Wisconsin PSC Correct To Reject Coal-Fired Power Plant

I was heartened to learn that the Public Service Commission voted not to proceed with the coal-fired power plant for Cassville, an idea that has been the focus of so much attention for well over a year.  On a 3-0 vote the voices of those who knew the idea of building such a power plant was shortsighted had a major win.  I will be honest and say the vote surprised me, as I thought the huge money and PR from the vested interests would sway the vote to some extent.  But with firm resolve the PSC proved with this vote they are looking out for the best interests of Wisconsin.

It was truly astonishing to see advocates of this power plant promote it so vigorously for so long.   As the national election was taking place amid a broad discussion about global warming and the need to ‘go green’, the backers of coal were asking for a power plant that would spew more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  The disconnect of those who wanted this plant, while the whole emphases from so many other sectors was on the need to be ‘green’, was really hard to understand.  And I know I am not alone in wondering how one could argue for this power plant, and then also call him/herself eco-friendly.

I know from the long running controversy over this plant that the issue of coal was not the only problem this idea had.  So I do not want to place the entire defeat of the plan on this dirty fuel.   The high cost of the plan, and the fact that there seemed no end to how high the final costs could go was a huge factor.  One of the unknown costs that raised concerns was how much effect future policies such as carbon regulation would have on the plant.  It can only be hoped in the new climate that is about to govern from Washington that such regulations can be constructed soon.  If such regulations, even as an idea, can help to defeat a coal-fired plant, image how effective the actual regulations can be when finally written.

This however is not so much a time to savor a victory, as it is to start defining a new workable energy plan for the future.  There are still huge energy demands that must be met.  But the PSC gave voice today to those of us who want more creative and innovative ideas to mesh with the reality of global warming.  The coal-fired plant did not meet those desires.

Alaska Senate Race Gets More Exciting

Something is going to happen in Alaska….and soon.  There are roughly 90,000 votes left uncounted.    One thing is clear, regardless of what the final vote tally shows.  Ted Stevens will not be allowed to sit as a Senator in Washington D.C.  The Republicans wish him to be gone, as much as the Democrats.  Even if the voters in Alaska somehow thought Stevens a saint, the GOP will not be allowed to let it stand.

But meanwhile in the frozen north the voting goes on….and on…..

For days, the count has been frozen. Sen. Ted Stevens leads Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by about 3,000 votes with roughly 30 percent of the ballots remaining to be counted, including:

• 61,000 absentee votes.

• More than 20,000 questioned ballots.

• 9,500 early votes.

Of those, at least two-thirds of the absentee votes and nearly all the early votes are expected to be counted Wednesday, said Division Director Gail Fenumiai.

Election workers began poring over questioned ballots Monday in Anchorage, a process that will likely continue through the final count, which is expected Nov. 19.

Meantime, absentee votes are still arriving in the mail and precincts are sending in more questioned ballots.

For now, more than 90,000 votes remain uncounted. More than 224,000 votes were cast on Election Day. At stake is whether Stevens ends his 40-year career in the Senate or Begich begins a fresh one.

Both campaigns asked donors for money to monitor the ballot review and counting. If the candidates end up within either 20 votes or half a percentage point of each other, either candidate or a group of 10 registered voters can request a recount without paying the $15,000 fee, Fenumiai said.

An automatic recount only occurs in an exact tie.

According to the Division of Election’s projections, the election will end up drawing the second most voters in an Alaska presidential election, next to 2004, but far from the blockbuster numbers you might expect in an election that saw Stevens found guilty in a federal court just days before the voting and Gov. Sarah Palin running for vice president.

Pundits at home and across the country said the turnout numbers smelled fishy. Fenumiai said Monday that there’s no evidence of fraud or irregularities.

“I can’t speculate as to why people just didn’t show up to vote,” she said.

The state is counting ballots differently this year, after learning that 26 people voted twice in the August primary election, mostly by casting absentee ballots then showing up on primary day to vote again. That’s why none of the absentee ballots will be counted until this week — after election workers check to make sure no one is double-dipping.

So far, the state has identified a “handful” of people who tried to vote twice, Fenumiai said.

She’s asked the Department of Law to investigate. “They could be punished for up to a class C felony for this.”

Anyone Else Get An Unsolicited Letter From Governor Sarah Palin?

In my mailbox today was an unsolicited letter from Governor Sarah Palin, alerting me to the free Alaska travel guide that she would be more than happy to send me.  On heavy stock paper that was placed in a nice envelope, Palin reminds me that these guides are going fast so I better hurry and get my request in today.  On the cover of the envelope is the seal of the State of Alaska.  In addition to the many things that make Alaska so special, she writes, is the Russian legacy.  Seems only a couple weeks ago she was getting up at dawn to see if she would need to scare any Russians that might have set up camp on her lawn overnight. Now the Russians are a tourist attraction.

I am just curious if anyone else received one of these self-promotion type mailings from the ‘maverick’, and if so, what does it mean?

Elvis Presley’s Lost Girlfriend Found


This is just a fun story.

Back in 1956 the “Million Dollar Quartet”had a session in Sun Studios that is now the stuff of legends.  Seated for the famous picture was a woman that no one could identify.  Until now.  But before we get to the woman, and her story, I think everyone should know about the famous quartet session.  To be a fly in the room…….

On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash played together for the only time in their lives during an impromptu jam session at Sun Studios in Memphis. Sparks flew. As the personalities jockeyed for position, Sun founder (and ever the promoter) Sam Phillips scurried across the street to snag a photographer from the Memphis Press-Scimitar to document the two-hour session.

That photograph is literally worth a million words. And it gave birth to the “Million Dollar Quartet” musical now playing at the Goodman Theatre.

Acclaimed music historian Colin Escott wrote the book Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll,”and also co-authored the script to “Million Dollar Quartet” along with Floyd Mutrux, who wrote and directed the rock film “American Hot Wax.”

The famous foursome had gathered at Sun to hear Carl Perkins (who had already scored a hit with “Blue Suede Shoes”).

“Jerry Lee’s first record had been out for two days,” Escott said from his home in Nashville. “He was scufflin’ just trying to make ends meet. Elvis was back in town for Christmas and dropped by unannounced — as he often did.” (Presley was already a star having left Sun for RCA Records. In the fall of 1956 he had appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”)

According to the May 1957 edition of the Sun Record Company magazine, Presley walked into a Sun studio where Lewis was rehearsing. Presley sat down at a piano and started playing Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” He then started singing. Perkins jumped in on vocals. Cash showed up and sang a few bars (as Phillips had already alerted him to come to the studio).

“Some other guys were there too,” Escott said. “Like Smokey Joe Baugh (a Sun vocalist who had a 1955 hit with ‘Signifying Monkey,’ later recorded by Memphian Sam the Sham), and Elvis’ then-girlfriend (Marilyn Evans, who is depicted in the play). No one knows what happened to her, the best bet being she went back to Vegas.”

Three reels of session tapes from that million dollar moment didn’t surface until 1969. Since then roughly 40 more raw tracks have been released with the quartet covering tunes from Gene Autry, Bill Monroe and Hank Snow. Despite the photo of Presley at the piano, Lewis played most of the piano and Presley sang most of the leads.

“Everyone was responding to Elvis,” Escott said. “He had left them, gone into another orbit and they were all in awe of what he had done. Even though he was completely unknown, Jerry Lee was the dominant one. He definitely believed he belonged in their company. When you listen to the tapes, you can hear Jerry Lee just busting to be heard.”

At the end of the session Lewis left his compatriots in the dust with “Crazy Arms” (his debut Sun single) and a heartfelt version of Autry’s “You’re the Only Star In My Blue Heaven.”

Now to the lost girlfriend.

On Dec. 4, 1956, Marilyn Evans entered–and exited–rock ‘n’ roll history.Elvis Presley stopped by Memphis’ Sun Studio and recorded an impromptu session with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Historians have long believed Evans was there too because she was dating Presley then and a voice assumed to be hers appears on the recording. Also, a local newspaper photographer captured an image of the brunet alongside the famous foursome, which the paper dubbed the Million Dollar Quartet.Fresno, Calif., lived to dance.Mickey Rooney and George Chakiris.

That was the day

“That lovely creature sitting on top of the piano,” the caption for the photo read in the next day’s newspaper, is “Marilyn Evans, who dances at the New Frontier in Las Vegas. She is Elvis’ house guest thru Friday.”

Unlike some other Elvis exes, Evans didn’t make a career out of her companionship with The King, and Elvis enthusiasts have long wondered what happened to her after her week in Memphis. Colin Escott, a music historian and co-author of the play “Million Dollar Quartet,” now playing at Chicago’s Apollo Theater, has called her the “the least known of Elvis’ girlfriends,” which was true.
Two weeks ago, the Tribune ran a story about the missing-girlfriend mystery, explaining why the “Million Dollar Quartet” show features a fictitious Elvis girlfriend, “Dyanne.”

“Given that lawyers govern everything these days, they said, if you don’t know where [Evans] is, [then] we had to create a fictitious character,” Escott said at the time. As it happens, Evans, now Marilyn Knowles-Riehl, 71, saw the article and contacted the Tribune.

For 52 years she has hidden in plain sight, a living, missing link to one of America’s most magical music moments.
When a promoter called Marilyn Evans in summer 1956 and asked her to join the chorus line at Las Vegas’ New Frontier Casino, she could hardly contain herself–this teenager from

“I thought it was probably the most sophisticated thing that had ever happened in the whole world,” she said last week with an easy laugh.

She came to a Las Vegas in its infancy, a relatively innocent place, where the dancers enjoyed good pay–$135 a week–sports cars and soirées with such headliners as

“It was just very exciting: two shows a night, seven days a week,” she said. “I was loving it.”

Between shows, the dancers would gather in an employees-only coffee shop within the casino. It was there that Elvis walked in one night and sat at their table. “Wow,” Evans thought. “He’s beautiful–really, truly.”

Within an hour, Elvis had slipped Evans a scrawled note on the back of a napkin. It read: “Can I have a date with you tomorrow night or before I leave?”

Evans nodded in excitement and shock.

“He called backstage that night, set a time,” she remembered.

And so, for the next couple of weeks she and Elvis explored Las Vegas, driving around, hanging out and walking through the casinos. (Neither enjoyed gambling, she said.) Asked why he picked her, she giggles and shrugs.

“I think he probably liked that I wasn’t ‘out there.’ I was respectable,” she said. “I still am respectable, you know!”
Evans’ father had died when she was in high school, but to head off any trouble she wrote her mother a letter that began, “Don’t flip, mama, but I’ve become acquainted with Elvis Presley.”

Momma did flip, a little; that is, until Evans put the young star on the phone.

“He seems like a very nice person,” her mom, L.E. Evans, informed The Fresno Bee in December 1956, after word of the relationship leaked. “Elvis told Marilyn he likes her because she doesn’t act like a show girl, because she’s real.”

Like Evans, Elvis too was performing at the New Frontier–his first Vegas engagement–but when he left, the couple kept in touch by telephone. Then one day, he called Evans and asked her to come visit and stay at his Memphis home.
She said yes.

And so, 52 years later, what does she remember most about the house? “I remember that phone just rang and nobody answered, which was odd.” In Memphis, Elvis and Evans spent their days riding motorcycles, going out to eat and watching rented movies at Elvis’ house, a luxury the girl from Fresno could hardly believe.

“He was relaxed. He was comfortable there,” Knowles-Riehl recalled. And at night she slept …

“… not with him.”

“He was extremely honorable. He was young; I was young.”
On Dec. 4, 1956, the couple, along with some of Elvis’ friends, cruised around Memphis, as usual. But on this day Elvis stopped at Sun, where he had made his first record only three years prior. It was there, over the next few hours, that fate (and a tape recorder) would allow a rare glimpse of the musical passions of these four future legends, as they jammed on gospel, country and blues. It was a seminal session of rock ‘n’ roll’s origins … and one that Knowles-Riehl barely recalls.

“I remember that outfit I was wearing was all wool,” she said with a shrug of apology. “A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.”

The fact that the session meant so little to her might help explain why she said she felt fine when the relationship faded a few weeks later.Utah.

“I always preferred classical music,” she explained. “We were just into different things, not that one’s better than the other.”

“It was great, I loved it, it was terrifically exciting and wonderful, but I had other things I wanted to do,” said Knowles-Riehl who, the next year, began attending the University of

Asked why she never broadcast her brush with stardom, Knowles-Riehl said she never thought it among her life’s highlights. Instead she prefers to gush about her two husbands–her first died–her son and a dancing career that includes 13 years as the director of the Fresno Ballet.

“It’s like people whose high point of their life is their senior prom,” she explained. “My senior prom was good, but a lot of stuff has happened that’s been great since then.” Such as …

“When it’s not driving me crazy, I enjoy genealogy,” said Knowles-Riehl, who divides her time between Carmel, Calif., and Salt Lake City.

She also continues to dance–thanks to the fitness of a 40-year-old– and she runs her own belly dancing troupe.

“It’s pretty much the opposite of all my training, but I love it,” she said. Until last week, Knowles-Riehl had never listened to the recording session from that day in Memphis. But when she did, she quickly nixed the popular theory that she’s the one who requested the song “Farther Along.”

“That’s not me,” she said, as the female voice on the recording speaks with an obvious drawl.

“I wouldn’t pick up a Southern accent that fast,” she said, chuckling.

And yet, in listening to the rest of the album from that day’s session Knowles-Riehl stumbled upon another female voice, this one requesting “End of the Road.” “That’s me,” she said, as her wide brown eyes grew wider.

“It’s like otherworldly,” she said of hearing herself, “out of body.”

With the headphones still on, Knowles-Riehl appeared in that moment as she does in the ’56 photograph: Her face bright and blushing, wondering how could it possibly get any better than this.