Sunday, May 19, 2024

We're Back... Or At Least Public Again

With so much toxicity in our world anymore, I decided to remove The Smoking Nun from public view a couple years ago... It seems like what we once called sarcasm and playfulness is now so often regarded as deeply offensive to so many young 'uns.

Well, get over it, you hear? The Smoking Nun was always written with one hell of a big wink, so if anyone who happens to read something here feels wounded, then simply retreat to your cocoon. Words are meant to foster thoughts, change minds, ... not to trigger anxiety and resentment. Come on, enjoy life!

That said, as of May 2024, I am pleased to return this narrative to the public eye... ENJOY, all in good fun.

Hugs, cool cats.

Friday, January 3, 2020


GREETINGS, COOL CATS! Once upon a time, my year-end countdown comprised 200 titles... Alas, in 2020, I squeezed out FIVE. My musical sustenance now primarily consists of SiriusXM 80s on 8, an endless stream of iHeartRadio's classic "American Top 40" w/Casey Kasem, and Amazon Prime throwback artist playlists.

In a world where something as gruesome as "Sicko Mode" by Travis Scott is not only a No. 1 hit, but Grammy-nominated in 2019, I'm just fine with my archives, thank you. Obviously, top 40 radio is not targeted toward a middle-aged dude... mind you, I'm not exactly sure WHO today's sing-song melody-free CHR babble is aimed at... it sure is infantile, at best.

Lady Gaga scores her second year-end No. 1 on the 2019 TTT, following "Bad Romance," our top single 10 years ago, in 2009. Of course, Bradley Cooper is a newcomer to the charts—as are Hailee Steinfeld and Ava Max. Considering that I spun "Bohemian Rhapsody" (and much of Queen's catalog) 5 million times throughout 2019, it earns a Hall of Fame designation. Whoo-hooo!

Last year's No. 1 was "Granted" by Josh Groban. Ariana Grande, who scored back-to-back year-end No. 1s in 2014 and 2015, with "Love Me Harder" and "Break Free," has obviously lost her mojo, now that she's forgotten that melodies are what make memorable hits. All that talent wasted on the likes of "7 Rings." Waaah! *

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Hello cool cats! How you doing? 
A return to tradition... 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thanks For The Memories!

Signing out, for good... What a grand run, what fun. But blogs have gone the way of the trolley car. I will continue to maintain the URL here, but The Smoking Nun -- which, at its peak, drew 5,000 visitors a day -- is no longer active.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Kitchen Reno 2016: New Island Taking Shape

No man is an island... but the coming new kitchen layout will re-think what was previously an awkwardly angled sink & counter, along with sparkling new white quartz countertops (with some mighty festive) turquoise accents (so long grouted tile!).

Three pendant lights replace the whacko giant cabinet that previously hung over the counter (which I have saved, BTW, with the intention of repurposing into some sort of mid-century modern bureau).
Best of all, the crazy fab 1962 commercial-grade sink will be lovingly built back into the new island.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kitchen Renovation 2016: The Game Changer!

The Game Changer! The lake view can now be seen from the kitchen, thanks to a 92x39" window sliced into the dining room wall. The view & light pervading the kitchen are all the more gratifying (stand by). This is the most dramatic evolution within the grand plan. WHEEEE!

A quartz countertop will allow seating on the dining room side of the window, with stools...
And the view from the kitchen looking out in the living room... This just makes me grin...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kitchen Renovation 2016: Demo Day 2!

And then the ceiling was on the floor!
As I've learned about this house, nothing changes without a fight. Underneath the layers of plaster was industrial grade steel mesh with about 500 nails along the rafters. My contractor did not appear overly amused!
So long, popcorn. I'm afraid you will not be missed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kitchen Renovation 2016: Day 1 Demo! Part Deux

Let the mighty axe fall! Whoo hoo!

 And the end result... day to day, cool cats...

Kitchen Renovation: Day 1 DEMO!

As they say, what a difference a day makes. huh?

Kitchen Renovation 2016: Pink Dumpster... Seriously

Yeah I've got a giant PINK DUMPSTER in my front yard. You got something to say about it? : )

Kitchen Renovation 2016: Let the Good Clean Fun Begin!

Ah, yes, home rennnnnnnovations... an activity I have endured with endearment how many times now? I bought my diamond in the rough Brooklyn Heights apartment in 2000, knowing it would ultimately require a complete renovation... It took 13 years, room by room (by room), during which I remained in my 950sf quarters each time.

Kitchen, then second bedroom and railroad hallway, then Dear Genevieve master bedroom, bathroom and finally, living room. That wrapped NYC... Since arriving in Norfolk, VA, I've gutted a full bath and the master bath. And now... the sizable kitchen, which has grown a little shabby over the past 50+ years.

Yeah, renovations. Been there, done that, love it! And here we are again, in Norfolk VA, adding a little love to my 1962 mid-century modern home Wiseacre. Blogging lost its luster (for all of us) a couple years ago, but I'll be using the trusty Nun to post pics as this fun process continues for the next six weeks.

Let the mad fun begin!! Here we are Sunday night, stripped and ready to GO DOWN!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Norfolk VA: Happy Second Anniversary

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, COOL CATS! Two years ago on January 15, I departed the great & powerful New York City to launch a new life chapter in Norfolk, VA. The crazy cool Frank Lloyd
Wright-inspired home that beckoned me here offers joy every morning as the sun bursts into my bedroom, while I raise a glass daily to sunsets on the patio.

I’ve planted a hundred bulbs and sunflower seeds. I’ve hung a thousand lights on trees. I relish visits to Home Depot and paying less than $5 for eggs at a huge supermarket. No more quarters to do laundry! I even get to drive a car again. Yeah, being a suburban dwelller is mad fun!! Two years (and counting) of inspiration and bliss.

Adding to the aesthetic at home, I have replaced the HVAC and 18 windows & sliding doors, filled in a decrepit pool, gutted 2 full baths… and this month begin renovating my kitchen with respect for its midcentury modern imprint. I spent 13 years renovating my Brooklyn apartment: Can you tell I love a project?

And there’s more. In November 2014, I began hosting guests here via airbnb. Who knew what a joy (and a boon) that would be, with 200+ folks & families sharing in this space since, providing companionship from all over the world: British, Austrian, South African and Parisian families; brilliant Asian and Indian college students; a black bachelorette party (oh, the stories!); gorgeous weddings; southern evangelicals (true accepting Christians, the way we were raised); and so many individuals from whom I've learned so much. Here, I have perhaps absorbed more diversity—more intimately—than during 18 years in the big city.

My greatest trepidation in leaving NYC was that, as a freelance journalist, the work would cease. As if location matters in today's connected universe. I’m still writing like a madman, continuing to earn a living… but now with a lake view instead of a Brooklyn brick wall. So all’s well that end$ well.

Two years. Life has profoundly changed, for sure. The question I am most often asked: Do you miss New York? Of course I do. But by the time I departed January 15 2014, the NYC that treated me like a king had already deflated. Thankfully, I recognized when it was time to turn the page, instead of trying to hold onto or recreate an era whose time had passed.

This is where I’m supposed to say the best is yet to come, right? Oh, please. I’m 50+ and I’m hardly that naive. How’s about: Today is real good. With another sunset on the patio tomorrow, we’re looking just fine.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The 2015 Taylor Top 50... Who Is Where and Why?

Wowsah, what a year in melodic music! Not so fast… that’s actually not praise. With singsong nursery rhyme one-line choruses and gimmick-filled hip-hop pervading the airwaves, 2015 proffered tough love. Last year, I discovered a hopeful muse—Ariana Grande—whose momentous melodies accompany effortless vocals that can be recreated live. This young lady delivered my No.1 single of 2014, “Love Me Harder,” f/The Weeknd. In 2015, I rewound and discovered her previous hits, which sustained me through the current pop tundra.

In 2015, Ariana Grande again leads the Taylor Top 50 countdown with her infectious dance hit “Break Free,” f/Zedd. She joins four other acts who have scored consecutive year-end No. 1’s on the TT50 since 1981: Sheena Easton, Celine Dion, Adele and Jon Secada.

There’s more to the story: Ariana owns an unprecedented SEVEN among the top 10 slots this year. While I respect her talent, she’s not yet a member of the historic pantheon commandeered by Sheena and Celine. Rather, her standing is a testament to how few competitors Ari had in 2015… Not to whine like the ole man I am, but I found many of 2015’s radio hits reminiscent of another era’s MC Hammer or Puff Daddy. In my book, “All About That Bass” is the millennial “Macarena.”

Back to Ariana, because with 12 titles in my top 50, she is certainly more than a “default.” Listen to her walloping soprano in the joyous “One Last Time,” alongside delicate accompaniment with Andrea Bocelli in “E Più Ti Penso” and commanding heartache in ballad “Just A Little Bit of Your Heart.” There ain’t nothing this 23yo can’t do.

My 2015 Best New Artist is Tori Kelly—Grammy-nominated for the same title—whose “Nobody Love” is No. 2, because I spun it nearly every damn day all year. She also places “Should’ve Been Us” at No. 24 and “Hollow” at No. 31. Tori’s stellar lead in a “Joy of Pepsi” commercial was so fun that it lands at No. 58.

Among other female vocalists, Adele roars in at No. 3 with the ubiquitous “Hello”—after back-to-back year-end No. 1’s: “Skyfall” in 2012 and “Set Fire to the Rain” in 2011. Jessie J returns with two hits: “Flashlight” and “Masterpiece,” after sharing No. 5 in 2014 with Ariana Grande via “Bang Bang.”

Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” would have been my No. 2 for the year, given the millions of times I played it… however, it already placed at No. 7 in 2014. Swiftie grazes this year’s countdown with “Style” at No. 44, “Wildest Dreams” at No. 53 and “New Romantics” at No. 59. And how about Mariah Carey making a return at No. 10 with a cut from 1997’s “Butterfly” that I heard on SiriusXM? ”Whenever You Call” is everything we used to love about the siren when she created beautiful melodies.

Nick Jonas is the highest-charting male solo act, with “Chains” at No. 11, which succeeds his 2014 No. 10 “Jealous.” And U.K. indie act Junior Turner returns for the third consecutive year with No. 12 “Guardian Angel.” Last year, this beloved and consistent singer/songwriter prevailed with a chart-trumping five top 50 hits, including No. 2 “Save Me.”

And hey, hey, Celine Dion is back after a two-year absence with her tear-inducing live AMA’s tribute to the Paris terrorist attacks. Her reading of Edith Piaf’s “Hymne a l'Amour” embodies all that makes Celine the most successful artist in TTT history. But you already knew that.

The worst of the year? Yeah you, Fetty Wap. Remember wildly popular novelties cum implosions Iggy Azalea and Kesha? Enjoy it, dude… quickly. And I still can't understand the appeal of Nicki Minaj or Meghan Trainor. On that note, 2015 is a wrap, cool cats. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The 2015 NAB/RAB Radio Show: Contagious Energy Abounding

The theme of the 2015 Radio Show may have been “Movin’ Up,” but a better moniker might have been “Heads Up!”

With Nielsen’s prominently positioned banner at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis proclaiming “93% listen to radio every day,” it was more than apparent that broadcasters are not only feeling optimistic about the future, but positive about the present.

Total attendance was up from 2,079 in 2014 to 2,170 this year. But those 100 new names don’t tell the real story: It’s about the faces: of youth. There is a new generation of future leaders that are jazzed—not so much about streaming or Pandora or tomorrow’s latest tech gizmo as much as they are—about AM/FM Radio.

The Opening Reception Tuesday was a case in point. In the mix were industry veterans, young guns, students, budding talent and all in between. With Steven Tyler’s backup band Loving Mary providing the tunes, attendees created their own rhythm—and it sure felt like a celebration of good things to come for radio.

Alongside name brands like John David, Erica Farber, George Beasley, Jeff Smulyan and Pierre Bouvard were 22-year-old syndicated on-air host Zach Sang; Tommy Page, who exited Pandora to head Cumulus’ Brand Partnerships; and any number of the 135 college students awarded registration scholarships to participate in the Radio Show.

The packed sessions only fueled the fire. Advertisers and their agencies joined the discussion, FCC officials were integrally involved, and we all talked about programmatic, connected cars, audience engagement, programming & sales strategies, and so much more.

As a trade journalist who has covered the Radio Show since 1988, I will say this was one of the most exhilarating and profound broadcasting conventions I can recall. Radio’s collective tail is no longer tucked. We’re fanning our feathers proudly. And that makes the future sound mighty bright.

Originally appeared in Inside Radio.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Gig! Contributing To Industry's Leading Trade Pub 'Inside Radio'

Here's the skinny, as reported by Inside Radio. This is good. This is real real good.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The 2015 Grammy Awards: Best & Worst Of The Night

Oh, those Grammys! What a night of yuk yuks! Here are the top 10 most notable moments, according to your humble music journo... Ready or not!

* Best Perf: Annie Lennox performing w/Hozier. Damn! I was actually clapping at the TV. Those pipes, that roar, baby! And she was having a blast.

* Worst Perf: Madonna’s camel toe. Enough with the vag, Madge.

* Worst Perf II: Kanye West. Still thinks he’s a musician, huh? Grandpappy McCartney & Rihanna added nothing to the biggest zero “event” of the night.

* Put some big boy pants on: AC/DC, Pharrell Williams. And what’s up with the bellhop hat, kiddo? 

* Best dressed: Taylor Swift’s stunning swan-like turquoise gown.

* Buzz factor: Sam Smith’s ubiquitous “Stay with Me,” at last "awakened." Thank you, Mary J. Blige!

* LOL: Why is Tom Jones orange? Somebody wrote on FB that he looked like Fred Sanford. Heee. Prince’s afro was right frightful, too.

* Surprise!: Beyonce’s immaculate gospel reading of “Take My Hand Precious Lord.” Wow, my ears didn't bleed!

* Oops: Katy Perry, honey, stick to the pop schmaltz. Your “serious” performance was way too "precious."

* Those we lost: Seeing my hero Casey Kasem as one of 2014's dearly departed got me misty. I owe my career to his impact on me as a kid.

* Zzzzz: Adam Levine & Gwen Stefani were as engaging as beige. Yawn... And boy, she struggled with those notes... "The Voice"? Not so much.

* Swoon: Ariana Grande, showing again that she's a gifted vocalist. Lovely, restrained performance of "Just A Little Bit of My Heart." Love my Ari.

* Swoon II: Tony Bennett & Gaga, singing beautifully & having fun together as pals. She sabotaged her pop career w/too many gimmicks, but Ga sure can swagger.

* WTF: Another inexplicable Album of the Year win... Beck. Obviously a voting split between Smith (shoulda) & Beyonce left us with a lame duck (Just like 2011's Arcade Fire win). Not just an upset, but upsetting for those of us who take pride as NARAS voters.

* WTF2: Obama lambasting the occasion with a grave downer message about domestic violence. Relevant, but here? Really?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Year Later... A New Life In Virginia

In “The Book of Questions,” there’s a query that goes like this: “Which would you prefer: a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion & adventure, intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks—or a happy, secure, predictable life without such wide swings of fortune and mood?”

It’s a question that has remained in my mind’s eye since I discovered the book in 1987. Ultimately, when I moved to New York City in 1995 for my dream job at Billboard magazine, I experienced the former. Life was crazy cool: so many highs amid a career that allowed me to prove my moxie as a writer in a forum that mattered—and apparently made a difference to the many artists I supported.

Among my roles there, my calling card was Singles Reviews Editor. I was the geeky pop guy that championed acts that seldom garnered kudos from the mainstream press. From Celine Dion and Jim Brickman to those 90s’ pop boom acts (‘N Sync, BSB, Jessica Simpson, 98 Degrees, Christina Aguilera, BBMak, Hanson), I became the de facto champion of “great melodies.”

I also had the opportunity (and the real estate) to amp newbie artists that deserved press from the industry’s “music Bible.” I recognized the power that BB’s team of veteran journalists possessed in an era when the mag still mattered—and man oh man, was it paid forward—through a lifetime’s worth of awesome memories (not to mention a robust Starfucker wall of grab & grin photos).

In 2009, when Nielsen was looking to sell the company, the recession presented an ideal excuse to excise Billboard’s veteran writers and lean up its bottom line. One by one, the talented scribes were laid off. March 25 was my D-Day. I was called in, fired—and yet had two interviews scheduled for the afternoon: a video
interview for with Ashely Tisdale and a phoner with Lionel Richie.

Buck up, baby! I walked around Billboard’s East Village neighborhood for an hour after getting canned, shared the news with my work besties Kristina, Christa & Donna, whimpered a bit, and then put it aside to get on with business.

After the Lionel interview, I got an email from the label’s publicist that went something like this: “I don’t know what just happened, but Lionel said he had one of the best interviews of his career with you. Obviously, you got him—and he surely got you.” Well, then, a fitting finale.

The point of all this is to define life since then… and the details matter, because life was profoundly different in the years following. Suddenly, I was a “freelance journalist.” I know meeself: Give me an assignment and a deadline and I’ll deliver. I’m the ultimate minion. As a self-starter, um, not so much. I’m a fine writer but unfortunately, a less enterprising entrepreneur.

Thankfully, the U.S. Census came to my rescue. For nine months in 2010, I had the time of my life working with wickedly smart folks and learning to love my Brooklyn in a brand new way. I was there long enough to gambol through snowdrifts and then trod the streets with a summer flop sweat. Indelible. I also met Suzanne, a lifer friend.

In 2013, I finished renovating my Brooklyn Heights apartment. It took more than a decade and suddenly, I was… listless. Meanwhile, I tossed my own 50th birthday party the year before and recognized that… the times are a’changing.

Folks move on, lives change and friendships fade. Not to mention that NYC was no longer my bounty: no more wining & dining, free concerts, countless glamorous events or… most important… a concrete reason to be in the most expensive city in the nation. It didn’t help that my 10-year relationship came to a rather disastrous end in 2011.

And so: What the hell am I doing here?

In the summer of 2013, I began fantasizing about a new chapter. I sniffed out Las Vegas, Austin, San Diego, parts of Florida… I wanted warmth (the endless New York winters were exhausting) and space and a car and the ability to stretch out both arms without smacking a wall (in my 950 square foot apartment). I wanted my doggies Abby & Spencer to be able to RUN.

When I came to Hampton Roads that fall with life-long pal Trix in tow—staying with 20-year friends Bill & Mary—I was only “exploring” the area. I never expected to FIND MY FOREVER HOME. On September 13, 2013, I walked into this house in Norfolk and said: “I want to die here.”

On January 15, 2014, I began to LIVE here. That was one year ago today. And this is where I return to “The Book of Questions.” Highs and lows, indeed. First, this house is ridiculous… a 4,000sf mid-century modern “estate” that has maintained its aesthetic since it was built in 1962 (the year of my birth!). I am madly in love.

As soon as I hit Hampton Roads, I got busy: I’ve gutted two bathrooms, replaced all windows & sliding doors, installed a new HVAC system, ran a gas line, filled in a huge but sadly decrepit concrete pool… oh, and painted the front door red. That was among my only DIYs (I’ve learned over so many years to depend on the experts; I can’t cut a straight line with scissors).

I’ve worked the land, growing tomatoes, planting bulbs and harvesting sunflowers, I observe geese, seagulls, raccoons, squirrels, so many birds… and have witnessed sunrises & sunsets that foster a physical reaction that’s so warm & fuzzy you’d think I was experiencing my first kiss. Oh, yeah, and there’s that, too. I’ve even reignited that pitifully lacking aspect of my life (here in lil’ ole Norfolk). I've met new friends… and lost 25 pounds. (I’m particularly fond of the latter.)

Over the past year, there have also been challenges (here come the lows). Losing my beloved Schnauzers Abby & Spencer within three months, in August and October—with different illnesses—is the most difficult life event I have ever dealt with. I cannot understand it. My heart is still broken and I continue to cry.

In addition, when you’re 50, it’s not so easy to connect with newbies. And god knows when you work from home, it’s pretty much impossible to connect (duh). I’ve worked to put myself out there (I could do better, but couldn't we all?)—and there are a handful of wondrous new friends—but everybody has their established lives. I get it.

The good thing is that I am a writer. Is there any career that is more solitary? I think fellow journos will understand this: We are the ultimate extroverted introverts. Writing is wholly solitary. All of my life, that has been joyful. It’s just me and my beautiful words. We get along fine. And so… if I occasionally feel isolated in my new life here in Virginia, I step back and say to myself (not out loud… I haven’t reached that point yet)… “Damn, Chuck, you entertain the hell out of yourself.” So I guess we’re... uh... I’m happy enough. I happen to enjoy my own company immensely.

In all, ONE YEAR LATER, I am filled with joy each day to wake up with the sun rising through my bedroom window (drapes? hell, no!). Over coffee every morning (in the winter months), I open my iPhone weather App and compare Norfolk & NYC and utter a big “heeee.” Blissful weather!

Getting in a car on a whim and going anywhere… wheee!! Freedom! Taking a road trip to the Eastern Shore or Williamsburg… wowsah! Sniffing around Walmart, Dollar General, Big Lots, Dollar Tree and gargantuan grocery stores and paying next to nothing compared with $$$ in NYC... rah rah!! Even though I left NYC, I still live like a "depression baby."

And I have family here: my beloved Francie, and Mary & Bill, and that handful of new friends that I adore (more to come in 2015? I’m a fun guy, right?). My parents are now a 4-hour drive away.

Yes, I am fortunate to have this crazy cool home that I dig, indulge and truly treasure as a blessing. It's just plain fun. I know this is the kind of place that will "never be done," which, to me, is a beautiful thing. God knows I love a project. And right alongside, I am still in the midst of the grand evergoing project known as life. This still feels like a new beginning, with all hope for so much good to come. *

"Now my story has been told, time for the future to unfold..."—Junior Turner