Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Majestic Crest

I was feeling a little cranky on Sunday afternoon. The Dodgers looked horrible in Colorado and I was facing a flight to Chicago for two days of being confined in a conference room with the lowest form of human life---work colleagues. How to get the funk out? A movie, of course.

Alright, I went to see Hairspray. I saw the show in LA several years ago and remembered liking it. But, while I am sure the movie followed the musical to a tee, it was totally a hallow cinematic experience. On the screen, Hairspray is energetic and empty at the same time. And I never once forgot that this was John Travolta in drag.

So, why did I leave with a smile on my face? Because I got to see it in one of those movie palaces that still manage to twinkle brightly in Los Angeles.

The Crest Theater is billed on the curtain adorning the screen as "your neighborhood movie theater." And it truly was my neighborhood for a while. I could easily walk to it from my old apartment. Sometime, a few years back, they started calling this "The Majestic Crest" in a nod to the Jim Carrey movie of the same name. Regardless, it is movie going the way it is supposed to be. Or perhaps the way it was. The theater is not huge by any stretch. The lobby is small. There is no balcony. But they have done a terrific job infusing the mood of movie going in the 40s and 50s. The marquee lights alone could illuminate a baseball game. Inside, the auditorium has been liberally seasoned with art deco. And the wall mural that surrounds the audience is one of Hollywood from the 1940s with a continuous painted landscape of old theaters, the Brown Derby, and even the first Ralph's supermarket.

The Crest was built in the 30s by Frances Fonda, Henry's second wife, and was designed for live theater. Somewhere, along the line, movies sifted in. Like all of us, the Crest went to seed over time. But, about ten years ago, its current owner came riding in like a storm trooper and restored order...and glory. The guy sunk a lot of coin into this and it's all there for us to see. And, surprisingly, the Crest is not affiliated with a bigger chain of theaters like AMC or Pacific. It's all him. For a while, he had a deal to exclusively show Disney films. But, now, he's trying to program it as best he can, hoping and praying for the occasional blockbuster. The guy's a one man band. He sells you your ticket. He rips your ticket. He also might wind up buttering your popcorn. I've wanted to stick around after a showing to see if he scrapes Red Vines off the floor.

They don't run annoying ads at the Crest. Usually one trailer. The parting of the curtain is a show in itself. It's done to the tune of "That's Entertainment." Meanwhile, there are shooting stars that dart across the ceiling. The experience makes even the worst movie palatable. It sure did on Sunday.

The owner has told me that there are plans to develop more office buildings on the block. He's holding his breath for the future.

So am I.

Dinner last night: Grilled bratwurst in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 30, 2007


Cheerleaders falling down? Always funny!

Dinner last night: Taylor Ham on English Muffin.

And, as Bobby Kennedy said at the Ambassador Hotel, "It's on to Chicago and let's win there!" See you in the Second City

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Are Your Blindfolds in Place, Panel?


The funniest thing about this summer childhood memory is that I'm still doing it. Thanks to the Game Show Network, the wonderfully infectious "What's My Line?" is still running on Sunday nights just like it was when I was staying up late on Sunday nights back when. It used to be situated right after "Candid Camera" and both those shows made me feel like I was part of the adult world. The adult world that was around the age of 7 or 8, but the adult world nonetheless.

"What's My Line?" was like a big party game at somebody's house. The panelists could have been some configuration of my parents, aunts, and uncles who used to attack some kind of board game after one too many Schaefer beers. Except the WML panelists were usually in formal attire with gowns by Bonwit Teller. They looked like they were having such fun guessing the occupation of a couple of nobodys.

But, for me, the best part of the show is when they would truck out a mystery guest for which the panel was blindfolded. Whoever was in NY showed up live on Sunday night to stump the panel. They were usually in town to promote some movie or their week-long upcoming engagement at the Copacabana. When you watch these damn things on the Game Show Network forty or fifty years later, it is like unopening some time capsule you buried in your yard ages ago. Watch as James Stewart shows up to promote his new movie "Take Her, She's Mine."



Danny Kaye pops in to talk about kids getting those little orange boxes to trick or treat for UNICEF. Beyond those stupid blindfolds, you can actually see the mental wheels turning on each of the regular panelists, Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Arlene Francis, who was so cool I wanted her to be my mother. They're all trying to figure out who's in town or who is opening in a play. One of the contestants had a job sorting out Minnesota Twins tickets for the 1965 World Series that was starting later in the week.

Since the show was live, host John Charles Daly often references something that happened that day. A blizzard. A heat wave. The Pope's visit. The New York Football Giants' winning field goal. It's such a great timeline of life that the show should run on The History Channel.

Of course, "What's My Line?" had to endure almost on-screen deaths of two regular panelists. On some night in 1956, Fred Allen dropped dead on the sidewalks of New York, while walking his dog. The very next night, he was supposed to be on WML, and, of course, with much grief, the show did go on. The same thing happened in 1965 when Dorothy Kilgallen went home from the program one Sunday night and promptly went buns up in bed. They just reran these shows in sequence on the Game Show Network and it is very eerie to watch someone on "live" TV who you know will be dead in less than 12 hours. They still don't know whether it was a combo of booze and pills that did her in. Or, reportedly, she had some inside dope on President Kennedy's murder and got offed by the mob. Nevertheless, the following week's show was a study in how people deal with heartbreak over the loss of a friend. And it is all there in black and white fuzzy tape. Whoever at producer Goodson-Todman had the foresight of taping all these live broadcasts was a genius. Because we can still enjoy this weekly cocktail party of life to this day. The darn thing ran for almost 18 years on CBS, and they amazingly have almost 98% of all the shows.

There was always a guest male panelist. And when it was the quintessential Groucho Marx, watch out.


Gee, why couldn't my parents be that funny at their parties?

Dinner last night: A Hot Dog at the Hollywood Bowl prior to Miss Gladys Knight.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Country Within a Country


I've been to Dallas a few times. Frankly, it's a nice place to fly over. I wouldn't want to live there.

I think it's noteworthy that their greatest claim to fame was the killing of a President. And, indeed, the Fifth Floor Museum is the only reason to even bother getting off a plane at DFW Airport. I went through there a few years ago and had the surreal experience of looking out the window adjacent to Oswald's perch with actor Steve Buscemi standing next to me. (By the way, in person, the image is the same. He has a face only a blind mother could love.) But, I digress...

When you fly into Dallas, you will notice that it is flat and it is brown. And those are its most notable attributes. Flatness and brownness. It sort of looks like the Kansas portion of "The Wizard of Oz" which was shot in those weird sepia tones. But, as you travel around the city, you will notice one very significant preoccupation.

They actually think they're in their own country.

No matter where you go, that blasted Texas state flag is staring down at you. In the shopping mall. In the hotel. In restaurants. (They're all steakhouses. If there was a vegan in residence, I am sure they have been hung by now.) Over urinals in public restrooms. I would be hard pressed to tell you what the NY State or California State flags even look like. But, in Texas, it's there. And there. And there.The other thing you can't avoid is the Dallas Cowboys. Training camp opened while I was there and it was handled like a Papal visit. Breaking news all day long! There was some sort of gas explosion while I was there. It was second on the evening news compared to the unveiling of a new Gatorade cooler at Cowboys camp.

The people there are loyal. They wear their state proudly. Good for them. They are overly American and probably experience daily inner torment. They love the United States, but relish in their own country of Texas. What's a Texan to do?

Well, there's always the snack rack down at the gas station for some beef jerky. I go there and suddenly have new appreciation for Eva Gabor's lyrics on "Green Acres." Give me the city life, Oliver.

Yep, it is flat and it is brown.

Dinner last night: English Muffin and fruit salad.

Friday, July 27, 2007

There Used to Be a Ballpark....


If you own a TiVO, DVR, or some other sort of legalized taping apparatus, you will want to seek out HBO's latest sports documentary, "Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush." It covers that team's history for the years between 1947 and 1957. It begins naturally with the debut of Jackie Robinson and concludes with the team's flight to Los Angeles.

The glory days of NY baseball were in the fifties. You had three teams in the market and both natural and territorial rivalries evolved. Of course, the Dodgers and the Yankees met a number of times in the World Series. As denizens of the National League, the Dodgers and the despised New York Giants to the north became bitter enemies, both on the field and more so in the stands. That hatred miraculously was transferred when they both jumped to the West Coast. It continues to thrive in pure venom to this day. But, I digress...

When I was starting out as a baseball fan in New York, your team choice generally was predicated on where you lived. Sometimes, there was a family tradition that was adhered, but, more often than not, it was location, location, location. The Yankees' fan base was in the Bronx, New Jersey, Manhattan, and Westchester. I am not sure what neighborhoods the Giants drew upon, but I am guessing combinations of the same areas, given that the Polo Grounds was a Willie Mays throw across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium.

As for the Dodgers, they had Brooklyn all to themselves.

The borough was blue collar. A melting pot of virtually every nationality that ever migrated to America. And never did one team so closely identify itself not with a city, but a true neighborhood. The players actually lived in the area and, frequently, you'd find them walking to Ebbets Field amongst the fans. Where else but in Brooklyn would Catholic masses be said for Gil Hodges to hit his way out of a horrible slump.

It is all so majestically captured in this two hour documentary that I could actually taste the hot dog that I didn't have for dinner that night. I realized that I have been a baseball fan all my life, but never have I ever invested the type of unwavering passion that these folks did for their Blue Crew. it was baseball serendipity. Moments that will never be duplicated again. You can see and hear this from the fans interviewed. They all still possess gaping holes in their souls as a result of Walter O'Malley's move of the team to Los Angeles. This show presents with you whole new perspectives of that issue. While it's certainly easy to label O'Malley as the villain in the drama, it's also crystal that he wanted to stay in New York. He saw the neighborhood changing and knew that the team needed to be relocated. He wanted another spot in Brooklyn. Robert Moses, who was singlehandedly creating the 1960s skyline of New York, wanted them only to be in Flushing Meadows, very near where the Mets wound up. Stalemate. The true genius is LA Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman, who made the random call to Walter O'Malley and offered up Los Angeles as a possible home for the Dodgers. She had no idea the goldmine that she would be excavating that very day.

The only missing piece of this documentary puzzle is broadcaster Vin Scully, who was inexplicably not interviewed. For Pete Reiser's sake, the guy was manning the broadcast booth for five of the ten years profiled. At a screening, when asked why he was not in it, Scully simply replied, "They didn't ask me." Yet, bizarrely, Charlie Steiner is frequently shown as a former Brooklyn Dodger fan from Long Island. Okay, Steiner, now broadcasting for the Dodgers on the radio side, sits only about ten feet away from Vin in the press box. Whoops.

The love that Brooklyn had for its Dodgers is summed up by one fan's joke.

If you're in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and O'Malley and there are only two bullets in your gun, who do you shoot?

The answer from a Brooklyn Dodger fan? O'Malley twice.

Dinner last night: Back from Dallas for a spinach and romaine salad.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Woefully Out of Touch

This was an eye opener for me. It's like my brain took its own Nestea plunge.

It's a summer Saturday night in Los Angeles. Where the hell else would I be but the Hollywood Bowl? Next to Dodger Stadium, this is one of my truly happy places out here. And, in some respects, the Bowl has a leg up on Chavez Ravine. Unlike the Dodger starting staff, members of the LA Philharmonic tend to last the whole evening. But, I digress...

So, last Saturday, a group of my friends makes the shlep up the big hill to enjoy a night of soft breezes and cool music. When I book my tickets way back in March, I sometimes only pay partial attention to what I am ordering. As long as it's Saturday and it's not classical, they can go ahead and swipe my credit card. This particular bill of fare was called "Cool Britannia" and was pre-sold as a salute to the "shagadelic" sounds of British pop. Sounds good to me. As a method of orientation, I pull out my Best of Herman's Hermits CD.

What throws me is the listing of a special guest? Somebody named Jamie Cullum. His picture makes him look like a pre-pubescent Leonardo DiCaprio. But, beyond that, I have no clue.

WTF.

The sheer mention of his name Saturday night sent some of the crowd into a frenzy.

Who?

Maybe he's the son of Broadway actor John Cullum?

Who?

In the first half of the show, it's all LA Phil. The conductor was Bramwell Tovey, some British guy who was hilarious everytime he opened his mouth. Put the baton down and head over to the Laugh Factory, please. The orchestra played a nifty James Bond suite, some wartime ditties, a bunch of Noel Coward songs, and, finally, some stuff from the Austin Powers soundtrack. There would be a short intermission and then Jamie Cullum would be out.

Wild screams.

Who???


Okay, I'd like to think that I am semi well-versed in the musical world. Sure, I won't know the underground bands playing in back alleys across Los Angeles, but I'd like to think my tastes are eclectic enough to have a satisfactory knowledge of who's doing what these days.

Jamie Cullum.

Who?

There were clearly lots of people in the crowd who knew who the heck he was. The couple next to us apparently saw him in Reno a few years ago. There were folks who obviously knew album cuts and song titles.

Who?

Is this information printed in a magazine someplace because, apparently, I have missed a few issues? I was totally clueless about this guy who has developed what seemed to be a fairly sizeable following. And, just so I know it's not me, my friends were in the dark as well.

Well, now I know. And I like.

He's totally a unique performer. A little bit of standard, mixed in with jazz, some rap. He looked totally comfortable mixing this altogether. And, for me, it worked. He's like a scruffy, un-ironed, version of Michael Buble. But, the latter has never developed his own style. He simply copies whoever's song he is singing at the time. Not Jamie Cullum. His version of "I Get a Kick Out of You" was his and not one else's. When he announced he was going to do some of his own songs, I cringed and braced myself for the brain freeze. But, the stuff was good. The lyrics were clever, even funny. I got home that night and searched him out on the web and ITunes. Yep, he's been around. Here's a fairly watchable snippet that was obviously shot on somebody's cell phone.


Who knew?

I certainly didn't.

Dinner last night: steak and grilled shrimp at Saltgrass in Dallas.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Dog Wednesdays of Summer



It's not the heat. It's the stupidity.

---I was channel surfing the other day when I ran into Larry King "interviewing" Tammy Faye Whatever Her Last Name Was At The End. The cancer had pretty much eaten her up and she looked like she was ready to be buried in a cigar box out in the backyard.

---And, two days later, she was.

---Once again, Larry's got his finger on the pulse of America.

---That's right. He focuses on one more person nobody cares about.

---Yo, Tammy, there are no false eyelashes in Heaven.

---Or ATMs. So, there's no way you can access all those millions you stole from people in the name of God.

---Well, I'm guessing you figured that out by now.

---Lindsey Lohan got tagged again for drunk driving, possession of cocaine, etc., etc.. Where the heck has she been doing those rehabs? At Sears?

---Mucho chuckles on the Presidential campaign. Some pollster came out and said men won't vote for Hillary, because she reminds them of their wives.

---I guess they're all envisioning four years of Saturday yard work.

---And Barack Obobo had this to say when he was asked if he is "Black enough." He replied that he's reminded of his race everytime he tries to get a cab in Manhattan.

---Frankly, I doubt this pompous ass has ever stood on a street corner in the rain with his arm in the air. He's got "limousine" written all over him.

---Get over it. I'm not going to vote for you not because of your skin color. It's because you're a detestable Harvard-educated lawyer.

---I was watching the Fox telecast of Mets-Dodgers on Saturday and they kept cutting to Bluto Bonds every time he came up to bat in Milwaukee.

---Here's a guy going after a huge career accomplishment and he is royally booed by the Milwaukee crowd, who realizes he is breaking their guy's (Hank Aaron) record.

---Baseball mangled this from the get-go. By doing nothing on steroids and allowing those other two science projects (McGwire and Sosa) to go hogwild ten years ago, a historic moment now has about as much relevancy as a Betamax repairman.

---At the Met-Dodger game on Sunday, there was a twenty-something Met fan sitting across from me and he was actually wearing a Dykstra shirt. I told him that it was great to see somebody so young recognizing Met history. He immediately reeled off the names of other 1986 Mets.

---But, I totally lost him when I mentioned Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee. He looked at me like I just told him I saw his girlfriend hanging around the men's room between innings.

---Heck, I didn't have to be there to know who Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were.

---I remember that on-line survey the Mets ran a few years back. They asked fans to name the greatest moment in Met history.

---The 1969 World Series did not finish in first place!!!

---At the Friday Met-Dodger game, some burly broad came careening down the steps past me chasing a beach ball.

---She went after the ball like it was a pork chop.

---I'm sorry, Miss. Is the baseball game in your way?

---Moron.

---At the same Friday tilt (used to love that word), I was thoroughly appalled by the actions of Jose Reyes before the game. There's a color guard marching the flag out. Then, some soldier just back from Iraq sings the National Anthem.

---Every player on the field is standing perfectly still. Except for Senor Idiot, who is continuing with his calisthenics.

---While the bombs are bursting in air, he's swinging a bat like he's in the on-deck circle. Everybody around me saw the same thing and gave him hell.

---Somebody, somebody, somebody in Met management, please talk to this kid!

---I don't want to hear he's got a lot of energy. If you can't stand still for two minutes during the National Anthem, there should be a Ritalin prescription waiting for you at Walgren's.

---And while we're at it, let's lay Lastings Milledge down in a bun with some onions and relish. I don't find all that high-fiving and chest bumping warranted by somebody hitting .190.

---Paging Mookie Wilson. He knew how to do it with class.

---What has twelve arms, twelve legs, six heads, and can't get out of its own way?

---Answer: the Dodger bullpen.

---Paging Tom Niedenfeuer.

---Scientists are now saying that California air is being totally contaminated by currents bringing in pollution from China across the Pacific Ocean.

---I'm tired. Feel free to insert your own joke.

---Speaking of which, what about Michael Vick, the NFL's official canine advocate?

---He should work out a deal with the Koreatown Chamber of Commerce.

---There goes his endorsement deal with Milkbone.

---By the way, there's a 25 point bonus for whoever can identify the dog in the picture that adorns today's rant.

---Headed to Dallas today. After you scour Dealey Plaza looking for brain fragments, there's not much less to do there.

Don't raise a ruckus if Thursday's post is late. I never function well when I am in the middle of the country.

Dinner last night: German Cervelat sandwich and bean salad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Flying Blind



Over the next several weeks, I am going to be dealing with some airplane round trips to Dallas, Chicago, New York, and, inexplicably, Cincinnati. That last stop will effectively end my lifelong boycott of all things Ohio --- a moratorium I was kind of proud of. Doing all this aviating in the middle of the summer season has me dreading it as if it were a proctology exam being administered by a porcupine.

People have come back to the sky in Cecil B DeMille numbers. The veritable cast of thousands is descending upon airports, packing everything but Fluffy the Cat for their (hopefully) round trips to New York, Los Angeles, and any other city that is remotably better than those burgs you might infecting the middle of this country.

And they're all in the way.

Air travel has been reduced to nothing more than a Greyhound bus in the sky. Slobs on the bus. Slobs on a plane. Interchangeable. Dragging their bags of Funyons and other treats you buy off the rack at your local AM/PM. Lugging suitcases on wheels and then trying to cram them into overhead compartments as if they are their own personal storage lockers.

And the airlines are drowning.

At this time of summer, it is very easy to be delayed by weather. I can remember one flight back from Dallas and we literally flew over a very potent weather front. It was Nature's version of the Disney Electrical Parade. Very powerful. Very scary. And it happens all the time, essentially rendering airports incoherent. Some airports are worse than others. An eye dropper of water onto the tarmac At Newark sends their air traffic controllers into a frenzy that takes hours to play out. The baggage claim at American's JFK terminal is so far from the gates that it qualifies as an Apollo space mission. It takes hours to get your stuff on a dry day. The slightest hint of a cloud brings that process to a crawl.

Beyond the natural interventions, there is one more bigger problem that makes summer flying about as inviting as a smorgasbord at a cesspool. It's the human factor. Sadly, we have to deal with each other.

Take the humanoids working on the side of the airlines. Know that there are less of them than there were a year ago at this time. Know even more that are a lot less of them than there were 6 years ago at this time. The airlines have done what every other business in this country has done. Figure out a way to have less employees. The sad thing about my bi-coastal existence is that I can actually see American Airline employees more frequently than I see some friends. And they will tell me that they are being asked to work longer hours and more days. It's no different than what is happening in the nursing world or any other service organization. And, still, they are expected to put a smile on their face.

And the recipients of said smiles? The general and generally inconsiderate public. People of the "me" generation that requires instant gratification for the slightest and/or most complex of issues. So, there's your unhealthy mix. Folks being tapped out at their jobs, which largely include the minute-by-minute satisfaction of an increasing demanding and abusive populace. I've been witness to more than one jackass in an airport who verbally abuses some poor shlump behind the counter. But, now, I am seeing and hearing more examples of where the airline personnel are fighting back. Getting snarky. Surly. It was inevitable. Right? Hell, no. But, can I blame them? Double hell, no.

It's going to be an ugly month for me. But, what's the alternative? Greyhound? Have you seen what rides there?

Dinner last night: German Smoked Salami on Baguette.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 23, 2007


Let us pray.




Dinner last night: chef's salad.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The "Very Funny" Emmy Noms


Nothing has reminded me more of the current blight in television comedy than the Emmy nominations released the other day. I can remember in past years where the list of those programs virtually matched my nightly viewing habits. Cheers. Taxi. The Golden Girls. Frasier. Murphy Brown. The list goes on and on. I am engaged by only two of this year's five nominations, and one of those shows has, in my humble opinion, has blown up like one of those 1920 steam pipes in Midtown Manhattan. Here's what voters decided on this year:

Entourage: The only comedy series currently on my TiVo that I don't let pile up. A solidly funny sendup of life in Hollywood and it's terrific that they also recognized Kevin Dillon with a supporting nod. Even more so than Jeremy Piven (who I have heard has basically transferred his real-life toxic personality to the screen), Dillon steals every scene he is in as Johnny Drama. He usually gets the weekly subplot and it always commands the episode.

The Office: I have never been even slightly compelled to watch this, although I know tons of folks who do. My bone of contention is that these writers probably have never worked in a real office, and, thereby, are missing the real gold of humor.

30 Rock: I actually tried watching two episodes and found it as unfunny as SNL, which makes total sense. I don't think Tina Fey can act, and Alec Baldwin has become a cartoon version of himself. A few months ago, some delusional TV writer in the LA Times compared 30 Rock to the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, even going as far as equating Tina Fey's character with Mary Richards. I wish I had a puppy, so I could papertrain him on that article.

Ugly Betty: I fell into the hype and advance word on the pilot. I fell back into reality. It was okay, but, certainly not enough for me to follow up on subsequent episodes. I TiVoed it for a while with the full intention of revisiting it. I ultimately deleted them from my queue around Thanksgiving.

Two and a Half Man: I came to this show by the second season and loved it---for about a season and a half. And then something happened. The scripts became downright vile. Show runner Chuck Lorre obviously has a lot of anger issues, and, particularly, with women. The humor has turned sadistic. I cannot understand how a woman would watch the show. It has become that offensive to their gender. Ironically, the only reason I even bother to tune in is due to the work of supporting actresses Holland Taylor and Conchata Ferrell, who always steal the one scene they are in every week. They are the only reasons to watch this mess, and it's terrific they both got nominated for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

As I sift through the voluminous nominations, there are some other little tidbits.

There were no acting nominations for "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Oddly enough, it was the acting that made the show worth watching.

I'm seeing "Dancing with the Stars" showing up in so many tech categories. WTF. It's a freakin' game for has-beens.

Kiefer Sutherland got a Best Actor in a Drama Series nod for what was 24's worst season creatively. Regardless of the storyline, he remains the glue that holds it all together. I am wondering if there has been an Emmy season where the Best Drama winner the previous year (24) doesn't even get nominated the following year.

You just knew Felicity Huffman was going to get a Best Actress in a Comedy for "Desperate Housewives." She had the juiciest storylines with that supermarket hostage story and the marital discord. I am missing, however, Nicolette Sheridan in the Supporting category. She finally got a lot to do this year and really delivered.

Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths are the two that got acting nominations from "Brothers and Sisters." They easily could have two or three more from that ensemble.

It's a great year for "The Sopranos." Gandolfini and Falco, of course, show up on the list. But, also Michael Imperioli, Aida Turturro, and the fabulous Lorraine Bracco. I'd love to see Dr. Melfi finally get recognized. Those analyst scenes were always riveting. I think they missed on including Dominic Chianese.

Leslie Caron nominated for Guest Actress in a Drama for "Law and Order: SVU?" Who the hell knew? I need to call her.

Even though she showed up in only one episode this season, Jean Smart squeezes one more nomination for playing the boozing First Lady on 24.

It's all so exciting and, if I don't have to do something more important like clean out a sock drawer or empty the lint catcher on the dryer, I will be tuned in mid-September for the winners.

Dinner last night: Asain Chicken Wrap at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Warning! Spoiler Alert!


The sad thing is that title probably got your attention. And now that you have opened up today's postings and you see the cover of the last Harry Potter book to the right, I'm supposing you think I've got some inside dope on what happens to this little geek. Sorry. You've probably read on earlier days. The whole phenomenon has been lost on me. I read the first book on a flight from LAX to Newark. I saw the first movie on a flight from JFK to LAX. If it wasn't for being held captive at 35,000 feet, I probably wouldn't even know this much. I have skipped the last two dozen or so installments, both written and cinematic. Harry will just have to fly around on his broom without me.

But, of course, I have a lot of friends who have been sucked into this literary Oreck. And frenzy is abounding with the release of the last adventure that will ever be written about Harry Potter. Unless, of course, the author blows through all her jack and needs to revisit for the sake of the almighty pound a couple of years down the road. Hell, if there could be a Godfather 3, there certainly could be a book about Harry cheating on his wife at some motel in Piccadilly. But, I digress...

The media has been all over these leaks about the ending to the series. Is this the real ending? Does Harry die? Does anybody die? Will he support Hillary or Obama for the nomination? It's been a torrent of ridiculousness.

The concept of "a spoiler" has taken on a viral life of its own, like Legionnaire's Disease in a Philadelphia hotel. For some inane reason, people have to know endings before they happen. Entertainment cannot be enjoyed for entertainment's sake. They have to know in advance what kind of fun they will be having. Je ne comprend pas.

If you poke around the internet, you can find accurate and inaccurate spoilers for most any TV show, movie, or play. Script pages are leaked. Secrets are revealed. "Insiders" are telling you what will happen six or seven TV episodes down the road.

It all sucques. In the process, the actual experience of enjoying a piece of art, whether it be written, filmed, or performed, is diminished. Now, how much fun would the final scene of the "Newhart" have been if you knew in advance that it was all Bob's dream and he wakes up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette? Would this scene have worked as well?


How riveted would you have been to your TV set if you knew months earlier that Kristin was the one who shot JR Ewing?

People in the arts have always gone through a lot of trouble to prevent leaks from happening. I can remember movie ads that proclaimed "Nobody will be seated in the last 15 minutes." "Do not reveal the surprise ending to your friends." And everybody paid attention as if the theater manager would show up at your house with a gun if you did. But, back in the day, you could swear an inner circle to silence and nobody would bother them. These days, with the instant gratification infection everybody suffers from, you can't escape this demand to know beforehand. I am guilty of looking at some internet boards for 24. Towards the end of last season, you had to see just how many season endings were posted under the guise of authenticity. Ultimately, none of them were correct. But, it all winds up contributing to the greater non-good of us all.

Way back in the early 80s, lots of people were anticipating the last episode of M*A*S*H*. How would it end? What would happen? Could they possibly explain how a three year conflict lasted 11 years on television? Now, I had a friend who was one of the producers of the show and actually contributed to the writing of the final episode, which was filmed out of sequence and months before it would ultimately air in February, 1983. He came to NY on vacation after it was filmed and we met for lunch. There, at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, he proceeded to tell me blow-by-blow how the series would end. Right down to the final shot of the rocks that spelled out "Goodbye" to Hawkeye. The only caveat he gave me? "Don't spread this around." And I didn't. What would be the point?

So, when the 2 and a 1/2 hour finale aired, there were virtually no surprises for me. And the whole experience was dulled completely. Your honor, I rest my case.

Folks, just let it alone. Wait for the freakin' book to come out. Watch the show when it airs. And enjoy. Just revel in the one spoiler that all of us have.

Eventually, we all are going to die.

Dinner last night: French Dip Sandwich with Ham plus side of cole slaw and potato salad at Philippe's.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Clapping With One Hand



Tonight I head out to Dodger Stadium for the Met-Dodger contest. Following the Friday night tradition, there will be a stop at Phillipe's for a little French Dip sandwich. Maybe some of that delicious potato salad and cole slaw. Then, back into the car for the short drive up the hill into my reserved parking spot. I'll then settle into my Aisle 144, Row G, Seat. Given the always superb Southern California weather, it will be a letter perfect night, surrounded by swaying palm trees and soft warm breezes cascading over the hills that adorn the outfield landscape of the stadium. I'll pull out my scorebook and start loading in the line-ups. An evening of pure bliss.

And, within 30 seconds, I will be an absolute mental mess.

It's Mets vs. Dodgers.

I repeat. It's Mets vs. Dodgers.

I no longer handle this well. We're talking my two favorite baseball teams, both in first place in their respective divisions, playing head-to-head. Someone will counsel me. "Hey, you're lucky. One of your teams will win tonight."

From my glass half-empty department, I will counter. "One of my teams lost tonight."

I never thought this would happen. When I moved to Los Angeles ten years ago, I was a fully-baked New York Met fan. That was my allegience since childhood. Usually, a father will dictate the team you grow up rooting for. My dad was a New York Yankee fan. I've already written previously that my first baseball game ever was in that dump on River Avenue in the Bronx. But, one week in April, I was out of school for a week with a itchy little case of German Measles. The Mets were playing all day games. Something hooked me. We dated that summer and married in the fall.

I went through bad times. 1969. 1973. More bad times. Even worse times. 1986. 1988. And then really crappy times. All the while, I was sitting in the same Shea Stadium seats every Saturday. Next year will be the 40th year for those Loge seats in my family.

Even after relocating to Socal, I kept those seats and still managed to go to 4 or 5 Saturday games a season. I'd hook up with the Mets when they played here. I'd watch regularly either on television or the computer. I was managing. Until...

A good friend of mine from church here invited me to a Sunday game at Dodger Stadium. It seems she and a few friends had been doing this Sunday thing since Fernando first popped out of a car trunk from Mexico. They would doll themselves up in some sort of blue regalia. Dodger hats. Dodger shirts. Dodger pins. I became a regular Sunday fixture.

Hey, this isn't so bad. Great ballpark. Usually a decent team. Fabulous hot dogs. With fresh onions and relish. While I wasn't bleeding Dodger Blue completely, a slow transfusion had become.

I actually felt like I was cheating on somebody.

I rationalized that it was certainly easy to do. I could have a team on both coasts. Of course, they meet for a few games during the season. I root for the Mets, right? Well, usually. I mean, how many times will they meet in the playoffs?

Hello, 2006.

Last September, I was in NY for a Saturday game when the Dodgers were in town. The Mets were way ahead in their divisional game by a couple of hundred games. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were embroiled in a pennant race with the Padres. The game was a lot more essential to the Dodgers' well being than to the Mets. Could I actually sit in MY seats at Shea Stadium and root for the Dodgers?

I was a mess. I ended up rooting for the vendors. Gee, I hope the soda guy does better than the pizza guy.

Sophie's Choice as directed by Abner Doubleday.

I feel like I'm in a second marriage but I am still very much attracted to my first wife. And the second wife is really hot. And then there are the kids. Specifically, my Saturday seats at Shea. And my full season seats at Not Endy Chavez Ravine.

I go out of my way to not show any favoritism. When I have gone to a Met-Dodger contest in the past, I make it a policy to wear all non-team-specific clothing. Usually something very basic from the Eddie Bauer collection. But, tomorrow, I may go the other route. A David Wright t-shirt and a Russell Martin jersey---honoring my favorite player on both teams.

Why am I even thinking about this?

Because I'm a bi-coastal baseball fan. This can't go on forever.

And, indeed, it may not. Newsday sportswriter Wallace Matthews wrote a story yesterday. It seems that, when the Mets move across the street to Shitty Field, partial season ticket holders like myself may no longer have those plans at their disposal. The Shea Loge seats will be gone.

I've lost joint custody of the kids. The longtime tradition that still tied me to the Mets will be toast.

I don't want to think about that right now.

Go, David.

Go, Russell.

Dinner last night: salami sandwich and side salad.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lucha Libre


There's about 75 Spanish language TV channels on the Time Warner system in Los Angeles. As I was trolling through the on-screen program guide, I ran across two words that tapped the memory keg.

"Lucha Libre."

That's heavyweight wrestling for the language-impaired. And, for the sight impaired, the picture up above is that of one Bruno Sammartino, who was the disputed champion of the sport for about 15 years starting around 1963.

And my grandmother was in love with him.

These were the days before WWF and Hulk Hogan and "let's get ready to rumble." Wrestling promoter Vince McMahon pretty much turned his sport into one big virtual comic book of super heroes in swim trunks. But, years before, it was a lot simpler. And a hell of a lot more fun. Sure, it was as fake as lips after a Botox injection. But, try telling that to my grandparents, who were glued to the damn TV set for two hours every Saturday night. I would sit with them for that whole hour before, listening to that blasted Lawrence Welk champagne bubble crap, just so I could watch wrestling with them. Actually, the real show for me was my watching them watch wrestling.

You have not lived till you watch people in their seventies throw things at the TV set. The wrestling stars in those days were definitely either heroes or villains. Bruno, of course, was the champion and adored by my grandparents, because every week, between matches, he would talk in Italian supposedly to his relatives in Abruzzi, Italy. Not that my grandparents could understand it. But, that sort of made Bruno one of them. People off the boat making a life in America.

I can remember some of the other names like it was yesterday.

Bobo Brazil. He used to knock people out with his head. A cocoabutt.

The Fabulous Moolah. She was the female champion and my grandmother said she was a dirty girl. That became my barometer for years to come.

The Kangaroo Brothers. You guessed it. A tag team of two brothers from Australia.

Killer Kowalski. Might as well been an escapee from Sing Sing.

Freddie Blassie. He was usually some bad guy's manager. So was Wild Red Berry. They would both hang in the corner of their wrestler and usually help with some well-timed choking if the good guy came close.

Gorilla Monsoon. Nuff said.

And there was Sky Lo Lo. A little midget who used to crawl under one side of the ring and come out the other.

I don't know where or when this clip is from, but, except for the color picture (I only watched this stuff on my grandmother's black and white set), it pretty much replicates the whole experience.



Most of the time, the matches spilled out of the ring and into the arena. This frequently resulted in somebody wearing a bridge chair as a hat. And, of course, the really rotten guys were also hiding something in their trunks to use as a weapon. My grandmother would also be the first to notice this and would scream out a warning to the good guy. In German, of course.

"Watch it! He's got something in his trunks!"

"Break his neck, Bobo!"

"Oooh, you rotten son of a bitch."

And these were my earliest adult inspirations in life.

One night after my grandfather died, my father saw an advertisement that these same wrestlers were coming to an arena near us. He got tickets, and my grandmother made her only appearance ever at a sporting event. There was a bit of a subdued reaction. Sitting at ringside, I think it dawned on her that she was sitting on just the type of bridge chair that could be potentially used as a weapon.

Shortly thereafter, the local TV station stopped showing Saturday night wrestling. It was moved to Channel 47 out of Newark-Linden. In the pre-cable days, it was one of those UHF stations that you needed Norad to position the antenna for. My grandmother would literally start the tune-in process about an hour before the show.

"I got the picture coming in. Don't move."

We'd sit through tons of Spanish-language commercials for hair tonic, just to see a snowy image of Bruno Sammartino doing one more scissor kick.

Lucha libre were probably the only two Spanish words my grandmother ever knew.

Dinner last night: Ham cappacola sandwich and salad.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Topsy Turvy Wednesday



Speeding along with plenty of loops and hairpin turns

---Is it me or have there been a lot more accidents at theme parks this summer? Are ride attendants all of a sudden totally negligent in their duties?

---Of course not. It's the public, which is now totally negligent in their intelligence.

---I've gone to enough of these places to see that lots of people look at attaching seat belts as if they are trying to solve a Rubik's Cube.

---Some of these people don't know how to work belts because they have been hardpressed to find any at home that fit. Ahem.

---Disneyland has brought back those nutty submarines and repackaged them in a "Finding Nemo" ride.

---I remember going on them before they closed down and I felt like I was on line at an "all-you-can-eat" sushi bar. Lots of tourists from across the pond in the other directions.

---They were looking at all the fish through the windows and feeling around in their bags for some ginger and soy sauce.

---This time of year, it's called Disneyline.

---I am surprised this took so long. Some consumer has sued Cadbury Schweppes (owner of Snapple) for misrepresenting their labels. Saying it's made from the "best stuff on Earth."

---The ingredients read: "water, citric acid, tea, natural flavors, aspartame, potassium citrate, phenyletornics (sp)."

---I'm okay with the water and the tea. What the hell is the other stuff? Sounds like a Rexall.

---Natural flavors? Is that like when some old grandmother says she's making chicken soup with love?

---Meanwhile, Diet Snapple with Lemon is the only product I buy up in bulk. I can't get enough of it.

---And when does my potassium citrate poisoning set in?

---The LA Archdiocese got nailed 660 million greenbackerinos as a settlement for those cases of abuse.

---Yeah, they're all misunderstood.

---The whole thing gets resolved if you let these priests off the celibacy hook. That way, these folks can diddle with themselves all they want and not mess around with the Opie Taylors of the world.

---Wonder how much that dollar figure comes to per grope?

---So that's what they do with all the money in those baskets?

---Cardinal Roger Mahony just had a nightmare. Mayor Villaraigosa enrolled in a seminary.

---The fine levied on the Archdiocese is tip money for David Beckham.

---Who, by the way, may not play in his first game because he's hurt already.

---All that dough and soccer will still not get any attendance in the United States.

---Yawn.

---It was pure nirvana watching Fathead Bonds go 0 for 12 and 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position against the Dodgers last weekend.

---It looked like the only juice he's touched lately is Sunsweet Prune.

---The way he's been hitting, you won't be seeing a lot of balls headed into McCovey Cove. Right now, the only way you will be getting any of those Splash Hits is if you flood the area between third base and shortstop.

---Tee hee.

---The Phillies suffered their 10,000th loss in team history the other day.

---I think nine thousand of those losses came in the last week of the 1964 season when the Phillies blew a first place lead of about 75 games.

---Did you read about the tourist who got his neck broken at Yankee Stadium when some drunk got into a fight and fell down 20 feet on top of him?

---Okay, Yankee fans, we have to draw the line at smashed vertabrae. Can you just confine your conduct to spitting and screaming the F-bomb every five seconds?

---Will the bus headed to Hell please stop at Bleacher Gate # 1 to pick up your passengers?

Dinner last night: All Beef Super Dodger Dog at the game.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How To Get Me to the Baseball Playoffs This Year





As you probably know, I am a ticket holder for my two favorite baseball teams, the Mets and the Dodgers. A bicoastal existence certainly requires allegience to a team on each coast. Here, after the All Star break, I am looking at two potential routes to playoff games. The Mets are in first place in the NL East, although certainly not the runaway powerhouse they were in 2006. The Dodgers are in first place, just one game ahead of the Dopes from San Diego in the NL West. It's going to be a fun couple of months.

So, my question to both Ned Colletti (Dodger GM on the left) and Omar Minaya (Met GM on the right) is how are you two going to ensure that I have playoff games to attend this October? Of course, my seat options are a lot better on the West Coast than in Flushing. Here in LA, I'd get my usual seat for every single game. At Shea, I would wind up with every third game in a seat that is in the Laguardia flight pattern. But, still, I'd dig a shot at the World Series no matter where. Just in case these two guys haven't give this a thought in the past few days, let me help them both with some ideas on how we can make sure my days are booked up this fall.

Ned:

Do not, by any means, trade either James Loney or Matt Kemp. They are the future of the team. The Russell Martins of 2008 and 2009.

Have either Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton drive Brent Tomko to LAX immediately.

Tell Grady Little to stop putting Olmedo Saenz up in crucial pinch hitting situations. Am I the only one who is noticing his bat has slowed this year? In fact, the only thing probably slower than his bat speed this season is his metabolism. Ban him from the buffet table please. And the "all-you-can-eat" right field pavillion.

As tempting as it might be, don't drop your pants if the Marlins put Dontrelle Willis on the market. Check his stats. He ain't worth the attention. He's lights out for most of a game, but there is always one inning where the D-Train goes on the local track for a few stops.

Use a Strat-o-Matic game to illustrate to manager Grady Little the positive attributes of a sacrifice bunt.

Walk away if Tampa Bay offers you anybody. Give him Padres GM Kevin Towers' cell phone number instead.

Brad Penny's been great since he broke up with Alyssa Milano. Please have her season ticket seats moved from behind the backstop.

If we're stuck with Juan Pierre's arm for the next five seasons, at least get him to wear his hat straight. Right now, he's looking like one of the Little Rascals.

I know he has started to hit lately, but you should still discretely leave AARP literature around Jeff Kent's locker.

Find out what Luis Gonzalez was drinking the first half of the season and order a case for Nomar Garciaparra.

Omar:

I know you're dying to do it, but please don't try to sign Juan Marchial just because you found out he is still alive.

Please find a pitcher that has experience and is under the age of 35.

Please find a leftfielder that has experience and is under the age of 35.

When the score is tied in extra innings, please don't allow Jose Reyes to cut off a chicken's head in the dugout.

Do not rely on Pedro's August return. His injury recovery is not the slam dunk fans are expecting.

As tempting as it may be, don't drop your pants if the Marlins put Dontrelle Willis on the market. See above.

Let's face it. The head shaving didn't work. As much as it's saving Wilpon on shampoo in the locker room, tell them all to return to 2006 length.

Put a limit on the number of players with the name "Carlos."

Have either Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton drive Scott Schoeneweis to JFK immediately.

Inquire about nursing homes for Moises Alou.

Dinner last night: BBQ Pork Sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 16, 2007




Hang in there till the very end.

Dinner last night: BLT Sandwich at Islands.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Smile.......

Another summer memory sliding your way. One of my favorite things about the summer months was not going to bed early. And the best night of all to stay up late was Sunday, probably because that was always the evening during the school year that the bedtime hour was really super-enforced. You know. You have to rest up for the long week ahead. Like social studies is so taxing??? Nevertheless, when school was in, anything past Sunday 10PM was out. Except in July and August.

CBS had two shows on late Sundays that became exclusive summer viewing. One was "What's My Line?" at 1030PM and I will most definitely expound on that glory at another juncture. But, at 10PM, you had Allen Funt and his "Candid Camera." It's a format that would still work today if some idiot wanted to try it. As a matter of fact, I hear that a version of it is the # 1 TV show in Egypt. So, now, when you wonder how terrorists know all about hidden camera serveillance, you can blame it on Allen Funt.

I used to love all the stunts they pulled on this show. The simpler, the better. Take a look at this clip from the original show. It's a snapshot of human nature that no writer could script.



The funny thing is that I almost got on the show myself. Yep, Candid Camera came to Mount Vernon, New York. We used to have a drive-up Carvel Ice Cream stand down the block. At some point, they must have lost the Carvel franchise and it became some sort of faux custard stand called "La Creme." Yeah, that's a name that has become a household brand. Well, none of the folks in the nabe were fooled, so we bought our cones elsewhere. But, one day, my mom must have had a hankering for something there, because she dragged me to the counter. Or perhaps "La Creme" had branched out and was now selling cigarettes. Anyway, when we got to the window, we found some woman dressed as a waitress and pretending to be a robot.

On the counter, we found a button that they asked you to press for service. You could easily tell the robot was alive. I am not sure what the point of the stunt was. My mom ruined it pretty early on anyway.

Mom: "So what is this? Candid Camera?"

The robot immediately cracked a smile and then a real clerk came in to get our order. I guess that, if you truly want to be on Candid Camera, you shouldn't blow their cover immediately.

Heck, I didn't even get a chance to smile.

Dinner last night: chicken stiry fry at Cafe Montana in Santa Monica prior to an Aero Theater showing of Disney's "Swiss Family Robinson."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Your Friendly Saturday Night Movie Guide

As the marquee of the now defunct Elmsford Drive-In adorns today's post, I continue on with my new monthly feature. I'm going to help you find a movie to see tonight. I flip through the pages of today's LA Times and comment on each ad as I see it. Total gut reaction. Enjoy your flick. Remember: It's Koooooool Inside! Unless, of course, you're going to a drive-in.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Is this the fourth movie? Or the fifth? How many of the books are out? I am as confused as I was when I read and saw the first one. This stuff is pure escapist fare. And I, indeed, have escaped it. Not on my list. I know the last book is due out and there is speculation that Harry gets offed at the end. Now, wouldn't that pretty much negate the filming of the last two books? I'm just saying...

Talk To Me: Don Cheadle as some real life shock jock. Not a fan of the guy. He always reminds me that he's ACTING!!!!!

Dr. Bronner's Magic Sopabox: Apparently some documentary on some guy who developed some soap. Should be required viewing in any trailer park. Not required viewing by me.

Captivity: Elisha Cuthbert locked up in a basement....again. She's had more gags in her mouth than Joan Rivers. Rim shot.

Interview: Something about a journalist interviewing a celebrity. Steve Buscemi is in it. That means it couldn't possibly be a romantic comedy, could it?

Evening: What a cast! Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close. And the reviews say it is dreadful. Next.

Transformers: I am not under 18. Sorry. By the way, I'm amazed by how quickly kids can flip these things around into different toys. As for me, with my arthritic thumb, I often have to ask my roommate to open a Snapple bottle.

Rescue Dawn: Some war flick by Werner Herzog. I have to be in the mood.

My Best Friend: It is described as a French farce. Which means it's probably about that country's ability to mount a Nazi resistance during World War II.

License to Wed: Robin Williams as a priest? Lock up your altar boys, please. No way, Renee.

Sicko: I already swallowed this pill. It is interesting that the ad today features a picture of Bush. They want to make it look like Fahrenheit 9/11. PS: The President is hardly in it. False advertising.

Ratatouille: I will definitely see this at some point at the great El Capitan Theater. But, first, I want to make sure every kid in Los Angeles has already seen it at least twice.

Introducing the Dwights: a dark British comedy with Brenda Blethyn. She's always reliable. This is the type of movie you see when the picture you really want is sold out.

I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal: A real popcorn movie. Not hardly.

Joshua: Looks like The Omen, Part 12. Anyone with an original idea, please report to the front desk.

Knocked Up: Already experienced this evening sickness. Still born.

Ocean's Thirteen: Still running. Still not seeing.

Broken English: Don't need to see this. I live this every day in Los Angeles and New York.

Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer: I still have not adopted a five year-old. Pass.

A Mighty Heart: Not to be confused with A Mighty Wind. Yeah, I probably will see this at some point, but I already know what happens at the end. It was in all the papers.

La Vie En Rose: This movie is hanging in there. Great story. Watch her waste away to nothing.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End: I have yet to walk the plank.

Live Free or Die Hard: Already lost these two hours of my life. They should have stopped with Nakatome Plaza, which, by the way, is really around the corner from my house.

I actually know what I am seeing tonight and it is none of the above. Once again, I am resorting to a revival house. Tune in tomorrow for the big reveal.

Dinner last night: BBQ Pork and Fried Rice.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Jersey Boys


I'm sadly a little late coming to this party. When I lived in New York, I would manage to get to all the hot Broadway shows within six months of their opening. In the bi-coastal travel arena, I can't do that as well. I know I got to see the original edition of 'The Producers" pretty quickly, but I have been lagging otherwise. I'm officially the Ed Kranepool of theater goers.

"Jersey Boys" has been around for over a year now, having cleaned up on the Tony Awards in June, 2006. Most of my friends back East are on their second and third viewings of this. I check for tickets and discover good seats are readily available sometime in 2012. So, I resort to doing what Los Angelenos have doing for years. I wait for the National Tour to hit town. It has. And, the other night, I did.

I long ago made the realization that you don't get cheated by national touring companies putting on established productions. Sometimes, here in SoCal, you get lucky. The wonderful "Drowsy Chaperone" actually started here at the Ahmanson Theater and I saw the original cast long before they hit the Marriott Marquis. But, touring actors are also working actors and generally no less talented than those toiling on Broadway. To be truthful, having seen "The Producers" first with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Broadway, I can say unequivocably that the LA version of the same show with Jason Alexander and the always extraordinary Martin Short was a much more balanced rendition. Hey, overall, the LA theater going experience is generally a notch up over Broadway. Here, people still dress for the theater. A while back, I actually saw some slob in New York's Winter Garden theater wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt. And they do observe the "no food" rules here. During my last several shows on Broadway, I have been appalled by dumbbells showing up with bags of gas station-purchased snacks like they were plopping down on the couch for a night of CSI. But, as usual, I digress....

Now, I had already heard how terrific the Tony Award-winning Broadway cast of "Jersey Boys" was. So, I was holding my breath at what type of show I would be seeing at the Ahmanson. I had already read that the national cast sported much more of an edge in their interpretations of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. As a result, I am not sure what I got the other night vis-a-vis the Broadway rendition. I can tell you that the show itself was a rousing piece of entertainment. While I certainly know their music, I didn't know much of the back story of the group. I always figured that Frankie Valli had pulled some diva act with the other, much akin to how Diana Ross steamrolled the Supremes. It's indeed the other way around. So, there was a whole bunch of amazing discovery for me with this show. I didn't know Valli's daughter had died due to drugs. I had no clue that the group that was backing up Frankie Valli in the later years were a completely different set of guys. I knew there was some Joe Pesci connection, but I did not know how deeply. So, I essentially came out of the theater, not only being entertained but educated as well. My tenth grade theater appreciation teacher would have been pleased.

All the performances were top notch. I never heard of a single one of them, but that didn't detract from the evening one iota. This is a show clearly built for unknowns. Although, if it lasts on Broadway for as long as I think it will, I am sure we will come to the day when John Stamos is playing the lead.

Here's a clip of the LA cast when they did that hackneyed Jay Leno's gabfest a few weeks back.

In a lot of respects, "Jersey Boys" is really nothing more than Four Seasons-Mania. But, it energizes every audience that sees it. That's not always a good thing. I've got an issue when audience members sing along with tunes during the show. I had two 60 year-old gas bags doing just that behind me, probably reliving the days when they got vinyl burns in the back seat of a Camaro. I'm there to hear the performers, not two repressed housewives from Lawndale. About midway through the first act, I rolled up my program and turned to give them both an air swat. Just as if I was training the dog, they both got the message and hit the newspaper for the rest of the night.

It's true. Big girls don't cry.

Dinner last night: homemade chili.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Charles Lane


When I was hanging around the Murphy Brown set about ten years ago, I remember there was an episode that featured the veteran comic actor, Phil Leeds. Director Peter Bonerz brought him out onto the sound stage and introduced him as "the man you all met on your first day in show business."

If Phil Leeds was there on the first day, Charles Lane was there on the day before. He died the other day at the age of 102. This concludes an amazing career, which he apparently kept going until last year, when he did the narration for some sort of Christmas cartoon. If you look at his IMDB file, his film and screen credits total over 400 and they go back to the early 30s. He was on virtually every TV comedy show, including every incarnation of a Lucille Ball vehicle. I remember seeing him in a St. Elsewhere episode where he amazingly portrayed an old man who was spending his last hours on earth with a hospital orderly. He looked ancient then, and that was almost 20 years ago! Nevertheless, while never a star, Charles Lane was the epitome of a working character actor.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday, TV Land produced the following tribute at one of their nutty award ceremonies.





About the time Charles hit 100, the Aero Theater in Santa Monica did a one-day retrospective of his film work. They were going to feature one of my favorite all-time films, "The Music Man", in which Mr. Lane played the River City sheriff. They brought him in for what I have been told was an amazing question and answer period after the film. I couldn't go. I regret that today.

Dinner last night: meatloaf and knockwurst platter at Kate Mantillini prior to the Ahmanson production of "Jersey Boys."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Hazy, Hot and Humid Wednesday







The prickly heat of opinions back at you for another scratch.

---Much ballyhoo on the opening weekend of "Transformers." All of the younger folks I know are clamoring to see this. Apparently, they all played with these sacred toys.

---How come Hollywood never made any blockbuster movies based on stuff I played with? Where's my Jerry Mahoney movie?

---Wait, there was one. "Stop, Look, and Laugh." I have the DVD. It starred Paul Winchell, Jerry Mahoney, Knucklehead Smiff, and Officer Joe Bolton. It was built around a bunch of Three Stooges' shorts.

---No CGI needed.

---Talk about the hypocracy of those Live Earth concerts. I heard they had everything biodegradable inside Giants Stadium, right down to the hot dog wrappers.

---Out in the parking lot, it was a tailgating garbage can. People running their car engines to play music. Trash all over the place.

---Nitwits.

---Meanwhile, Al Gore must be relishing that great campaign non-boost he got from his knucklehead son, who was speeding around with a Walgren's pharmacy in the front seat.

---But, at least, it was a Prius.

---Daddy offered all the standard words of support in the press. But, you just know that, behind closed doors, he probably dropkicked Junior's ass down the stairs of that energy-draining monstrosity of a mansion in Tennessee.

---The real thing melting away is his political career. I don't care what he says. Al Snore was waiting for the draft.

---Say Halleluljah! WCBS-FM 101.1 is returning to the oldies format. The Jack format never made it in New York.

---Kudos to my good friend, the Bibster, for suggesting the first song they should play after the format flips.

---Hit the Road, Jack.

---If I saw somebody like Mayor Dirtbag of LA wandering around my apartment building, I would just assume he was there to fix somebody's sink.

---Now there's another gal coming forward and she claims he took a pop at her, too.

---Gee, he's licking the peanut butter out of everybody's jar.

---And that Telemundo reporter ain't doing so bad herself. Allegedly, she's hooked up with about three other Hispanic politicians in the past. She must have taken a master class taught by Angie Dickinson.

---Some ministry organization is imploring Petco Field concession stands to walk off their jobs because the Padres are going to have a gay men's chorus sing the National Anthem.

---Oh, knock it off already! Wait till all these Bible thumpers discover the real reason why Judas hung himself.

---If one of every four people is gay, which one of the disciples was it?

---And following the same logic, which Lennon Sister was the lesbian?

---Is that ministry group even considering the possibility that somebody on the concession staff might be gay themselves?

---All together now. Nitwits.

---You really want to make the All Star Game count for something? I say the winner gets to determine when to fire Commissioner Bud Selig.

---If you were watching the game on Fox, the game itself was an unnecessary intrusion to all that other stupidity surrounding the event. Please stop with the endless crowd shots. One slob looks like another after a while.

---And why did we wait to get hearing from Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes sitting in a kayak in McCovey Cove. With a swim vest on his ugly dog.

---While we're watching the dog paddle around in the water, Ichiro is halfway around the bases with the first ever All Star inside-the-park home run.

---So, now Mayor Bloomberg of NY wants to charge you 8 bucks to bring your car into Manhattan lower than 96th Street. It's a plan to reduce traffic in midtown.

---You really want to un-congest the city? Stop those delivery trucks from doubleparking on narrow streets. And enforce jaywalking rules. There's a motorcycle cop outside my office window in LA who has nailed about ten people this morning for not using the crosswalk at a red light.

---Eight bucks to drive into town. And now it's 450 bucks if I want a ticket to "Young Frankenstein" which opens in November. Okay, that's for the really premium seats, but you know they're going to ramp up the front mezzanine, too.

---Sorry, Mr. Landlord, I can't pay the rent this month. I am going to see "Young Frankenstein."

---They are pricing this like it's a big hit already. Lightning doesn't always strike twice.

---And Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman are both sadly unavailable.

---Audible scream. They predict there will be 60 million Californians by 2050. And 52% of them will be Mexican.

---Do the math. To me, that just means we'll be seeing a lot more furniture spread out over the 10 Freeway around the first of every month.

---What about all those geeks running to the midnight show of the new Harry Potter movie?

---I'm skipping that one as well. I read the first book on a flight from LA to NY. And I saw the first movie. After that...

---I was done. Waiter, check, please.

---I know people love that stuff. As far as I was concerned, the whole wizardry stuff always confuses the hell out of me. Plus all those weird words. I was convinced the author had forgotten to put her manuscript through Spell Check.

Dinner last night: turkey burger at the Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Slicko


Another cinematic summer Sunday night.

When you walk into a Michael Moore "documentary," you have to know what you expect to see. Indeed, his films never deviate from the standard format he adopted in "Roger and Me." He follows it to a tee, just as producers always used the same cookie cutter approach in the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan series, the Charlie Chan mysteries, and every "Mickey and Judy Stage a Show in a Barn" musical.

Michael Moore always starts out with the point and summation that he wants to makes at the very end of the movie. Then, he spends the next two plus hours trying to stage a "factual" movie that gets to said point. He throws most logic out the window in doing so. He will get to that point, come Hell or high water. And what you wind up with as a film is certainly not a documentary, but more like a stunt. It's essentially "Jackass" with a brain.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have been generally entertained and borderline amused by his films. They frustrate me, because my moderate political views allow me to take issue with his argument against the government, while, at the same time, appreciating the objective of what he is setting out to do. With Moore, it's always the right idea and the stupidest execution. And I am very aware of the fact that he monkeys around with the editing in order to present his opinion, whether it is valid or not. I noticed this practice most in "Fahrenheit 9/11." If you recall, the final third of that film focuses on this Michigan (does he ever visit any other people?) mother who is this gung ho American spirit, proud to be sending her son to Iraq. Of course, as you would expect, the young man is killed there. When we once again reconnect with the mother's journey, she is extremely anti-war and regularly picketing the White House. Gee, what luck Moore had in finding a mother who would so seamlessly contribute to his story. Way too convenient. You could easily tell that parts of this episode were staged for maximum dramatic effect. And this, in my humble opinion, renders the whole movie as an "anti-documentary."

But, let's get to "Sicko." Who among us can't relate to being screwed at some point by a doctor or a health insurance organization? I've been pretty lucky myself, but I've heard horror stories among friends. One had toe surgery at an outpatient clinic with a very lofty Beverly Hills address. He went there becasue that's where his podiatrist sent him. However, the clinic ramped up the charges by about 200% because they probably equated their prominence to that of Neiman-Marcus down the block. His insurance would not pay this amount, since they (and rightfully so) felt that the clinic's costs were way overpriced. He never paid a dime, but he was forced to wage a war with a variety of parties for over a year to ensure that he would not have any out-of-pocket expenses. Among my other friends, similar stories abound

And Michael Moore has no problem finding other Americans who have their own axes to grind. He presents a myriad of sad stories from people with no health insurance or whose life savings were drained due to some catastrophic illness.

So far, so good. He pins much of the blame on the lack of socialized medicine in this country. Also skewered is the HMO concept of health coverage in this country, and he traces this back to Richard Nixon. That poor shlump now gets blamed for everything. It's a matter of time before they tie him into BALCO and Barry Bonds' steroids. But, I digress....

Here's where Mr. Moore's story starts to unravel badly. Moore takes his cameras to Canada, then England, and finally France. Allegedly, all three countries offer virtually free medical care. He interviews some transplanted Americans in those place, who revel in the medical coverage they receive there for little or no cost. One clinic apparently reimburses patients for transportation costs! It's the world that Moore espouses for America. But, you don't have to do much research to discover that the utopia universe he is presenting is very misleading. The free stuff offered is for the very basic medical care. There are similar horror stories. I have heard of one person in England who had to wait 9 months to have a MRI done. For Pete's sake, the injury could have healed naturally by then. But, of course, you heard none of that in Sicko. Unless they support his point, Michael Moore ignores certain facts that are easily retrieved. And that makes his style of "documentary" filmmaking nothing more than the same propaganda that he often ridicules the government of foisting on us.

Michael saves the worst grandstanding for last. He hooks up with three volunteers who were involved in the 9/11 recovery. These folks were not part of the official rescue team. Just basic Americans who were moved to help. I salute their passion. Nevertheless, they are now sick with pulmonary ailments, etc.. One guy has wore down his teeth due to night grinding brought on by 9/11 stress. (Hey, I've had the same problem for years. You don't need a lot of medical help solving that. Get a freakin' night guard.) Of course, because these folks are volunteers, their medical issues are not covered. I would challenge these folks that they should have known they were getting in over their heads, but, nevertheless, Michael strives to get them the medical coverage they need. He discovers that captured 9/11 conspirators, being held at Cuba's Guantanamo Naval Station, are getting excellent medical care. So, Moore loads his volunteers upon a boat that essentially sails into Guantanamo Bay. It is the type of cheap stunt that completely destroys what small points he has made successfully earlier in the film. The movie becomes as flawed as the health insurance industry he is trying to skewer.

As with all his movies, Michael Moore raises some valid questions, but never offers any solutions whatsoever. It is ultimately an empty experience. He's also an expert at weaving an audience into his passion, getting them riled up, and then leaving them flatfooted with nothing. The audience applauds wildly, but I doubt they understand just what they have embraced. Just like our government, Michael Moore plays the public for the saps they usually are.

I would tell you, by all means, to see Sicko. But, you should know that it's barely a ripple in the ocean when you're dealing with the real issues.

While it's a completely different topic, if you are hankering to see a true documentary, try "The Fog of War," which won the Oscar several years ago. It presents the most even-handed portrayal of a politician (Robert MacNamara) that I have ever seen. It should be a master class for Michael Moore.

Dinner last night: smoked bratwurst and salad.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 9, 2007

Keep that camera rolling, folks!



Dinner last night: a BLT sandwich at Wood Ranch.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Count Me In....


I am living now the fantasy I had when I was a kid. Summer drives along the Caliifornia coast with the top down (okay, the sunroof open) with a great motoring song flowing through the speakers. But, I say, "screw the Beach Boys!" If I'm on the road right now, I have to pop on Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

Who the hell thought I would be this enamored by anything that Jerry Lewis produced? But, this is the best thing he has done on this planet, bar none. And I'm betting the loopy French haven't caught onto this yet?

I have burned a bunch of their songs to my iPod and CD via iTunes. When you hear this stuff again, it is so infectious. I can close my eyes and imagine myself on that Mount Vernon stoop, either talking baseball or girls. Ideally, talking baseball with girls.

Gary Lewis has an active website and is apparently ready, willing, and able to appear anywhere. If I were getting married, he's be doing my wedding reception. Unfortunately, the later photos show that the acorn didn't fall far from the trees when it comes to a family resemblance. He looks like Dad. Well, the pre-prednisone-head Dad. Nevertheless, the career has been amazing. 8 Gold Records. 17 Top 40 Hits. 4 Gold Albums. 45 Million Platters (love that word) Sold.

Oh, who cares? We're listening, not looking. Enjoy.



Dinner last night: the best damn pizza anywhere at Vito's.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

How Do You Say "Shame on You" in Spanish?


Not to beat a dead donkey, but...

This is the stuff of one of those telenovelas that Univision or Telemundo runs on those back cable numbers. You know the kind. There's always so much hand wringing, usually because somebody has slept with somebody else's mate. El fuego. The plots are so enticing that American TV networks are starting to draw upon them for their own fare.

But, apparently, you can write what is going on down at LA City Hall.

Let's start with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was the great Latino hope for city government here. He smiles a lot. He hugs a lot. He runs to flash bulbs a lot. He has distinguished himself as a great leader? Not a lot. He's essentially one more political fraud who spends most of his time looking to keep his current job or find his next one. But, apparently, that's not how he spends ALL of his time.

He's already a coveted member of the Philandering Hall of Fame. Already, he's got two kids out of wedlock from back when he was shaking hands at some car dealership in El Monte. His wife booted him once, and, then, inexplicably, welcomed him back to the casa. So, last month, he announces another separation and impending divorce from his wife. To assume more hanky panky was afoot is akin to taking a flying leap off of a sidewalk curb. You probably didn't have to go far in City Hall to find out who was the new senorita in his mundo.

It turns out that he's been strumming his guitar outside the window of some Telemundo honey of an anchorwoman. Something something Salinas. I prefer to call her Mary Tyler Chiquita. This has been going for over a year and she's been there all the time, allegedly "covering" him. As a matter of fact, she even reported on his impending divorce on the Telemundo evening news.

Dos stupidos.

When I took journalism classes in college with former WCBS-TV Harry Arouh, the first thing he told us was never to eat any food at any event you are covering. Okay, well, I've seen plenty of sportswriters chowing down in any press box. But, Harry never covered how to approach sex on the job. But, then, again, it was Jesuit-run Fordham University.

Mary Tyler Chiquita is now off the air, thanks to some suddenly logical heads prevailing at Telemundo. If the powers that be knew about what was transpiring between their reporter and Mayor Ratbastard, they need to be shellacked. And forced to take a class with Harry Arouh, if he's still alive.

Meanwhile, let's consider Mayor Villar (since his current name is a combination of his name and his wife's name) and his actions. This very public figure was seen by neighbors in Mary Tyler Chiquita's condo building in Sherman Oaks. He was alone, sans entourage, showing up with a bag of takeout food and a jug of wine. They all knew who he was going to see, as the crackerjack reporter is apparently the only one in the building who is not old or Jewish.

Dos stupidos one more time.

Why would you stick out like the sorest thumb in the world? A burrito sitting in the middle of a Chinese BBQ buffet. And this is all transpiring while he's Mayor. And married.

Are our elected officials allowed to have a private life? Absolutely. But, when said private life displays an incredible lack of intelligence and ethical behavior, you really should not be surprised if people look the other way the next time your name is on the ballot. How you go about your life and how you go about your leadership are not separate entities. They would like you to believe and accept otherwise. Sorry. No can do.

It's actually sad when stereotypes prove to be more real than concocted. And, unfortunately, Mayor V has done nothing to dispel the Mexican male myth. Let's just hope that he ties his desk down to the truck securely when they move him out of City Hall permanently.

On the other hand, Villarsalinas is a lot easier to pronounce.

Dinner last night: Super Dodger Dog at the game.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Guilty Pleasure


Nothing more feels like a comfy sweater on a chilly Sunday afternoon than a Suzanne Somers sell-a-thon on the Home Shopping Network. I literally have my TiVo trained to find whenever she is on with these weekend marathons and record them.

Back in the early 80s, after her husband/manager/dunderhead Alan Hamel negotiated Suzanne off "Three's Company" and into oblivion, she must have had this great epiphany. Certainly not the dumb blonde she always portrayed, Suzanne apparently realized that she would never be confused with Uta Hagen. (I bet you thought you'd never see those two names in the same sentence). She was not destined to play Blanche DuBois on Broadway. So, for a while, she stumbled around the backwoods of television, doing a Lifetime movie here and a Patrick Duffy sitcom there. But, her destiny...and dollar value lay elsewhere.

The woman is a genius. Why? Because she figured out how stupid the territory between New York and Los Angeles really is. So, she goes out to Van Nuys, buys herself a warehouse of junk, and then sells it on television.

And they buy it up like fried pork rinds.

Every three months or so, Suzanne commandeers the HSN Network for whole weekends at a time. And she sells. And sells. And sells. Sweaters. Pants suits. Jewelry made with the finest of Cubic Zirconium. Exercise machines. Make-up. Pajamas. She has these little electronic devices that help you remove wrinkles around your eyes. They look like jumper cables for a Matchbox car. Along with her co-host Colleen, who is absolutely giddy with delight, Suzanne hawks with the passion of Elmer Gantry and the street sense of Robert Preston in the Music Man. Seventy-six trombones, feh! Suzanne would have gotten River City to ante up for twice as many...with bedroom slippers to match.

All Suzanne Somers products (also available on the Suzanne Somers website) come validated with the official Suzanne Somers seal of approval. It's her own personal Hirschfeld. But, probably, drawn by Lou, Abe's second cousin.

If John Kerry and Al Gore want to know why they lost their respective elections, all they need to do is listen to some of the phone calls that come in while Suzanne is on the air. Every one of the women have a Southern accent and proceed to thank Suzanne profusely because that gold-studded bathroom robe they bought prompted some life-altering experience. And Suzanne gushes with pride as she sells some more. And more. And more. You get to watch the number of items sold on the screen. When you do the simple math and realize that Suzanne's total production cost consists of about 6 Filipino ten-year-olds living in Oxnard, the profit margin for one such weekend goes into the millions.

And she doesn't stop with the clothes closet. While she's always quick to point out she stocks sizes up to XXXL, she's also got the solution for you if you truly want to lose those tricky seventy or eighty pounds. Suzanne will teach you how to diet. Namely, Somersize. She's concocted her own dietary sweetener that you mix into smoothies made in your Suzanne Somers blender. Mix it into her pudding mix, her ice cream sauces, and anything else that is available in the Suzanne Somers pantry. The pounds will melt faster than the lab rats who tested this stuff will drop dead. It's all within your grasp, Suzanne says. Just reach for your goals. And that will be $59.50, thank you very much.

This is a sociology lesson like no other. And it is, by far, the most hilarious and addictive program on television. My God, she's even a dentist.

And, just to show you that Suzanne is not greedy, she will be very happy to tell you how to become part of her amazing empire.



Call now. You won't be sorry. And, if you're one of the first fifty to respond, Suzanne will be happy to send you her new pain killing medicine, approved by several doctors in Argentina.

Dinner last night: grilled bratwurst.