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“Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano; A Hall of Fame Man, Living a Hall of Fame Life”

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Phil & his daughter Andrea

(I humbly thank Andrea Villapiano Kelly for allowing me to use some of her private photos that I’m able to share with you)

Please follow Phil’s Facebook Page; get him into the NFL Hall of Fame!  Show that Raider loyalty!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/ 

Follow them on Twitter:     https://twitter.com/VillapianOK

 

A Hall of Famer in my world.

Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with.  The 4 people remain the same.  Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano.   “Foo” was a Raider from the start.

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Phil during his days at Bowling Green; team MVP and defensive player of the year

From Day One:

When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker.   Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time.  The Raiders refused to share information.

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Phil with his sons Phil & Michael

What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage.   In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.

The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time.  In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL.  It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.

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Dave Rowe, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Ken Stabler

Phil’s Coming Out Party:

In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.

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Phil Speaking after he was elected to the College Senior Bowl Hall of Fame

A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:

Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play.  He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted.   In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.

(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)

The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career.   Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.

(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)

The Wild Days In Oakland:

Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.

(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)

He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp.   And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.

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Phil Loves his golf especially charity events

From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.

Phil & the Raiders Legacy:

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Phil is all smiles giving the #1 sign late in the game of the Raiders 1st Super Bowl win against the Vikings

I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland.   Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.

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Raiders Greats; Phil Villapiano and Jim Otto

The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:

The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history.   During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!

In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries.  The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade.   Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.

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Phil making sure Steelers great Franco Harris goes nowhere.

Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:

First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into.  Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.

http://shoresportsnetwork.com/phil-villapiano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.

http://www.niashf.org/inductees/phil-villapiano/

The story of Phil giving his Super Bowl ring to inspire a man in a wheel chair is amazing and continues to spread online.

http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2017/02/one_raiders_star_walked_the_walk_with_the_gift_of.html

He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/04/21/raiders-great-phil-villapiano-pledges-brain-to-research/

Phil recently has joined his voice with other former NFL players to support flag football instead of tackle football for kids under the age of 14.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/health/nfl-no-tackle-football-kids/index.html

Jim’s Jamz:

Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.

I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it.  I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans.   They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere.  Except in Oakland”.

“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough.  Al Davis would see their heart and take them in.  Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated.  The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports.  No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.

From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.

(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)

They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired.  Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt.  Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed.  Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile.  Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart.  He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t.  People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time.  I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such.  (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.

So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan.  The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.

How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.

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“Grades in Raiders Big win v.s. Ravens; How Do the Raiders Match-Up With the Chargers”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

Baltimore Ravens  27 (3-1)

Oakland Raiders  28 (3-1)

On Sunday the Raiders came back and beat the Baltimore Ravens 28-27 in an exciting game.  The Raiders are now 3-1 heading home for a game with the Chargers.

Reggie McKenzie:

I’ve been very honest about Reggie McKenzie.  Here’s my article on his tenure with the Raiders.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Some bash him when the Raiders lose but in reality SIX of the 7 2016 NFL draft picks played a significant role in the Ravens game, and in the entire year.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr saved his best for last. The Ravens have a solid defense and they held the Raiders to only 13 first downs, 3 for 12 on third down, and 0 net yards in the 3rd quarter. Not his best performance; only threw for 199 yards; but a gritty win on the road with clutch throws in the end.

GRADE: B

Carr came through in the 4th quarter but he did have his struggles. He had a costly delay of the game penalty and was a little rattled at times early with the pass rush. Those should be fixed and look for a big game next week against the Chargers.  Carr looks forward to a juicy match-up against the weak Charger pass defense.

Running Backs:

The Raiders RB by committee has worked wonders this year but it just wasn’t their day. Latavius Murray was ineffective and DeAndre Washington had a big fumble. Carr’s passes to him didn’t have much touch on them but Jalen Richard dropped a couple of passes that I’m sure he regrets. Washington had a really nice run of 28 yards but if you take that away, the RB’s had only 18 carries for 34 yards. Sometimes it’s just not your day.

Grade C

The Ravens made a point of stopping the run and they did loading the box at times. Better days ahead for this group after 3 excellent weeks.   RB’s pass blocking was pretty good.

Offensive Line:

After the first couple of drives Carr again had lots of time to throw. Rarely did the Ravens get to him. Baltimore had a good game plan to shut down the running game but the Raiders OL and RB’s picked up the blitz well. Due to injuries, Vadal Alexander was thrown to the wolves at tackle and the media were on him. He had 3 holding calls and 1 false start but Baltimore was putting Terrell Suggs on his side much of the time. Suggs is not the monster he used to be but he’s still solid. Alexander was tough and at times got no help against Suggs but he helped in the final TD drives protecting Carr.

Grade B-

The Raiders running offense struggled but the passing game and protection excelled. Alexander is a project but he was made to start and he gave a gutsy performance that will be a learning experience.

Wide Receivers:

NOW people know why I was touting Michael Crabtree when he came out for the NFL draft. At Texas Tech and San Francisco he was a huge talent when healthy. He’s the best possession WR in the NFL right now and a top 6 WR. The Carr to Crabtree connection is on top of their game.   Crabtree’s route running is fun to watch. Seth Roberts with a nice TD catch was also a plus. Teams continue to keep Amari Cooper from going deep and that is opening up the middle of the field. Still would like more TE throws; the Raiders had injuries at TE which may have helped limit that.

GRADE: B

It was quality over quantity. The Raiders offense struggled but when they needed to pass, they did a good job. The stupid call by John Harbaugh to take the penalty allowing a 3rd and long changed the game and allowed the Raiders to take a 2 score lead.

Defensive Line:

The Ravens averaged only 19 points a game in the first 3 games versus 1-8 teams. As I said, Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense is not that good and the Ravens were very overrated. I had the Raiders winning this game and some that I was a little crazy. Khalil Mack’s annual slow start is hopefully over. He terrorized Joe Flacco all day.  Mack has been solid against the run, but not much of a factor in their pass rush. The entire line had good push and Flacco was under pressure much of the time.

Against the run it wasn’t a good story again. The Raiders gave up 130 rushing yards at 5.0 yards a rush with 2 TD’s. Ward and Autry are playing more to get a push on the QB but it’s hurt the run defense. I’m not sold on either playing so much. Williams and Ellis are only playing around 15-20 plays a game. but they are limited in the pass rush.

Grade: B-

The Raiders against the pass were great, but another fail against the run. It’s not like the Ravens have Adrian Peterson either.   They gave a healthy scratch to their starting RB Justin Forsett but still rushed for 130 yards.

Linebackers:

Pretty much you can see the DL. The Ravens like the Titans don’t have much team speed on offense. The Raiders handled them fairly well in the passing game but struggled again in the running game. Cory James was beaten more than the Raiders would like against the run but he was excellent in pursuit and covering the pass. Bruce Irvin also had a nice game with his coverage and his pass rushing.  James is definitely an upgrade at LB but the Raiders still don’t have that stud run stopper.

Grade B

Again, the mantra for the Raiders all year is can they stop the run. The answer so far is not really. That has to change if the Raiders are going to get to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

All week the Baltimore media had brought up Joe Flacco being an elite player (announcer Steve Tasker did too) including Pro Football Focus’ rating of him the first 3 weeks. We must have been watching different players. Flacco has looked horrible at times this year and has the 2nd worst 4th quarter quarterback rating in the NFL. Last week against the Jaguars, his 2 key interceptions almost blew the game. Four TD’s and 4 INT’s is NOT elite.  That’s why I said the Raiders should handle them and they did.

The Raiders speed was evident against the slow offense of the Ravens.   The game plan was perfect; put David Amerson on Steve Smith and not worry about the others and it worked to perfection. Every DB played well.   Karl Joseph is getting more comfortable and he hopefully can help with the run defense.

Grade A-  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical again.   Other than a blip here and there and the long pass and run to iconic WR Steve Smith Sr., there were few worries.

Coaching:

Overall a well coached game. Raiders offense didn’t have a great game but enough to win.  No yards in the 3rd quarter and another slow start is a worry.  I think the Raiders should go more no huddle and put pressure on the offense.

On defense the game plan of putting Amerson on Smith Sr. was a great move that helped limit him.  Funny how Ken Norton’s name is never spoken when the Raiders defense plays better.  Some casual fans give all the credit to players when they win, and all the blame to coaches when they lose.  Crazy.

Grade B

The Raiders have to start the games better. Another 2 drives with little to nothing to show for it. They also had 0 yards in the third quarter. I wish their offense was more aggressive.

Special Teams:

Marquette King is really becoming a force. He helped the Raiders with great field position earlier in the game when the offense was struggling. Richard is a good return man.

Grade A-

Solid day all around.

Conclusion:

As I said going into this game, it’s a very winnable game. Joe Flacco is not a great QB and their offense only averaged 19 points a game. The Raiders run defense is still an issue and they did give up 27 points to an average at best offense. That has to change.  Offense came through in the 4th quarter and King is a weapon as a punter.

San Diego Chargers:

Philip Rivers had another last second drive fail against the Saints; something he’s done a lot of in the past; and the Chargers dropped to 1-3 losing to the Saints late. Rivers to me is this era’s Steve Deberg. A good QB who gets great stats in the first 3 quarters but doesn’t win anything. Nothing wrong with that but the networks push to make QB’s great is annoying at times. His epic fails late are more than people think.

The Chargers defense is 27th against the pass and 8th against the run. Look for a big game from Carr and the WR’s may have a field day. The Chargers lack talent and on paper this looks like a great match-up for Oakland. Rivers will always have his stats but they greatly miss WR Keenan Allen who is out for the year.

Joey Bosa may make his debut against the Raiders but the Charger fans are ready to blow him off for the year. The late signee has been hurt and hasn’t been ready to play.  He has not endeared himself to the fans that’s for sure.

Outlook:

Oakland is winning the close games and that is a big maturing process in a losing franchise learning how to win. There is a lot of excitement but there still is much work to do.  The Raiders are playing with fire playing close games. A good team like Atlanta made them pay for it. The Raiders run defense is probably going to be an issue all year. They have a very favorable schedule especially with Kansas City, the Colts and Carolina struggling so much.  Seems like all the stars are aligning as long as they beat the teams they should beat.

They can’t take anyone for granted. On paper the Chargers look like a team they can handle, but the Raiders have to start putting teams away and play a good consistent game for 4 quarters. Something they are looking to do against San Diego.

Defensively, the Raiders will be tested by the passing game of the Chargers but they always seem to fall short.  The Chargers are 1-3 and the big loss was the opening game loss to Kansas City in OT when they were up big early.

Look for a fun game with the Raiders flexing their muscle on offense again.  The Chargers running game has improved but is still only 19th in the NFL.  Look for San Diego to try and establish a running game and when it struggles, they will be throwing often from behind.  Should be a high scoring affair with the Raiders looking to continue their road to success.

 

 

Joan Rivers is Gone; Now Maybe Her and Johnny Carson Can Make Peace

joan rivers johnny carson

 

There is no in between when it comes to Joan Rivers; you either love her or you hate her.

I really don’t remember all that much about Joan Rivers career because I never really followed her.  I researched a lot about her and one thing for sure, she blazed trails.

She gave most of the credit for her beginning success to Johnny Carson.  In a touching appearance on the tonight show, Johnny read the dedications in her book.  Joan thanked her husband for making it possible and then she thanked Johnny Carson for making it ALL possible.  Carson’s support of her and many comics was unwavering.  The countless number of comics that he made were epic.  The only thing he demanded; and wow did he demand it; was loyalty and respect.

The falling out with Carson was hard on Joan Rivers.  She had an offer to do her own show on another network and realized that her days may be numbered when NBC only gave her a one year renewal contract.  She wanted the new show badly.

Many of Carson’s hosts had their opportunity for other shows, and all of them; out of respect; always got Johnny’s blessings before moving on.  Joan went about it another way.  She said nothing to Johnny and signed a contract.  Two days after signing, she heard that Carson was incensed that she would disrespect him.  For Johnny, it was the ultimate sign of disloyalty.  Rivers said that she called Johnny two days later and he said nothing and just hung up; they never spoke again.  Johnny Carson said that she never called him.

Her show was a disaster.  She tried to be something she thought the audience wanted and it backfired.  She wanted more control than what the network was willing to give so Arsenio Hall took her place. Shortly after the show was cancelled, her husband killed himself.

Another thing people say is that Johnny wasn’t exactly into that type of humor, and I think as Joan aged, she got nastier and it turned Johnny off even more.  There were stories that she would see him in a restaurant and he’d ignore her.  Johnny insisted that Joan never communicated with him so he just moved on.  Ah, Hollywood drama.

Joan was a rich man’s Kathy Griffin before Kathy Griffin.  There wasn’t anyone she wouldn’t rip on or make fun of, including herself.  She was the kind of comic that would say anything for attention and controversy.  The new generation likes that type of drama so she’s found a new audience.  She was one smart cookie.

Joan reinvented herself many times over.  She wrote books and then became a fashionista of sorts, making fun of celebrities and the crazy things some of them wore on shows like the Fashion Police.  Joan became popular with a new generation who are obsessed with sarcasm.  What they don’t get is that Joan was sarcasm before it was the cool and in thing to do.

Today sadly Joan Rivers is no more.  She lost her life after she stopped breathing during a minor surgical procedure.  Her daughter Melissa; who I think owes ANY and ALL fame and success to her mom; is her only child.  Melissa adored her mom and it’s a huge loss at any age.

I like watching old clips of Joan in the 70’s and 80’s.  She was a funny person and she shined on the tonight show.  She had charm and didn’t go out of her way to offend as she did later in life.  Some are not big fans of hers and there are many that down right don’t like her; but whatever you think about her; just like Phyllis Diller, she blazed a trail for female comics that should be respected.

Wherever they are, somehow you hope that her and Johnny can finally patch things up.  Grudges usually are really not worth it; especially eternal ones.