Emma’s Golden Birthday

19 Apr

Today is April 19th and Emma is 19.  It’s her golden birthday.

And she is hundreds of miles away growing and learning.

But I miss her to pieces

I miss her world class hugs for no good reason.

I miss her making up songs in the car between discussions

of why people need to learn math and our never ending

appreciation of the superhumanity of Hugh Jackman.

I miss listening to teen-age tragedy songs of the 50’s

especially those girl group geniuses, The Shangrilas.

I miss watching Madmen together.  (And she always

indulges me in my retelling of how I worked in a place,

as a fifteen year old office boy, just like the one on the


I miss her sense of humor.  So, dry you could make an

award winning martini with it.

I miss bonding over babies that we see on the street

and Starbucks.

I miss her harmonizing with anyone who happens

to be in the car at the moment.

I miss her expertise at mimickery.  (In the

first few weeks of kindergarten she could

sound like any kid in her class.  Though, she

never did it outside the house.  It might hurt

someone’s feelings.)

I miss walking by the kitchen table as she

did her whimsical drawings of Aces as the

soft melody of Law and Order: SVU played

in the background.

I even miss her being 18 and that was just


Happy golden birthday from your Pop,

Emma.  If today is just 1/100th as amazing

as you are it’s going to be one swell day.




The Crucial Advantages of Having Four Arms.

5 Dec

Much easier to change a baby’s diaper in an airplane’s bathroom.

Able to fill Thanksgiving plate while fewer-limbed members of the family are still dolloping out their mashed potatoes.

Start decorating the Christmas tree while still stringing on the lights.  Or putting the star on top. (For show-offs only.)

Have an arm to put around everyone in the family during group picture. (Limit of eight, please.)

Able to put up two hands while being mugged but still having the other two free to surprise and subdue the thug.

More options when asked to have your palm read.

An awesome sight while performing the “raise the roof” gesture at basketball games.

Able to accompany yourself on harmonica while also playing the spoons.

Turns you into a veritable applause machine.

Fill a black jack table all by yourself.

During intense bouts of anxiety allows you way more nails to gnaw on.

If you have four arms you must be a Goddess.  What’s not to like?

Four Hands

One Night Can Change Your Life

4 Dec

The night I went to my first Second City Workshop back in 1969.

The night our improv group “Mother’s Kisses” left Chicago to make our fame and fortune in the City of the Angels. (Just ignore the fact that we broke up three months later.)

The night an unbelievably cute girl in floppy jeans crossed the Groundlings stage and my heart burst out of my chest. (Thirty five years later and I still have her convinced I’m not a complete fraud. And they say I can’t act!)

The night I went on the Gong Show after having quit my last ,full time, non-show biz, job earlier that morning.

The Night Pee-wee’s Playhouse premiered on  the Groundlings stage.

The night Katherine Nora Steinkellner was born four and a half hours before dawn on the 4th of July. (Have there ever been more fireworks on tv?)

The night Theodore John Steinkellner slam dunked onto this planet.

The night Emma Rose Steinkellner left Fairyland and deigned to come brighten our nursery and lives. (Though, really it was the afternoon.  A picture of Teddy holding her that first week could melt titanium.)

The night they premiered our animated film ,”Teacher’s Pet”. There it was up there on the marquee just two blocks away from the  Hollywood Boulevard bookstore I worked at during my first four years in LA.

The Night Milton “Mr. Television” Berle gave us our first Emmy.  (After the show walking by the building with an ice skating rink in it  gave  the whole evening a surreal dream quality .)

The night we had breakfast with Alan Menken. (Okay, it was morning. But later that night we had changed our lives and were suddenly in the Broadway musical business.)

Tonight.  (Depending on how today turns out.)


Bill Steinkellner’s Guide to Pre-School Birthday Thanks Yous.

3 Dec

Dodie Bickers– A perfectly nice doll that Edna Jean threw aside while bursting into tears because it was “icky”.

Aunt Blethwyn — A red riding hood outfit that Edna Jean instantly adored until one of the Carstairs twins (probably Quentin) spilled punch and made some of the trimming dissolve. (Aunt B. pr0mised to make a replacement with something sturdier than crimson felt.

Bernie Dierdorfer — A ball which Edna lost in a trice.  So rapidly that it will be impossible to replace without a lot of embarrassing questions.  Praise the gift to the skies but use vague phrases.

All the other Aunts — A magnificent red and silver tricycle.  Uncle Jeremiah ran over it when he backed out of the garage.  Check to see if it can be fixed.  If  not come up with some fantastic but logical reason that Edna Jean is never seen riding it. (Allergies?  Stolen by a transient?  A friend borrowed it and then moved without leaving a forwarding address?  Ask Uncle Goodwin.  He has written for Vaudeville and must be excellent at coming up with something witty but believable.)

The Burton Family– A book titled: The Adventuring Girls and the Great Footed Monster of Tibet.  Oh, dear.

Little Oswald — A book mark in the shape of Peter Rabbit. Obviously not new, though there is a chance it’s a family heirloom. Tread lightly here



The Happiest Place on Earth.

30 Nov

The happiest place on earth?  It’s not Disneyland. No matter what the billions of dollars in commercials featuring Super Bowl MVPs tell you. Not even when you are a VIP who gets escorted to the front of the line along with folks in wheel chairs.  (And they are certainly more deserving than you.  Am I right?)

Not Hawaii.  It can get hot. And you have to keep slapping sunblock on especially if you go in the water.

The beach?  Like Hawaii only worse. (Though, you get to skip five hours on a plane.) There’s all that sand.  And if you have to drive all day to some sand castle contest you are in hell, my friend.  Or so I’m told.

No, the happiest place on earth you once lived in for over 3/4 of a year. Then you left before you realized how good you had it.  Before your very first breath. Yep, that lovely pink room known as the womb.  The original “no worries, mate” snug studio apartment.  Not a care in the world. Euphoria personified. Might even be a little piped-in singing from the Goddess you are floating inside of.  Remember?   You’re right.  No one does. (Why are all the important questions concerning birth and death seemingly unanswerable?)

I know one thing for sure.  I miss it.  And I’m going back there one day.  All I gotta do is play my cards right.


Awfully Mad Circa 1990.

29 Nov

The new Wizard of Oz cartoon had been previewing for weeks but still wasn’t on.

Her wake-up and go to bed orange juice smelled suspiciously like the white medicine.

Her little brother was getting all the attention for doing really stupid stuff like rolling

a ball or saying “uh-oh”.  (The kitten could do that trick for cripe’s sake and he was

just born a few months ago.

She got sick the last time her best friend was over and she didn’t know when she would

ever see her again.

She didn’t feel much like rocking at night any more. (She got too tired during the day and was lucky if she could keep her eyes open through all three books.)

The family room VCR was on the fritz so if she wanted to color she had to watch baseball.

She was awful mad,today.  So everybody better just stay out of her way.

The Montecito Social Maven: Waiting for the Spark Plugs

19 Nov

Googie swept into the social whirl with all force of a Spartan attacking the Persian front. Then quickly halted to get her bearings. She spotted The Dick circling the perimeter like the oiliest snake in Snakeville. She should pay her respects but she didn’t think she could handle it without two fingers of something much stronger than the water with gas that she was presently clutching.
Across the room girl, Taylor’s dad, the ersatz actor was desperately trying to make eye contact. She had liked his dimpled cheeks when she saw him on the local news filling up a trailer truck for the unfortunate people of New Orleans or whatever the tragedy du jour had been that week. But now that she saw him in the flesh at room’s length there was something about him that just didn’t seem very substantial.
The President of the PTA was bending someone’s ear about funding. She had a very serious look on her cute punim. Googie was certainly going to skirt around that area. She had once fallen asleep in mid conversation with that perky presence. Granted she was on cold medication at the time but it was still quite embarrassing.
Then like the sun breaking through the clouds she saw the Steinkellners across the room. She made a beeline for them of such magnitude that I pity the bee that might have gotten in her way. At last. Now, she could dish.