By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


            Singing at the 16th

Last week we denizens of Arizona experienced record crowds – it is estimated that 1 million people visited the Valley of the Sun to attend the WM Phoenix Open and the Super Bowl.  Our “sun” has been missing most of this winter (last week it snowed in Scottsdale), but the Chamber of Commerce obviously has an in with The Big Guy, because it was sunny all weekend.  Twenty-five years ago we were advised to hunker down the week of the WM Phoenix Open, as the crowds are plentiful … and drunk.  When the Super Bowl is also played here the same weekend, it is best to venture out only in the event of a severed limb or cardiac arrest.  So, we watched all of the festivities from the comfort of our couch.  One of the most fun aspects of the Phoenix Open is watching the idiots, ummm, patrons at the 16th hole.  They started the week off on Thursday with a rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline”.  It was joyous to watch and reminded me of a fun family outing when the song was newer, and we were too.  More on that later, but first, a bit of history about the song and how it got its name.

Neil Diamond released “Sweet Caroline” as a single in May 1969, and it was then featured on his album, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”.   Its catchy lyrics and staccato beat made the song an instant hit, spending more than three months on the pop charts.  Surprisingly it never reached the top of the charts; it peaked at No 4.  For years people speculated who the “Caroline” in the song might be.  Decades went by without a definitive answer. Finally, in 2007, Diamond finally told the backstory of the song and how he came up with its title. He explained that “‘Sweet Caroline’ was born in a motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, as an afterthought to some songs he was preparing for a recording session.  He said he was as surprised as anyone when the music and lyrics flowed quickly and easily from his mind to paper.  Diamond revealed that the most challenging part of the song was finding the right name for the title. At the time, he was married to Marcia Murphey, and had promised her a song. The problem was he needed a three-syllable name to fit the melody. He picked up his “idea” book, a journal where he routinely jotted down thoughts for lyrics, and found the name “Caroline”.  It was perfect.

The inspiration for the song

But why did he put the name “Caroline” in his idea book to begin with?  In the 2007 interview, Diamond said he was touched by a photograph he saw in a magazine of a young Caroline Kennedy, dressed in equestrian gear on her pony. At the time he thought it was a sweet, innocent photo, and knew at some point he would want to write a song about it.  He never told anyone that Kennedy was his inspiration until her 50th birthday celebration, where he performed via satellite and surprised her by revealing she was his inspiration.  She was thrilled.  By that time, of course, it had become tradition to hear it at numerous sporting events, perhaps most famously at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.  The song is played during the 8th inning of every game and gets the fans roused up, regardless of how the Sox are faring.  It was first played in 1997 and then intermittently after that until 2002, when Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs, noticed that every time the song played, he saw the crowd transformed.  Steinberg decided to make “Sweet Caroline” a tradition, and it stuck.

           Diamond at Fenway

The most moving rendition of the song was in 2013, right after the Boston Marathon bombing. Diamond hopped on flight as soon as he heard the Red Sox would be playing and went to Fenway Park, not giving anyone a heads up.  Luckily the gate agent recognized him and let him in without a ticket. He stood in the infield and sang the song, with the crowd joining in as one. Diamond later said it was a moment he will never forget. That performance also created a great demand for the song, and Diamond donated all of the profits from those sales to the charity set up to help the victims of the bombing.


          The Three Troublemakers

I saw Neil Diamond perform in 1979, just after “Forever in Blue Jeans” came out.  Everyone stood, everyone sang, and in an era before cell phones, people flicked on lighters in the dark and swayed to the music when he sang “Sweet Caroline”.  But my best memory of the song dates back to the winter of 1969.  Each year we would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s skiing at Tahoe.  That year was extra special because brother Bob had just arrived home from Japan, where he had been stationed for the past year.  The Vietnam war was still raging, and we were so happy he was home. One night we went to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner, and I suppose after a lot of libation and very little encouragement, we sang “Sweet Caroline” at the top of our lungs.  I’m not sure we even knew all of the lyrics, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.  Looking back, the other guests were probably not as entertained as we were, and it was a good thing brother Jack knew the owners or we probably would have been kicked out.  That night and that song have provided me a good memory for fifty-plus years.

Given its long-standing popularity, the song clearly holds sentimental value for a lot of people. Most of us can probably remember singing it at some point, maybe alone in a car, or in a crowd, or at a fun family gathering. All I know is that every time I hear it, it brings back memories of things being “so good, so good, so good”.


Capping the Night at Dan Tana’s

By Bob Sparrow

The last leg of our journey into La La Land was Dan Tana’s Italian Restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, two doors down from the famous nightclub, the Troubadour.  For those not familiar with the Troubadour, any musician who was anybody in the 60s, 70s and 80s performed there.  In 1970 Neil Diamond introduced Elton John there, who performed his first show in the U.S.  John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were ejected from the club for drunkenly heckling the Smothers Brothers.  The list goes on.

Eagles Glen Frey and Don Henley in Dan Tana’s for ’60 Minutes’ interview

OK, back to Dan Tana’s.  Every entertainer that you know has probably eaten there and many would call it their ‘go to’ restaurant.  For the last 50 years it truly has been a favorite watering hole of Hollywood film industry personalities and professionals.  The walls are adorned with pictures of various stars, past and present.  In 1975 Glen Frey of the Eagles saw a young woman who he knew was married to an older man, having an intimate dinner with a younger man and started writing lyrics on a napkin – those lyrics turned into the Eagles hit, Lyin’ Eyes.  

I was hoping as we entered the restaurant that people wanting to have their picture taken with us would not pester us and ruin our evening.  As it turned out, no one did.  We arrived around 7:00 for our 8:00 reservation and the two small dining rooms, both of which are slightly larger than a walk-in closest, were about half full.  The small bar had everyone of its 10 stools occupied.  Within a few minutes Linda was able to wrangle a seat and soon a couple left, which gave us two much-coveted seats at the bar.  The lady that Linda was sitting next to (whose lips had so much cologen in them that I thought they were going to explode any minute) had a seat on the other side of her that she was saving for her boyfriend, who was over at the Troubadour, checking in on a friend.  She told us her boyfriend was in the “music business” (her quotes, not mine) and was talking with his friends, Hall & Oates who were performing there that night.  A man down the bar, who looked like Fonzi’s father, we were told, was a famous ‘voice over’ performer.  What I could pick up from his conversation was that his voice certainly was over, over-bearing.   But overall a very good LA vibe to the place, meaning that there was a sense that everyone was looking at everyone else wondering if they were ‘someone’.   A gentleman just down the bar asked me if I was Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer.  I said no and later when I look up an image of him online, I realized I should have punched the guy.

You can see I left a nice $2 tip

At 8:00 the maître d came over and told us our table was ready, but the bartender, Raffi, was so entertaining that we said that we’d prefer to eat at the bar, which we did.  We discovered a unique feature of the bar, your wine glass is never allowed to be empty. We each ordered a glass of cabernet (their ‘well’ cab is Francis Coppola) and whenever our wine glass got below half full, Raffi would stop buy and fill it up.  I was afraid to ask how he kept track of how much wine we had and much more afraid to ask how much it was going to cost me.  When we asked Raffi what was good on the menu, he said in a dry tone and a straight face, “Nothing, all the food here is bad and the service is worse.”  But the entertainment was great!  That’s why in the photo you see the fairly significant tip for Raffi – he was most appreciative.  Linda and I ordered the Cannelloni and Veal Parmesan, respectively, both were outstanding, the service was great and the price of our multiple glasses of wine turned out to be surprisingly reasonable. When we left around 9:00 the place was totally packed with standing room only in every place one could stand.  I’m sure some of them were ‘somebody’.  It was a great experience! 

I have to say that while I’m not the biggest fan of L.A., it was a very entertaining day; and while we only saw a very small sampling of it, Johnny’s Eastside Market, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, The Grove, Rodeo Drive and Dan Tana’s, they all got me closer to believing that L.A. is, in fact, the ‘entertainment capital’ of the world.



September 8, 2011

Restaurants are attempting to increase our weight some more,

They now want to take food stamps at all the fast food stores.

The national obesity experts say that’s not the way we should behave,

And say our taxes will now be used to pay from “burger to grave”.

Baby boomers are now considered to be the most stressed out,

Watching retirement fade as their stocks have taken a clout.

Experts are advising calm and “not to over-medicate”,

This – to a generation that doesn’t know how to be straight.

Maryland’s Terrapins have new football “uni’s”,

And the best thing being said is they look a little loony.

More embarrassing still, they have the same theme,

And look remarkably like the women’s roller derby team.

The Kennedy Center has revealed this year’s honorees,

It’s a very distinguished group that will be on their marquee.

With Ma and Diamond tributes no one will be bored,

But what accent will Streep use when she gets her award?

For a personalized poem or tribute, visit our website at