Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Dance Fever

Yeah, that's not me.   Not hardly.  With arthritis now landing squarely on both of my knee joints, I'm already thinking about things that I won't be able to do when I'm 84.  Dancing will be likely be one of them.

But, then again, there's been this love-hate relationship with choreography.   In my younger days, it was mostly hate.   But things happen over time.   Follow me as I trace the...ahem...steps.

When I was a kid, my dabbles into hoofing were as misguided as it looks up at the top of this entry.  There was always impromptu dancing at family parties and I provided the perfect photo opportunity/comic relief.

"Here, have Lenny do the polka with __________."

"Put your cheeks together like you're doing the tango."

"Awwww, it's like you're Fred Astaire and _________ is Ginger Rogers.  How cute!"

How f-ing mortifying.

At wedding receptions, it was even worse.  I was thrown together with either a relative that was either much, much younger or much, much older.

"Come on, Lenny, dance with me a little."

You walk with a cane, you're a little drunk, and your dress smells like moth balls.  Umm, no thanks.

I'd sit in a corner.  Feet motionlessly dangling off the chair.  Wondering what the Mets were doing and, oh, yeah, pondering what all this fuss with dancing was all about.

Once I got to high school, I was even more confused.  Dancing was less formal and certainly more gyrations than anything else.  I think there might have been dances in school, but I never went.  I was convinced that I didn't know how.  Was there a right way to do this?  Were these dance steps communicated in back rooms and in alleys?  Did somebody whisper to you in secret just how to dance? 

Self esteem headed to the basement floor.  So, I retreated to my usual comfort zone.

I'd sit in a corner.  Feet motionlessly dangling off the chair. Wondering what the Mets were doing and, oh, yeah, pondering what all this fuss with dancing was all about.

Fordham University followed and the added horror of a college mixer entered my world.  Well, at least, I could be bored and drink beer to ease me through the torture of standing idly around the Ramskeller, which was the name of the Rose Hill campus' flesh co-mingling establishment.

And, still, I looked at this dancing thing and was convinced that there was something carefully organized to its every movement.

And, then, a visit from an angel.  Well, actually, my good college friend, Lorraine, who was as socially adept and in-tune as one could be. 

One Saturday night, I was hovering over the Ramskeller dance floor with some friends.  Emphasis on the "hovering."  Lorraine was out there.  A-bumping and a-jiving to some cover band that had its musical roots in some garage on Katonah Avenue.  Lorraine saw me languishing on the sidelines and waved to me.

"Come on and dance."

I looked behind me.  Who was she talking to?  Oh, crap, do you mean me?

In pantomine, I let her know that I didn't know how to do what she was doing. 

Lorraine pouted.  And pointed to the floor in front of her.  This was apparently an order to appear.

I gingerly stepped onto the dance floor and waited for buzzers to go off from my mere presence amongst the twisting and turning sophomores.  I told Lorraine that I didn't know how to dance.

"Like I do?  Just move around and do whatever makes you comfortable."

I turned to the left.  I turned to the right.  I turned to the left.  I turned to the right.  I put in a little bit of a sway.

"You're doing great, Lenny."

Oh, really.  Because I didn't know what the fuck I was doing.

Except, after about two minutes of my flailing like a mosquito dying on a car windshield, I made a startling realization.

I liked what I was doing.

And I was out on the dance floor for the rest of the night. 

Missing out on a campus mixer suddenly became an alien thought to me.  Once I knew there were no rules, I danced like...well, there were no rules.

Of course, becoming a semi-fixture at these events would have its potholes.  Take, for instance, the evening I was dancing with one girl who had a crush on me.  The feeling was not, as one would say, mutual.  But, she was open to dancing so why not?  I could easily be out on the floor, gyrating with her but also looking around and checking out the other "talent" available that evening. 

What do you want?  I was a guy.

Suddenly, the dance of sheer and rapid frenzy morphed into a sudden and unexpected slow song.  Ummm, okay, moving on....

But, before I had the chance to go over the prison wall, her hands were quickly on the back of my neck and her arms draped over me like shoulder pads.  This was the slowest of the slow dances.  My partner had seized the opportunity for some close and personal contact.

Okay, so I need to modify how I do this dancing stuff and make sure that I'm not left wide open for these sneak attacks.

Over the years, there are some dancing memories that samba to the forefront of the supper club in my mind.

There was the best New Year's Eve I have ever had.  Dateless and dancing to oldies at a New York City club with a few friends and a whole lot of strangers.

There was the evening when a friend and I decided to go listen to what is now passing as the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  The whole place was decked out to resemble a dance hall during World War II.  A couple of the folks there even showed up in their old military garb, albeit with a button or two missing.   It didn't take long for us to figure out that this was not the venue for two casual dancers to hit the boards.  We were the youngest people by about twenty years and those dancers were serious about their jitterbugging.  I spent the evening as if I were back in high school.

Sitting in a corner. Feet motionlessly dangling off the chair. Wondering what the Mets were doing and, oh, yeah, pondering what all this fuss with dancing was all about.

Even slow dancing could be tolerated in later years.  Well, as long as it was with the right person.  I remember going to the wedding of a female friend in Connecticut.  I was invited with a "plus one" and this one was legit for a change.  A girl I actually was dating fairly seriously.  Except it didn't exactly become serious until that very day.  In the middle of a slow dance at the reception. 

Once again, I was blindsided by the sudden move of my date.  Oh, we're going to do that?  Here?  In the middle of all these people????

Yeah, I guess so.

I glanced over to the sidelines where the bride's mother sat.  Eyeing me suspiciously and likely wondering why I had brought a brazen hooker to her daughter's special day.

Indeed, though, my very favorite dancing memory was of an evening when I didn't move an inch onto the dance floor.  I zip back to a summer night between junior and senior year in college.

The school year had ended but fun had not subsided.  In the middle of it all once again was my pal Lorraine who loved to organize social outings.  She was a perfect conduit.  Lorraine had lots of girlfriends.  My guy friends and I didn't have a lot of girlfriends.  Mix and match.  Hanging out in a group and there were actually two genders represented.  Ideal for grinding it out to music in some Long Island disco.

As luck would have it, I now was on the offensive line of a crush.  One of those girlfriends struck my fancy.  Like an anvil.  This would be an ideal venue to, umm, get together.

And, going back to the very spot and reference where this blog entry started, disaster!

It was the first ever flare-up of my right knee, which I had originally injured during the very first gym class of my senior year in high school.  Dance?  Shit, I could barely walk.  My jeans fit around my right leg like a watermelon would fit into the eye of a needle.  So much for the disco night.  And perhaps even getting into the car to get there.  I envisioned being strapped to the hood like a dead deer shot on opening day of the hunting season in the Adirondacks.

I should have stayed home.

But, still....

Well, love will do that sort of thing to you.  Actually, in this case, like would do that sort of thing to me.

Somehow, I shimmied into my clubbing clothes and I might even have ridden there in somebody's car trunk.  But, I went.  And, as I lumbered into another world of strobe lights and crappy music, I pondered my next move.  I would be relegated to an evening of watching everybody else dance.

Suddenly, I was back in high school again.

Yeppers.

Sitting in a corner. Feet motionlessly dangling off the chair. Wondering what the Mets were doing and, oh, yeah, pondering what all this fuss with dancing was all about.  Especially when all my friends would be out there doing it while I sat there alone, watching the ice cubes in my drink melt.

"I don't need to dance.  I'll sit here and keep you company."

It was my crush-ee.  The object of my intended affection.

Suddenly, I melted faster than the ice cubes.  And the pain in my right knee disappeared instantly.

Dancing is fun.  Not dancing also had its rewards.

Dinner last night:   Bacon burger at Shake Shack.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Classic TV Theme of the Month - August 2017

Premiered forty years ago this fall.   Why isn't this show rerun more?

Dinner last night:  Bacon and cheddar omelet.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Your Weekend Movie Guide for August 2017

Fifty years ago this summer, "Barefoot in the Park" was the big summer attraction at Radio City Music Hall.  Light and breezy entertainment with no super heroes or explosions or F bombs.  Perfect for the whole family, although a lot of the double entendre jokes went over my head at the time.

Summer is the time to escape to the movies.  These days, you might want to escape from the theaters with all the super heroes and explosions and F bombs. You know the monthly routine, kids.  I'll sift through the LA Times movie pages and give you my knee-jerk reaction to what's polluting our cinemas in August 2017.

Trust me, it ain't going to be light and breezy.

Gook:   I can only imagine.

An Inconvenient Sequel - Truth to Power:   One campaign that Al Gore does always win?   The one for Oscar.

Detroit:   Reliving the riots of the 60s.   For those who find the riots of 2017 boring.

Atomic Blonde:   Blog reviewed the other day.   It's better on CD than DVD.  

The Dark Tower:   Something something by Stephen King.  Boo...and yawn.

Dunkirk:   Christopher Nolan ruined Batman and now he has messed up World War II.

The Big Sick:  Reviewed here several weeks ago.   Might be my favorite movie so far this year.

War for Planet of the Apes:   Compared to everything going on these days, monkeys would be an improvement.

The Emoji Movie:  😝

The Glass Castle:  A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who's an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who's.....oh, God, no.

The Nut Job 2:   There was such a thing as the Nut Job 1?

Annabelle - Creation:  A horror movie that involves orphans, dolls, and a nun. Sounds like the start of a great joke.

Kidnap:  Halle Berry is looking for her son who may have been abducted.   Along with her career.

Columbus:  John Cho as a scholar who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana.   Yep, that's the plot.

Wind River:   The FBI investigates a murder on an Indian reservation.   Oh, wait,  Native American.   

Good Time:  A bank robbery gone wrong.   That's all I could find.

The Trip to Spain:  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon embark on a six-part episodic road trip through Spain, sampling the restaurants, eateries, and sights along the way.  Didn't I see this on the Travel Channel?

Step:  A documentary about a girls high school step team based in inner city Baltimore.   Let me guess....they win?

The Hitman's Bodyguard:   Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman, and Samuel L. Jackson.   Okay, you lost me with the last guy.

Logan Lucky: Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as NASCAR drivers planning a heist.   Sounds interesting, but I refer you to my standing policy of never ever going to a movie that includes Channing Tatum.

Marjorie Prime:   A dying old lady conjures up a computerized version of her husband.   Control-alt-delete.

Planetarium:   Psychic sisters in pre-World War II France.   Predictable.

Lemon:   An actor considers his failing career.   His first name is not Jack.

Dave Made a Maze:   And I don't care.

The Ice Cream Truck:  Good Humor goes on a killing spree.   Seriously, that's the plot.

Patti Cakes:  A plus-sized white girl from New Jersey seeks a career as a rapper.  For those who wondered what Janice Soprano was up to.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a small salad.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Man Who Would Have Been President

You all remember this guy.   Al Gore.   The man who lost the 2000 Presidential election when he, as Maxwell Smart would say, "missed it by that much."  Like Hillary Clinton later on, here's another Democratic candidate who blamed everybody but himself for his loss.  He ran a bad campaign, pure and simple.  I mean, like Hillary should have done to Trump, Al Snore shoulf have easily trounced the lummox that is George W. Bush.

But, as you well know, Gore parlayed that into another cottage industry which has become the equivalent of Microsoft when it comes to championed causes. Global warming.  This guy is the expert and his documentary about ten years ago was the great thing since sliced bread.  As a result, he won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, the Nobel Peace Prize, and probably came in third for that season's "American Idol."

Well, knowing a good thing when he sees it, Gore has jumped on again to try and duplicate all those platitudes with a sequel called "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power."  Hey, if there can be nine or ten editions of "Fast and Furious," why not this?

Okay, don't search these blog pages for a Len review of this movie.   You won't find it.  I have better things to do with my time than seeing a reiteration of why it gets hot during the summer and cold during the winter.  Nor is this going to be a revisit to the notion that Al Gore needs to practice what he preaches.   It is well known and documented that his Tennessee mansion is one of the greatest wasters of energy in the country.  

Nope.  I'm not going to get into a general trashing of Gore here.   I just want to pose a very basic question.

As his sequel opened three weeks ago, I noticed a quite curious development in Los Angeles.  Gore was in town to promote it quite heavily.   And the way he was doing that was by making continuous appearances at the theaters that were running it.   Seriously.   He was at the Landmark one Saturday for five different Q and As.  I mean, that was reminiscent to me of my youthful days when Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe kept showing up at my local RKO to promote "Snow White and the Three Stooges."

Except the very next weekend Gore was back at the Arclight doing another strenuous schedule of appearances.

Hmmmm.

Now I understand he wants to promote the film heavily.   But, the ultra-liberal Hollywood already has the lion's share of people who will run out to it. Even if he didn't show up at all, the box office would be big with all the Tinseltown types who drove in their gas-guzzling Range Rovers to see it.

To me, Gore should be pushing his movie in the areas where he needs to get the most converts.  Norman, Oklahoma.  Prescott, Arizona.  Sioux Falls, South Dakota.   I mean, aren't the so-called Red States where Gore's message should be pushed most?   Those are the folks that aren't buying in.

That's the question I ask Al Gore.   How come?

But, then, moments later, the answer is as plain as the blue recycling bin in my garage.   This is nothing about global warming or making a difference.

How many Academy members are in Norman, Oklahoma?   How many Emmy voters are in Prescott, Arizona?  Does anybody even know what the Grammys are in Sioux Falls, South Dakota?

I got it now, Al Gore.  It isn't about the Ozone.  It's all about you.

Say hello to Tipper for me.   Oh, wait...

Dinner last night:   Chopped steak and vegetables.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This Date in History - August 16

A particularly busy day in history, not to mention Julie "Catwoman" Newmar's birthday!  Meow!

1 BC:  WANG MANG CONSOLIDATES HIS POWER AND IS DECLARED MARSHAL OF STATE.

Love that name.   And dig that year.

1328:  THE HOUSE OF GONZAGA SEIZES POWER IN THE DUCHY OF MANTUA.

Well, that's just Duchy.

1780:  AMERICAN REVOLUTION - BATTLE OF CAMDEN.

Oddly, that's Camden, South Carolina, not New Jersey.

1793:  FRENCH REVOLUTION - A LEVEE EN MASSE IS DECREED.

Not sure what that is, but it sounds delicious.

1812:  WAR OF 1812 - AMERICAN GENERAL WILLIAM HULL SURRENDERS FORT DETROIT WITHOUT A FIGHT TO THE BRITISH ARMY.

Hull of a wimp.

1841:  US PRESIDENT JOHN TYLER VETOES A BILL WHICH CALLED FOR THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SECOND BANK OF THE US.  THIS LEADS TO THE MOST VIOLENT DEMONSTRATION ON WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS IN US HISTORY.

I am surely that will be surpassed very soon.

1858:  US PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN INAUGURATES THE NEW TRANSATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLE BY EXCHANGING GREETINGS WITH QUEEN VICTORIA OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.

The Queen's response:  ROFLMAO.

1870:  DURING THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR, THE BATTLE OF MARS-LA-TOUR IS FOUGHT.

Prussia won...for those keeping count.

1891:  THE BASILICA OF SAN SEBASTIAN, MANILA, THE FIRST ALL-STEEL CHURCH IN ASIA, IS OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED AND BLESSED.

All steel?  Must be a bitch to kneel on those pews.

1913:  TOHOKU UNIVERSITY BECOMES THE FIRST UNIVERSITY IN JAPAN TO ADMIT FEMALE STUDENTS.

Somebody needed to pour the sake.

1920:  RAY CHAPMAN OF THE CLEVELAND INDIANS IS HIT ON THE HEAD BY A FASTBALL THROWN BY CARL MAYS OF THE NEW YORK YANKEES AND DIES THE FOLLOWING DAY.

Talk about an exit velocity.

1923:  THE UNITED KINGDOM GIVES THE NAME "ROSS DEPENDENCY" TO PART OF ITS CLAIMED ANTARCTIC TERRITORY.

In a way, Rachel on "Friends" also had a Ross Dependency.

1924:  ACTOR FESS PARKER IS BORN.

Davy...Davy Crockett.

1928:  ACTRESS ANN BLYTH IS BORN.

Still with us.  She played the despicable Vida in "Mildred Pierce."

1928:  SINGER EYDIE GORME IS BORN.

Paging Steve Lawrence.

1930:  ACTOR ROBERT CULP IS BORN.

He Spy.

1930:  SPORTSCASTER AND FOOTBALL STAR FRANK GIFFORD IS BORN.

There's an interesting sidelight to this fact that will pay off later on in this blog entry.  Be patient.

1930:  THE FIRST COLOR SOUND CARTOON "FIDDLESTICKS" IS MADE BY UB IWERKS.

Just love that name...Ub Iwerks.

1933:  ACTRESS JULIE NEWMAR IS BORN.

Still with us...and I hear she's nuts.

1945:  AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IS MADE ON JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER KANTARO SUZUKI.

Ichiro's dad?

1946:  ACTRESS LESLEY ANN WARREN IS BORN.

My writing partner once found him seated next to her at a theater.   He stared at her.   She changed her seat at intermission.

1948:  BASEBALL STAR BABE RUTH DIES.

He ate a lot of hot dogs, smoke, and drank.   Yeah, that'll kill ya.

1953:  TV PERSONALITY KATHIE LEE GIFFORD IS BORN.

See how that paid off.   Who knew???

1954:  THE FIRST ISSUE OF SPORTS ILLUSTRATED IS PUBLISHED.

And, in a way, this is also the birth of the bikini.

1956:  ACTOR BELA LUGOSI DIES.

We think.

1960:  JOSEPH KITTINGER PARACHUTES FROM A BALLOON OVER NEW MEXICO, SETTING A RECORD THAT HELD UNTIL 2012 FOR THE HIGHEST FREE FALL AND SPEED BY A HUMAN WITHOUT AN AIRCRAFT.   

The people jumping out of the WTC on 9/11 don't count.

1962:  PETE BEST IS DISCHARGED BY THE BEATLES AND WILL BE REPLACE BY RINGO STARR.

Yeah, John, Paul, George, and Pete didn't have a ring to it.

1966:  THE HOUSE UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES COMMITTEE BEGINS INVESTIGATIONS OF AMERICANS WHO HAVE AIDED THE VIET CONG.

Surprisingly, Trump was not involved in this.

1977:  SINGER ELVIS PRESLEY DIES.

How long will that bathroom be off limits?  I really have to go.

1989:  ACTRESS AMANDA BLAKE DIES.

Miss Kitty succumbed to AIDS transmitted by blood.  Sad.

1998:  ACTOR PHIL LEEDS DIES.

Only a few months ago, I saw him on the "Murphy Brown" set.  You know the face.  He was on every sitcom ever made.
2002:  BASEBALL PLAYER JOHN ROSEBORO DIES.

Not from a bat to the forehead.

2003:  PRESIDENT OF UGANDA IDI AMIN DIES.

Not to be confused with Eydie Gorme who was born on this date.

2008:  THE TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL AND TOWER IS CHICAGO IS TOPPED OFF AT 1,389 FEET, MAKING IT AT THE TIME THE WORLD'S HIGHEST RESIDENCE ABOVE GROUND LEVEL.

Okay, Mr. Kittinger, you can't jump off this.

Dinner last night:  Dodger Dog at the game.






Tuesday, August 15, 2017

See The Movie, Buy The Soundtrack

Or if gut crunching, neck cracking, knee breaking violence isn't your thing, just buy the soundtrack.   The latter is the best part of "Atomic Blonde" anyway.

We go back to the late 80s when President Reagan has told Gorbachev to "take down that wall."  All mayhem is breaking out just as this is supposed to happen and there's some important government file that has gone missing or perhaps to Russia.  Isn't everything about Russia these days?

Well, Charlize Theron plays a secret agent for either Great Britain, the US, or maybe Lower Slobovia and she is entrusted to get it back.   So off to Germany she goes and there's a sinister Russian hiding behind every corner.   And aren't there always sinister Russians hiding behind every corner these days?  Have no fear.  Theron meets everyone of them with a painful groin kick, a snap of the neck, and, for one unfortunate foe, a set of keys lodged firmly in his cheek.

Naturally, none of this makes any sense just like everything going on with Russia these days.  You are thoroughly confused about who is playing on which team but that I believe is the objective of director David Leitch who adapted this all from some graphic novel I never read.   Wait, have I ever read a graphic novel to begin with?

If this all sounds like a big old thumbs down from me, it's not.   There was something about "Atomic Blonde" that was oddly entertaining to me.  Sure, when you get to the 39th or 40th fight scene, you do think that the violence is excessive.  But something about it in this movie sort of raised it to the type of nastiness you might wind in a Road Runner cartoon.   They're having a lot of pain up on the screen, but you know it's just for fun.   

Of course, as prefaced above, the real star of "Atomic Blonde"...sorry, Charlize...is the wonderful 80s soundtrack with the biggest hits of the decade playing behind all the nonsense.   From Til Tuesday to the late great George Michael to several from the later and greater David Bowie.   The stuff never sounded better than when it was punctuating some scene where Theron was castrating some Russian with her high heel.

And, gee, do we wish we could castrate some Russians these days?

LEN'S RATING:  Three stars for the movie.  Four stars for the soundtrack.

Dinner last night:  Salad.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 14, 2017

The dog days of summer.

Dinner last night:  Steak and pan roasted tomatoes with balsamic jam.