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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A quick trip to Woodstock for best Aimee Mann concert so far

Their chamber of commerce leaflet calls Woodstock the most famous little town in America. Maybe they’re right. Personally, I’m not into the tie-dye. But my husband and I had a lovely overnight to Woodstock this past Saturday.

The impetus for the trip was a chance to see Aimee Mann at the Bearsville Theater, a cool, friendly venue that would be great in Saratoga. My husband introduced me to Aimee Mann’s music after the movie “Magnolia.” I love her distinctive voice and quirky, albeit sometimes gloomy, lyrics.

I must have been one of the first to jump online to order tickets, because we were front row center. Aimee Mann was almost as close to us as you are to the computer screen you are reading right now. Well, maybe 10 feet away, tops.

This was the fourth time we saw her in concert, and it was our favorite. We saw her one summer in Albany’s Washington Park. We were poured on awaiting the start of the concert, but then the skies parted, our clothes pretty much dried and the concert was quite good. We also saw her in Northampton, and though we had a good time, that night neither the crowd nor Mann seemed really into it. We also saw her Christmas show one year at the Egg.

Anyway, the Bearsville Theater show was our favorite, and she seemed to be having fun, too. In addition to her “standards,” she played about three songs from an upcoming album, all good. She joked that people who go to concerts don’t want to hear new stuff, and thus suggested this would be a good time to go to the bathroom.

Before the show, we noticed Aimee at the The Bear Café, but restrained ourselves from jumping, pointing, hugging or asking for autographs. The Bear Café is fine dining in a lovely but unstuffy setting adjacent to the theater. As someone who enjoys thinking about food, the delicious duck confit will be as much a memory of Woodstock as the concert, and I loved the concert.

Fearful that the night of the concert would be the first big snowstorm of 2012, I booked us a room at the Wild Rose Inn rather than worry about whether we’d have to make it 80 miles home, or even 10 miles to the Saugerties Comfort Inn. Naturally, the weather was fine. But so was the B&B.

We’ve been in the area before, without staying overnight, for the Levon Helm Ramble. Luckily we got to enjoy this close-up with the former drummer from The Band while he was still able to do quite a bit of singing. How fun to be in an intimate setting with great musicians.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Red Tails" recognizes heroes like Saratoga Springs' own Clarence Dart

I am so excited about Friday afternoon’s debut of the George Lucas movie “Red Tails,” starring Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. I hope it will sear into the public memory the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American World War II fighter pilots who served bravely and with dignity in the face of racial indignities.

My special interest is because one of those men is a member of our community who is dear to my heart, Clarence Dart.

Clarence and his wife Millie raised their family in a cozy Saratoga Springs home that I was lucky enough to move next door to some 30 years ago. It was several years before I realized this modest man flew 95 missions — and was shot down twice — as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

I wasn’t the only one slow to recognize a hero in our midst. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Tuskegee Airmen were honored with a Congressional Gold Medal. Fortunately, Clarence Dart and family members were among those present for the long-overdue recognition. Various local ceremonies honoring Clarence Dart have since followed.

I tweeted Wednesday about the upcoming movie and, an admitted Twitter novice, I was astonished at the endless string of tweets with the #redtails hashtag. I am in good company, nationwide.

“It’s important to have a movie like this,” said Clarence Dart’s son, Warren, a Maple Avenue Middle School teacher, in an interview with Saratogian reporter Paul Post. “I wouldn’t know this history if my father wasn’t a Tuskegee Airman. They didn’t teach it when I was in school. It wasn’t talked about.” You can read Paul Post’s story and see a trailer of the movie on The Saratogian website at

The plan for Friday afternoon is for Clarence, 91, to be accompanied to “Red Tails” by his 10-year-old grandson, Gregor. A film about black fighter pilots is called “Red Tails” because the segregated pilots set apart their planes by painting the tails red. I hope the debut will be a red letter day.

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