It’s All About Arthur 

I never thought about age differences thirty-three years ago when I married Arthur.  Somehow when you are really young age difference matters, then it disappears in adulthood, and suddenly the awareness reawakens as you get older. It really is a strange dicothemy.

My husband is thirteen years older than I am and when we got married, I didn’t even think about our age differences. My parents were ten years apart and it worked out just fine for them.

It was only  when we celebrated Arthur’s ninety-first birthday, that I realized how lucky I am. All of his friends are gone and he is standing alone and quite healthy in his nineties.  The odds are that it could be a quite different story for both of us.  Sometimes I think he has more energy than I do!

To celebrate his milestone I recently interviewed my husband about how it feels to be in his nineties. 

Copyright Sandra Hart©2017. All Rights Reserved 

Growing Wings Of Their Own

( Author Note: As former Romper Room Teacher and Pittsburgh CBS affiliate anchor, my children began their lives with Romper Room and Mr. Rogers as their ‘normal’ family. We relocated with my late husband to New Jersey 43 years ago, but no escaping for them – their friends here in New Jersey always remembered me as the lady on Romper Room.)

Growing Wings Of Their Own
It has almost been 20 years since one of my children took his sisters out from under the ‘Romper Room Mom’ shadow they had been living with for most of their lifetime. A new dimension was added to our lives and nothing would ever be the same again.
In 1996 my Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey singer/songwriter son, Emerson Hart, and his band Tonic released their first album, Lemon Parade, which rocketed to multi-platinum status and garnered him awards, including the Billboard Award for the #1 most played song on rock radio.
What followed in the ensuing 19 years would be world tours, six Tonic albums, two Grammy Nominations, ASCAP Award, movie soundtracks, two successful solo albums and concerts in war zones entertaining our American troops – even being knocked off of his feet by a bomb blast while the band was staying at one of Sodom Hussein’s Palaces in Iraq.
Springsteen. Bon Jovi. Both New Jersey icons, were already firmly established within the 80’s Rock frenzy by the time Emerson and Tonic came along. But the ‘new kid’ on the block from New Jersey, the late ’90’s talent entry, came into the game like gangbusters when music tastes were were changing. Emerson was on the tail end of Rock’s biggest roll, but he and Tonic have survived.
So have his sisters. Each of them with their own quiet, or not so quiet victories growing up and out from under the ‘Romper Room Mom’ memories.
So a toast from parents to our children and their victories growing up and out from under our wings. A toast for 20 more quiet and maybe not so quiet years!

A Twenty Year Journey

  
In 1977 how does an eight year old boy living on the New Jersey shore emotionally survive his father’s mental illness and the news that his paranoid schizophrenic father has been murdered? How does he survive the fact that his body has never been found and there never would be any closure for him? How does he survive the fact that the same genetic predisposition might be his? Music.

  
Well, that little boy grew up to be the lead singer/ songwriter of one of the few multiplatinum, Billboard awarded and twice Grammy nominated rock bands of the 90’s to survive and thrive when most have gone into oblivion. No big PR firms, trashing of hotel rooms, or over-the-top pyrotechnic concerts; just plain great lyrics and music written and performed from his heart that have given him venues full of loyal fans for 20 years in both his solo and band’s career.

  

That band is Tonic and the musician/composer is Emerson Hart. Everyone has known his songs, but until his solo career, in spite of his success and awards in singing and writing for Tonic, movies and television, who recognized the name ‘Emerson Hart’? Although Tonic was a force in the music arena, it was not until 2004 after the release of his first solo album “Cigarettes and Gasoline” and his ability to talk about his father through his music and interviews did he start getting recognized for his songs everyone had been singing for years.
  
Along with Emerson’s songwriting success, his Tonic co-founder and lead guitarist, Jeff Russo, has scored several television shows, including the television show, Fargo. They are both musicians with something to say. 

As my son often reminds me, “It’s not always about fame”, but loving what you do and making great music. These musicians, both Emerson and Jeff, have relatable human interest back stories and I am not alone in thinking  that in this digital age Fair Pay for Fair Play must be demanded by music fans to keep all music alive. It is a real issue concerning the plight of the 90’s rock bands who were surging on the cliff of the changing musical tastes of 2000 and now trying to survive through the streaming age.

A Twenty Year Tour with new Tonic material and special re-release of 1997’s Lemon Parade with “If You Could Only See The Way She Loves Me” is planned for 2016. Still standing after all these years. 

If you are a fan of keeping great rock alive and want to celebrate this milestone year for Tonic, check out the links below.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2016. All Rights Reserved

http://www.pledgemusic.com/tonic

wmeclients.com/music/contemporary/Tonic Links:

1) 10/2015
Cryptic Rock interview: http://crypticrock.com/interview-emerson-hart-of-tonic/

2). 10/2015 – http://youtu.be/NHpyIsADUxs
3) – 2014 – In Schizophrenia’s Wake, a Son Laments the Father Who Might Have Been | Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (Formerly NARSAD): 
https://bbrfoundation.org/stories-of-recovery/in-schizophrenia%E2%80%99s-wake-a-son-laments-the-father-who-might-have-been
4) – 2010 – Przystanek Woodstock 

5) Kosovo – http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tonic-to-become-first-band-to-perform-in-kosovo-additional-dates-to-take-them-across-europe-before-returning-to-america-73430172.html
 6) 1997 – Old Vic Chicago – https://www.facebook.com/tonicband/videos/10153481670454590/

EMPTY NEST SYNDROME

( Author Note: As former Romper Room Teacher and Pittsburgh CBS affiliate anchor, my children began their lives with Romper Room and Mr. Rogers as their ‘normal’ family. We relocated with my late husband to New Jersey 43 years ago, but no escaping for them – their friends here in New Jersey always remembered me as the lady on Romper Room.)

Growing Wings Of Their Own

It has almost been 20 years since one of my children took his sisters out from under the ‘Romper Room Mom’ shadow they had been living under for most of their lifetime. A new dimension was added to our lives and nothing would ever be the same again.

In 1996 my Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey singer/songwriter son, Emerson Hart, and his band Tonic released their first album, Lemon Parade, which rocketed to multi-platinum status and garnered him awards, including the Billboard Award for the #1 most played song on rock radio.

What followed in the ensuing 19 years would be world tours, six Tonic albums, two Grammy Nominations, ASCAP Award, movie soundtracks, two successful solo albums and concerts in war zones entertaining our American troops – even being knocked off of his feet by a bomb blast while the band was staying at one of Sodom Hussein’s Palaces in Iraq.

Springsteen. Bon Jovi. Both New Jersey icons, were already firmly established within the 80’s Rock frenzy by the time Emerson and Tonic came along. But the ‘new kid’ on the block from New Jersey, the late ’90’s talent entry, came into the game like gangbusters when music tastes were were changing. Emerson was on the tail end of Rock’s biggest roll, but he and Tonic have survived.

So have his sisters. Each of them with their own quiet, or not so quiet victories growing up and out from under the ‘Romper Room Mom’ memories.

So a toast from parents to our children and their victories growing up and out from under our wings. A toast for 20 more quiet and maybe not so quiet years!

The Evolution of Rock and Roll

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In 1979 my son, Emerson, his sisters and I piled into the car and headed out to our local ASPCA looking for the perfect pet for them to come home to after school. They quickly picked a black furry ball who never stopped wiggling in her cage. She was definitely the one. A schnauzer poodle mix, the nameless pup was placed in the middle of two kids in the back seat and had found a forever home at the Harts.

Now, if you have ever been to any of Emerson’s solo concerts, he often gives his big sisters credit for introducing him to music of the late 70’s and 80’s. Therein lies the name of our new wiggly friend, Quiche Lorraine, from the B-52’s 1979 song of the same name. It just seemed such an obvious fit.

So, in the end Quiche Lorraine, lived for 20 years; long enough to see her young master learn to play the guitar, write songs about girls and trucks, and grow up to write his first platinum album, Lemon Parade. She stayed around just long enough.

So here is on Flashback Friday a memory tribute to the early influence of rock in Emerson’s life, the B-52’s and Emerson and his sisters’ best friend, Quiche Lorraine. A child of the 50’s Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around The Clock” was my introduction to Rock, and of course that older guy with whom I celebrate a birthday, Elvis. A high five to the evolution of Rock and Roll.

FROM HURRICANE TO BEST FRIENDS

When my daughters were teenagers and shared the same room they fought so much that I had to move my young son out of his room and give it to one of the girls to keep them from killing one another. The problem? One was extremely neat and the other lived in chaos.

One daughter loved John Denver, Glen Campbell, Mac Davis and horses. The other Billy Idol, the Eagles, Buffalo Springfield and fashion. Two peas of mine living together but definitely not in the same pod. And as a young widowed mother, the last thing I needed was refereeing two teenagers drawing lines in the sand.
 

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Thankfully, we survived those hormonal years…..well….kind of. They got more beautiful and tolerant of their differences, my son moved to Los Angeles and became a rock star and my hair turned white.

My Chaos Aquarian daughter is the same today as she was way back then. She has so many things going on in her life with the children, her job, horse farm and charitable social causes. Her big heart and life is always like a whirling dervish. She thrives with energy and a schedule that would drive me into a straight jacket. When I visit her I am always folding and cleaning and straightening up. Just hearing about her day makes me want to take a nap. Okay. It’s my mishigas, not hers.

The other half of the dueling teenage duo is my creative and very Neat Virgo child. A hard-working flight attendant, she moved from New Jersey to Chicago two years ago and lives in a lovely apartment in the suburbs, not far from the airport.

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She also has remained the same with an astute eye for fashion and decorating. She always has her apartment fixed up beautifully. She is, like her mother, a ‘Rearranger’. What on earth is a ‘Rearranger’ you ask?

(Wikipedia: Rearranger. Inconvenient habit certain females acquire. i.e, constantly moving furniture around.)

More than once my daughters have reminded me, "Mother, when we were kids, don't you remember? We'd walk into the house after school and the furniture would be completely rearranged."

Laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside, because, you know what, they are right. I don't know why, but somehow when I had a lot on my mind, I rearranged the furniture. In the worst of times* I was rearranging the furniture probably about every two months or so, as though that task was going to help me clear out the mishigas in my head. But, it did. It really made me feel good…therapy, at least for awhile.

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Whenever I am starting to write, I rarely begin my day at my desk to write without the beds made, the laundry going, or the dishwasher running. I have to have all those tasks at least started and working before I can actually sit down and concentrate on my real day job.

Watching my daughters grow up into accomplished and compassionate mothers and career women has been well worth those fractious teen years. And it is so true that we all have our own ‘craziness’ going on. All three of us have grown up to become more accepting women. My son has benefited by a successful career trying to explain it all!

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*BEHIND THE MAGIC MIRROR by Sandra Hart

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

The Father Who Might Have Been

(The following is a reprint of an article written about my son and I by Brain And Behavior Research Foundation May 27, 2014.)

Holidays are sometimes very hard for those with depression and other forms of mental illness, so I wanted to share our story again to give hope to families who are in chaos due to mental illness to give them hope that research and cures are our biggest priority. We care about you.

In Schizophrenia’s Wake, a Son Laments the Father Who Might Have Been

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Sandra and Emerson Hart, Professional Actress from “Romper Room” and Grammy-Nominated Singer/Songwriter, Lead Singer of Tonic
Sandra and Emerson Hart

Emerson Hart is a singer-songwriter. In the 1990s, he co-founded the Grammy-nominated rock band Tonic and, as the lead singer, has written hit songs for the band’s multi-platinum albums. Emerson credits his mother, Sandra Hart, an actress and writer, for his love of language and performing, and his late father, Jennings, a singer in his youth, for handing down his musical talent. But Jennings also bequeathed to his son a darker legacy.

The most salient fact of Emerson Hart’s life from earliest childhood, one he kept hidden for years, was his father’s mental illness. Untreated and only belatedly diagnosed as schizophrenia, it manifested itself in abuse and rages that cast a shadow of unrelenting terror over the family, which included Sandra’s two small daughters from an earlier marriage. A decade ago, Emerson began confronting the family “secret” with the release of his first solo album.

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Emerson Hart, singer/songwriter

“I love kids and I wanted to be a father,” he says, “but I felt that if I continued to keep that stuff inside, it would poison my relationship with a child.” (He now has a daughter, Lucienne, age six.) Since he has gone public, many fans tell him, often in tears, that his story is theirs. This is a main reason he and his mother so strongly support the work of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation—there should be a way to diagnose and treat these illnesses before havoc is wreaked.

The story began in 1968 when “Miss Sandra,” then the Baltimore-area hostess of the children’s television show “Romper Room,” found “the perfect husband.” Jennings, she says, “was handsome and charming, had his own business, lots of friends and a beautiful Irish tenor voice.” He also, she was to learn, had great skill at hiding the symptoms of his illness.

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After Emerson’s birth in 1969, Sandra struggled to keep the family functioning. Then came a night when goaded by inner voices that told him she was unfaithful, Jennings, brandishing a screwdriver, lunged at her. She was somehow able to knock him off balance long enough to grab the children and flee. Arrested and hospitalized, Jennings was finally diagnosed and treated, but as soon as he was released and returned home, he stopped his medications and the violence resumed.

Unable to help him and increasingly concerned for her family’s well-being, Sandra divorced Jennings in 1977. Then, she says, the stalking began. “He stalked and threatened me constantly. I was certain he would kill me.” Instead, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Jennings was killed, or so it is presumed. In 1980 he vanished without a trace, believed murdered by a jealous husband.

Sandra Hart – “Behind the Magic Mirror”For Sandra, Jennings’ death brought relief, but closure came slowly. Although she married again, happily, and resumed a career as a television and film actress, it took her decades to exorcise the past. She did, finally, by writing about it in the book “Behind the Magic Mirror.” (photo above) (Romper Room fans will recognize the allusion to the show’s “magic mirror.”)

For Emerson, the death brought nightmares. “To this day,” he says, “when I’m under great stress, my father will appear in my sleep, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, smoking a cigarette and staring at me.” Because of the unresolved circumstances of the death, Emerson long feared his father might return. Another “hammer over my head,” as he calls it, was the worry that he would inherit his father’s illness.

Ultimately, however, his deepest feeling is sadness. “If my father had had the right diagnosis and medication early on, if treatment had been possible, with all the good qualities he had going, I know he would have been an awesome father.”

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