Ron Onesti: Baby, it's cold outside
How many times have we sat on our couches looking outside into our snow-peaked yards and stayed home from work as Chi-town-area temps hit 60 below zero with the wind chill? On one occasion last year, most people stayed home and my daughter's school was closed … even online!
Yet even then, I am sure there was some internet attention-seeker filming himself half-naked diving into Lake Michigan somewhere!
When did we get so scared of the cold? I can remember a snowstorm in the late 1960s and EVERYBODY was outside! There is a picture of me somewhere as a 5-year-old, bundled up looking like the Michelin Man atop of a snow mountain made by the city snow plows. I have my arm around the Taylor Street and Western Avenue street signs attached to a light pole! We had a blast sliding down those hills on metal garbage can lids!
On a heavy snow day that season, it was me and my dad in our '64 Chevy Impala coming home from a long day at his tailor shop. As we began to exit Western Avenue off the Eisenhower Expressway, we ran out of gas. With all the snow, traffic was so backed up, it took us an extra two hours to get home. That may have been the only time I heard my dad say "damn!"
A bunch of people were also running out of gas. A policeman came over and said somebody would be by with gas cans to clean up the mess. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. It's not like we had cellphones at the time.
I started to get really cold. My little 5-year-old feet were freezing. My dad said: "take your shoes off." I though he was crazy! But I did as he said. I reluctantly took my Hush Puppies off and he proceeded to sit on my feet! To this day, my feet have never felt as warm as they did on that day. Just ANOTHER reason to miss my dad.
We finally got home, and we put on the radio while my mom was getting dinner on the table. Her beef stew was our winter go-to favorite, and the best cure for our cold insides. I can still see those tasty chunks of beef, big slices of soft carrots and celery in that huge, cast iron pot with black soot around the bottom.
The AM radio was playing and that Italian "King of Cool," Dean Martin, came on. It was one of my dad's favorites, "Baby It's Cold Outside," another one of those swagger-esque songs that added to the warmth of the room, and my dad trying to make his voice sound like a combination of Sinatra's swank and Bing's "Buh bub boooo."
These days, for "inner" warmth, I play my vinyl records on an old phonograph. For old time's sake, I keep a Dean -- or his daughter Deana's -- record nearby. But then I will throw on any of the early albums from the band Chicago, including "Chicago Transit Authority" through the chocolate candy-wrapped "Chicago X." Then "Endless Summer" by the Beach Boys, which MUST be followed by the group's "Pet Sounds."
Add a heaping helping of Pink Floyd, a dash of Electric Light Orchestra, a pinch of the Temptations, some America "Greatest Hits" and a taste of early Beatles, and the warmth flows through my veins.
Having homemade soup, hot chocolate, s'mores and mom's meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy while in flannel jammies is as good as the warming process gets. If we can figure out how to jar all that together, SOMEONE would get rich quick!
The music of our lives is like a warm blanket that covers us all. You can be in Alaska on its worse night and you would still be toasty warm!
I hope to see you soon at the Arcada Theatre as we host close to 100 of your favorite legendary bands this year. Let us bring to you the warmth of the music of your life. The light is definitely visible at the end of that tunnel! I feel it!
Or maybe it just the warmth of that stew I had last night …
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of the Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.