last update 07 June 2013
The Polka Wiseguy is a regular feature in the Polish American Journal.
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QUESTION What is a blog and does the Polkawiseguy have one?
Funny you should ask? The Polkawiseguy has just returned from a long study with the high "Rama Oj Dana," atop the Redlinski's building, and suddenly found the internet. What a wonderful place and what a place to create a blog - which was first thought to be a deep hole in the muck just outside the old Steel plants of the big "L," but later discovered to be a place where you can say anything and everything without anyone listening. Oh Yes! The Polkawiseguy has now been blogged at: WISEGUY_BLOGBack to Index
QUESTION Why do some polka stars dress like country stars? What's with the sequins? -J.B., Lake Wanakea, Maine
An astute observation and one that is just dripping with Freudian symbolism. A long time ago, when these guys (and gals) were kids, they-like all happy, normal, adjusted children-played imaginary games like "Cops and Robbers," "Cowboys and Native Americans" and "Who Stole the Kiszka?" But, while their friends grew up, they, sadly, did not. As adolescents trapped in adult bodies (and occupations, for the most part), and mired in their land of makebelieve, they try to prove to the world that they still have unfinished childhood business which needs "tendin' to."
Shania Twain in a Lublin wedding dress? Hot-doggie!
Thus, the last vestiges their youth, in this case ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots and larger-than-hubcap belt buckles. I suppose we should be thankful they didn't take a fancy to Tarzan or we'd be forced to watch them perform in a loincloth. It's certainly not a lifestyle thing-they don't haul a horse trailer pulled by a fifth wheel-equipped Chevy Silverado sporting duals on the rear and a "Honk for Hank" bumper sticker, do they? No sirree. Keep in mind, the country music world isn't emulating them. Can you see Clint Black in a gorale czapek? Or Shania Twain in a Lublin wedding dress? ... Well, we often fantasize about that last one, but that not the point. Point is, next time you're at a dance, tell these yahoos that, unless Tim McGraw starts dressing like Wesoly Bolek, they should exorcise their childhood demons somewhere else. They'll appreciate your candor for certain.Back to Index
QUESTION Where did Charlie Tuna get the handle "Tuna" from? Does he really have fins? -C.H., Albany, N.Y.
It depends on how soon after payday you catch him.Back to Index
QUESTION Do you have anything against Scrubby? I mean look what all these things he's done for the Dynatones before and after Larry Trojak left the polka industry. I have a friend who played with Scrubby in the beginning years of the Dynatones. Why do you sound so glad that Dave's finally leaving? -J.H., via e-mail
My, oh, my! Such vitriol. We have been accused of everything from fixing the 1919 World Series to taking bribes to promote bands' recordings (www.greasypalms.com), but never could we have seen this one coming-and nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who is anyone will know that it was, in fact, the PAJ that funded Scrubby's "Fetching in Green Satin Gym Shorts" tour in 1982; that it was the Journal that put up the seed money for Scrubby's never-released solo effort: "From A to Zima: Concertina Etudes"; that it was this office that has selflessly sponsored Scrubby's Arena Football team, The DoubleWides (of which he is a star defensive end, we might add); and that it was the PAJ that has repeatedly bailed him out when he has been arrested at rallies in support of freedom for Tibetan monks-a cause in which he has a fervent, almost passionate belief. Glad to see that he has left the Dynatones? We were appalled by it then and our feelings haven't changed one bit.Back to Index
QUESTIONOK, just who is the "Polka Wiseguy?" I think it is (PAJ Editor) Kohan, while some others say it's Larry Trojak. My wife thinks it's Steve Litwin. -P.C., Orchard Park, N.Y.
Ah, just when you think your identity is safe, it gets only safer. Nice try, P.C., but you are way off base. First off, neither Kohan, Trojak, nor Litwin have won any awards from the U.S.P.A., and that's just one clue. Here's another clue for you all: the walrus was Paul.Back to Index
QUESTION It seems that most of the polka associations have the same award winners year after year. Is it my imagination or do these groups base their decisions on popularity? Some of the people receiving awards just don't deserve recognition.-P.F., West Orange, N.J.
No, it's not your imagination. But unless you enjoy being publicly humiliated, strip-searched before walking into a festival, or never want your band to play anywhere in public again, don't even suggest there is as much as a hint of impropriety within any polka organization. (For the record, we never said what was printed above. This column never existed.)Back to Index
QUESTION I think your column is sophomoric, at best. Can't you find other things to write about, other than your adolescent diatribes? -K.M., Charlotte, S.C.
Like ... duh!Back to Index
QUESTION Why can't polka bands play any heavy rock songs? It would be cool to hear some Zeppelin or Poison at a polka dance. -M.A., New Britain, Conn.
Good question, M.A.! A good friend of ours was just mugged by three senior citizens at a Polish American event who vowed never to come hear his band again because he would not play any rock and roll. Without success, the bandleader, who has been known to play songs by Meatloaf, Greenday and White Snake (not to mention a just-ducky salute to the late Jerry Garcia called "Captain Trips' Oberek Fantasy"), tried to explain that the event was-without disguise-a marked Polish Pre-Lenten celebration. The women said that just because the event-sponsored by a Polish American organization, with performances by a Polish-costumed Polish American dancers; a Polish kitchen (with a full Polish menu); advertised only in Polish American newspapers and on Polish American radio shows, and-was called "Paczki Day," was no excuse for the polka band's reluctance to play their request of the Blue Oyster Cult classic "Don't Fear the Reaper." We don't know if that answers your question, but I feel better now that I've gotten that off my chest.Back to Index
QUESTION: Kindly explain "Dyngus Day." I never heard of it, except from the Buffalonians. My husband and family were born in Poland and lived in the United States in a Polish community and never heard of this holiday, nor have any others except those who come from Buffalo. I've been to one Dyngus Day affair and it was obvious it was an occasion to ridicule Polish people. Please help me and others to understand this festivity.-W.Z., St. Petersburg, Florida
Dear W.Z. First, please turn to page 4, read the Dyngus Day story by Father Krysa and get back here as soon as you can. While we are waiting for you to read that, I will use the time as an opportunity to tell the rest our readers that Dyngus Day is not a day to ridicule Polish people. If anything, Dyngus Day in Buffalo has grown to be a city-wide holiday. Everyone is in on the act, from the mayors and the weathermen, to the weird couple who live down the street and only come out at night. The morning rock shows even announce where polka bands are playing that day. Hang on. Okay, W.Z. is back. Please, all, read on.Back to Index
QUESTION: My wife and I are preparing to go to Buffalo for all the Dyngus Day parties there. Now, please settle a bet: My wife said "Dyngus" is from a German word roughly meaning "to buy back," or "ransom." I say "Dyngus" is from the Latin word "Dingnus," meaning roughly the same thing. What is the truth. I have a live Versatones '68 tape riding on this. -P.R., South Bend, Ind.
The truth is nobody knows, but we will have to give your wife the nod just because she is better looking than you. There are many explanations of the Dyngus Day. Some say it is a celebration, Hopefully, you, too, have ready Fr. Krysa's explanation, which will publish every year until you people stop asking us the same questions. One theory overlooked by Fr. Krysa is the roots of Dyngus Day can be traced to an internal power struggle at Buffalo's Chopin Singing Society in the early 1960s. That's the one we lean toward. In any case, if you plan to spend the day in Buffalo and don't want to look like a tourist, bring some pussy willows (they can be found in almost any field, right next to other lime-disease ridden weeds), a squirt gun (a Super Soaker is a nice touch, though it will "put out an eye" if misused), any of the countless Holiday Inn towels from your linen closet, and your "Don Zak: More than a Myth" t-shirt. Armed with those items: "let the games begin!"Back to Index
QUESTION:Unlike the two previous readers, I already read Fr. Krysa's most excellent article on page 4 of this edition. But here's my question: Fr. Krysa says the German word "Dingen" is based on the Latin word "Dyngus." Now, if I remember correctly, the Polish American Journal is located on the corner of Harlem Road and Dingens Street on the Buffalo/Cheektowaga border. What's the deal, here?-P.P., Utica, N.Y.
I'm afraid you've caught us. And now that the cat is out of the bag, we can announce our plans to petition the city of Buffalo to change "Dingens" street to "Dyngus" street. We don't know how the people living on the street will feel about it ("Yeah, Wally, hang a left on Dyngus," or "Let's go visit Lorraine. She lives on Dyngus," just doesn't sound right), but we will do what we can.Back to Index
QUESTION: I am so mad! I called a local promoter and asked him to save me two tickets at the door for a dance he was running that evening. He told me that he could save them but I would have to pay the at-the-door price for the tickets, which was considerably higher ($2.00 per ticket) than the advance ticket price of $6.00. I ordered them in advance, so I should have gotten the advance ticket price, don't you think?-C.P., Everson, Indiana
Literally, you are correct, but figuratively, you are barking up the wrong beaten path. Here's why: When a promoter lists the "advance" price lower than the "at-the-door" price, he is doing so to generate sales to offset the costs of running the dance, and in this particular instance, the cost of promoting the dance. Flyers, radio and newspaper advertisements and other forms of promotion cost money. You, being of the cheap persuasion, are doing the polka industry a disservice by calling that promoter the day of the dance and asking him to hold tickets for you. A more inventive tack would be to make plans to attend dances that are held in other time zones, preferably ones across the International Date Line. This would allow you to technically buy the tickets in advance, but actually be buying it the day after the event (can't you just see the look on that promoter's face when he realizes what you're up to?). Furthermore, C.P., we all know that the $4.00 you are saving at the door will just be used-as it always is-on cheap wine and Doritos, both of which have caused dry mouth, headaches, sleeplessness, constipation, sleepiness and a mild urinary tract infection in a control group.Back to Index
QUESTION:I give up. Why do the same bands keep getting nominated for a Grammy award and why does the same bandleader win year after year? Any ideas? -G.J., Erie, Pa.
There is much conjecture on this subject but here's the real deal on that elusive (to most, anyway) Grammy nomination. Simply put, the bands that get nominated have a better marketing department than those who do not. Winning a Grammy is not about music. Talent does not even come into play at the level of popularity these bands have achieved. We are not talking about who sounded the hottest at Seven Springs, or what band left them wanting more at the USPA. This is where "realpolitics" and polkas mix, thus creating "realpolka," or "realpolitical polkas" or something like that. It's all about who can do the schmooze and some do it far better than others. Regardless, if you want to see different bands getting nominated, don't tell polka fans about it, that's like preaching to the choir. Tell your rock, blues, rap and Latino buddies about it. Or take a Tony Robbins Success Course, hit the lecture circuit and decry the injustices being done at NARAS.Back to Index
QUESTION: OK, Wiseguy, here's one for you: What do bands like Genesis think of bands like John Gora cutting their songs as polkas? Didn't TBC get in big trouble with Charlie Daniels for their remake of the "The Devil Went Down to Georgia?" Do they pay royalties on these songs? I know if some rock guy picked up a polka and made it a rock hit, there would be lawyers on the case before you could say Ray Dziedziec. Tell us, please! -B.R., New Palestine, Ohio
We took your question to Mike Nowakowski, president of Sunshine, the label that Gorale's "Follow You, Follow Me" is on. When we told him we had a legal question, Mike dodged all our telephone calls. However, using journalistic license, we called again, posing as representatives of the internationally-acclaimed, Fort Erie-based Chinese restaurant "No Fair Peking." He was soon calling us three times a day. Mike realized he had been had, but said he would talk to us if kept the conversation confidential. With that in mind, here's what he said: (and we paraphrase) "Guys like Gora, despite living in a foreign country, still dot their "Is" and cross their "Ts," so I'm positive Atlantic Records or Phil Collins won't come after us. I'm fairly confident about that. That is, I'm pretty sure. Well ... how "bout that Super Bowl!" As far as the Charlie Daniels incident, the Southern rocker had no problem with TBC recutting their hit as "The Devil and Jerry Darlak." (Or so we've been told). Daniels was upset about the band using Darlak as the subject of a song. Darlak, it seems, owed Daniels several thousand dollars in unpaid football bets. Who'da thunk it?Back to Index
QUESTION: Why do some bands have 50, 60, sometimes 70 recordings? Isn't that a bit excessive, not to mention vane? -B.E., Chicago Heights, Ill.
The reasons are many. This is due mostly to the fact that these bands have been around 50, 60 and sometimes 70 years. If they release an album a year ... well, you do the math. The other side of the coin is the reverse.Back to Index
QUESTION: I read your column in some of the other polka newspapers. What gives you the right to call yourself the wise one? -Z.D., Royal Oak, Mich.
The answer is relatively simple. First, I am paying for the space this column takes up. This is America, and that means you can say what you want, as long as you pay for it or have good lawyers. Secondly, I know more polka secrets than most fans. Stuff like what Mike Costa does for a living, where Dave Walter keeps his "Dynasty" video tape collection, and what Frank Borzymowski's nickname was in high school. (I am sworn to secrecy, but I can tell you it was not "Fuzzy").Back to Index
QUESTION: Please settle a bet. A friend of mine was checking out some polka web pages. I noticed they all start with "www." I said it should be said in full, i.e., "world wide wide." He says it's just "double-u, double-u, double-u, dot." What is the correct pronunciation of this prefix? -C.C., Cheektowaga, N.Y.
Normally, you would just say, "double-u, double-u, double-u, dot." However, more and more polka fans prefer the latest version, "dobrze, dobrze, dobrze, dot."Back to Index
QUESTION: I have heard that Scrubby has retired. What will the Dynatones sound like now that he is no longer playing? -T.R., Toms River, N.J.
I am glad you asked, as this has been a hot topic amongst the polka elders. The answer is easy. Picture Scrubby in his normal state while playing with the band. Do you hear any concertina? Now, imagine this with a concertina. The only difference between the Dynatones with Scrubby and the Dynatones without Scrubby is that the you can now enjoy the music instead of dodging sparks from the Scrub's "Imperial Fireworks" show jacket.Back to Index
QUESTION: How come the PAJ only has five polka pages. I'd like to subscribe, but don't really care about the other stuff. -S.S. Warsaw Park, IN.
This has been asked time and time again. Steve, the guy who edits the Polka Magazine section would like to have 24, if not 124 pages of polka news. But, since people like yourself and most of the bandleaders in the country who only call the paper for a free copy when their picture is in it don't subscribe, there are only five pages of polka news.Back to Index
QUESTION: Why do vocalists continue to sing in Polish? The polka will never attract new fans if vocals are not sung in English only. -J.P., Battle Creek, Mich.
A point to argue, indeed, J.P. To test your theory, we had to look no farther than this year's Grammy nominees. Taking ten nominations was Carlos Santana for his recording "Supernatural." A quick listen to the CD finds half the songs in Spanish. What's next? Esperanto? Considering Santana's popularity a fluke, we jumped from the Grammy nominees and looked at other ethnic groups to see what language they were singing in. We dug up a few recordings by the Chieftains and found their most popular ones were laden with those troublesome Celtic vocals. So, feeling disappointed again, we looked at Billboard's top-selling hits for 1999, and alas, and a lack Ricky Martin's "Living la vida loca," was in the top ten. While sung mostly in English, seventy-five percent of the words in the title are in Spanish, making us wonder if that's the ticket to mass public appeal. We plan to test this theory and will get back to you.Back to Index
Question:What the story with these kids dressed in Polish outfits doing Polish dances at polka dances? How many times do they expect us to watch their routine? -E.Z., Bradford, Pa.
You're right, E.Z., there's nothing more annoying at a polka dance than kids dressed in Polish outfits. What about kids of other ethnic groups? Don't they have a right to dance the polka, too? Me myself, I'd much rather see a kid dressed in more traditional clothing. Say, a pair of size 52 Big Yank pants (the trucker's wallet is always a nice accessory), a shirt so huge one could parasail with it in a stiff breeze and a pair of those killer Doc Marten stormtrooper boots. As far as their routines being the same at every performance, put yourself in their shoes (or dancing boots, as the case may be). Don't you think they're asking "How many times can these people dance a polka?" Without having to spell it out for you, here's the bottom line: If you don't support what they are doing, don't complain when they change their last names to "O'Brien" or "Kelly" and join the national tour of "Riverdance."Back to Index
Question:Here's one up your alley: Every year, my wife and I attend a number of Dyngus Day dances around Buffalo. Every place we go has a kitchen, and every one serves kielbasa, ham, hard-boiled eggs and tons of other cholesterol-laden delicacies that we ate the day before, not to mention the leftovers we will have all week. Don't you think these places would be better off serving something different? -P.F., West Seneca, N.Y.
. Dance promoters tell us these foods are for the non-Poles who might want to partake in some ethnic cuisine, a point well-taken: spaghetti or vichyssoise would seem Here's one up your alley: Every year, my wife and I attend a number of Dyngus Day dances around Buffalo. Every place we go has a kitchen, and every one serves kielbasa, ham, hard-boiled eggs and tons of other cholesterol-laden delicacies that we ate the day before, not to mention the leftovers we will have all week. Don't you think these places would be better off serving something different?
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