucky attendees at Joelanta 2014 received free packets of PoP Rocks candy from volunteers of PoP's "Dirty Dozen." On the back were stickers with "lucky prize numbers" and notifications of "instant winner" status. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Fans who received free packets of PoP Rocks candy noticed that on the back were stickers designating either a prize number or instant winner status. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A month earlier, Otnes had placed a straightforward want-ad on Facebook asking for volunteers to help him distribute prizes and promotional materials to guests and attendees of the show. Much to his surprise, a large group quickly stepped forward offering their assistance, free of charge and without hesitation. Otnes quickly dubbed his gung-ho assistants “PoP’s Dirty Dozen,” and promised each that he would receive a free 50th Anniversary GIjOE t-shirt as a show of thanks for their assistance.

This closeup reveals that each member of PoP's "Dirty Dozen" received a free "unofficial" 50th Anniversary GIjOE t-shirt, a special "Dirty Dozen" button, and one of the ultra rare-n-square 50th Anniversary pin-on buttons. Sweet! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This closeup reveals the nifty 50th GIjOE t-shirt each member of PoP’s “Dirty Dozen” received, along with unique Dirty Dozen and “rare-n-square” 50th Anniversary buttons. Sweet! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Patches of Pride was one of the sponsors of the Custom figures and Dioramas competition at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark OTnes)

As one of the official sponsors of Joelanta’s custom figures and dioramas competition, Patches of Pride posted its impressive banner nearby. As always, the quality of the entries was superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

During the show, each member made their way around the showrooms, handing out the free 1:6 gifts, candy and PoP promotional materials, providing Otnes with an extremely valuable “person-to-person” workforce that normally would have cost him a small fortune. Afterwards, an obviously ecstatic Otnes couldn’t stop praising his illustrious team of volunteers, expressing his sincerest gratitude time and time again:

“These guys were Heaven-sent! I mean, for the entire weekend my business’ labor force jumped from just one person (me) up to twelve! Thirteen actually, when you count my ‘unofficial’ extra helper, Chung Kim. I can’t thank them enough for all their generous help. Usually it’s just me doing all of this promotional work, trying to spread the word about my business, So I was THRILLED to have so much help at Joelanta!” —Mark Otnes, Patches of Pride

There was even a special sign set up at the entrance to Joelanta, welcoming the attendees and urging to "Look for the fans wearing THIS button!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

There was even a special sign set up at the entrance to Joelanta, listing all the members, welcoming show attendees and urging them all to “Look for the fans wearing THIS button!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Dirty Dozen member, Brad Curry, looks through bins for German uniform pieces while taking a break from handing out free samples of PoP Rocks candy. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Dirty Dozen member, Brad Curry, looks for German uniform pieces at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: It’s wonderful to hear of such a clear-cut example of “Joe Karma” and to learn that in this day and age, there are still so many helpful fans willing to selflessly come to the aid of a Joehead in need.

As the sun began to set on the final day of the show, Otnes gathered his team of volunteers together outside by the hotel swimming pool for one last vital and important mission: to pose for a group photograph (see that pic at top of this article).

Afterwards, instead of hurrying back to the show, many of the members simply lingered in conversation, clearly in no hurry to leave one another’s company, preferring instead to share some rare quality “Joe time” with their new-found friends, while relishing in their mutual satisfaction of a job VERY well done.

Go, JOE! Go, Dirty Dozen! Go, PoP!

Happy Birthday, Larry Storch! Famed Actor, Comedian, & Star of ’60s TV, Turns 91 Today

A 1960s

An “F-Troop” comic book cover depicts the show’s cast, including (from l to r) Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch (far right) as Corporal Agarn, the most famous comedic character of his long and illustrious shown business career. (Photo: basementcomics)

Larry Storch entertains the crowd during a 2011 appearance at the Friar's Club in New York City. (Photo: Drew Friedman)

Larry Storch entertains the crowd during a 2011 appearance at the Friar’s Club in New York City. (Photo: Drew Friedman)

F-Troop star and TV icon, Larry Storch turns 91 today. Happy Birthday, Larry!

My “Brush with Greatness” Double-Header in Small Town, USA

It was 8PM on a cold, dark September evening. The year was 2002, and the place was a Barnes & Noble (B&N) bookstore in the small college community of Champaign, Illinois. At that time, the bookstore was perched on the outermost edge of town, at the end of a retail district where civilization seemed to come to an abrupt end, butting up to hundreds of square miles of adjacent corn and soybean fields that stretched off to infinity in all directions.

The crops themselves had been harvested just a few weeks before, so now, there remained only row upon row of jagged corn-stubble and upturned, gray soil. The stalks pointed “all a kilter,” looking like the blast craters of a WWI battlefield, missing only trenches and doughboys to complete the effect. Flying high over the desolate scene, visiting TV icon Larry Storch probably looked out his plane’s window and felt like he was about to land on the moon.

Peter Marshall on the set of

Peter Marshall on the set of “Hollywood Squares” sometime in the 1970s. (Photo: NBC)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On that particular night, I wasn’t waiting to meet Mr. Storch at all. Rather, I was flipping through pages of a new book entitled “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square,” written by another television great, Peter Marshall, the longtime host and star of the iconic comedy game show, Hollywood Squares. It was actually Marshall, that I and about 25 other “locals” were there to see.

Despite our town’s small population and relatively isolated location, Marshall had been scheduled to appear there that evening for a personal appearance and book signing event. Purely by chance, I had seen a tiny blurb about the event in the paper the day before, and almost disbelievingly, decided to drop by the B&N after work. But why, I wondered, would Peter Marshall want to come here, when Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis are all just a few hours away? Those were much bigger markets. Hmm…

Peter Marshall and wife, Laurie Stewart. (Photo: getty)

Peter Marshall and wife, Laurie Stewart. (Photo: getty)

An Unexpected Celebrity 2-for-1

Whatever the reason, I planted myself in front of a table displaying his books, and filled the time as I waited by looking at the book’s photos, marveling at all of the great celebrities Marshall had known, worked with, and befriended during his many decades in show business. Suddenly…the doors of the store opened. All heads turned. And in walked…Peter Marshall!

He was accompanied by his beautiful wife, Laurie Stewart, and the “crowd” began to drift towards the area where he would sign his books. But hold the phone, Watson! A few seconds later, in walks Larry Storch (!)…also accompanied by HIS wife! I remember just blurting out, “Hey, That’s Larry Storch!” to a perfect stranger standing next to me. Unlike many celebrities, Mr. Storch is instantly recognizable in person. Despite his age, he has changed very little over the years. That night, he looked spiffy in a black turtleneck, slacks and sport coat, and he walked across the room with an almost imperious self-confidence. I was actually more excited to see Mr. Storch in person than Mr. Marshall.

This is my copy of the Peter Marshall book, “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square.” I actually bought two copies that night, and had both stars autograph them (one as a gift for a relative). (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

What a FAN-tastic Surprise!

Okay, so here’s where the Twilight Zone part of my story begins: As Peter Marshall busied himself greeting the B&N manager and various store employees, I gathered up my nerve, and approached Mr. Storch first. He and his wife were just standing there, watching the activities, and no one else was talking to them. After telling him of my great admiration of his work, he and his wife, Norma Storch (an actress), thanked me and then… asked me to sit down WITH them in some chairs on the front row! Stunned, I quickly accepted, and after we had all introduced ourselves and shook hands, we sat down together… for a chat! Here it is:

In this 2003 photo, Larry Storch poses with his F-Troop co-star, Melody Patterson (c) and his wife, Norma Storch (r). Both Storch and his wife look much as they did when I met them a few months earlier. Sadly, she died from cancer a few months later. (Photo: Blessing Moore)

In this 2003 photo, Larry Storch poses with his F-Troop co-star, Melody Patterson (c) and his wife, Norma Storch (r). Both Storch and his wife look much as they did when I met them a few months earlier. Sadly, Norma died from cancer less than a year later. (Photo: Blessing Moore)

The “World’s Shortest Interview” with ’60s TV Icon and Funnyman, Larry Storch and his wife, Norma Storch

TJR: How was your flight? Are you having a nice trip?

Larry: “Oh man, it was rough. What a terrible flight!”
Norma: “The worst!”

TJR: I’m so sorry. What was the matter? What kind of plane was it?

Larry: “It was one of those little prop-jobs. And it was just bumpy all the way.” (Norma nodded and added an eye-roll for emphasis.)

My copy of Marshall's book with both his and Storch's kind inscriptions and autographs. What nice guys! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

My copy of Marshall’s book with both his and Storch’s kind inscriptions and autographs. What nice guys! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

TJR: Well, I’m so glad you made it safely. But it’s such a surprise to see you here. Why ARE you here, by the way?

Larry: “We’re just traveling with Peter and Laurie, to keep ’em company and have some fun.”
Norma: “Yes, but I don’t even know where this place is. HA!”

I suddenly realized what a rare opportunity our private little conversation was, and asked Storch if he would also sign Peter Marshall’s book. He chuckled, and said, “Sure!” writing out the kind inscription and autograph you see in the photo above. Soon after, Peter Marshall took his seat at the “official” book signing table, and since they were ready to begin, I thanked Larry and Norma and excused myself to get in line to meet Peter.

Bottom Line: In the end, both men signed my copy of Marshall’s book and today it remains one of my most valued possessions. Our youngest readers may have no clue about the two stars I’ve discussed today, and that’s truly a shame. Both men are hugely talented, widely accomplished, and were a great pleasure to meet in person. If I’ve peaked your interest in Larry Storch or Peter Marshall at all, I suggest you watch the following two short videos. Enjoy!