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The Year in Review: 2018 Favorites

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It has been another great year here at The Maine Edge. As 2018 comes to an end, the editorial team here would like to take a look back at the year that was.

We’ll all be offering a look back at some of the highlights of the year. Here are just a few of our favorites from among the hundreds of stories filed over the course of 2018, in no particular order.

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Allen Adams

Jeopardy!

Despite how ultimately self-serving this is, it’s tough for me to consider anything other than my appearance on “Jeopardy!” my top story of 2018.

This was an opportunity that I had spent decades thinking about. This is something I had wanted to do since I was a child. And I finally got to do it. I got to stand in the studio and have Alex Trebek ask me questions. I got to ring in with a buzzer and share a goofy anecdote coming out of commercial. I got to answer a whole lot of questions correctly (and a few not-so-correctly).

What I didn’t get to do is win. But I performed to the best of my abilities. I played a strong game and represented myself well and made my hometown proud. And I got the added bonus of seeing some 200 of my closest friends turn up at OBC in Orono for a viewing party.

And hey, I led going into Final Jeopardy – that counts for something right? #notreally #AllButFinalJeopardy #ABFJ

Howie Mandel

It was a real treat to speak to Howie Mandel in advance of his performance at the Collins Center for the Arts in November.

I’ve been an admirer of Mandel’s since his early days; I was a fan of his HBO stand-up specials and his work on “St. Elsewhere.” I have fond memories of movie outings like “Walk Like a Man” and especially “Little Monsters.”

He was nice enough to chat with me about a wide range of things. We talked about his time on the mega-popular “America’s Got Talent” and the return of his beloved game show “Deal or No Deal.” He talked about his process as a comedian and as a performer and how, while he enjoys his TV work, the stand-up stage remains his first love.

It was a compelling conversation; talking to someone so obviously passionate about what they do always is. He was smart and charming and forthcoming – everything you want in an interview.

Wayne’s Wiffle for a Wish

I took particular pleasure in writing about this event. 2018 marked the tenth year of Wayne’s Wiffle for a Wish, the annual wiffle ball tournament organized by local news personality Wayne Harvey to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation.

I have participated in the tournament for seven of those 10 years as a mainstay on the Downtown with Rich Kimball squad, serving as our team’s junkballing starting pitcher and third-best hitter (we’ve been to the championship game in our division all seven years, in case you were wondering). However, it was only after doing this story that I learned about what led up to Wayne starting and maintaining the event.

Over the years, Wiffle for a Wish has raised thousands of dollars for Make A Wish – enough to grant over a dozen wishes to ill children. It is a wonderful event for a wonderful cause; one that deserved whatever attention this story was able to bring it.

The Great American Read

Anyone who reads these pages with regularity knows that I am a great proponent of the written word. Books receive plenty of my attention, but this particular story was a little different.

PBS’s “The Great American Read” was a months-long celebration of books, with the spotlight being shined on a wide selection of novels that have proved popular among the American public. Over the course of the season, a once-long list was narrowed down to one – the Great American Read.

(The winner was Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which, you know, is probably the best American novel ever written, so good job America!)

I had the chance to chat with Bill Gardner, Vice President of Programming and Development for PBS, about what went into planning such a broad and sweeping literary event; the selection process for the books and the reasons behind the event itself were also touched upon. Ultimately, it was yet another opportunity to send some book love out into the universe – and I’m always going to jump at such a chance.

Those are just a few of the many stories I was privileged to write in 2018. I wrote about things like SnowCon and the Maine Science Festival and the Maine International Film Festival. I wrote about Bar Harbor’s ImprovAcadia marking 15 years of improvised fun in Bar Harbor. I wrote about former PTC artistic director Scott Levy’s return to Bangor for last summer’s “Shear Madness.”

I got to do the usual stuff, too. The movie and television previews, the year-end best-of lists and all of that. Stories looking ahead at the scheduled seasons for the region’s assorted arts organizations (including the Bangor Symphony Orchestra for the first time). I did sports season previews (MLB, CFL, NFL) and championship predictions. I read some 60 books and watched 100 movies (this was even the year that I was deemed Tomatometer-approved by Rotten Tomatoes) and reviewed over a dozen plays.

All in all, 2018 was one heck of a year for me here at The Maine Edge. I truly am lucky to be able to do what I do. And I’m grateful for all of you out there – you’re the reason for that luck. Let’s hope for another good one in 2019.

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Mike Dow

As the man said, it was a very good year. 2018 marks the ninth consecutive year that my ramblings and raves have appeared here in the pages of The Maine Edge. It’s been my favorite year to date.

This year, I was blessed with the good fortune to interview a number of musicians, singers and songwriters, as well as actors, authors and TV stars. I’ll never forget the stories they told.

George Takei (December 19) told me of the years he spent behind barbed wire fences with his parents and siblings when he was forced into a Japanese American internment camp World War II.

Brian Wilson (October 16) told me that he isn’t sure that his work in the recording studio ever surpassed that of his 1960s mentor and rival, Phil Spector, and that his perfect day off would be spent in his comfy chair watching the news.

Stewart Copeland of The Police (July 11) looked back on that band’s 2007-2008 reunion with great fondness. “It wasn’t about us anymore,” Copeland said. “It’s not about what Stewart, Andy or Sting wanted to do. It was for the people who bought that music and lived that music.” 

Lyle Lovett (February 21) told me that some of his best songwriting ideas have come from taking solitary drives. “Being alone and kind of disconnected from responsibilities helps,” Lovett said. 

Jonathan Cain of Journey (May 15) told me how he turned to music to cope with the trauma he experienced when 92 of his schoolmates were killed during a tragic fire when he was in the third grade. “Music became a redemption for me,” said Cain. “I believe that music can help heal you.”

Jimmy Webb (November 7) surprised me with a number of stories that illustrated how important the state of Maine has been to his life.

Actually, that entire interview was one of my favorites ever. Here’s a segment cut from the original piece because of space limitations.

I had asked Mr. Webb to convey what it felt like to hear his songs on the radio when he was a young songwriter in the 1960s. He set up his response by first telling me how he had been bullied as a child for being the preacher’s kid and for wearing glasses from the age of eight.

“Getting back to your question,” Webb said, “I was driving down the San Bernardino freeway one day and Mr. Sinatra came on the radio with a Don Costa arrangement of “Didn’t We” (Webb’s song from Frank Sinatra’s 1969 album ‘My Way’). He sang the song with this gorgeous arrangement and I had to pull my car over and find myself a place to cry because it was overwhelming. It was like this has really happened. This has really happened to me.

For that dream to come true for me – something so unlikely and so wonderful – like winning the lottery or being the first man on the moon – it truly was a magical thing to hear these household names singing my music on the radio. I still get a kick of adrenalin every time a record comes on and I recognize it as mine.”

Many of the people I interviewed for The Maine Edge this year are famous the world over, but the stories that meant the most to me were about local heroes.

My story titled “I’m proud of you – A father and son story with Tim and Cameron Ward” (June 19) was about a single dad and his son with special needs, and about how that father overcame a near-death experience to be here for his son. “Cameron means everything to me,” Tim Ward told me. “Going through what just happened – realizing how close I came to dying – it is very clear to me now why I am on this planet. He is my best friend and he means everything.”

The Bangor area lost a larger than life friend in August with the death of radio and TV personality Chuck Foster. He really was one of the kindest and most generous people I have known. Chuck probably would have hated my tribute to him (September 5) but it gave me a chance to share some behind the scenes stories about a man whose enormous talent was exceeded only by the size of his heart.

As I think about some of my favorite stories in The Maine Edge over the last 12 months, I wonder about the opportunities that will present themselves in 2019. I look forward to sharing them with you in these pages.

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 December 2018 12:29

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