FRED THOMPSON/ TEACHING THE PIG TO DANCE
Fred Thompson has enjoyed a remarkable career in Hollywood and in politics, but when he sat down to write a memoir about how he got to be the person he is, he discovered that his best stories all seemed to come out of the years he spent growing up in and around his hometown of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. It was a small town but not the smallest—after all, it was the county seat and it did have a courthouse, a couple of movie theaters, and its own Davy Crockett statue. For truly small, you had to travel to nearby Summertown, where the regular Sunday dinner was possum and chocolate gravy. But Lawrenceburg is where Fred got to be a kid, found his share of trouble and scrapes, came to know folks he didn’t realize were so colorful at the time but sure does now, got married, had a few kids, became a man, and started his career as a country lawyer (pretty much in that order). And as Fred tells it, getting that law degree was something of a surprise for him, since in school he’d been less than stellar as a scholar. “Teaching Latin to someone like me,” he says, “was like trying to teach a pig to dance. It’s a waste of the teacher’s time and it irritates the pig.”
In TEACHING THE PIG TO DANCE: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances (Crown Forum; May 18, 2010), these reflections are as hilarious as they are honest and warm, Fred touches on the influences—family, hometown neighbors and teachers, team sports, jobs, romances, and personal crises—that molded his character, his politics, and the way he looks at life today. We get to know the unforgettable characters who congregated at the Blue Ribbon Café, like the rotund gentleman called “Shorty,” whose claim to fame was his ability to quickly suck in his stomach and cause his pants to fall to the floor. Or Fred’s Grandma Thompson, who became an early TV adopter for the sole purpose of watching Wrestling from Hollywood and who once had a “gourder” removed from her neck and subsequently walked around town with it in a handkerchief showing it to folks. One day Fred and an accomplice placed small explosive Fourth of July “cracker balls” under the four legs of their teacher’s chair; Mrs. Garner sat down and, despite the racket, didn’t flinch so much as a muscle—but Fred felt a twinge of the one emotion he hated most: shame. Fred idolized Coach Staggs from his high school football days, even though he was “like Captain Ahab without the humor” and didn’t like smart alecks, comics, or individualists, which put the young Fred at a disadvantage. More than anyone else from those days, though, Fred remembers his mom and dad, who taught him that kids are shaped most of all by the love and support they can take for granted.
TEACHING THE PIG TO DANCE will delight everyone who admires Fred Thompson for his contributions to politics or for his work in movies and on TV, along with all those who just love to hear rollicking but unforgettable stories about growing up in a place where, as one of the local old-timers put it, “We weren’t big enough to have a town drunk, so a few of us had to take turns.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
FRED THOMPSON served eight years as a United States Senator from Tennessee, and has remained active in foreign policy and fiscal and judicial affairs since his retirement from in 2003. In 2008 he sought the Republican nomination for President of the United States. First elected to the United States Senate in 1994, he served as Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, as well as a member of the Finance Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence. Earlier in his career Thompson served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Tennessee, and in 1973 he served as Minority Counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee. Since his first on-screen appearance in 1985, Senator Thompson has appeared in numerous movies, including Die Hard II, Days of Thunder, and The Hunt for Red October; he will appear in Walt Disney Picture’s Secretariat, set for release in October 2010. He is also well known for his portrayal of New York District Attorney Arthur Branch on the Emmy Award-winning NBC series Law & Order. He can currently be heard hosting The Fred Thompson Show. He resides in McLean, Virginia, with his wife, Jeri, and daughter Hayden and son Sammy.
THURSDAY, JUNE 3
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CHRIS BYRNE/ THE TOY GUY
TOY STORY 3 BLAST-OFF BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Disney/Thinkway, $34.99; 4+
An update of the original Buzz toy that was wildly popular when the first “Toy Story” film was released 15 years ago. Blast-Off Buzz has a retractable helmet, speaks several classic Buzz phrases, and includes a rocket pack ignites with fun bursts of light and sound. Push the red button on his chest and his wings pop out for a flight around the playroom or yard!
TOY STORY 3 ACTION LINKS
Disney/Mattel, $14.99; 5+
Snap together each set of Action Links to recreate scenes that mirror the new “Toy Story 3” movie. Once connected a simple push of a button sets off the fun, creating a chain reaction of events where characters fly through the air, zip line to safety and defend against villains. Action Links has a total of five collectable playsets including: Jessie Rescue, Buzz Saves the Train, Sunnyside Breakout, Evil Dr. Porkchop Attacks, and Junkyard Escape. Each set includes one or more 2” Buddy Pack characters
OPERATION: TOY STORY 3 EDITION
Disney/Hasbro, $19.99; 6+
Bring Buzz Lightyear back to full flying speed by removing all 13 of his malfunctioning parts without touching the sides of his spacesuit and setting off the laser sounds. Extract Buzz’s Toasted Turbo Booster, Crystalic Confusion or Battered Blaster and earn the most points to win the game.
Lasts up to 30% longer than regular batteries; perfect for electronic toys and digital cameras.
Duracell packs with 20% more batteries for the same price (i.e., 10 batteries for the price of eight).
Spinmaster, $2.99-$12.99; 5+
Mighty Beanz are back! Mighty Beanz are zany and eccentric ‘bean’ characters. Each Mighty Bean belongs to a specific "Bean Team" and each Bean Team has a rarity level - common, rare and ultra rare - to signify their collectable value. Mighty Beanz move using a wacky, unpredictable and unique movement. Collect them all, Play Games & Race!
SKY BALLS SLAMMER (and GRAFFITI SKY BALL)
Maui Toys, $12.99; 6+
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CRAYOLA SPIRA-CHALK BLASTER
Crayola, $9.99; 6+
Kids create big, multicolored spiral designs with a whirling, twirling top-like sidewalk chalk tool. This unique new toy will get them outside to play ... every day! Just insert a stick of Crayola Sidewalk chalk into the Blaster, wind it up, and then press the button to launch it into a spin. Watch with amazement as it spins across a driveway or sidewalk leaving cool, colorful spiral designs in its path—unique and different every time! Totally kid-powered, the Spira-Chalk Blaster needs no batteries.
TONKA STRONG ARMS: Bulldozer and Dump Truck
Funrise, $24.99; 3+
Two beefy free wheeling construction vehicles with a trigger lever built into the vehicles. The trigger/lever has two functions; pull lever without squeezing the trigger and you will rev up the vehicles, they vibrate and sparks show in the arm window, squeeze the trigger and the vehicles will move into action, i.e., Dump Truck’s bed will lift, the Bulldozer’s blade will push forward. No batteries required, just kid power!
M.Y. Products, $199.99; 8+
The Rockboard Scooter incorporates new propulsion technology, allowing it to be ridden for hours without putting a foot on the ground. It can be used as a classic kick scooter or, when in Rockboard Mode, requires no kicking, batteries, charging or gasoline. While standing on the Rockboard deck, the rider rocks their weight back and forth in order to power the chain that drives the scooter. Propulsion is achieved with each rock, wasting zero energy and allowing the scooter to reach speeds up to 10mph.
AMY SEWELL/ FATHER'S DAY GIFT IDEAS
Thrill The Grill” Gourmet Gift Pack
Wireless Talking BBQ Thermometer
Gorilla Torch Flashlight
Perplexus Puzzle Game
SoundForge Studio 9 Software
Broadcloth Pajama Pants
Vertical Rugby Beach Towel
’48 Ford Pickup Bouquet
Milk Chocolate Cigars
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