Sunday, September 30, 2007

Baseball on Fox...Or Is It F*^ks?

With the National League pennant race in full bloom, this normally would have been a wonderful weekend to let Direct TV and the MLB package do its marvelous stuff. I had actually followed the Mets and the Phillies on Friday night via a combination of my Black Berry and an appropriately placed TV in the Dodger Stadium Club restaurant, where I was enjoying a sumptous meal. Despite the necessary intrusion of a haircut on Saturday morning, I would otherwise get to follow it all on Saturday afternoon. Right?


I am now officially a victim of Fox Sports and their stranglehold on any semblance of normalcy for a baseball fan.

First off, I pop the TV on at 945AM for the Met pre-game on SNY. There is an ongoing postmortem from the Friday loss, except for some idiot named Seth Everett who keeps saying that the Mets are a better team than the Phillies on paper. What's the point of that at this juncture, knucklehead? He reminds me of one of those idiots who buries himself in box scores and hasn't gotten any physical exercise in ten years. But, I digress. I look at the program schedule. The Met game is scheduled for SNY. Promptly, at 10AM, the screen goes blank just as if Meadow Soprano had walked into the diner one more time.

Damn you, Fox!

I head off to the hair salon, armed with my Black Berry tuned to for the pitch-by-pitch account of the Met game. Not only are they routing the Marlins, but John Maine is pitching a no-hitter. There has never ever been a no-hitter thrown by a Met pitcher. It's the seventh inning. My haircut is done. I race home, because surely Fox will pick up on some of this. Nope. That glorified bar wench, Jeannie Zelasko, is prattling on and showing us Chevy's Plays of the Year. The Chevy graphic cover the screen so much that it gives you the same sensation of watching a solar eclipse through one of those cardboard pinholes. Mercifully, Maine loses the no-hitter so I am not missing out on Met history. But, still...

Damn you, Fox.

Their Game-of-the-Week coverage starts. They have crews at three games. Nationals-Phillies. Padres-Brewers. Cubs-Reds. What game comes on in Los Angeles?


Damn you, Fox.

The Cubs clinched Friday night. The only cities that should be getting this broadcast are Cincinnati and Chicago. And, with the playoffs locked, I am guessing most of the folks in Chitown are probably watching Notre Dame football anyway. I would, of course, preferred the Phillies game, but even the Padre contest had some ramifications on the wild card race. For the first two innings of the Cub game, Fox switches from game to game until none of it makes any sense. For a while, it seemed like Aaron Harang was pitching to Ryan Howard seven hundred miles away.

Damn you, Fox.

This is just one more example of how MLB's national TV provider doesn't get it. They spend so much time trying to entice 17-20-year-old young men to baseball that they forget the big picture. We don't need to see Dane Cook, who is as funny as a leaky colostomy bag, shill about the playoffs. As far as I'm concerned, whether my teams are in it or not, the playoffs don't need to be pre-sold. An intelligent baseball fan will be tuned in regardless. The young men that Fox is trying to rope in are unattainable anyway because A) they have been so dumbed down by Hollywood that they don't get the strategic aspects of a baseball game, B) it ain't football, and C) baseball doesn't have any CGI. So, Fox needs to leave them the hell alone in their stupidity and concentrate on telecasting the sport. And doing it with smart programming moves. Most of the country should have been seeing the Phillie game, as they are the hottest team in baseball.

Let's face it, unless Joe Buck or Tim McCarver does the Fox telecast, the coverage is shoddy at best. I watched them do the Diamondback-Dodger game two weeks ago and they used Arizona's TV guy for play-by-play. He was mindnumbingly bad as he concentrated most of his chatter on Eric Byrnes, the D-back outfielder Fox has deemed goofy enough to be spotlighted on such major events as the All-Star Game. I guess perhaps they feel Eric Byrnes and Seth Rogan are interchangeable with the younger set.

Tim McCarver is over 60 and still getting a Fox paycheck. I wonder what he thinks about it all.

Dinner last night: German sausage sampler at Dupar's.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Does This Look Right to You, Stupid?

Roger Ebert is back writing movie reviews and commentaries on the world of cinema and that's a good thing. One of his more recent articles made me stand up and scream "Amen" as if I were watching the Gospel Network. And, naturally, that means you going to be the recipient of some of that emotion as well.

I even stole the picture above from Roger's website, so I'm going to be totally compliant with regard to charges of plagarism. It's obviously the famed airport scene from Casablanca. And this is the way somebody would actually watch it if they didn't bother to successfully manage the aspect ratio on their widescreen television. Even the most uneducated film fan can tell you the image is wrong. All of a sudden, Rick and Ilsa look like Shrek and Fiona.

Now I'm a full-fledged card carrying citizen of the plasma TV world, I must admit that the varying aspect ratios from channel to channel and program to program is maddening. Unless you are on one of those HD-dedicated channels, you literally have to adjust the screen size for every channel you turn to. I pretty much watch Turner Classic Movies religiously and it's a great place to practice your screen dimension prowess. Movies from the 30s and 40s are not widescreen. You use the 4:3 screen. If it's one of those widescreen epics from the 50s or 60s, you experiment between Full, Wide, Cinema, or Zoom. You can easily tell what looks right. And you modify as you go along.

At least, you have that option these days. I can remember back when I was a kid. Channel 7 in NY had this great 4:30PM movie and they would not be ashamed to air movies that were way out of their league. They simply ran all of them pan and scan. If it was a Cinemascope movie from Fox, you would have a dialogue between two people, but see neither of them on the screen. You'd hear an invisible voice coming from the left side of the screen and another disembodied voice from the right side. And all you would see on screen in the center of the screen is a lamp on an end table. It was a disaster. But, nobody knew any better then.

But, here we are almost 40 years later and people still don't know any better. As I go about my daily travels, you run into widescreen TVs being used in restaurants, hotels, and other public venues. None of the screen sizes are adjusted correctly. Baseball players are squeezed from top to bottom as if they all are playing in a Danny DeVito-sponsored beer league. It's as if we have all accepted the inevitability of living our lives with cataracts in both eyes.

And then there's the dimwit that sits at home and watches Casablanca in the aspect ratio shown above. When you ask Joe Schmo why, he replies, "Well, I don't like to look at the bars around the screen." Duh? Would you read War and Peace and not read the paragraph at the top and bottom of every page? Films are an art form. You look at the whole Mona Lisa, not just the blouse she is wearing.

It's amazing how hard some people make the world around us.

Dinner last night: the glorious buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club. No Dodger Dogs this night.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Yonkers Central Plaza Memories, Part 2

Following up on my comments yesterday about the Yonkers Central Plaza theater, I unearthed this relic which will certainly be mental comfort food for anybody who used to remember this moviehouse fondly. The place was affiliated with General Cinema and, back in the 1970s, all feature presentations opened this way. I love this stuff.

General Cinema's Feature Presentation
Uploaded by joecool85

Dinner last night: Bratwurst at the Dodger wake.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Used to Be....

When I was in New York last week, I thoroughly depressed my good friend Glenn. I was telling him (perhaps with too much glee) about the American Film Institute's planned 40th Anniversary celebration on October 3 at the Arclight Cinemas in Los Angeles. For one night only, they are turning over 11 of the screens to classic movies that will be hosted by one of the principals of the film. I was lamenting that, since all the movies start at 7PM, you literally have to pick which one to attend. I ticked off the roster as follows:

Julie Andrews will present THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

Warren Beatty will present BONNIE AND CLYDE.

Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner will present WHEN HARRY MET SALLY...

Kirk Douglas will present SPARTACUS.

Clint Eastwood will present UNFORGIVEN.

Morgan Freeman will present THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.

Tippi Hedren will present THE BIRDS.

Angela Lansbury will present BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

George Lucas will present STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE.

Jack Nicholson will present ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.

Sylvester Stallone will present ROCKY.

I actually had the audacity to complain to my friend that my first choice (BONNIE AND CLYDE) was sold out, and that I had to settle for Julie Andrews.

That was more than he could bear.

"Well, at least, you get to go to stuff like that in Los Angeles."

Ain't that the sad and grim truth?

On my frequent trips, I look around New York and remember the cinematic glory it once embraced. When I watch those "What's My Line?" reruns from the 60s, you always hear Bennett Cerf or Arlene Francis referencing those big new movies that were playing at the fabulous movie houses downtown. If you look around those Manhattan streets, you see none of those palaces anymore. The only semi-relic left is not even a product of the old days. The Ziegfield Theater is a terrific place, but it was built in the 70s. Beyond that, there is nothing. And New York should be ashamed for not doing more to protect the moviegoing experience.

I can tick off the names of the theaters that dotted the landscape 40 years ago. When it was a treat to go "downtown" to see a new movie that you might have to wait for months to come to your neighborhood house in Westchester or Long Island.

The Roxy.

The Beekman.

Radio City Music Hall (it really died, folks, that crummy Christmas show notwithstanding).

Any of the Trans Lux theaters.

The Rivoli.

It was all an event you craved. You scanned the newspapers because the really good story always opened in Manhattan before any place else. Usually, it was a little more expensive. If you wanted to see it fast, it cost a little more in those "reserved seat engagements." It might take six months before a movie would show up in Mount Vernon at the ubiquitous "popular prices." Not that the outskirt theaters had anything to be ashamed about. I have written previously of the magnificent grandeur of my hometown's RKO Proctor's and Loew's (really Lo-wees). Temples that promised journeys to lands populated by MGM, Paramount, and Universal. Those places are demolished as well. I frequently call up a fantastic website called "" It brings all of that back to life for me.

I regret only getting the tail end of the NY moviegoing sensation. By the time I was cognizant of it all and was absorbing movies other than those produced by either Walt Disney or Jerry Lewis, the villainous wrecking ball was already snaking its ominous way through the balconies of long ago. When I was starting to look at R or PG-rated films, the architecture carving was all in full swing. But, even in the 70s, there were some feeble attempts in Westchester to restore the movie theater experience. There was a terrific local house that could have easily supplanted the rubbled Proctor's and Loews. Granted it was one of those snarky "twins" that started to crop up in strip malls around that time, but the Central Plaza Cinemas in Yonkers certainly was a valiant attempt. Back when it opened, the lobby was cloaked in a sumptuous red curtain. There was a cascading waterfall which I remember finding rather ironic during an intermission of "The Towering Inferno." The actual auditoriums were deep and inviting with a balcony upstairs that separates those pesky smokers. It was modern and old at the same time.

It didn't last. They sliced it up into four theaters sometime in the 80s. The upstairs screening rooms have sightlines that prompt stiff necks and contorted vertebrae. The waterfall is gone. The red curtains have disappeared. The only reminder of what this was is in the General Cinema sign that still adorns the theater's roof. Clearview has taken it over, as this Cablevision conglomerate has doen with most of the theaters in the NY metropolitan area. It's no longer an experience to crave. It's essentially nothing more than 10 dollars leaving your pocket and entering theirs.

Los Angeles has done a whole more to perserve the moviegoing sensation than New York. There are single screen palaces here and, frequently, they show the classics as they once were projected in days of old. This is not to say they have been 100% devoted to the process. There has certainly been demolition here as well. One such theater which pops up in lots of old Hollywood photos is the Fox Carthay Circle. I tracked the address and, where this grand dame once stood tall, you can now find either a synagogue or a Shakey's Pizza.

But, still, this is about New York. And a distinct failure to maintain a splendor that was so uniquely a part of that gotham. Maybe it's too much to ask. Perhaps we shouldn't have a movie palace to show the likes of the garbage produced by Hollywood in 2007. Why do you need a 2,000 seat theater to show a movie that is geared to 17 year-old boys who are anxiously awaiting the next fart joke?

You need it now more than ever.

Dinner last night: Had a big lunch, so just some fruit salad.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Unpleasant Valley Wednesday

The weekly roundtrip journey to the land of Lunacy.

---Renowned mime Marcel Marceau passed away.

---Now, he can really do that 'trapped in a box" routine.

---I wonder what his last words were.

---We also lost the beloved Brett Somers. She and Charles Nelson Reilly were hilarious together on the Match Game.

---I will miss the two of them like___________.

---And, in the department of "getting your mouth shut," let's consider current Padre and former Dodger Milton Bradley.

---He got into another row with an umpire on Sunday. He went after the guy and then his own manager and teammates had to wrestle him to the ground.

---And he injured his knee in the process.

---No matter where Little Milton goes, he cannot get out of his own way.

---He needs to get his money back from those anger management courses he took when he was with the Dodgers.

---And, of course, in the post game comments, he blames the entire incident on persecution.

---Here's breaking news, Milton: it's not because you're Black, it's because you're an asshole.

---Although I am thinking that the umpires like to play with his head. These knuckleheads always overstep their boundaries. Like that fat pig Country Joe West.

---Paging Frank Pulli and Nestor Chylak.

---If Sherlock Holmes married Nestor Chylak,...

---...they'd probably be living in West Hollywood.

---It's rather ironic that somebody named Milton Bradley can't play a simple game.

---The New York Mets can easily win the World Series. They can be that good.

---The New York Mets can easily get swept out of the first round of the playoffs. They can be that bad.

---I still hold to my prediction: you will never ever see Billy Wagner closing out a World Series for the Mets.

---The Dodgers' late season plight can be attributed to the traditional passing of life's baton. Old people being told they are done. Young people being told they are not ready. And nothing in between. With neither side willing to bend.

---The Fall TV season began on Monday.

---Anything been cancelled yet?

---I got a grand total of three laughs out of CBS' Monday night lineup. And two of them came from the new show I thought would be dreadful---The Big Bang Theory.

---Who cares if Guiliani has flipflopped on the illegal immigration issue? At least, he recognizes now that it's the biggest problem this country has.

---That and the fact that this is a country where Dane Cook is considered a star.

---How many people are backing Hillary purely because it brings Big Bill back to the White House?

---Since former Presidents are always addressed by their title, can you picture a future White House staff meeting with both Bill and Hillary present?

---White House Aide: "President Clinton..."

---Bill/Hillary: "Yes?"

Dinner last night: Grilled turkey sausage.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

7:20 to Nowhere

The morning after I went to see "3:10 to Yuma" I would have loved to give you a review of the movie. The only problem is that I still had yet to see the last third of the film.

In what would be the first ever two part mini-series ever to be shown in a commercial movie theater, I had to essentially watch this western in two sittings. Here's how you achieve such a wondrous event:

I'm a little late coming to the appreciation party for this remake. With the Dodgers pushing daisies and my Bowl season equally interred, it's time for me to catch up on movies I had missed. The perfect Fall diversion. More than one person had told me how terrific this oater (Variety talk for a western) was. So, off I toddled to the Arclight with a friend for a looksee.

And what I saw I liked a lot. An old fashioned western with new fangled darkness. A great mix. And, then, suddenly, about one hour and ten minutes into the picture...

Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop.

A strange sounding fire alarm started to sound in my auditorium. And, in this age of excessive caution and fears of terrorism, the audience did what I totally expected.

They ignored it. And, after a few moments, it stopped. Back to Messrs. Crowe and Bale.

Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop.

Some of the patrons now turned in their seats to see where the sounds were emanating from. I am betting more than one of us actually thought it was a weird noise coming from somebody's Black Berry and that it was time to fling said device against the far wall of the theater. After a longer period, the noise stopped again. We return you now to our program of Wild West killings.

Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop.

Now, one or two people take the time to get up and walk into the lobby. Interestingly enough, they don't return. Perhaps they got sucked into some sinister hole of Gummy Bears and Raisinets. More people leave. More people don't come back. Meanwhile, on the big screen, Russell Crowe has just stabbed somebody in the neck with a dinner fork.

Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop.

This goes on and off for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, theater personnel are about as scarce as Arab taxicab drivers in Manhattan on 9/11. Now, one of the things I love about the Arclight is the usually copious customer service. Before every screening, there is an usher who addresses the audience with regard to theater behavior (bizarre that this is now an accepted practice) and that he or she will regularly check in to see how the picture is running. On this night, our usher must have been on perma-break. He was about as visible as Amelia Earhart.

Finally and mercifully, the picture stopped running. That was the clue for everyone to start filing out of the screening area. Of course, outside, everyone else was filing out of their respective auditoriums as well. It was like the day before Thanksgiving at LAX. Again, there is no announcement, no notification, no nothing. I see the goofy kid who had sold me my buttered popcorn earlier and asked him for details. I might as well have asked Cletus from the Simpsons to explain the true meaning of life. In his dumbest and, at the same time, snarkiest manner, he advised me that the theaters were being evacuated. Duh?? Did he think I was wondering why all these people were suddenly headed to the bathroom to wash their hands? I moved on from this numbskull who should have his minimum wage reduced even further.

I wish I could tell you what was going on at the Arclight that night, but nobody got any details. You heard it was a computer malfunction. You heard it was a smoke alarm. You heard it was a delayed reaction to Y2K. But, with regard to actual accurate information, you heard nothing. It was a thoroughly organized evacuation...with no real destination in mind.

Of course, this also meant that you had 15 different audiences all leaving the Arclight garage at once. And, of course, the parking personnel, who are challenged by an up and down direction on good days, manuevered most cars into gridlock that made the Long Island Expressway look like the Autopia ride at Disneyland.

Yet, I was so engrossed in the film that I had to go back the next day and finish it up. I learned almost 24 hours later that it was indeed a computer malfunction in the fire alarm system. My ticket stub got me in free to my return showing. And I spoke to a manager on duty who said there would be extensive meetings to discuss "crowd engagement" during unusual circumstances. And I also threw Cletus the Candy Counter guy under the bus while I was at it.

I saw the last third of "3:10 to Yuma" and heartily recommend it to all. Jack Riley (Mr. Carlin from the Bob Newhart Show) was sitting two rows in front of me. The film works wonderfully, even if it comes with a day long intermission.

Dinner last night: Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers at Chili's for a good cause. All money yesterday at this restaurant chain went to St. Jude's.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 24, 2007

The wonderful Mr. Bean.

Dinner last night: Asian steak salad at Charcoal.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Company Coming

Does anybody go to visit family and friends on Sunday afternoons anymore? On the day of rest, this was a standard practice in my family. When I was a kid, we were always at somebody else's house on Sundays. You would have your big dinner around 1PM and then head over to see somebody or anybody. Invariably, you would stay right through supper, which usually consisted of cold cuts and potato salad.

Living in my grandmother's house, we got the reverse. She was the one getting the visitors. Around 2PM, the front door bell would ring, the dog would bark, and then one of my grandmother's relatives from the old country would walk in. They'd sit for the day, yakking it up in German. I would sit and listen to them, hoping to pick up a stray word of English here and there. If they were talking the latter and wanted to say something snarky about somebody in the family, they would flip back into German so I couldn't pick it up. Damn.

Now, my grandmother had this second cousin or niece named Adele. I'm not exactly sure what she really was, because, on a variety of occasions, my grandmother would refer to her as either one or the other. She was a Sunday visitor and presented a microcosm of the highs and lows of life. When you saw Adele getting off the bus and heading up the street to our house, your heart would race momentarily with exhileration. Adele always brought these home-baked raspberry squares, which must have had about four sticks of butter in them. To this day, they were the best things I ever tasted. But, Adele's visit also coincided with the ultimate in bad news. Because she was always there to give my grandmother a Toni Home Permanent. For the uneducated, this was all the rage in the 50s and 60s. You essentially put a ton of acid on your hair and then throw in these rollers that create curls that would rival Angela Davis. For some reason, my grandmother loved these treatments. And they stunk up the house. When you heard Adele walk through the front door, it was an immediate signal to me and my parents that all doors to my grandmother's end of the house must be hermetically sealed. Once, we forgot my dog was downstairs and she literally carried the smell with her for weeks.

The sweet and sour of memories. Whenever my doorbell rings on a Sunday, I get a little refreshing jolt.

Until, of course, I answer it and discover from some knucklehead how Jehovah can save the world.

Dinner last night: Pepperoni pizza at CPK.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Morning Bonus Laugh

I know what you might be thinking. I already resort to a video laugh on Monday morning, so my stat of completing 200 posts on this blog is a little padded---sort of like Trevor Hoffman's save record. Now, I'm going to post a little comedy video on Saturdays, too? Well, folks, I'm not being lazy. I did have something a little more creative for today. But, when I got home from NY yesterday, my roommate showed me this and I wanted to use it immediately. I've got those blasted Monday morning video laugh posts already done up to the end of November. I wanted to show you this sooner than later before it makes its way around the internet and everybody emails it around like crazy. So, there! Enjoy!

Dinner last night: back home for some takeout sausage and peppers.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Post # 200: Inside the Blogger's Studio

Today's post is #200 of this daily writing exercise. In honor of my accomplishment of lasting this far, I thought it would be fitting to sit across from famed celebrity interviewer James Lipton. I used to love "Inside The Actor's Studio" when it actually delved into the minds of really good actors. Frankly, the whole thing jumped the proverbial shark when the spotlight was put on such thespians as Jennifer Lopez and Jay Leno. And, of course, there is no bigger pompous ass than the host, who needs to get whacked over the head with that damn snack tray of his.

Nevertheless, Lipton always closes his show with that nutty French questionnaire from Proust, Pivot, or some other cheese. He subjects all his guests to it, and the answers always wind up being the highlight of the hour.

So, here goes. I am answering Lipton's questions:

Lipton: Len, what is your favorite word?

Me: Inexplicable. As in the Dodgers' 4 game sweep by the Rockies this week, thereby killing their 2007 playoff hopes, was inexplicable.

Lipton: What is your least favorite word?

Me: Canoodle. What the hell is that?

Lipton: What turns you on (creatively, spiritually, or emotionally)?

Me: Grilled Taylor Ham on an English Muffin.

Lipton: What turns you off?

Me: People who get through life reading off index cards.

Lipton: What sound or noise do you love?

Me: Quiet.

Lipton: What sound or noise do you hate?

Me: The revving of a motorcycle.

Lipton: What is your favorite curse word?

Me: F%$k.

Lipton: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Me: Acting.

Lipton: What profession would you not like to do?

Me: Anything that involves contact with the general public.

Lipton: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Me: "You've been upgraded to a suite."

Okay, this was a little self-indulgent. But, it's fun to do if you answer impulsively. Try it.

Dinner last night: Pizza.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dirty Old Man: The Sequel

In response to my slamjob a few weeks ago on Tom Carvel, a friend shared with me some of the vintage Carvel Ice Cream tv ads via You Tube. This brought back even more memories. I was on the sidelines when a lot of this footage was originally shot.

Once again, the cheap bastard didn't use real cameramen and production people when he needed to tape new commercials. Instead, he made arrangements to use the AV studios of a nearby Catholic seminary. The old man got tons of free studio time and a bunch of kids got four credits. The place was run by a couple of nuns, who got all sorts of giddy because they were in the presence of this ice cream prince. Of course, the porno tapes he had in the back seat of his car were not made available to them.

There was one shoot where he had some baseball promotion. For that, TC invited his "good" friend Mickey Mantle to film the commercial with him. The good news was that Mickey showed up sober for the day. The bad news was he brought his buddy Billy Martin with him. Thinking that Martin was going to be a distraction during production, they elected me to sit with him in a classroom and essentially babysit the guy. After about five minutes of small talk, Billy and I had little more to share with each other. He excused himself for the men's room and I promptly lost him for an hour. I know he didn't find the men's room, because, when I found him, he was peeing in the snow outside.

Meanwhile, Mickey was in the studio giving a pretty lady his hotel key. What he didn't realize was that the lady in question was one of the nuns who ran the place.

Good times.

Dinner last night: Chef's Salad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Wednesday Kind of Love

Love notes as only I can dispense. From the Eastern time zone.

---A hung jury in the Phil Spector trial? You literally can get away with murder in California.

---That should be a mental note to all those people in SoCal who regularly piss me off.

---So, OJ is back. He got arrested for a Las Vegas burglary of his own memorabilia.

It would be hilarious for him to finally get locked up permanently for something other than the heinous crime he committed 13 years ago.

---The ones who should be behind bars with him are those twelve morons that let this idiot back onto the streets. I know they think about what they did every day as they go about their lives. Which probably includes selling stamps at the post office and collecting relief checks on the first of every month.

---That's the jury that should have been hung.

---And quartered.

---And Fred Goldman never goes away either. Now he's got the rights to OJ's tell-all book and he plans to publish it in a means to get the civil case money OJ owes him.

---It's fourteen years later, Fred. Let it go.

---What happened to your son is a travesty, but it's time to move on. Where did you do your grief counseling? At Costco?

---Face the facts. Your kid was headed over there with Nicole's eyeglasses because he thought he was going to get a little nooky. Don't tell me that restaurants always hand deliver items left behind by patrons.

---I left my sunglasses at a restaurant once. They called me up.

---"Come and get them."

---And once I left my ATM card behind on the table. The restaurant called me up.

---"Come and get it."

---Am I the only one who thinks Fred Goldman looks like a coach from the Oakland A's during the 70s.

---In New York, after the Mets' treacherous weekend against the Phillies, I'm finally hearing some Reyes bashing. Where you all been?

---The guy needs to get his ass ripped once and for all so that he can mature past it. It's only for his own good.

---The Met bullpen looks like Vietnam without the napalm.

---I can tell you of at least 10 Dodger losses this year that can be blamed directly on Grady Little's managing.

---Do the math. They win the division hands down without this knucklehead at the helm.

---Bad pitching manuevers weren't isolated with his Pedro move in the 2003 playoffs vs. the Yankees. The guy has an amazing knack of making the same mistake over and over and over.

---Sort of like what I do with American Airlines.

---Bobby Valentine, are you tired of sushi yet? LA is waiting for you.

---I can't imagine where the Dodgers would have been this year if they had started the season with James Loney at first instead of making him needlessly languish in the minors for the first 3 months.

---Fearless prediction: Loney will be the NL MVP in 2008.

---A rare win for the Mets: the schedule makers have given them home games the last weekend of September 2008 as they close up Shea. The Yankees have to close up their dump a week earlier.

---Now all the Mets have to worry about is not closing up their season the last September weekend in 2007.

---As I walked by Radio City Music Hall this AM, I noticed a poster that said the Dalai Lama will be appearing there next month.

---With the Rockettes, I hope.

---Is it me or is Hillary steamrolling her way to the White House?

---The political mechanisms in this country need to come equipped with laugh tracks.

---Dust off that spare bedroom in the White House. Bill is coming. It's probably the one Eleanor was using when she wasn't canoodling any more with Franklin.

---Only in NY: apparently, during the US Open, there was a lot of vandalism in the parking lot. 900 car mirrors were stolen. Cops found them in an adjacent glass store and that guy got thrown in a jail.

---But, my question is: how does that happen 900 times in a parking lot without some security seeing it?

---Answer: Because there was probably no security.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger with grilled vegetables.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Emmy Schmemmy

Usually, televised award shows are a slamdunk for garnering lots of laughter. You wait for the inevitable lapses of taste, the eternally banal spontaneity of pseudo-celebrities, and those other misguided moments that can only be provided by live television.

Well, Sunday night, Fox devoted three plus hours to the 59th Annual Emmy Awards and produced the worst kind of bad television. It was so horrible it couldn't possibly be funny. I'd like to tell them where they can find my bank account of life because they definitely need to credit me back three hours and ten minutes.

I just know that, on Monday morning, there were a bunch of TV Academy bigwigs pacing around their Lankershim Boulevard headquarters and trying to figure out what they did wrong. They could start with Fox, which essentially staged a 190 minute infomercial for their new Fall lineup. They could follow up with some questions for the idiot who designed the Westbury Music Fair-like set, which was better suited for watching an evening of entertainment from Lainie Kazan and Myron Cohen. It all looked like the Senior Awards assembly at Beverly Hills High. There was too much going on and another assault on the senses very much like what goes on between innings at a Met game in Shea Stadium. I was half expecting host Ryan Seacrest to start shooting Pepsi t-shirts into the audience.

The Emmy folks should also track down whoever the genius was that designed that bizarre cutaway for whenever somebody said a bad word. You suddenly would see this long shot of the audience with this huge Studio 54 disco ball. The first two times they did this, I was more confused than I was during the last minutes of the Sopranos finale.

Ryan Seacrest, as an awards show host, is no Johnny Carson. He's not even Bill Cullen. On American Idol, he does an expert job of being a traffic job. On the Emmys, he felt compelled to take a few stabs at humor. At one point, he popped out in some Shakespearean get-up, which would have been funnier if people in the audience weren't assuming that it was probably something that came straight out of his closet at home. He totally forgot that he's supposed to be the straight man for the event and leave the comedy to pros like Brad Garrett. Unfortunately, for the latter, it's becoming sadly apparent by the minute and hour that he is absolutely nothing without the Raymond writers. Brad's banter with co-star Joely Fisher as presenters was so incredibly painful that I was praying for an impromptu cut-in from President Bush at the White House.

I was astounded how many awards there were for mini-series and specials. I knew nothing about Broken Trail, Wounded Knee, or some dreck called the Starter Wife. Competition had to be pretty slim when you consider that Debra Messing got another acting nomination. Robert Duvall came up on the stage so much that you figured he was one of the accountants from Ernst and Young. When somebody was not present to pick up their Emmy, I considered it a win-win for the audience.

While I've always found Jon Stewart amusing, I don't get Stephen Colbert or Steve Carell. It's that smug "we're more clever than everybody else in the universe" attitude that permeates everything they do. The bits they participated in seemed to go on for hours, especially the one with Colbert running around with a leaf blower that he probably borrowed from his gardener for the night.

Poor Sally Field. She simply cannot accept an award without making an ass of herself. For some inexplicable reason, she started to babble about the war in Iraq. Cue the disco ball. Whatever she said was probably too incoherent to be offensive and, let's face it, the closest she's gotten to Iraq was probably the world premiere of "Jarhead" at the Chinese Theater.

I'm also still trying to comprehend what was behind that Wayne Brady bit about some nutty Fox show about singing lyrics. And, the tie-in of "Jersey Boys" to the Sopranos was a little more flimsy than it appeared. I just figured that they had these guys booked and tried to figure out how to best utilize a Broadway act on a show saluting the best in television. if there were no Sopranos this year, they simply would have figured out how to connect Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to Ugly Betty.

Most of the actors who won Emmys clearly looked out of place and fearful of what was to come next. Their tentative acceptance speeches all gave the appearance that their backstage press conferences would involve some sort of invasive surgery. I don't understand how James Spader wins year after year, especially when his competition is James Gandolfini. And I have a sense that Jeremy Piven is the next John Larroquette---winning year after year simply because people are too lazy to read their ballots.

Al Gore is now making the rounds of all the award shows and it's a matter of time before he gets one of those Nickelodeon Kid trophies for doing his global warming Powerpoint presentation in crayon. He's gotten a lot of recognition for stating what scientists have known for years. The only difference is that Al Snore has dumbed it all down to a third grade level, which is still too advanced for most Americans. You start to think that he's the one who actually invented the polar ice caps. The guy would be a lot more impressive if you didn't stop to realize that he's flying to all these events in a private jet from his Tennessee mansion, which apparently is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in the nation.

Of course, we are now getting Tony Bennett shoved down our throats at every opportunity. Except everytime he turns up, he looks like some old guy who got lost on the way to the grocery store. But, apparently, the joke's on all of us as he's gotten himself some 25 year-old wife. He may not be able to find the bathroom, but he certainly knows where he keeps the Viagra.

There was no Emmy win that I was completely invested in except for the Sopranos grabbing Best Drama. But, that didn't happen till way past 11PM and I already was applying some ointment to my bedsores.

The capper to it all is that this year's Emmy celebration got the lowest ratings since 1990. And, if they don't fix what they broke this year, they might as well let Telemundo telecast it in 2008. Nobody ever understands it anyway.

Dinner last night: pot roast, potatoes, peas and carrots.

And tomorrow.....from New York!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 17, 2007

An absolute classic from "To Tell The Truth." Woof.

Dinner last night: BBQ Burger at Islands.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Scenes You Can't Turn Off V 3.0

These posts are like potato chips. You can't stop eating them. More wonderfully crafted writing from classic TV. Especially noteworthy today on Emmy Day.

Here's my favorite all-time I Love Lucy scene from my favorite all-time I Love Lucy episode. William Holden. The Brown Derby. Enough said.

And, of course, what would this series of posts be without....a scene from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Chuckles' funeral is unavailable, but this one is. It's a scene where the just-fired Mary is reunited with Rhoda and Phyllis in the last episode.
Dinner last night: A great Calzone at Vito's.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Jane Wyman Connection...Well, Sort Of

The passing earlier this week of Jane Wyman sparked a couple of thoughts. I remember when I was a kid. My mother was told repeatedly that she looked like Jane. Now, frankly, I never saw it. But, when I look at this picture to the right, I can see it more and more. This was a woman who clearly never missed her weekly appointment at the beauty parlor. And neither did my mother.
But, my other story involving Miss Wyman is even better. And it's so bizarre that you know I'm not making it up.
About eight or nine years, I happened to work in proximity to Jane Wyman's adopted son, Michael Reagan. Actually, his office used to be right next door to mine. We spoke casually and he was pleasant enough. His fatal flaw was that he liked to conduct his phone conversation and retrieve his voicemail messages on a speaker phone. Why is that a flaw? Because I was in the next room, straining to hear every goddamn word.
One afternoon, Michael came in and, as per his daily routine, he immediately dialed up his voicemail on the speaker phone. That day's first message really peaked my interest. It was from a Palm Springs TV station looking to confirm a rumor that his father had died.
I almost fell off my chair. I tuned everything else out. I could be one of the first people in the country to know that a former President was dead. I made a mental list of the friends I would call, in descending order, to share this juicy piece of gossip. My friend in NY, the Bibster, would get the first honor.
Michael sprung into action. He immediately deleted this message and then dialed another number. On the speaker, once again. The other end of the line picked up. The voice was unmistakably Jane Wyman's. Michael explained to her the call he had gotten. Since she lived in Palm Springs, had they tried her? She had heard nothing. Michael said he would get back to her. They hung up.
Michael quickly dialed another number. The other end of the line picked up. The voice was unmistakably that of Nancy Reagan's.
Michael: Hey, it's Michael.
Nancy: Hi.
My good fortune was snatched at this juncture. He picked up the receiver. The rest of the conversation was all one-sided as far as I am concerned.
Michael (on phone): How's Dad?
Michael: Sleeping? Are you sure?
And he then closed the door. Crap.
I sat for several minutes, but there was no subsequent flurry of activity. Obviously, Ronnie hadn't checked out just yet and it would be another four or five years before he did. I did not have the scoop of the ages. But, I sat in the now-silence of my office to relish a delicious mental image. Nancy Reagan holding a mirror under her sleeping husband's nose to see if he was still breathing.
Well, it's sort of a Jane Wyman story.
Dinner last night: Super Dodger Dog.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Your September Weekend Movie Guide

It's the Fall movie season, which hopefully means more intelligence and less CGI on our local movie screens. This past Summer was another disaster for moviegoers unless you're a male between the ages of 16 and 22.

So, let's see what's out there for us this weekend, shall we? Once again, I am combing the Calendar section of the LA Times and making my extremely gut comments on the movie ads that I flip past.

The Brave One: Jodie Foster doesn't usually make crap, except for that dreadful "Inside Man." But, this looks like a complete ripoff of the 70s "Death Wish." It's got the same vigilante plot. And both movies have a star that is very attracted to women.

King of California: Michael Douglas as a mentally unstable man looking to strike it rich. Is this a documentary?

Dragon Wars D-War: More monsters chasing Asians. When are these creatures going to discover that there is nobody left in Japan and that they all moved over here to frequent outlet malls?

Moving McAllister: In the ad, some rag called MovieWeb calls it "one of the funniest films of 2007." In the same style as "Knocked Up" and "Superbad?" Forget it. Can we have at least one comedy without farting and bong hits?

In the Shadow of the Moon: This Ron Howard-backed documentary is definitely on my list. It's all about the moon landing in 1969. And, yes, they prove it wasn't filmed on a sound stage in Northridge.

The Hunting Party: Richard Gere in a film about three journalists who reunite in Sarajevo five years after the end of the Balkan.......ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

3:10 to Yuma: This western got good reviews, so I would consider it at some point. I never miss a cowboy picture with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. As long as 3:10 isn't the running time.

Death at a Funeral: I actually saw this a few weeks back and it was very silly. Plus it takes you about 20 minutes to get acclimated to the British accents. It's amazing how offputting it is when people speak correctly.

Halloween: Rob Zombie directed a needless remake of a classic. Did John Carpenter allow this to happen to his franchise? I wouldn't trust Rob Zombie to develop my photos at Costco.

The 11th Hour: Another star-backed documentary about the horrible things we are doing to the environment. Leonardo DiCaprio scolding us would have more weight if you didn't see him pulling up to the Oscars in a Hummer.

Death Sentence: Kevin Bacon as a vigilante. Okay, there's a pattern forming.

Mr. Woodcock: Billy Bob Thornton in a comedy (?!) as a gym teacher who torments the son of his new girlfriend. The talents of Billy Bob have long alluded me. He plays everything in the same mode. An extremely overrated actor. The real shocker is that Susan Sarandon is in this mess. She must be having a kitchen remodeled.

Mr. Bean's Holiday: Okay, I'm a huge Mr. Bean and I wouldn't go to see this. The trailers were all recycled bits from the TV show. I got the complete series box set and I can microwave popcorn at home.

I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With: Based on the title alone, I'm fasting.

In The Valley of Elah: This is getting some mild Oscar buzz. It's directed by Paul Haggis, who did "Crash." The film is supposed to be a compelling story of an Iraq war vet returning home. On the down side, it has two more of those grossly one-note actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron. And it, too, has Susan Sarandon, which leads me to think that her remodeled kitchen will also feature some new Viking appliances.

Fierce People: Diane Lane as a working class mom with a drug problem. Totally understandable when you realize her father-in-law is James Brolin.

December Boys: Some coming-of-age thing with Daniel "Harry Potter" Radcliffe, who is obviously trying to expand his parts. And, since he's also been doing those Equus nude scenes on stage, we can also see how he expands those parts firsthand.

Across The Universe: A 60's love story set to Beatles music. The lead characters are Jude and Lucy. Wow. No subtext there.

Eastern Promises: It's directed by David Cronenberg, and that means somebody's head gets to explode by the third reel.

Shoot 'Em Up: This is pitched as a violent Bugs Bunny cartoon with humans. Over 100 people get killed during it and one review says it's "loaded with fun." And you wonder why we have things like Columbine.

Balls of Fury: Comedy on a ping pong table. With that laugh riot Christopher Walken.

Superbad: Still around and I am still holding out. Another one of those teen comedies that is supposedly a great movie. But, I read the same type of buzz for stuff like "Knocked Up" and "Anchorman." When I got sucked it into seeing them, I sat there stonefaced like Buster Keaton for two hours. When can we start reviewing the reviewers?

I'll let you know what I wind up seeing.

Dinner last night: Grilled Taylor Ham.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Last Night of Summer

Just as my first Hollywood Bowl event of the season marks the official opening of my summer, so, too, does my last Bowl outing signify the end of my hot weather season. Such was the case last Saturday when my Bowl ticket was wanded for the last time in 2007. The Bowl does go on for a few more weeks, but with nothing that even slightly molests my attention.

I have to admit that I entered into Bowl attendance this year with a soupcon of trepidation. It would be the first year without the gifted John Mauceri at the helm. I really thought his departure would leave a huge creative crevice. Well, shut my mouth. That was not the case. My mix of Bowl fun this year ran the gamut from my amazing discovery of a talent I never knew existed (Jamie Cullum) to a truly superb staging of "South Pacific" with Reba McIntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell. There was another night of Gladys...Knight, that is, which was great fun and the superlative 40th anniversary tribute to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album, which provided a great snapshot of the mostly former-hippie audience reconnecting with their drug-hazed past.

The last Bowl event certainly wasn't the most solid musically, but it sure was a major giddy producer. Watching the audience was probably more fun than listening to the tunes. The musical performers offered up was a deliciously improbable pairing of the 60s/70s soul act, The Spinners, and the 80s hitmakers, Daryl Hall and John Oates. As a result, the age composition of the audience was undoubtedly the widest I ever seen anywhere. There were twentysomethings and sixtysomethings. There were baby strollers and senior citizen walkers. It was a marketer's absolute nightmare. But, truly, the focus was on the oldsters. Before every Bowl concert, they announce the name of the sponsor of the event. We speculated that we would not have been surprised if they told us that this show was "generously provided for by the AARP."

The opening salvo was fired by the Spinners, or, by whoever is passing themselves off as the Spinners these days. We're not even talking that these folks are the sons of the originals. For all I know, they could have been day laborers that were picked up a half hour before showtime from the corner of Franklin and Cahuenga. If you closed your eyes, the music sounded like the real thing. But, if you watched these knuckleheads moving on stage, you would probably guess they had basically just met and rehearsed for the first time in the mens room. They kept yelling out "Hello, Holly-WOOD." By emphasizing the last "wood," they were looking to turn this into their "hood." Frankly, you really can't mess up the Spinners' songbook of hits too much. But, these guys could just have easily been doing a gig at my goddaughter's senior prom as well as playing the Bowl venue. While the crowd screamed wildly, the Spinners sashayed off after 30 minutes and said goodbye to Holly-WOOD! When we were driving home, I am convinced we saw two of these guys in line at a check cashing place on Fountain.

Intermission allowed me to survey the kooks in attendance. Somehow, the older folks had rolled down the hill to the concession stands. I saw more men in the bathroom trying to adjust their combovers. The previous generation's penchant for nicotine was clearly evident in the smoking area which looked like a backroom at the Democratic Convention in 1932.

Because I had added this concert to my Bowl calendar at a later date, I did not score the usual premium seating I am always accorded. Instead, we were a little farther up in the "cheap seats." The difference in behavior is astounding. The cheaper the price of the ticket, the more uncouth the crowd. I was apparently checking in at Riff Raff Headquarters. This was probably the worst behaved concert crowd I have ever seen. There was constant conversation, especially during the music. There were two blonde magpies down the row, who might as well have been enjoying a latte and a muffin at Starbucks. There was a Mexican bunch behind us who inexplicably brought two five year-olds to the concert, and not even glowsticks could give them from screaming. I was dying to know the Spanish word for "babysitter." After intermission, I turned around to find them gone, so I can only assume that INS had shown up. There was a couple two rows ahead who couldn't keep their hands off each other and we essentially watched them take the sexual journey from foreplay to cuddling.

While they were immensely entertaining, I am not sure what to make of Hall and Oates. I was aghast at how many of their hits I had forgotten. But, they both have certainly seen better days. Let's face it, "Will and Grace" did do an episode where they were the talent at a wedding reception. I know that Daryl Hall had a long but ultimately successful battle against lyme disease. John Oates, however, looks like what I would imagine Howard Stern's Baba Booey would look like if he was eighty. There's a very strange thing going on with his head. Oates looked like he had been in the makeup chair for "Planet of the Apes" but they didn't quite finish the job.

Appearances aside, the audience didn't care. Most of them adjusted their knee replacements and were in the aisles rocking and rolling. There had to be a whole bunch of broken hips x-rayed at Cedars by the following morning. A bunch of ladies from the Pasadena bridge club started this frantic chant for them to play "Rich Girl" and they finally compiled. I was personally waiting for "Private Eyes," which, somehow, missed the night's playlist altogether. Instead, they closed the last encore with a rendition of Billy Paul's "Me and Missus Jones." That moved one grand dame in front of me to start wild gyrations, which led me to think that she was either swallowing her tongue or that, perhaps, she was indeed the real Missus Jones.

As the crowd creaked to their cars, I took one final look at the Hollywood Bowl. See ya in 2008!

Dinner last night: Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers at Chili's.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday

With the summer over, things are now back to normal. Well, not really.

---Because my Toyota 4Runner is on the mend, I had a rental car for the week. Some piece of aluminum called a Dodge Caliber.

---When you actually drive an American car, you quickly realize why Detroit has been in trouble for years. The car has no pick-up and the design is bizarre. I have to crawl in head first like John Glenn entering a Mercury space capsule.

---When I close the door, there is this hollow noise. Sounds as if I dropped a bag of empty soda cans down the garbage chute.

---The sloping design of the rear window creates greatly impaired sight lines. If somebody is sitting in the back seat, Stevie Wonder might as well be driving.

---The only plus with the car is the inclusion of Sirius satellite radio. I am totally enjoying the 60s, 70s, 80s, and Broadway channels.

---Listening to Howard Stern for an extended time, however, just reminds me how run-of-the-mill he has become. Dropping the F-bomb in every single sentence does not make you more cutting edge.

---I am not sure why Sirius felt it necessary to have the most fey and flamboyant DJ anchor their Broadway channel.

---Bulletin: Heterosexual people enjoy showtunes, too.

---It's weird to hear Cousin Brucie do his Saturday oldies act, which is incredibly New York, while driving around LA.

---How many years has that guy been around? To quote my friend Andrew, Cousin Brucie has toupees older than us.

---Another Siriusly guilty pleasure: tooling around SoCal and listening to traffic reports from NY. A little sick hearing about Major Deegan back-ups while stuck on the 405.

---In light of the 9/11 anniversary, I Netflixed this documentary on the 9/11 Commission report. It's called "On Native Soil." You must see it.

---It points out in no uncertain terms how our emergency contingency plans were so messed up that day. And the FAA might as well have been coordinated by Hal Roach and his Little Rascals. Their actions reminded me of that old short when Spanky and his friends took over the local fire department.

---So, Oprah had this big fundraising BBQ for Barack Obooboo. Probably the most expensive pork ribs you'd ever eat.

---Meanwhile, it's coming out more and more just how dirty this alleged "breath of fresh air" is. Fresh air, my Aunt Fanny. Obama's track record is akin to buying property next to the city dump.

---It's a matter of time before Oprah the hog starts setting the political mindsets of the lemmings that follow her.

---The only difference between Hitler and Oprah is bad hair and a moustache.

---Well, actually, just a moustache. I saw part of her season premiere and it looked like she blew dry her hair with a cannon.

---What's with this new baseball fad? Players jumping and bumping into each other after a win. I see the Dodgers are now doing that. And, of course, that little nitwit Jose Reyes is right in the middle of it, too.

---They all look like assholes. Whatever happened to Jerry Grote shaking Tom Seaver's hand after a victory?

---I'm slowly trying to get back into primetime TV for the Fall season. I watched CBS' Monday night comedy block of "How I Met Your Mother," "Old Christine," "Two and a Half Men," and "Rules of Engagement."

---In my living room, there was one funny line the whole night.

---And my roommate said it.

---How cavernous was ABC's development slate that they ordered that sitcom about the Caveman from the TV commercials?

---If that's the case, they missed a real breakout star in Speedy Alka Seltzer.

---And Bert and Harry Piels.

---Nobody under 40 got that last joke.

---Okay, we're living in a world where Dr. Phil is a star. This glorified gym teacher has got another special coming up and the amazing thing is that people are listening to him.

---You might as well let Regis Philbin do your next colonoscopy.

---Will the Los Angeles County Coroner please come to Dodger Stadium and pick up the 2007 corpse?

---One very isolated highlight from last night's Dodger loss to the Padres: I got to see the first major league hit (a pinch homerun) by Rafael Furcal's sooner than later replacement at shortstop.

---Chin-Lung Hu.

---I'm telling you the guy who hit the homerun.


---Yes, that's his name. Hu.


---The rookie who got his first major league hit last night.




---I just told you. Hu.

---No, who is the guy?

---Right. Hu.

Okay, I'll stop now.

Dinner last night: Dodger Dog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years Later....

The calendar reminds us anew. It is Tuesday, September 11.

It seems impossible that it was six years ago that we endured this horror as a nation. The events still are as fresh as my memory of what I had for dinner last night (which is, as always, included below). At the same time, you would think that six years would have been plenty of time for our country to be further along in its international relations. Sadly, we must all bow our heads in despair.

I have written in an earlier blog that, for reasons only someone who grew up in New York could totally comprehend, I regret not being there in the metropolitan area on that day. It was a lonely and helpless feeling for me 3000 miles away and three hours earlier. Most of my life had been in New York and this was a reminder that I had moved away from some very good friends

For me, that day started very ordinarily. I was dressing to the local TV news. Since I like to work NY hours even in Los Angeles, I was up early enough to see the second plane hit. I watched this unfold before me in my bedroom, but, still, I did not disrupt my routine. Finish dressing. Go to the kitchen for a little breakfast and my eighteen vitamin supplements. Back to my bedroom and bathroom for teeth brushing, hair drying, and the final comb. Despite the drama, I never broke step. I still left the house at the same daily appointed time. I still got into my SUV and left the garage. I was two blocks away at a traffic light on Wilshire Boulevard. Howard Stern was on my "free" radio as usual, but he was still live as opposed to the usual West Coast tape delay. He was watching his studio television. And, suddenly, the first tower collapsed. Howard's voice cracked as he described it and he sounded like he never has before. I was finally frightened.

I made an immediate and abrupt U-turn on Wilshire and headed home.

I knocked on my roommate's bedroom and woke him up. I had never done that before and certainly have not tried it since. But this was unprecedented. We popped on the television and watched. Moments later, the second tower fell. There was still a fire at the Pentagon. He thought about his sister and her family living five minutes away from there. I got an urgent e-mail from a cousin that I had not heard from in about a year. She was praying that I would answer, given that she was aware of my bi-coastal existence. Scary, scary stuff in a country where democracy allegedly reigns supreme.

My company's office in NY had evacuated their building. There were thoughts that some plane might be headed to the West Coast for another target. Our company's head was also in NY that day and he sent word back that he was fine. But, there was no other words for the LA staff. I reflected on the senior management in place in the LA office. Most of them can barely make a decision regarding lunch, let alone if there was some sort of emergency in the building. I told my roommate that I needed to go into the office.

It was the calmest LA freeway day ever. While there was the usual bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, no one seemed to be their customary hurry mode. Eerily quiet. And borderline pleasant.

As I had suspected, the corporate managers who bothered to come in that day were totally unassuming when it came down to any level of authority. (Most of these dimwits have since been flushed out of our sewer system.) The most senior of directors, who packed only 30 watts of brain power on a good day, was sitting in his office. His feet were up on the desk and his door was partially open as he surveyed his breakfast. The standard "don't bother me" mode. I noted that we would be getting no salient authority from him on that day. So, I made my own executive decision.

I went from office to office and floor to floor. I talked to people I didn't know. I gave them all the same message.

"If you want to stay here for a while to talk, please feel free to do so. But I am closing the office. Whatever you choose to do, please be safe."

I recited my speech so much that I can repeat it verbatim six years later. Most people took me up on the offer. By the time I got to the senior manager's floor, he had already gobbled up his scone and coffee and left the building to head for whereever ineffectual business people live. I kicked the last person out of the building at 1045AM Pacific time. Just as Mary Richards had done at WJM, I turned out the lights.

On the way home, I drove past my church. There were strangers walking around the parking lot. They weren't casing the joint. They were people from the neighborhood looking for some sort of a safe haven. I called my pastor and told her to open the doors wide.

I then passed the Federal Building in Westwood. I finally grasped the enormity of it all. There were soldiers all over the grounds. They were all looking to the sky with their rifles held high. They were ready to shoot at anything or everything.

Like most Americans that day, I consumed a lot of visual memories on television. By 530PM, the immense tension had created an appetite. My roommate and I decided to venture out for food. Wilshire Boulevard, which is usually a speedway at that hour, was empty. You could shoot a cannon down the block and not hit anybody. All of a sudden, it was like Christmas Eve. There were no restaurants open. For once, people were staying home and having a cherished dinner with their loved ones. The only eatery open happened to be the delicatessen/restaurant, Nate N Al's, in Beverly Hills. Regardless of what was transpiring on the other coast, there would be people who would not be denied their brisket with gravy. Inside, we would have our most surreal moment of a day that was filled with 1000 of them. In the booth beside, we found Rodney Dangerfield. Sitting in his pajamas. With the worst case of bed head known to man.

I remember this all with fresh sadness. It is just one story of 200 million others that lived through that experience.

And, unfortunately, there are another 3,000 or so stories that were never quite finished.

Dinner last night: Grilled Portabella sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Morning Video Laugh - September 10, 2007

The wonderful Jack Benny in a classic bit.

Dinner last night: Quizno's Traditional sub.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pop Stars That I Have Known, Part 3

Rosemary Clooney is one of the things I inherited from my parents, other than the maddening mix of personality flaws (stoicism from Dad, impulsiveness from Mom) I got from both. Her music was always playing in our house on those monaural long playing records that were stacked up five-at-a-time on the "Hi Fi." Vikki Carr, for some bizarre reason, was always being piped in throughout the house, and this made no sense to me, as half of her songs were always in Spanish. But, I digress...

I developed an affinity for Rosemary Clooney at an early age, and I continued it as her musical stylings changed over time. Indeed, when she got to that small cabaret stage in the early 90s, this was a fastball over the plate for me. I ate it up. So, you can imagine my absolute glee when I heard that she would be appearing at the old Rainbow and Stars supper club on top of Rockefeller Center on a Saturday evening in February about 13 or 14 years ago. And it was my birthday! Touchdown. Score the goal. Touch 'em all. I would be there.

I made a pact with God not to louse up this amazing quirk of timing. The only thing that could stop me would be one of those crippling blizzards that renders New York City as useful as power brakes on a turtle. I enlisted two cohorts to share in my glory. And then I called for three reservations to the show. And here comes what might have been a fatal mistake.

Supper Club: "Will you be dining with us or just coming for the show?"

Me: (knowing fully well how pricey their menu was) "No, just the show, please."

An oops moment. Except I did not know it at the time.

When the evening arrived, it was cold and blustery. But nary a winter cloud in the sky. The only flakes were the usual tourists that hover around like Rock Center like ants on picnic blanket crumbs. We ate dinner, but at a venue certainly a little more downscale than the 75 buck burgers the supper club was hawking.

An hour before the 11PM show, we made our way up the elevator to that wonderful room that overlooks the entire city. I walked up to the hostess and announced our arrival.

There was no reservation in my name.


I stressed there must be some mistake. I recited the day, date, and appropriate time that I called.

Still nothing. Sorry.

And, of course, the show is sold out, so there was no chance of getting another table.


I asked to speak to the manager. He was not available. But we were more than welcome to have a cocktail in the bar and enjoy the view.

Happy birthday to me.

My friends did their best over drinks to make me feel better. It didn't work. As I sat there staring at the Empire State Building with that red heart of lights all ready for Valentine's Day, I got more and more agitated. And then I kicked into what I call Murphy Brown mode. Or something akin to that scene in "Terms of Endearment" when Shirley McLaine screams at the nurses' station to get her daughter more medication.

I got ugly.

Leaving my friends with their adult beverages, I went Rainbow Room manager hunting. And I didn't care who I asked. Or interrupted. I finally tracked the guy down in the main part of the Rainbow Room, where he was coordinating somebody's wedding reception.

Yeah, I didn't care.

At first blush, he tried to blow me off. But, then I explained it was my birthday that was now ruined. Of course, I added, other people in the same situation may use that "faux birthday" excuse. I assured him my birthday story was true. I whipped out my driver's license and shoved the date in his face. There was a small glimmer of hope in his face. He told me to go back to the bar and that he would send somebody for us just before the show was scheduled to start.

And he was good to his word. Just before 11PM, the same snarly hostess, who was now off my Christmas card list, came to get us. She explained that the reason for the mix-up was due to a late reservation request from.....Harry Crosby. Okay, if I'm going to get upended by a Crosby kid, make it Mary Crosby. At least, she's the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. Nevertheless, they were creating an extra table for us. The only caveat was that we couldn't enter the show until the very last minute and we had to do so from a side door. Perhaps, there was surveillance set up by the Fire Department? Who knows?

Anyway, the skank ushered us to said side door. Which was not really a side door. It was actually the wings to the stage.

And we were standing there alongside Rosemary Clooney!

It took me about five seconds to realize that this was the ultimate birthday present. I thought really fast about what to say to her. I know not to say "break a leg." Besides, I know she already had several years before.

Me: "Have a great show."

Rosemary: "I'm a little nervous."

Me: "Don't be. All friends in there."

Rosemary: (patting my arm) "You're sweet."

And off she went for an hour of musical nirvana.

Oddly enough, after the show, we ran into her again near the coat check. She was apparently using the area to mingle with her friends. I was standing about three feet away from her as she gabbed with Skitch Henderson. Another friend came over to take their picture. I realized I was positioned right in the center of the intended photo. They smiled. So did I. Flash.

I've always wondered if anybody questioned who the hell was this guy standing in between Rosemary Clooney and Skitch Henderson.

Hey, I'm the one who was celebrating my birthday that night.

When Rosie died in 2002, I posted this story to a memorial website that her family had set up for fans. About three months later, I received a handwritten note from her brother, Nick Clooney (father of George). He mentioned that the family was touched by my story and they wanted to invite me to the Hollywood memorial concert being held later that year. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there. And I didn't need to be.

I still had my story. And I was sticking to it.

It really was my birthday!

Dinner last night: Hot dog and chips at my last Hollywood Bowl of the season. More on that event in another post.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Feel Good Story

You may have heard of the amazing story being authored by the Cardinals' Rick Ankiel. He used to be a pitcher in their organization. I remember him from one of the Met playoff games from 2000. He started one of the games against them and lasted 2/3 of an inning after walking three. Not only was he wild but most of his pitches wound up in the loge level. Home plate could have been twenty feet wide and this knucklehead still couldn't throw a strike. He was continually plagued by this bizarro psychological wildness that was very much akin to Chuck Knoblauch's inability to throw from second to first or Mackey Sasser's improbable inability to throw a runner out from the catching position. All the physical dexterity in the world means nothing if there's a mental disconnect. I am also reminded of the Pittsburgh Pirates' pitcher Steve Blass who could never get anybody out after his 1971 World Series success.

Getting back to the idiot in question, Ankiel became one of the Cardinals' great reclamation projects. After tooling around the minors for a while, they decided to turn him into an outfielder since he had been a better than average hitter as a pitcher. So, he makes his major league outfield debut a month ago. And he goes on this hitting tear. He did it against the Dodgers the first weekend and I was ready to call for an investigation. The media went gaga over this storybook ending. The guy who finally achieves baseball stardom after hitting the bottom of the barrel. Baseball's version of Nixon winning the Presidency after getting booted from his home state of California in 1962. I was waiting to hear who was going to play Ankiel in the inevitable movie of the week.

I've been skeptical since I know these suddenly-born hitters usually get outed out after they've gone around the league once. Pitchers figure him out and, before you know it, Ankiel will be swinging at pitches that he once threw.

Well, surprise. We won't even have to wait for that. It has come out that this moron is chemically enhanced. Another science project sponsored by the lax rulings of baseball's un-commissioner Bud Selig.

So long, idiot. It would have been a nice role for Matt Damon.

Dinner last night: BBQ Pork and rice at Panda Express.

The Bronx Finally Burned

Since I pretty much spent the last six weeks either entertaining, traveling to the septic tanks of Middle America, or being held hostage by American Airlines, I'm a trifle late coming to the party on ESPN's 8 week mini-series, "The Bronx is Burning." Thanks to a TiVo season pass and several SoCal days that were too hot to venture out of central air conditioning, I just finished watching it.

For those of you in the perpetual dark, this was ESPN's first foray into dramatic product. They chose the best selling book by Jonathan Mahler for a variety of reasons. Beyond the fact that the summer of 1977 in NY would be a compelling story, ABC broadcast the Yankee-Dodger World Series that year and ESPN could easily (and cheaply) get its hands on a lot of that telecast footage. This enabled us to see for one more time what a complete buffoon Howard Cosell was. But, I digress...

Generally, you can safely say that the book is always better than the movie or mini-series. In this case, the table of contents had more substance than ESPN's production. First, the positives. John Turturro and Oliver Platt were truly excellent in the lead roles of Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner. For my money, Martin ended up being portrayed a bit more sympathetically than he should have, given the fact that the guy was a complete drunken bastard in real life. (And I once spent an afternoon with him, so I know.) Platt often added the tic of adjusting his toupee, which I thought was a stroke of genius in his enactment of the maniacal Yankee owner. Overall, these two actors provided what little reason there was to stay with the story for eight weeks. You can't say the same for Daniel Sunjata's portrayal of Reggie Jackson. First of all, he didn't even remotely resemble Reggie, assuming, of course, that Jackson wasn't really a mulatto. Sunjata missed every note he played and that messed up the trinity that was needed with Martin and Steinbrenner. Let's face it, the three of them together were essentially the Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin of baseball.

Where this show really failed was in the area of authenticity, which was further damaged by some of the lousiest production values I have ever seen on a TV mini-series. For all I know, it was filmed at a Costco after closing. There was absolutely no effort made to match any shots to any level of realism. Over the eight weeks, there were a variety of scenes set in empty stands and dugouts that were supposed to resemble the same at Yankee Ft. Lauderdale stadium, Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Fenway Park, and Dodger Stadium. Yet, they used the same damn set for every ballpark. For Pete's sake, at least vary the freakin' color of the seats.

As I mentioned earlier, they went to great lengths to cut in actual game footage with close-up shots of the actors. While the game footage was grainy, the new shots were crystal clear and the ultimate effect was so jarring that Lenscrafters could have made a mint as the underwriter. It was so incredibly sloppy that I was convinced the production staff came from the AV department at a junior college.

They also messed up bigtime when they tied in the Son of Sam investigation that paralleled the Yankee season. Once again, they cut real footage of the Stacy Moskowitz murder in with actors. While the murdered Brooklyn girl's mother, Neysa, was the epitome of the Florida Jewish housewife, the actress looked like something from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. So, in one shot, Neysa is real. In the next shot, she looks like June Lockhart.

They also botched the capture of David Berkowitz. I used to live several blocks away from the building he lived in and it is a very tiny one laned street. Their depiction of that street as a major thoroughfare was ludicrous. In these days of Google Earth and Live Search, there are a lot of resources out there to prevent you from being that far off the beam.

While the guy playing Thurman Munson certainly looked the part and accurately depicted this kuncklehead who had about as much business flying a plane as JFK Jr, some of the other casting was laughable. Dick Howser was inexplicably played by Doogie Howser's best friend. And Yogi Berra looked like your friendly druggist at Walgren's.

All in all, a good idea badly executed. But, then again, what could I expect of something co produced by that legendary Hollywood creative force, Fran Healy?

Dinner last night: Braised Beef Canneloni at Maggiano's.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hey, Who Moved the Pole?

One of the un-highlights of my vacation last week was an unfortunate encounter with the pole in my parking garage. We parked adjacent to one of these pillars and I have spent many cautious moments backing out of the space, always mindful of that annoying column which always appears to be closer than I think. Oddly enough, my stupid little accident didn't occur while backing out. I pulled into the garage from the harsh 100 degree sunlight. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, I immediately pull off my sunglasses as the immediate light-to-dark contrast is quite jarring. I swung wide to pull into my space and away from the offending pole. Not wide enough.

Scrape, scrape, crunch. The Rice Krispie trinity of auto accidents. When you do this, there's always that little 15 second delay where you think that it wasn't as bad as it sounded.

It was as bad as it sounded. Since most cars these days are covered in plastic, there were two panels on the passenger side of my 4Runner that were now partially disengaged from the rest of the vehicle. As I surveyed the ruins, my father once again could be heard in my right ear from his heavenly perch on my shoulder. A beyond-the-grave "I told you so."

Given that I did this on the cusp of the Labor Day weekend and nobody except Jerry Lewis works, I needed a fast ghetto fix. For the uneducated, a ghetto fix is the repair of anything with some duct tape. I drove to a small auto body shop near my home and he did the trick to get me through till Tuesday.

By the time Tuesday ran around, the excessive heat had pretty much melted what duct tape was left on my car. I went to my Toyota dealer's collision department. Once again, I am hearing my father's voice. "Don't go to a dealer. They rip you off."

My estimater was a Japanese guy who specialized in using broken English to assess my damage. While he did not have a mastery of the English language, he certainly could wield a sharp pencil. He wrote down everything as if he was solving the DaVinci Code. When he moved to the side of the car that was undamaged and kept writing, I told him to knock it off. We wanted to fix the damage from the pole, not rebuild Tokyo after Godzilla came through. He promised to give me my numbers in 15 minutes.

Sixteen minutes later, I discovered just how sharp a pencil Joe Jitsu had. The estimate came to almost 4,000 dollars. I could repair a brain tumor for less. Plus, because apparently everyone in LA currently has some sort of car damage, it would take 10 to 14 days. Oh, by the way, their office has a great tie-in rate with a nearby car rental place. Something told me I was being played. For once, Dad on the right shoulder had a salient word in my ear. On the way out of the place, I started to contemplate who would not be receiving Christmas gifts from me this year.

I listened to the silence one more time. "Dad, what do I do now?" I headed over to the guy with the small shop who did the ghetto fix last week. I was careful not to mention the other estimate just in case there is some place where all these body shop guys meet once a week to trade secrets.

He surveyed the car and wrote down very little. He looked at me and said, "Okay, let's see how much money we can save you to get this fixed?" I squinted my eyes to make sure this was reality. Instead of plugging a bunch of numbers into a computer, this guy calculated my estimate with a good old fashioned adding machine. With a paper roll no less. He ripped it off and said he did the best he could do.


Sayonara, first guy. Plus it would take only four to five business days, maybe less. And he had a deal with a nearby car rental place that would get me a vehicle for about 30 bucks a day.

Thanks, Dad. There are times I still listen.

Dinner last night: the wonderful BLT from Clementine's.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Your First Wednesday of the Rest of the Year

Except perhaps for Southern California, where humans are being baked thin and extra crispy, Summer is over. The last week of August was a vacation for me, with a variety of visitors from out-of-town. Of course, this involved going out and co-mingling with the general public. Never good.

---You get a good idea how obese this nation is when you visit a theme park frequented by tourists. Disneyland looked like Richard Simmons' nightmare.

---It's time to bring back President Kennedy's fitness program. I'd add a little spin. If you can't do 100 situps, say hello to Siberia.

---I saw more medium t-shirts on XXL bodies than I want to see in a lifetime.

---Too many bare midriffs that looked like bake shops. Yep, lots of rolls.

---Surprisingly, we did not see a lot of Asians. There must be a Disneyland outlet park.

---My Mickey Mouse excursion also brought me in touch one more time with that slimy individual, better known as the Amusement Park Faker.

---You know who I mean. That man or woman you see getting pushed all over the place in a wheelchair or motorized cart. They cut the line just as you are about to get on your ride.

---Then, all of a sudden, mid-ride, they display more dexterity than Sammy Davis Jr. on the Ed Sullivan Show.

---I literally saw some wheelchair-bound slug get out of his chair like it was a miracle at Lourdes and climb onto Big Thunder Railroad.

---The amazing healing powers of Walt Disney.

---That actually gives a bad name to anybody who legitimately needs that break in life.

---While these jerks are on their SoCal tour, may I suggest the Santa Monica Pier? Try the far end. There is a slight slope and no railing.

---That brings to mind another nutjob phenomenon. The Phony Foreigner.

---This is the chucklehead from another country who claims to no speaka da English only when they are told they can't do something. Meanwhile, they possess an English word power akin to Allen Ludden

---I had two of these morons on the tour of Sony Studios. Two Italian chicks kept wandering off into parts unknown, requiring our nice young tour guide to stop and find them.

---At one point, these two dimwits had apparently gotten past security and sauntered onto the top secret set of a new movie.

---The tour guide told us later it was another film in the
&n#i{n$ +on@^ series.

---The tour kid was a nice guy and we promised not to reveal the secret.

---He also told us not to park our Ford in Harrison, New York.

---N'yuk, n'yuk.

---A visit to the Jeopardy set prompted another look at how they pick their contestants. We were told that, not only do you need to be smart, but you can't be boring.

---Will someone then explain to me Ken Jennings? I don't want to be sitting across from him at a dinner party. Yawn. The human equivalent of a fly walking up your living room drape.

---The vacation finally allowed me to get around to seeing the Simpsons Movie. The best writing to be found in five years of movie scripts.

---Well, heck, it ought to be clever. There were 11 writers attached to the screenplay credit.

---In my 10 plus years in Los Angeles, I can't remember a hotter spell than we have had now. 105 degrees on Sunday.

---I'd still take it over 75 degrees and 100 percent humidity in New York, when you have to take another shower after just combing your hair.

---The excessive heat prompted the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra to conduct an impromptu sing-along to "White Christmas" at the end of their Paramount Studios tribute on Sunday night.

---Watching Pedro Martinez' debut on Monday vs. the Reds, I had a baseball epiphany.

---Mr. Met is simply the Reds mascot logo without the moustache. I never noticed that before.

---By the way, the Mets need to lose that "Sweet Caroline" nonsense they do in the eighth inning.

---Didn't the Red Sox fans start that a few years ago? The damn thing was immortalized in the movie "Fever Pitch."

---Once again, the Shea experience has now taken on this cheesy carnival/state fair atmosphere. And now it's not even original.

---If the Noo Jork Mezz want to do a fan singalong every game, they should pick their own song. And one their fans can get behind.

---"La cucaracha, la cucaracha."

---I'm waiting for Endy Chavez Cock Fight Night.

---If we keep talking about a third world nation, what specifically is the second world?

---Another toy recall from China. That's how they are planning to kill us. With excessive lead and car insurance rates.

---For once, Jerry Lewis looked reasonably healthy on his annual telethon. Gone was the shoe polish doubling as hair pomade. And his head wasn't the size of a Bob's Big Boy franchise.

---The Budweisers, however, have caught up to Ed McMahon, who looked like the crypt keeper.

---Of course, Jerry got nabbed for dropping the F bomb on the show. And, with Mr. Lewis, that F never stands for "funny."

---This really happened when I dropped off a guest at American Airlines in LAX. I go to take the elevator in the parking garage. I press down and the elevator opens with no lighted direction. I ask the jerk inside. "Are you going up or down?"

---He answers, "Yes." And the doors close.

Dinner last night: Teriyaki Chicken and rice at the Cheesecake Factory.