Saturday, January 07, 2006

In honor of Elvis Presley's Birthday

Talking Elvis with Joe Esposito, the friend who knew him.
Remembering Elvis, with Bobby Dick, the musician who met him.
Being Elvis, by the men who play at being him.

On the 71st birthday of the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Elvis' co-pilot drives the lonesome American highway

by Thomas Dimopoulos

All along the highway, it was raining.

Joe Esposito was driving to Indiana from Chicago, the city from which he first came into this life more than 70 years ago.
He was on his way to the state where the Indianapolis Market Square Arena once stood; The place where Elvis Presley had made his final live performance in June 1977.

Esposito attended that show, just as he had every other Presley performance dating back to 1960.

Six weeks after The King of Rock 'n' Roll ruled Indiana, Esposito was summoned to Graceland where the 42-year-old singer was in distress. The King was dying.

Esposito still shudders at the memory.

'I couldn't do any mouth to mouth because his mouth was closed,' Esposito remembered. 'Shut tight. I did the heart massage and called for an ambulance, but in my own mind, I already knew there was no bringing him back. Thirty minutes later he was gone.'

Twenty-seven years later, as he drove along the lonely stretch of American highway, Esposito was thinking about that day.

'That was a tough one,' he was saying, “that was a real tough one.”

The two met in Germany when they served in the U.S. Army together. It was 1959. Elvis was already a star. A friendship was born that endured long after they returned stateside. Esposito became Presley's road manager. He was a best man at Elvis and Priscilla's 1967 wedding, and was there nine months later when the couple's daughter, Lisa Marie, was born.

Esposito traveled alongside Elvis during his movie days of the 1960s, observed The King's return to the throne during his 1968 comeback and accompanied him through the white jumpsuit and Las Vegas palace days of the 1970s.

The singer joined the service at the height of his popularity and in those days, out of the public eye.

'Elvis was very concerned when he was in the Army, because he didn't know if his fans would accept him when he returned. Show business was new to me. I didn't know anything about it, so I didn't think about whether he would be popular or not. We just became friends,' Esposito said.

In retrospect, he said, before Presley went into the service, he wasn't at the top of the parental approval rankings during the era defined by James Dean's 'rebels' and Marlon Brando's 'wild ones.'

For his part, Elvis was the guy who sang things like 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'All Shook Up' and was seen gyrating into the middle of American living rooms with his frenzied howling that preached 'You ain't nothin' but a hound dog.'

'They would say who is this wild kid shaking his legs? But when he came back, after he did his full two years in the service and served with the rest of the GIs, he got a lot of respect from the adults. Luckily, he came back stronger than ever,' Esposito said.

After the Beatles and the resulting British invasion threw the singer's popularity a curve in the mid-1960s, Presley returned time and again, topping the pop charts in 1969 with his 'Suspicious Minds' and through the '70s with popular tunes like 'Burning Love.'

There were plenty of turbulent times during their friendship in the days before the invention of the TV remote control. Presley had a fondness for guns and expressed his disapproval of what was playing on the TV screen by shooting the set.

Automobiles weren't spared either. If a car didn't 'run right,' Esposito recalled, Elvis would load up the firearm and pump the dashboard full of bullets before collapsing in a fit of giggles.

He wasn't the kind of guy who you would expect to wait for an apology either.

'If he made a mistake, he wouldn't say he was wrong. He would just buy you something,' Esposito said. The buying could be extravagant.

'He showed up in my apartment one day and knocked on the door, Then he looked at my two girls, who were little at the time, and me and my wife living in this apartment and he said, 'Hey, you need a house.' I couldn't believe this, but we went and looked at a few houses and Elvis would say 'Well, what you think about this one?'”

They finally found one they liked. Presley wrote out a check for $10,000 for a down payment for the home for Esposito and his family.

'He never even negotiated a deal, he just said, 'OK, it's yours.' I said, 'Elvis, I like it very much, but I can't afford the payments on this house.' He told me not to worry about it, and then he gave me a pay raise so I would be able to afford it,' Esposito said.

Esposito handled many details of Presley's personal and professional life and has fond family memories of his two daughters growing up with Presley's daughter.

Frequently consulted for historical information for a number of Presley-focused movies and documentaries, Esposito has documented the times in a pair of his own books, 'Good Rockin' Tonight,' and 'Intimate and Rare.'

Fifty years after Presley recorded his first song and more than a quarter century after the singer's death, Esposito said that no matter how Elvis' popularity would have turned out after their Army stint together, there is one thing he is sure of.
'I do know whatever would have happened, he would have been singing. That was what he wanted to do. He just loved to sing for people,' Esposito said.

In remembering the man they called The King, Esposito offers an educated guess as to Presley's continuing popularity.

'Twenty-seven years later, he still has new fans that love his music and love his looks. Why? Because people love his music and it makes them feel good. If they feel depressed, they put on an Elvis record and they feel better. That's it right there. Elvis had a real special gift,' Esposito said.

And that is the memory he will hold close for the rest of his days -- the one that will accompany him through the rainy nights

and the one that will carry him along all the highways of last chances, as he travels across America and remembers the times he shared with the man he calls his best friend.

originally published in The Saratogian, Aug. 15, 2004.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Meeting Elvis Presley: Hollywood 1968

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The King wore black.

For one brief televised moment in 1968, Elvis Presley emerged from the shadows and into the spotlight before the eyes of the world. That shining moment transcended the 15 years of his career prior, and the decade of excess that followed.
Elvis has been dead for more than 25 years.

“It’s a strange thing, how frail we all are,” singer Bobby Dick said from his residence in South Glens Falls. He was referring to singers and artists in all walks of life, but in this particular instance, he was talking about Elvis Presley.

“Elvis was deeply affected by the Beatles Invasion,” Dick said of Presley’s state of mind in 1968. “He was concerned whether or not people would remember him in a credible light.”

That turbulent year brought more than concerns about the Beatles. On April 4, 1968, 39-year-old Martin Luther King was felled by an assassin’s bullet as he leaned over a motel balcony in Memphis.
In New York City, thousands of demonstrating students were taking over their Columbia University campus uptown, while a few dozen blocks south a new rock musical called “Hair” was staging its debut.
In the next few months, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy would be gunned down in Los Angeles, and a clash of mammoth proportions would take place at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

By the spring of 1968, the 33-year-old Presley was a money-making machine - more of a commodity than a credible artist - to his manager, Col. Tom Parker.

His records were either pale re-issues or critically dismissed efforts. And Presley’s appearance in dozens of movies was mostly forgettable, straining his standing as a true artist.

The star that once illuminated the entire world was a decade gone from its brightest point. A new generation was evolving with its own musical heroes and its own social and cultural needs and desires. All that remained from Presley’s former glory was the fading vapor trail of a dying star.

It was at this critical juncture that Bobby Dick met Presley on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Calif.

“My brother was visiting me from New York City,” said Dick, whose own star was rising with his band The Sundowners.
Dick’s band formed earlier in the decade, and had performed with the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The band was in California recording with longtime RCA music engineer Bones Howe, who had worked with Presley in earlier years.

“We were talking about our record while Bones’ partner, Steve Binder, was in meetings with Elvis about the ‘comeback’ TV special they were planning. Howe knew I loved Elvis, so he told me to hang around for a while, until Binder and Elvis were done with their meeting,” Dick said.
Binder had produced music-based series like the 1960s series “Hullabaloo” and feature film, the T.A.M.I. Show.

He would go on to win a cabinet-full of Emmy Awards, and had his hand in everything from the creation of Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, to Jane Fonda’s “Complete Workout” video, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and the feature film “Give ‘Em Hell Harry.”

“While we were waiting, Bones told me stories about Elvis in his early days,” Dick said. “How Elvis was totally in charge of the recording sessions and everything that was going on in the studio. On certain songs (where they didn’t use drums), there’s a tap-tap rhythm sound you can hear on the record. That’s from Elvis telling the musicians to tap out the rhythms on the back of the guitar, and then record that sound right into the microphone,” Dick recalled of the conversation.

“Of course, Elvis had some real quality people and musicians around him at the time, like the Jordanaires and Scotty Moore - but Elvis was the one totally in charge of the sessions. He knew the sound that he was after,” Dick said.

The Jordanaires are the vocal quartet that backed Presley on nearly every recording session from 1956 to the late 1960s.
Guitarist Scotty Moore backed Elvis on that famous July 1954 night when the first recording -
a cover version of “That’s All Right (Mama)” - was taped at Sun Studios in Memphis. Moore’s guitar is also the sound behind the songs “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Blue Suede Shoes,” among others.

“In those days, Howe was the one running around, turning the knobs, and adjusting tape,” Dick said. “That’s the way it was back in the pre-digital days, the days of 2-inch tape.”

Howe’s then-rare tape editing skills found him work with artists like Pat Boone, B.B. King, and Frank Sinatra. In the mid-1960s, he made the transition from engineer to producer and helped create hits with The Mamas and the Papas, The Turtles, and The Fifth Dimension.

Howe’s involvement with Elvis in 1968 was his first venture into music production for film. Years later, he would go on to similar projects with musicians Tom Waits and Meatloaf, and film directors Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.

“So here we are, with Bones Howe after our meeting,” Dick sets the scene. “And we left the office and got into the elevator. And just as the doors are closing, I hear (Dick adopts his best Elvis voice) ‘Hold on there.’ Then the doors close and it’s just the three of us - my brother, Elvis, and myself in this elevator. He gets in and says ‘Hey, how ‘ya doin’ there.’ He was very nice and we talked for awhile, maybe 15 minutes or so,” Dick said. “I was so star-struck.

'I wanted to say to Elvis ‘why are you wasting your time doing those movies when there is such great material out there being written?’ I mean can you imagine how great it would be hearing Elvis singing something like “MacArthur Park?” I wanted to say so much to him. I just talked and talked - I am told - and never got to say any of those (musical) things. I was just so star-struck. So we hung out for awhile and talked,” Dick continued, “right there in front of the office building on Sunset Boulevard (where the photo was taken).” And from those meetings, they planned that TV special. And when he did it, dressed all in black, he was great. It was a real special comeback.”

The recordings took place in Hollywood in late June and were set to air on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
The Dec, 3, 1968 issue of The Saratogian carries a cover price of a dime. The day’s advertisers included Star Kist Tuna (36 cents for a 6-1/2 oz. can) at the Price Rite Central on Church Street. Country Style Spare Ribs were 49 cents a lb. at Slim’s on Route 29, and $4.77 at Daw’s Toy Store could get you either Twister, Battleship, or Kreskin’s ESP board game. A 3-bedroom colonial “stone beauty” on Geyser Crest was for sale at $27,900, and GE in Schenectady was hiring general utility workers at $2.70 per hour to start, with “plenty of opportunity for future advancement.”

The TV special aired at 9 p.m. for 60 minutes, preceded by “Julia”- where Groucho Marx made a cameo appearance, and followed by Brigette Bardot’s American TV singing and dancing debut at 10 p.m.
In the most notable portion of the broadcast, Elvis appeared in black leather pants and jacket with upturned collar.

He was tan, fit and with strong vocal range, seated with Scotty Moore (“who has been playing with me since 1912,” Elvis quips) and longtime drummer D.J. Fontana. It was an early predecessor of today’s “unplugged” shows, and it is perhaps, the most clearly defining moment of the delivery of all the talent that Elvis promised. TV Guide called the Binder/Howe Production “the second greatest musical moment on television, next to the Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan.”

“The thing that bothers me now is all the things you read and hear about his marriage and his personal life,They never seem to give Elvis the credit he deserves.” Dick said.
“I mean, he could sing anything! His falsetto was very close to his regular voice. Now I don’t have my falsetto anymore,” Dick said laughingly: “I lost it singing too many Bruce Springsteen songs. But Elvis had a great baritone, and a great range.”

For Bobby Dick, it began in 1950s Brooklyn.

“You could say my mother was one of those Italian stage mothers,” he said. “I got to appear on the Ted Mack Hour,” he says of the amateur talent show. “I sang Eddie Fisher tunes - ‘Oh My Pa-paaa’,” - he demonstrates soundly. “I sang well but I didn’t win. I came in second place to a guy that played spoons. But he was a very good spoon player.”
A few years later, Dick picked up the electric bass and began performing with a rock ‘n’ roll quartet called The Sundowners.
“I was in between eras,” Dick said. “A leftover from the Elvis era, and on the cusp of the Beatles.” The group blended both influences into their repertoire and found themselves sharing the stage with some of pop music’s biggest names.
They toured with Dion, and with The Ronettes. They shared the stage with Tina Turner at the Hollywood Bowl and the Dave Clark Five at the R.P.I. Fieldhouse in Troy. The even shared a rehearsal stage with James Brown at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

In the spring of 1965, their name was on the bill at Albany’s Palace Theater during an appearance by the Rolling Stones.

“When we got to the Palace, man, we were ready to go,” Dick said of The Sundowners spiffy duds. “With our Nehru suits and Cuban-heel boots. Then the Stones showed up - and they looked terrible. They had that road look - you know the one, too many shows, not enough sleep, and suddenly a zit pops out from who-knows-where. Their hair was all crooked and standing up on one side from leaning against the bus window,” he laughed. “But you know, I thought, ‘ah, these guys just got in, give ‘em a break,’ you know, some time to get themselves together.”

Eventually the Stones emerged from their private chambers. “Finally they come down to go on stage and they looked worse. I said, ‘Whoa, what went on in that dressing room?”‘
The show went on (there were two performances that day) and the Stones were great, Dick said. There was a near-catastrophe that involved girls throwing their jellybean weighted undergarments at the stage.

“Mick Jagger got hit on the side of the head and he asked the girls to stop,” Dick said. He added that the show was well worth the $2.50 admission.
“We were the cover band’s cover band. We played with The Who at the Anaheim Convention Center, and they were magnificent,” Dick said. “They were more like The Sundowners in that they were players and singers. The guys were serious musicians, although by that time they were starting to get pissed off at Keith Moon. He was a great drummer, but he’d be falling down off his drum seat (while he played). He just didn’t know when to quit.”

A scrapbook of images captures the era: Bobby Dick and Davey Jones, hanging out with Jimi Hendrix; posing with Dick Clark in one, and talking to Elvis Presley in another. A friendship with the Monkees during their heyday led to a particularly memorable performance in 1967 at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens.

“The Monkees were being maligned at the time for being a bubble-gum group,” Dick said.

“They thought they would get more credibility by having someone like Jimi Hendrix playing with them. But when Jimi came on stage and started playing (as well as exhibiting gestures and movements that must have been shocking to a 1960s teeny-bop audience) the fans just wanted their Davey Jones. They started chanting ‘We Want the Monkees! We Want the Monkees!’

"Well, Hendrix looked right at them and gave them the finger. Then he threw his Stratocaster into the audience,” Dick paused for a moment. “Somebody must have caught it,” he continued. “It would be interesting to know what ever happened to that guitar.”

Dick pondered what his future holds.

“What in the world am I going to do five years from now? It’s the same question I asked myself five years ago.”
For the Glens Falls resident, it appears that the road will go on indefinitely. A busy schedule has the band performing nearly every other day.

“We are the tramps of rock ‘n’ roll,” Dick laughed.
Dick talked about a lot of the great rock ‘n’ roll music - now 50 years old - that has come and gone, as well as the influence of blues and country music. And of course, the Beatles.

“The Beatles get a lot of talk about early rock ‘n’ roll,” Dick said, “but you know, when they asked the Beatles - it’s like John Lennon said: ‘Before Elvis, there was nothing.’ Elvis is the one who brought everything to the forefront.”

Originally published in The Saratogian, July 16 & Aug. 11, 2002.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Elvis Impersonators:In Life, it's all about The Chances

'Chances are,' sang Johnny Mathis, riding shotgun alongside Elvis Presley on the pop charts in 1957, the year The King began his infamous above-the-waist-only performance on the Ed Sullivan TV show, and ended by receiving his draft notice.

During the months in between, the country was turned on by his songs 'Jailhouse Rock' and
'All Shook Up.'

And now, 47 years later, Paul Kuhn will wake up in his Schaghticoke home Monday morning
and begin applying his makeup and adjusting his wig, donning a pair of shades and sideburns and making his way to Saratoga Race Course where swarms of Elvises will be competing in the 'Elvis Extravaganza' Impersonator Contest and $1,000 in prize money.

It is estimated there are 35,000 Elvis impersonators around the world, each depicting Presley in various stages of his career. There is the early 1950s wet-behind-the-ears Elvis, the young 'Blue Hawaii' period Elvis, Elvis in the Army, Elvis in black leather as the Comeback Kid and the ever-popular, Elvis in a white jumpsuit of his later Vegas days.

'I do the 1970s Elvis,' Kuhn says. 'The fat Elvis. The guy sitting down eating a cheeseburger Elvis,' he says. Kuhn has been doing costume characters for 32 years, depicting a lineup of cultural icons that have included Richard Nixon and W.C. Fields, Roy Orbison and 'Jake' of Blues Brothers fame.

From 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, Kuhn and an armada of fellow Elvis impersonators will have their chance to shake it up against the backdrop of horses in training and Frisbee-catching dogs at the racecourse.

It is the first time for the 'Elvis' event's participation in the Saratoga Festival and Dressage. It is produced by the Elvis Extravaganza Fan Club, an organization founded in 1989 that counts more than 50,000 members worldwide. In addition to prize money, the winner will also secure a spot in the national competitions next January in - where else - Las Vegas.

The racecourse, of course, is a place built on chances and sitting in a city filled with talk about long shots, lotteries and sure things; where the most often asked question may be: What are the odds?

The slew of recent area storms brought to mind odds of a more ominous tone.

According to those making book at the National Weather Service, lightning strikes are responsible for an average of 93 deaths every year. A relatively small amount, perhaps, when you consider cumulonimbus clouds and electrical energy are combining to strike 1,800 times around the world right this minute.
Furthermore, the odds of someone being struck by lightning in any given year are a distant 600,000 to one. (Another useful fact is that the distance of a strike can be measured by counting the space between flash and boom, and accounting for a distance of one mile for every five seconds).

The Clash sang about the threatening storms in their tune 'Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice),' an event that carries odds somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 million to one.

The late Roy Sullivan was that unfortunate one, several times. In a 35-year period, Sullivan was struck by lightning a shocking seven times, earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Now you may be thinking that nature's fury eventually felled Sullivan for good. But you would be wrong. After surviving the seven strikes and well into his 70s, it was a broken heart that finally did Sullivan in. In 1983, distraught over the loss of a woman, Sullivan committed suicide.

Eyebrows were raised on the set of Mel Gibson's film 'The Passion of Christ,' when actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in the movie, was struck by lightning during the making of the film. If that wasn't enough to invoke visions of a grey-bearded Zeus lobbing jagged bolts from heaven, the film's assistant director Jan Michelini was struck by lightning, twice.
What are the odds of that?

Last week, 44-year old Queensbury resident Patty Vannier beat the odds by winning the top prize in the New York Lottery Panda-Money-Um Instant Game. Chances of securing the ticket with the $1 million payoff are 1 in 5,040,000.

What about when the winning numbers start showing up on your daily e-mail?

'Dear Sir and/or Madam,' one recent transmission started off. 'We are pleased to inform you that your e-mail address drew lucky numbers, which consequentially won the lottery in the first place category. You have therefore been approved for the lump sum pay out of 100,000 Euro. Congratulations. Please inform our fiduciary agent of the designated account of your choice.'

It was signed: Sincerely, The Desk of the Managing Director, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. And that wasn't all. Right behind it was the announcement of $12 million (U.S.) inheritance from the family of the late Chief Joseph Omoruyi in Nigeria, followed by the winning notification for the prize of a whopping $3,500,000 euros from the director of operations in Madrid, Spain. And that was just this morning's e-mail.

Of course, it is that wishful hopefulness that gives these long shots their energy.

Who hasn't imagined the pomp and circumstance and balloons accompanying Ed McMahon pulling up the driveway with an oversized check?
Or, dreamed of matching numbers up, just once, with Yolanda Vega? The underdog as the patron saint of bucking the odds. A half-century ago, Johnny Mathis understood that.

It is the same Johnny Mathis who will be walking on to the stage at Albany's Palace Theatre this week to sing the songs 'Misty' and 'It's Not for Me to Say,' and all about just what the chances are.

'Chances are you believe the stars that fill the skies are in my eyes,' he sang in 1957, riding the pop charts, side-by-side with Elvis Presley.
Nearly 50 years later, and more than a quarter-century after his death, they will be resurrecting The King at the racetrack on Monday.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
Originally published in The Saratogian, 2004.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Day at City Hall: Meet the new boss

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS- Inside the 19th century building that stands on the corner of Lake Avenue and Broadway, they are changing the names on the doors.

Valerie Keehn is coming to City Hall.
She can still recall the first time she saw it.

'I remember thinking how beautiful the city was, sort of artsy and creative, and with this quaint architecture that was amazing. It had the feel of a real close community,' said Keehn, on the eve of moving into the office as the city's new mayor.

She came to Saratoga Springs in the fall of 1989, looking to relocate with her husband David and son Gabriel, nearing his second birthday at the time.

'We had a little trailer with some furniture and drove down Broadway. We immediately fell in love with it,' she said about the wide boulevard where you can still see her name emblazoned across cars cruising the city, fixed to bumpers several months ago, at a time when 'Keehn for Mayor' was still a wishful thought.

On the second Tuesday in November, the people voted for the woman from Wyoming with a background in education to be their new mayor.

Keehn grew up in Casper, Wyo. Her mother took care of the household. Her father was a geologist who spent long periods of time at work away from home. She says she drew inspiration for her interests in both education and politics at a young age.

'I was always a good student and I had some wonderful teachers growing up. One of my favorites was Mrs. Adams,' Keehn said. 'She was the epitome of a loving elementary school teacher, so really, as early as the first grade I thought to myself, I want to be a school teacher when I grow up, because she was just so wonderful.'

She drew political inspiration from Pat Schroeder, a U.S. Congresswoman from Colorado, who served for more than 20 years.

'As a young girl growing up, I remember watching her on television. I just remember being very impressed by this young political person in Colorado,' Keehn said.

She spent her teenage years at Natrona County High School, a school that a generation earlier counted Dick Cheney among its graduating class of 1959. Halfway around the world, her future husband David Keehn was growing up in India during late 1950s.

'I met my husband David in 1985 when I was teaching in Oklahoma and he was an attorney for an oil company,' she said. 'David had a real international life. His father was working for a nonprofit Rockefeller Foundation in India at the time, providing grants and funding for Indian artists. David lived there until he was 6, and also lived in Africa for a couple of years,' Keehn said.

'We came to Saratoga Springs because David was ready for a change in his career. He was an environmental attorney but, in fact, was working for an oil company,' Keehn said. 'It was not what he wanted to be doing with his life, so we started investigating what the best place would be to (live) with our first baby.'

New York offered an opportunity to work in the environmental field, so the Keehns moved east. David got a job working for an attorney in Corinth, took the Civil Service Exam and got on the waiting list for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Valerie Keehn taught in Oklahoma and Wyoming, but found a long waiting list for available teaching positions in Saratoga Springs. After relocating here with their son Gabriel, The Keehns had two more sons, Jonathan and Daniel. All three boys are in their teens and enrolled in the Saratoga Springs public school system.

'Once I had Daniel, I decided to work for an agency and worked for Transitional Services, which provides housing opportunities for adults with mental illness. When we started getting involved in the local scene, I was amazed how easy it was to get involved in politics and in sports, or in any activities that you wanted to,' said Keehn, whose family is involved in a number of winter sports.

'People were very welcoming, and I think the fact that people were really and truly interested in bigger things than just their own lives is what was inspiring to me,' she said of her move into local politics and run for mayor. 'So, while there probably was one moment when I thought, 'I'm going to get involved in this,' it was more of a family effort. It was the support from my children and my husband's family and from my own family,' said Keehn, who has two brothers that live out west and whose own family ancestry dates back to the early prairie days of a young nation.

Her background in education will serve Keehn well, she thinks, in City Hall. As well as her involvement in the city, as a parent, a special education teacher, a variety of volunteer efforts, and being a board member of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council.

'To be in education you have to be a great listener. You have to be diplomatic. You have to be a communicator in every sense of the word,' she said.' Politics was never far behind.

'I've always been interested in politics. My mother was very politically astute, and we always talked about politics at the dinner table,' Keehn said.

Asked whether that was breaking one of those time-honored rules forbidding political discussions at the dinner table, she responded, 'We certainly didn't have that rule. We do it all the time at our house. Politics is the glue that keeps us together in many ways.'

It was what brought people out that Tuesday night in November.

Depending on who you talked to that day, many cast Keehn in the role of the underdog. It was a feeling that lasted into the night, or until the polls closed and the numbers began coming in. 'That night brings back such emotional feelings for me,' Keehn said.

'What was most powerful to me were the people who had worked so hard on my campaign. Knowing that they were so emotionally invested in what was unfolding at that moment just made it so much more powerful. These were people that were hoping what was going to change was not just our own lives, but (the course) of the city. So it was really the most powerful experience of my life. It was electrifying, and a bit surreal,' she said. 'We're feeling very lucky, and a little nervous about what's ahead.'

What she hopes to accomplish, is what brought her into the local race in the first place.

'When I first started campaigning in May, I wanted to let people know that I was really among them, among the residents, among the people who supported me. I was available to listen to what people had to say; that was my agenda at that point,' Keehn said.

'As I started going door-to-door, I began to hear more and more grumbling about the changing character of the city, about all the development that has taken place in the last few years, and about the high price of living in Saratoga. These are all tough issues that many cities across the country are facing,' Keehn said.

'We certainly can open a dialogue and invite people to get involved, to brainstorm and come up with solutions for our own city and make sure that we preserve all that's good about Saratoga Springs,' she said. 'And that people feel like they've had a part in doing that.'

published in The Saratogian, Jan. 1, 2006.