Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Wednesday...er, Day of 2008

One last chance in 2008 to flog the Rich and Stupid.

---This is a photo of this year's Times Square Ball, which drops on tape delay here in Los Angeles.

---The news coverage of this event will be anchored on CNN by those austere journalists, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.

---Is it called the Comedy News Network?

---If you're in LA and watch the ball drop live at 9PM, you can have your dinner in 2009 while the table next to you is still in 2008.

---Dick Clark is coming out again one more time to help usher in the New Year. I am guessing they started to clean him up for this appearance sometime back in October.

---How I remember Dick Clark on the old $100,000 Pyramid.

---"Peas, oatmeal, his teeth, phlegm."

---"Things Dick Clark Spills on Himself."

---Of course, the Rose Bowl is tomorrow. Anybody in town to root for Penn State hopefully did their fun things earlier in the week.

---The game starts at 3PM Pacific time, which means most Penn State fans can safely make their reservations at Lawry's for 4PM.

---Penn State Coach Joe Paterno is about 100 years old and supposedly has an autographed first edition copy of the Old Testament.

---He should be so lucky to see a burning bush on Thursday.

---And we can't forget the Rose Parade tomorrow morning. Two hours of flowers glued to trucks.

---And, if you happen to miss it live, have no fear. KTLA runs it on a continuous loop until sometime in July.

---Muzak playing in a LA movie theater bathroom: Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Believing" as sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

---A truly horrible life moment. I never emptied my bladder faster.

---All weekend, I overheard this buzz about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

---"Did I imagine that the movie started yesterday?"

---"I watched Brad Pitt for three whole hours??"

---"Who greenlit this shit?"

---Some more holiday coal from Hollywood.

---An ideal thing to do while waiting for brake pads to be fitted onto your car: I went to see "Marley and Me."

---Spoiler alert: The dog dies, but Jennifer Aniston lives. God bless us all.

---Somehow, it's sort of sweet that her movie grossed more than Brad Pitt's over the holiday week.

---And I'm betting the dog was better house-trained as well.

---Somebody track down the future President in that 9 million Hawaiian condo and tell him that there's all this bombing in Israel, because he hasn't said a word about it.

---It's officially three more weeks before I have to stop telling jokes like that.

---Just how long will it take before Michelle Obama's picture is on a dart board in the White House kitchen?

---Wait till the First Couple realizes that most of the help there is still Black.

If you're partying tonight, let somebody else drive. As long as it's not Lindsay Lohan. Cheers.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers sandwich at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About Doubt


After seeing the screen adaptation of "Doubt," I thanked God that my parents had sent me to public school. Where your fellow students were whacking you in the head, not the teachers. Truth be told, my mom and dad did give serious thought to sending me to a Lutheran middle school. But they probably reconsidered when they realized it wasn't free. Yo, why do you think it's called "private school?" But, I digress...

I've written here previously about my experiences growing up as a Protestant in an all-Catholic neighborhood. Unfortunately, a lot of the school memories of my childhood buds I cannot share firsthand. However, I do remember secondhand their tales of terror. Nuns who seemingly delighted in bitchslapping kids into the next Lenten season. One such "enemy" allegedly had a paddle with spikes embedded in it. And, of course, I have discussed before their bizarro and hateful teachings that directly impacted upon me. School workbooks that showed non-Catholic children with a black hole in their chest that would signify their ultimate doom to Hell. When you're eight years old and you hear and see this extended from someone supposedly in authority, it is very, very scary. One friend has told me that, perhaps, this was an isolated incident in a single school. But, my own pastor, raised as a Catholic in the Midwest, remembered the same workbook picture. Does this mean every single Catholic education was like this? Of course not. And she did tell me that teachings have advanced to a less judgmental level. But, still, I still remember it all and it lingers for me. Does it indict every single practicing Catholic? No. Just as Jerry Falwell and Rick Warren don't sink every Protestant religion. And so on and so forth. It's an argument for the ages, which are no way near any completion.

Because, when it comes to organized religion, there are stains across the board on all robes. Billion dollar law suit payouts for Catholic priests who have fondled one too many altar boys. Billion dollar law suit payouts for Protestant pastors who have screwed the mothers of one too many Cub Scouts. And the creator of my family's own chosen religion, Martin Luther, was viciously anti-Semetic. But, perhaps, this points to what God had in mind way back when. Nobody, even the chosen ones with the chosen words, is perfect.

And that's the point of "Doubt." Nobody is perfect. As a matter of fact, you still don't even know what the imperfections are by the end of the movie. The priest may or may not have done something inappropriate with an altar boy. The pain-in-the-ass nun, who is principal of the school, may or may not have proof of said priest's indiscretions. You don't understand the priest's motivations and the nun's. She admits to being married at one time to a husband who may or may not have been killed in the war. You're completely dark to the ultimate outcome. And, as in belief of every religion, the movie is perhaps an ideal metaphor. None of us are ultimately sure about what happens at the end or our end.

This ultra-wise statement is certainly not as profound as "Doubt" would lead you to believe. Indeed, as a movie, "Doubt" probably worked a lot better on stage. Yes, the performances of Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are all spot-on and Oscar nomination-destined. But, it is the small scene of Viola Davis as the altar boy's conflicted working mother that has the best chance for Oscar gold, because she is the one character that does not lapse into occasional lapses of cartoony over-acting. She seems to be the only completely real person in the film, which, at its finality, is nothing more than a two hour exercise in histrionics.

A lot of the fault for the movie's heavy handedness goes to the playwright and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley. He somehow coerced some studio bigwig into letting him direct the film and it is to the movie's detriment. Shanley uses every cheap directing school device to excess. Storm clouds, thunder, wind whipping around a character to show their distress, tilted camera angles to display conflict. It's like you gave your 12 year-old nephew a video camera and sent him to the basement to make a film. It's that amateurish.

The next morning, I was glad I saw "Doubt." Or maybe I wasn't. I went to my own church service to think about it. And, still, there were no answers. And I asked my own pastor. And, still, there were no answers.

As if there could be any answers at all.

Dinner last night: Meatloaf at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 29, 2008

The only place you can still find live TV is on the home shopping networks. And when it's live, you get delicious stuff like this.



Dinner last night: Leftover ham sandwich.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Revisiting the Littlest Bartender

Think about this. The little angel in this picture mixing your holiday cocktails. Well, it really happened.

I ran this story last year and it fits perfectly for another shot (non-alcoholic) as we approach New Year's Eve.

The Littlest Bartender.

Sounds like a new pop-up book for child alcoholics. But, indeed, that is what I was at a lot of my family's New Year's Eve parties. A bartender. The fact that I was ten years old was not an issue. When it came to cocktails and the like, my family was an equal opportunity employer. Age not a concern.

For a few years when I was a kid, my parents staged these elaborate galas to ring in whatever new year needed ringing. For some inexplicable reason, they would host this merriment in our basement, which was more than unfinished. There was no heat down there and I could never comprehend the attraction. But, that didn't stop my folks. They rolled out a linoleum floor, hid the furnace with some streamers, and then it was time to cha cha cha.

My cousins were all older and had hit puberty in a variety of degrees. They would show up at these family gatherings with whatever boyfriends and girlfriends they had at the time and then sequester themselves away from their parents in another part of the house. I once walked in on them and viewed a master class in groping. They probably thought I didn't know what they were doing. Well, I did.

Since I was not yet educated in the polite forms of sexual assault, I really had nobody to connect with it at these parties. So, I would camp out at the liquor table. My parents were so proud of the array of bottles they would feature at these soirees that I actually found photographs of nothing but booze. It was sort of my folks' stock portfolio, 85 proof.

To keep myself busy, I would help my father make the drinks. At first, I was relegated to the placement of ice cubes. Then, I graduated to the insertion of tonic, Tom Collins mix, or whatever soft beverage was being included. At some point, my father decided to go and have some fun on his own, and I would man the cocktail dispenser all by myself. Each relative would come up and direct me how to make whatever libation they were desiring. And, pretty much every exchange started with this conversation:

Relative: "Whoa, you put way too much booze in there."

Me: "Okay, I'll start over."

Relative: "No, I'll drink it."

This happened every single time. One of my relatives knocking back a drink with way too much liquor. And it's no wonder why most of them were sacked by 12:15AM. A few years ago, I found all my father's slides taken of those evenings. You can actually tell what time the photo was taken from the looks of some of those faces. In one shot, I saw some distant uncle who was modeling certain body parts made out of balloons. Like some sex-starved clown entertaining at a kid's birthday party. And, in the background of one of the slides, you can see me. Wearing a stupid New Year's hat and putting too much whiskey in somebody's sour.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers sandwich at Vito's.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Classic TV Theme of the Month - December 2008

I've run this before, but it never ever gets old. "With Gail Fisher as Peggy."
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Dinner last night: Mushroom swiss burger with bacon at Hooters.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Your 2008 Holiday Weekend Movie Guide


The very best time to go to the movies in Los Angeles is during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Everything has opened to qualify for the Oscars and any celebrities still in town venture out to the Arclight Cinemas. If you stand in the lobby of the complex, you are guaranteed a star sighting.

I'll be venturing out. Will you? In the event you are, here's my handy dandy gut knee jerk reaction to what's out there right now courtesy of the LA Times and any trailers I might have seen recently. Have yourself a time.

The Reader: Would make a nifty double bill with "The Notebook." Kate Winslet gets it on with some German teenager and, naturally, they work the Holocaust in somehow.

Frost/Nixon: Thus far, the best movie I saw in 2008. Go! Run!

Slumdog Millionaire: Big, big Oscar buzz around the Hollywood hive. I, however, saw it and was not stung. Incredibly overrated and pretentious. Who wants to spend two hours with the filthy citizens of Mumbai?

Twilight: I do not collect Barbie dolls, so how could I possibly qualify to go see this?

Cadillac Records: The history of the record company. Two frightful words: Beyonce co-stars.

Happy Go Lucky: Still hanging around for Oscar consideration. I hear the lead character is hopelessly annoying. I have enough of those people in my real life.

Revolutionary Road: Leonardo and Kate again, but this time only the marriage is on the rocks and not the ship. My guess is that the movie is stylish but empty.

Milk: Major Oscar buzz for Sean Penn as the millionaire who started Borden's. Or did I read that review wrong?

Nothing Like the Holidays: A dysfunctional Puerto Rican family in Chicago celebrates the holidays. With Debra Messing as the token Jew, who obviously lost a bet with her agent.

Bedtime Stories: Adam Sandler. Next.

Rachel Getting Married: Lingering to get star Anne Hathaway Oscar attention. I saw it. She's great. The movie is dreary.

Waltz With Bashir: "Top Hat" if it were filmed in the Middle East. With Abdul Astaire and Fatima Rogers.

The Spirit: Based on a comic book I never heard of. When do we see the screen version of "Gasoline Alley?"

Last Chance Harvey: Dustin Hoffman embracing one of his last chances for an Oscar. The tagline is "it's never too late to fall in love." Says who?

Marley and Me: Jennifer Aniston trades in Brad Pitt for a pooch who is probably hitting the newspaper more than he does.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: A needless remake of a classic. Why do they ever bother? Does some artist look at the Mona Lisa and wonder what she would look like with a cigar and an Afro?

Valkyrie: Tom Cruise as a ruthless Nazi. No great acting stretch there. Scientologists get free Sno-Caps if they identify themselves at the box office.

Bolt: Despite it being the movie of this year's El Capitan Christmas show, I have not seen it. Disney animation has really suffered the past several years.

Doubt: The screen version of the play about some Catholic priest in the 60s who apparently diddled with some young boy and I will be there with a large popcorn.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Insiders say this has the inside track to Best Picture. But, the reviews are mixed and most say it's nothing but a three hour gimmick. That's a long sit even for a good movie, let alone a mediocre one. And, does anybody else think that the old short guy in the trailer reminds them of that little midget king from "Darby O'Gill and the Little People?"

Yes Man: Jim Carrey? No, man.

Australia: I know people who loved it and people who hated it. I will be one of those in the middle who will avoid it. From what I saw in the trailer, it looks like "Out of Australia." And I slept through that Africa nonsense.

The Tale of Despereaux: Non!

Seven Pounds: Will Smith's annual enema for an Oscar. He is a terrible actor. Get over him please.

Four Christmases: This blog has featured a lot more comedy about the holiday than this dreck. Just who does find Vince Vaughn funny?

Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood's swan song and his movies are always good stories. Dirty Harry moves next door to a bunch of Asians. Hey, Clint, I'll load up the shotgun for you.

The Wrestler: Mickey Rourke skewers the wrestling industry. Any cameo appearances for Bobo Brazil and Gorilla Monsoon?

And, if you're in Los Angeles and none of the above strikes your cinematic fancy, the Aero Theater in Santa Monica is showing classic screwball comedies all weekend. Perhaps your best bet for entertainment.

Dinner last night: Baked ham dinner for Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Come Over for Christmas

Well, if you can't make it to my place in Los Angeles, you can at least see my Christmas tree.


It looks a lot better in the dark. But, then again, who doesn't?

Happy Holidays to all. And, to those in the know, Merry, Merry Christmas!!

Dinner last night: Steak dinner with friends prior to Christmas Eve service.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gasp! Christmas Eve is a Wednesday!!!

So, how can I commence with the usual Wednesday nastiness? Well, for this one week, I can't and won't. Trust me all the political nitwits will still be around next week for the usual flogging. Just for today, a little different spin. Here's some pet peeves I've gathered over this Christmas season.

---First of all, is it me or is that picture above disturbing? I don't, for one moment, think this is Santa Claus. I do, however, think this is the school janitor who's been living in his mother's basement the last 35 years.

---When did people working in those mall kiosks get so aggressive?

---This is the second time this has happened to me. One girl ran up to me with a tissue in her hand and said, "smell this."

---No!

---Ten minutes later, I am walking past another kiosk and another clerk asked, "can I have your hand please?"

---No!!!!

---The third one was a doozy. "Do you want to feel something really nice?"

---NO!!!!

---It was like I walked into a mall where prostitution was being offered up by Macy's>

---Can somebody explain this? This morning, I got an e-mail from an on-line store I have done business with.

---"Guaranteed delivery by Christmas."

---Huh? Now, on Christmas Eve, just how do you plan to do that? Please let me know because I've only ordered enough ham for six people.

---Next year, I want to sponsor a clinic on how to appear pleased when you open a Christmas present you detest.

---It's an art. Smile and say "wow." It immediately removes any doubt. Even though your insides are being ripped up about just what you're going to do with this bottle opener adorned with the picture of Bob Hope.

---Or the gift of a book with 2000 Jumble puzzles.

---I will never live long enough to do 50 of them. Just how incredibly empty do you think my life is?

---ADB RENPSET.

---Of course, if you show an interest in something, you can count on getting every single present devoted to that subject. Dodger this, World War II that.

---I probably now have more literature devoted to World War II than the Winston Churchill war room.

---Thanks, but no thanks.

---No gadgets and especially no food that most humans wouldn't eat the other 364 days of the year.

---You know what I'm talking here. Chocolate covered whiskey shots. Rum cake. Fruit cake. Anything peppermint.

---Thanks, but no thanks.

---And please don't give me subscriptions to food. I go to the supermarket weekly and don't need to shop around that monthly delivery of cheese.

---Who actually looks forward to March when they deliver that big chunk of Monterey Jack?

---Now, let's talk about Christmas cards. This year, with the economy flagging, I've gotten less cards as stamps are apparently cost prohibitive.

---So, people are resorting to personal e-mail greetings, which are fine. And e-cards coming from reputable places like Hallmark are nice, too.

---But I have some folks who have been sending me Powerpoint slides that have frozen my computer twice and has my McAfee Virus firewall working overtime.

---Thanks, but no thanks.

---How confusing is it for little kids to listen to different Santa voices on different radio stations? It's amazing that the myth hasn't been completely destroyed for every five-year-old.

---Because how can you comprehend when Santa is on the urban radio station talking about being up in Mrs. Claus' Kool-Aid so he can guess the flavor?

---So, we still can't find Osama Bin Laden but NORAD can track Santa's every stop on Christmas Eve? I'm just saying.

And, to all a good riddance. Well, not really.

Dinner last night: Dried cappacollo and peppers on sourdough bread.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Very Strange Christmas Albums, Part 2

More of the same and insane.

Two front teeth and maybe some corrective lenses.

I'd opt for the flip side. The Year Without Carol Channing.

Check out the title. One mom. Multiple dads. And here's an even bigger surprise. They're white.

No words describe.

Let me see if I understand this now. Rudolph's red nose was bionic?


Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house. Not a female creature was stirring...

Dinner last night: Leftover turkey sausage.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 22, 2008

The flip side of Christmas.

Dinner last night: Turkey sausage jumbalaya.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Christmas Traditions


This was my Christmas with jaundice. Or liver failure. More likely, the picture has weathered itself by sitting in a box for years. I'm a trifle confused by that bizarre license plate in the front. It's probably a reference code for the photographer, but it certainly looks like Santa might have been doing some time in the state prison. At this time of year, memories of past holiday traditions come flooding back like spilled egg nog. For instance, a visit to Santa was de rigeur every year for me. My Santa always resided at Gimbels in the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers. My mother told me that the Gimbels Santa was the real one. That probably had more to do with the fact that she did more shopping there than she did at Macy's or John Wanamaker's. It was apparently more convenient to believe that the Gimbels guy was the true Santa Claus. Looking back, I realized that my family engaged in the same holiday traditions and subsequent frenzy that everybody else did. People do the same thing year after year after year until complete boredom sets in. More likely, family patterns can be changed after somebody says the wrong thing to somebody else at the dinner table. For us, Christmas Eve was always spent with my father's cousin and her family in the Bronx. She liked to go to candlelight service and I felt the need to be the only one in my family unit to go along. Then, we would come back for a big buffet table, which frankly scared me. Usually, the older folks would have a Yuletide craving for creamed herring and its presence on the table made me gag. The lingering smell always pretty much contaminated all the other stuff on the table for me. So, I would run around and munch on as many pretzels and potato chips that I could find in bowls situated around the house. Another relative lived upstairs, so my older teenage cousins (and their dates) used to command that area. Since there was absolutely nobody there that was my age, I was lost at sea. I once ventured upstairs to their lair and inadvertently walked into an old fashioned make out party. There is nothing more horrifying than seeing a relative being groped by some neanderthal on the couch. At that tender age, I ran away screaming and crying. Now, I would simply say, "go get a fucking room." Christmas Day was a round robin affair. Somehow, somebody kept track of who hosted the rest of the family last year and whose turn it was to cough up the eats this year. I hated this concept. There is nothing worse than being gifted with lots of new toys to play with, only to be yanked away several hours later to somebody else's house so you can watch some uncle play "pull my finger." I'd be bored senseless and wind up sitting on the sofa to watch cartoons until I could go home and reconnect with my Zorro play set. The worst Christmas Days were always spent when it was my mother's sister's turn to host us. First off, they lived in Deer Park, Long Island, which might as well have been on the moon. At least there, I had a cousin close to my age. But, still, I wasn't with my stuff and I was constantly reminded of that. To make matters worse, my aunt, who was an attendant in a nut hospital where the loonies were actually saner than she was, seemed to relish in doing a little Yuletide "F You" to me and my dad. You see, she always served lamb on Christmas. My father and I hated lamb. So, obviously, the courteous thing for my goofy aunt to do was make something smaller specifically for me and Dad to eat. Nope. She served the lamb and we were off to get McDonald's. I don't know what was more depressing. My dad and I ordering Christmas dinner through a drive-thru window. Or the poor slob on the other end that was taking the order. Regardless, I never totally comprehended how shitty that was until many years later. On one of my last NY Christmases, I was a free agent and was invited by the mother of my godchildren to have Christmas at her mother's house. I walked in and the first thing I saw was a big leg of lamb being carved on the kitchen counter. My heart sank, but I tried not to let it show. But, then, there was a Christmas miracle. In her thick German accent, my friend's mom turned to me. "Lenny, I remember a long time ago that you didn't eat lamb." She opened the oven door to reveal a small loin of pork. All for me. I gave her a big hug and almost cried. She had given me the smallest consideration that was so enormously huge to me. My own flash and blood hadn't even bothered to do that. As families evolve and fights start, our Christmas traditions morphed into the ether over the years. And, then, suddenly, without warning, you find yourself in a new one. Christmases in Los Angeles the past ten years. With good friends having a meal, opening some presents, and having a laugh or two. And, all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Not even a lamb. Dinner last night: Sausage parmagiana at Miceli's.














Saturday, December 20, 2008

Classic Newsreel of the Month - December 2008

Babe Ruth as Santa Claus!!


Dinner last night: Had a big lunch and I was holiday shopping----zip.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Song Confidential - 2008 Edition


I did this last year and I realized there was more than enough for another glimpse or two this December. We're at that time of year where radio stations flip to all Yuletide formats. All Christmas, all the time, for about six weeks. Some songs are wonderful and bear repeating. Others, however, should come around just once a year and then be relegated to Vinyl Hell. And, when you listen to some of the asinine lyrics (and subtext), you can't help but crack wise...

Frosty the Snowman: Bulletin for all children in love with this guy. The shit melts.

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays by Perry Como: Not sure what was going on at Perry's house, but I have a lasting memory of my mother trying to take a swing at my grandmother with one of those Pillsbury croissant containers. The first 30 seconds of this song, as done by Como, can lull me to sleep whereever I am. Are we sure his last name hasn't been misspelled by one letter?

I Want a Hippotamus for Christmas: This piece of junk, sung by some ten year-old, is making the rounds this year and it causes cavities. By the way, if you get a hippotamus for Christmas, there's more to worry about under the tree than just pine needles. And, kid, you want the pet but it's Daddy who will be stuck walking it. This was apparently a big hit in 1953, so I suppose we can blame it all on Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow: A big favorite with the NYC Department of Sanitation who's always looking for overtime.

Silver Bells: We did a version of this when I was a kid. "Silver bells, Santa smells, and Easter's on its way."

Here Comes Santa Claus Right Down Santa Claus Lane: Because it doesn't work the same if Santa's coming down the Belt Parkway.

Holly Jolly Christmas: Rhetorical question---is holly a noun or an adjective? Because, from this song, I can't really tell. Another ditty by Burl Ives who worked just one month a year.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. All purchased on-line from Crap.com.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas: And you can throw that figgy pudding in the garbage, too.

The Little Drummer Boy: "The ox and lamb kept time. Pa rum pum pum pum." Wow, that's impressive. Worthy of Stupid Pet Tricks on Letterman.

Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus: Obviously played a lot in Los Angeles. A little Mexican kid wonders where Santa is. What's Spanish for "in the trunk of the car?"

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: That's what you saw before they moved to the other room. Perhaps this was the prelude to Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus."

Deck the Halls: "Don we now our gay apparel..." Insert your own joke here.

Noel, Noel. Noel: Either a Christmas carol or a Chicago lamentation about a transit strike.

Dinner last night: Hot dog.




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas and a Show or Two or Three: A Semi Photo Essay

I would have liked to take more pictures of my recent sojourn to the Big Apple, but there was way too much rain to pull out the digital camera. Nevertheless, I did my best to honor the Yuletide season in NY by partaking in some shows.

I am not sure when my tradition started to always see a Broadway show around the holidays. It certainly wasn't with my folks since the then $6.80 ticket was probably cost-prohibitive. But, we did always do the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall where the top ticket price was 75 cents and much more in line with the family budget. So, after beating senseless the horrible notion that Radio City Music Hall at Christmas is anything like the Radio City Music Hall at Christmas that I went to see, I tried one more time to see the Holiday Spectacular. My companions for the evening were a couple of younger work colleagues, who have never even been in the building. For shame.

Now, the last time I saw this Christmas dreck in the Showplace of the Nation, I was appalled at how canned it was. The only live music I heard was the toetapping I was doing to the imaginary orchestra in my head. Everything about fifteen or so years ago sounded like it had been recorded in your hall closet. And the show was badly paced for any age group except perhaps for that senior citizen bridge club from Montvale, New Jersey. That time, I had my eight year-old nephew in tow and he proclaimed loudly during the Nativity scene, "Uncle Lenny, is this over soon? I have to pee."

I am happy to report that, years later, the orchestra now lives again at Radio City Music Hall. Every note of music was live. Every voice heard was live. Every click of a Rockette's Capezio was live.

And the show was still dead.

Just the process of entering Radio City Music Hall for this is now an ordeal. You are queued up in a variety of ways behind barricades. The way people were bustling in you thought that John, Paul, George, and Ringo were appearing. With so many old people on line, I expected to wind up with a tray of lime Jello and a bag of Bingo chips.

The Music Hall lobby still gives me goosebumps. If I closed my eyes, I drifted back to the days when, holding hands of my mother and Aunt Edie, we mounted the stairs to the front mezzanine just in time to see "Father Goose" with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron start at 11:07AM. Now, the lobby is a maze of souvenir stands and people who haven't had their windows open since Roger Maris wore pinstripes. We did sit in the front mezzanine, too, but the only common thread with a past memory was the art deco bathroom down the hall.

This show starts promptly on the hour and lasts 90 minutes. No more, no less. 90 minutes. It is cut from the same straight forward mold you used last Christmas to do your sugar cookies. But, perhaps that is the allure. It is no different from one year to the next and the mere idea of introducing a new element would be akin to a suicide bomber driving into Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland.

They do milk the Rockettes endlessly. They seem to turn up in every number and I had seen several of them more in the 90 minutes than I've seen some relatives in 20 years. The first half dozen times they tap their way across the stage, you're engaged. The next two dozen times they tap their way across the stage, you start to play "Brickbreaker" on your Black Berry. There is obviously no union that governs their use and you wonder if the kids in Kathie Lee Gifford's Colombian sweat shop have a better employment agreement.

At one point, you follow a cartoon Santa as he flys over Manhattan. They give you 3-D glasses for this and the knuckleheads around me were ducking the snowballs "thrown" at them. Are their lives so simplistic that this is considered new and original entertainment? The audience is then instructed to remove their glasses, but I noticed some morons around me didn't. I get the impression they took them home and are now using the specs to read the Daily News.

There's a scene of ice skating on stage. A tour bus full of, what else, Rockettes takes us on a virtual tour of Manhattan which conveniently stops just short of 110th Street and Lenox. A Reader's Digest version of the Nutcracker condenses the entire ballet into four minutes with some of the creepiest dancing bears you ever would want to see. Children around me started to cringe. So did the two 25 year-olds I was with.

There's one 3-minute segment where a screen is unveiled and I think to myself that, at last, "Babes in Toyland" starring Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands will start. But, it's a very short but impressive film history of the Music Hall. Narrated by the unctuous Tony Bennett who might be currently dating a Rockette, this was my brief highlight of the evening as wonderful memories unfolded for me. If only they would do the same thing now. A film and a 30 minute stage show would be plenty. Certainly a lot more lively than this old episode of "Sing Along with Mitch."

At last, the Nativity scene started and they continue to not miss a beat with this reverent production replete with camels and sheep who are also trotted out multiple times a day and a signal to me that their employment agreement is no better than the Rockettes.

When the show was over exactly 90 minutes later, I wanted to linger and soak in the majesty of what once was. But, an usherette came along to hustle me out. After all, there's another show and a crowd due into the theater in exactly 42 minutes. I realized that I have spent more time with a Stouffer's Lean Cuisine dinner.

The next evening I moved onto some more legit theater when I hydroplaned my way into the Broadway Theater for a preview performance of "Shrek: The Musical." There was about 24 inches of rain outside which meant that the people crammed into the small seating areas were already drenched. There were enough wet umbrellas to stage fifteen touring companies of "Singin' in the Rain." Once again, the leg room at my seat had me sitting with my knees to my chest as if I was John Glenn orbiting the Earth in Friendship 7.

"Shrek: The Musical" follows in what is a new Broadway trend. If you use fairy tale characters and have your lead character colored green, you will be a big hit. And this show may just be that. While I have seen all three "Shrek" movies, I have never seen any of them more than once. This means I'm not a huge fan. But, still, I got completely sucked into the story all over again on stage. Some of the folks from "Avenue Q" are involved, so there are some foul mouthed puppets to contend with. The Donkey is played with a mincing lisp and could be auditioning for "Queer Eye for the Straight Jackass."

The first act is incredibly clever with lots of lampooning of Disney and other Broadway musicals. There is a brief moment that copies "The Lion King" and it is a howl. At another point, some of the fairy tale characters line up to match what used to be the trademark of "A Chorus Line." But, as well done as the first act is, the second act lags badly. It's all about the brewing romance between Shrek and Fiona and it's one big yawn. At one point, those two have a flatulence contest and the only two bigger farts I have seen on stage were when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton did "Private Lives."

When circulation returned to my legs, I stumbled up the mezzanine stairs and felt an odd sense of ambivalence when "Shrek:The Musical" was over. I liked it. I didn't like it. It got the usual standing ovation and I wasn't sure why. But, it will run for a long time. Even without any Rockettes.

My theater plans saved the best for last. The newest revival of "Gypsy." No green make-up. No 3-D glasses. No Rockettes. Just sheer tried-and-true Broadway entertainment that still works as well as it did way back in 1960 when Ethel Merman was stomping around as Mama Rose.

This current production won a slew of Tonys and is closing way too soon. All three lead actors got Tonys---Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti, and Boyd Gaines who has parlayed a career debut as Valerie Bertinelli's boyfriend on "One Day at a Time" into a rousing theater resume that includes four Tony Awards. Who knew?

At the end, LuPone is chewing the scenery so much that she looked like one of those entrants into the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. But, it all worked. There was a standing ovation and, since the St. James Theater is better than most with leg room, I joined in with nary a crack of the kneecap. For once, there's a good reason to bestow a standing ovation on a production and a performance. "Gypsy" made all three nights worth the while.

Now, if only my parents had taken me to the original for $6.80.

Dinner last night: Chile Rellenos at Pink Taco.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Penultimate Shopping Wednesday Before Christmas


I just flew back from NY and, boy, are my arms tired.

---Midtown Manhattan was unwalkable while I was there. Too many tourists, too many old folks, too many idiots.

---When you're 75 or 80, is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree that new to you?

---By the way, dig that nifty picture I took.

---Wasted prime restaurant space: The Olive Garden overlooking Times Square.

---Amazing view, microwaveable food.

---With the number of crappy chain restaurants in the theater district, Mamma Leone's would now be considered high end cuisine.

---When you're throwing back some unwanted clothes to a Christmas gifter, remember the immortal words of President George W. Bush.

---Shoes can hurt.

---Is that how they assassinate leaders in Iraq? With a pair of size 10 Weejuns to the skull?

---Both shoes came from the same direction which means there was no second shoe thrower on the grassy knoll.

---No truth to the rumor that the shoe brand was "Johnson & Hussein."

---Okay, I'll stop.

---Somewhere midway across the country, I started to feel it. Sore throat, headache, stuffy head.

---I wanted to stand up and announce to the rest of the airplane cabin, "Okay, which one of you assholes gave me your germs?!!"

---I actually heard one flight attendant say this to another, "I wonder what their homes look like."

---Exactly.

---I can't believe all the press that Oprah is getting for being grossly overweight. Look at the rest of the country.

---As this fat slob tips the scales at 200 pounds, you wouldn't want to be a carrot stick in her house as she races the clock to fit into a party dress for her buddy's coronation.

---While you all wait for that Illinois governor to get tarred and feathered, I'm wondering how much Big Barry Obama knew about all that scandal.

---Of course, he says he knew nothing. Actually, he's like those kids in the "Family Circus" comic strip. The ones who are always saying "not me."

---Sitting in the church for twenty years while that insane pastor preached absolute venom.

---"Not me."

---Ties to that criminal housing czar in Chicago?

---"Not me."

---Lots of time spent in the home of terrorist Bill Ayers.

---"Not me."

---If you listen to him, vacuum packed Spam gets out more.

And who's finished with their holiday shopping? Definitely NOT ME.

Dinner last night: Crispy spicy beef at the Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Christmas, That Movie

"This Christmas" is a film originally released in 2007. Given its holiday theme, it is making the rounds of every cable movie network right now. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I ran into it so many times I felt I was on a bumper car ride in Compton. Eventually, I watched it in its entirity.

And, well, shut my mouth. I liked it. Go figger....

I'd say this movie is really nothing more than "Love Actually" set in one of the nicer sections of South Central LA. It tells the story of one Christmas gathering in the life of some Black family that resembled the Huxtables. Except all the kids were older and had their own lives. Dad's already been dispatched to either heaven or jail. And Mom, played by Loretta Devine, is carrying on. With a new feller to boot. As luck would have it, he's a preacher man. Aw, shucks. You can't help but like him. But, as the cookie cutter script would dictate, none of the kids do. Yet.

Mom's nickname is "Ma'Dere." Two of the sons are nicknamed "Baby" and "Junior." None of them are explained or make any sense. But, they're not supposed to. Since cliches were obviously on sale at Walmart, they are abundant with the Whitfield family. One son is a criminal. One daughter is a high-powered executive from NY and looking for love. Another son is headed to battle in either Iraq or Minnesota---it's never really clarified. He's brought home his new young wife who happens to be White. Another son wants to be a singer, which is convenient because that role is played by rap star Chris Brown. Of course, Mom, I mean Ma'Dere, doesn't want him to be a musician since Dad was and he turned out to be a piece of shit. Another daughter knows her shifty hubby is cheating and she is seeking retaliation. Eventually, you lose track of the storylines and the kids. The only thing you realize is that Ma'Dere was probably lying on her back for one decade straight. More people left her uterus than did commuters during rush hour at Grand Central Station.

But, still, I liked it. Go figger.

Amidst all the soap opera and the drama, enough heartstrings are pulled and enough plots are neatly tied up that there is absolutely no way that the Whitfields won't be toasting with egg nog by the final reel. Somehow, someway, it all works.

Amazingly, there are several scenes that are absolutely electric. Chris Brown's renditions of "Try a Little Tenderness" and the title song are riveting and clearly dynamic movie moments. And the always reliable Regina King, quite good as the cheated-on wife, gets her revenge on her slimebucket of a husband in a delicious way. I won't spoil it but she uses a belt and a bottle of baby oil in a form of torture that might have come from a Yuppie version of the movie "Mandingo."

Just before the closing credits, the entire cast (including the Mexican housekeeper, but inexplicably not the new White daughter-in-law) step out of character to do a ten minute line dance that is really worth the time and your attention. It is probably one of the most infectious curtain calls ever captured on screen.

Yep, I liked "This Christmas." Go figger. Pass the collard greens.

Dinner last night: Back in LA. Had lunch on the plane, so just a salami sandwich at home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 15, 2008

Watch the Christmas tree!


Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.

Tomorrow; Back in the friendly confines of Los Angeles.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Waiting for Santa

I wasn't waiting for these guys, although they might be more fun. But, back when I was still believing in St. Nick, I fussed enormously over his arrival at 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon. Actually, I was probably a five-year-old obsessive compulsive about Santa's entrance every Christmas Eve.

I didn't last long as a believer. I probably wasn't more than seven years old when the kid up the block, that dastardly Monte, killed it all for me when he relayed that all my Christmas presents from Santa were being hid in his house. But, until that fateful message, I bought into all the myths. The rooftop sleigh. Rudolph. The slide down the chimney.

Except, as I worried, we didn't have a chimney. Well, not one that was open. There was a pseudo-fireplace in our house downstairs in my grandmother's dining room. But, it was cemented shut and probably hadn't been used since Eleanor Roosevelt had straight teeth.

"How is Santa Claus going to come into our house?"

The answer confused me.

"He has a key."

Huh? If I had started to think about this implausibility, I would have stopped believing right then and there.

"So he knows that our fireplace is closed?"

The answer addled me some more.

"We tell him ahead of time."

Huh?? So, there are conversations with the man prior to the visit. When does this happen? And, if there has been a previous dialogue with Santa, how come the guy doesn't know to rinse out the glass after he downs the milk and cookies? Because, frankly, at our house, nothing freaked out my mother more than a dirty glass left to linger.

If there were personal meetings going on with Santa Claus, I wanted to be in on the action. In my small kindergarteny mind, I deduced that, with this front door key, Santa Claus would have to go up the narrow staircase to where our tree was. And a great way to do that would be to block the stairs.

Sometime, in the darkness of Christmas Eve, I pulled Zippy the Chimp and went to sit on the staircase. Nobody was going to get past me. I was going to be the sentry of our house and meet the guy with my own eyes.

And that's where they found me asleep in the morning.

Huh?

Up in the kitchen, there was a dirty glass drained of milk. How the heck did this happen???

Years later, I wound up on the flip side of this obsession. I was living in Yonkers next door to good friends. I was little Jason's unofficial uncle. And every Christmas Eve, we would get together to hang out until the wee hours. I even got to be the one to gobble up the milk and cookies dutifully left by Jason.

One year, at around 1AM, Jason bounced downstairs from his bedroom.

"Uncle Lenny, go home!!! Santa won't come if you're still here drinking!"

Dinner last night: BBQ Ham at Virgil's BBQ.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - December 2008

It's a wonderful trailer!



Dinner last night: Hamburger at the Tap House in Tuckahoe.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Very Strange Christmas Albums

These are honest-to-goodness real Yuletide musical collections. From the record company whose mailing address is P.O. Box 666, Hell.

This is Christmas at somebody's house and clearly not mine or yours. Dig that wonderful present of croquet mallets. Who are these people????

Featuring the original cast. Uh huh. The original cast of everybody except Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Alec Guinness.


Proof positive that strippers and porn stars should not be forgotten during the holidays.

And you thought the only people hustling at this time of year was the Salvation Army?

Two Borscht Belt comedians lost in Sweden. More validation for enforced immigration laws.


Except for his head, this guy doesn't look to be wrapped too tightly. For those longing for the heat and humidity of New Delhi this Christmas.

Dinner last night: Meatloaf at Whyym in Manhattan.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frosted Nixon


There are three reasons right off the bat why I would like the new Ron Howard-directed film "Frost/Nixon." First, there's virtually no CGI. Second, there's no role for the criminally overused and undertalented Seth Rogan. Third, there was no way for the grossly overrated and utterly annoying Samuel L. Jackson to worm his way into another movie. Kudos to the filmmakers here for resisting the temptation to rewrite history and depict TV host David Frost as a Black man.

"Frost/Nixon" is probably the best and smartest movie that I have seen in 2008. It should clean up with Oscar gold and also remind liberal-infested Hollywood that it is possible to make a political movie without bashing a Republican. "W" director Oliver Stone needs to see "Frost/Nixon" for that very reason. And then offer to clean Ron Howard's toilet bowl for the next year.

When you think about acting tour de forces, you should remember what Michael Sheen and Frank Langella did in this movie. Langella is so amazingly good and non-cartoonish as Richard Nixon that he most certainly will win the next Best Actor Oscar. In fact, he's so believable as Nixon I wouldn't be surprised if somebody tried to serve with a subpoena for those 18 minutes of tapes.

I remember very little about these David Frost interviews when they first aired. I was probably too pre-occupied with watching Happy Days or Valerie Bertinelli. I do remember that David Frost's syndicated TV shows in the early 70s created a nasty bi-polar viewing pattern in my house. When Frost first replaced Merv Griffin's nightly show on Channel 5 in NY, my mother loved the guy. She couldn't get enough of him and thought he was adorable. Downstairs, my grandmother desperately missed Griffin and his sidekick, Arthur Treacher. As a result, she couldn't stand that "limey" who took Merv's place. As for me, Frost was a blur.

But, after seeing "Frost/Nixon," I totally understand the drama that existed as Frost attempted to show his mettle as a TV interviewer by hoping to get Nixon to admit his Watergate guilt to the entire nation. Indeed, both of these very public figures are incredibly damaged and director Howard does an amazing job of conveying their angst. What must have been a very static and talking head play on Broadway is opened up to incredible vistas on the big screen by the director. In what has been a formidible career so far, Ron Howard scores his best work here with "Frost/Nixon" and should be Oscar-bound himself.

There was one odd scene and quirk when I saw "Frost/Nixon" last Saturday night. In one scene, David Frost is shown attending the premiere of "The Slipper and the Rose" at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Of course, as I was watching this scene, I myself was sitting in the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Most of the audience applauded this bizarre coincidence. Only in Hollywood.

Put "Frost/Nixon" on your holiday viewing list. And expect to see it come around again after some big wins on Oscar night. Unless, of course, there's a last minute surge for "Tranformers 3," Seth Rogan in "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," or Samuel L. Jackson's work in "Lakeview Terrace."

Dinner last night: Grilled chicken teriyaki.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday in the Air, Wednesday on the Ground


Snarkiness from 35,000 feet and then some...

---The woman sitting behind me was on her cell phone prior to takeoff. Talking to somebody named "Sparkle."

---??? And, if you're wondering, she was White.

---There's a big sign over the toilet. "Don't throw anything in." Now, tell me how many times you've seen something shoved down the hole.

---Remember when flight attendants were young and attractive. Every one of them on this plane are over 50 and look it.

---Snowcaps all across the country. Thank God for Los Angeles weather.

---"Ghost Town" is playing and I am not watching. Saw it already and another viewing may blind me.

---Some Asian chick has been in the bathroom now for 15 minutes. She better be coming out in full Kabuki make-up or people will be pissed.

---Maybe she's trying to retrieve something she THREW IN THE TOILET.

---On the last three flights I have taken, they keep running the same episode of "New Adventures of Old Christine." Which, of course, means it is no longer a new adventure to me.

---The woman behind me just asked me if I was a writer.

---My response: "Why? Are you an agent?"

---Back on Earth and driving over the Whitestone Bridge, I hear a traffic report about an overturned mail truck on the Major Deegan. Christmas cards are strewn all over.

---So, if you're wondering why you didn't get your Macy's $25 gift card from Aunt Martha, you might want to check the sewers around Fordham Road.

---Barbra Big Nose got her Kennedy Center honor Sunday night and wished she had received it from the President a year from now.

---Okay, we got it. You don't like Bush. But, frankly, you probably wouldn't be in the running next year.

---2009 Kennedy Center Honoree, Mo'Nique.

---I love Babs' big liberal ideas that help the common man, but her Malibu walls shielding her from the great unwashed public are bigger than anybody else's.

---If she's so smart, how come her husband is so stupid?

---Here's something you'll never hear: Nobel Prize winner for science, Mr. James Brolin.

---Barry Obama's doing these Saturday morning talks now and they have him sitting Presidentially in front of what might have been the West Wing set at Warner Brothers.

---He said two very stupid things over the weekend and they got no press. First off, he yakked about the bomb that hit Pearl Harbor.

---A bomb??? How about multiple bombs, torpedos, machine gun fire from airplanes?

---Jeez, it's your home state, goofball.

---Then, he droned about how far behind the US is in broadband technology. Because, as Barry added, he wants every child in America to have access to the internet.

---Huh??????

---I thought the goal was to keep kids off the damn computer.

---Of course, there'll be plenty of hand wringing down the road when your child is chatting on-line with "AnalLover675."

---And what's this we hear? The Illinois Governor put up Obama's Senate seat for sale on E-Bay?

---Just goes to prove one more time that politicians around Chicago are the most crooked anywhere.

---Caroline Kennedy might replace Hillary in the Senate seat from NY. I've always liked her because she kept herself removed from the political limelight. Now, she winds up just like everybody else.

---Her credibility is now available on E-Bay, too.

---I'm a little confused with the jet travel. Jay Leno is joining the cast of "Law and Order?"

---Christmas Mystery Department: when I was a kid, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was 30 minutes long. ABC ran it on Monday night and it was on for an hour.

---Like they found all this new footage in Charles Schultz' basement?

---You think there was a lot of commercials in that sucker or what?

Off I go to see some more dumb tourists.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers with side salad.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas at Dodger Stadium - A Photo Essay

While I struggle to stay connected to the Mets in their new Citi Field, the Dodgers went a long way in keeping this season ticket holder engaged in a big way on the West Coast. Last Sunday, I was one of the 250 season plan holder invited to their holiday celebration on the field. This was perhaps one of the best events I've ever attended in a baseball stadium. With Christmas songs blaring over the loudspeaker, we got the run of the place. There was no place you couldn't visit. The dugouts, the bullpens, even the padded luxury seats. Dodger greats and some not-so-greats circulated amongst the fans who were also treated to concession prices from circa-1965. Sodas were two bucks. Sandy Koufax was arthritis-free the last time that happened. Join me as I take you around the ballpark. My co-host for the tour is the esteemed Mr. Anonymous from the Barbara Judith Deluxe Furnished Apartments on Hollywood Boulevard.

I'm in centerfield with the stadium in full view. With all these folks tramping all over the field, the groundskeepers will be putting in for overtime. When you stand in the outfield, you really appreciate how enormous the place is.

On the mound where Koufax, Drysdale, Hershiser, Fernando, and Scott Proctor have thrown. Okay, I went one too far, didn't I? That is not a balk move, by the way. But, I have one question: why am I throwing lefthanded?

Super-young Clayton Kershaw, who looks as if he could be working the counter at Blockbuster Video during the winter, gave some curveball tips. Nice kid. And I emphasize "kid."

Posing with the Prime Sports guys, Steve Lyons and Kevin Kennedy. On the end is Dodger radio play-by-play announcer Charlie Steiner who was super nice. FYI, Lyons spent a lot of the afternoon hitting on some tall blonde.

On the warning track in right field. I have no idea who the Grenado family is.

A relic from the days when relief pitchers came into the game via a golf cart like this. Sadly, the ignition key was not available. This easily could have wound up in my garage by the end of the day.

In the Dodger dugout. There's a reason you always see the players hanging over the railing on the top step. When you're seated, you can't see shit on the field.

The bullpen phone in the visitor's dugout. I actually got a dialtone and tried to warm up a lefthander.

They had a neat photo gimmick. You stand at home plate between two World Series trophies and they flash your names on the scoreboard behind you. I got a little creative and simply had them put my season season location.

Last but not least, here's our photo op with Santa. And not just any old run-of-the-mill Santa. Yep, here's Tommy Lasorda. When we sidled up for the picture, I had the following exchange.

"Hey, Tommy, I used to bleed Met blue and orange. But now I think it's all Dodger blue."

"Well, now you're making sense, pal."

Glad you think so, Tommy. Because with days like this at Dodger Stadium, I'll never ever go back to Flushing again.

Dinner last night: Cajun jumbalaya at the Cheesecake Factory.

And tomorrow from New York where my holiday merriment this week will include Radio City Music Hall, "Shrek: The Musical," "Gypsy" with Patti LuPone, and probably a lot of annoying people.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 8, 2008

DUI Santa.



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

Celebrity sighting: Emily Van Camp from "Brothers and Sisters" at Ralph's on Sunset.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Lunch With Greatness

I shared this Hollywood story on my annual Christmas newsletter a few years ago. It bears repeating here for those not in the loop. Another example of how you can make the oddest of connections here in Los Angeles.

There is something very mystical about how I find myself hooking up with stars that my parents probably saw on the silver screen at the Wakefield Theater in the Bronx. Well, here’s how this one starts. One summer week in LA, I am scheduled to have lunch with a good friend who is an actress/stand-up comic. She has worked on a variety of our projects. But she calls to tell me that she needs to juggle her lunch schedule as she is overbooked on the day we are scheduled.

Let me back up. This particular friend has an even more magical way of connecting to Hollywood legends. The neighbors in her apartment building, at one time, included the lone surviving Nicholas Brother (at the time) as well as Glenn Miller’s band singer. And it is through the latter connection that my friend had lunch scheduled with a certain somebody and that conflicted with the lunch she had scheduled with me. I willingly beg off and agree to another date for lunch.

But I later mentioned to my writing partner that my lunch was postponed because our actress friend was booked for lunch with this certain somebody. Innocently, he asked why I didn’t suggest that the lunches be combined so I could, too, break bread with that certain somebody.

Bang! I could have had a V-8.

The next day, when I related what my partner had suggested to my friend as a joke, I didn’t expect the response I got.

“Why didn’t I think about that? Besides, you have A/C in your car and I don’t.”

Huh? But, who was I to quibble if a standard option on my car suddenly became a valued calling card.

My actress friend immediately called this certain somebody and said, “I’m bringing a friend. And he's got air conditioning in the car.”

And I suppose I have a fully loaded Toyota 4-Runner to thank because that's how I wound up having lunch with JANE RUSSELL.

Yes, Jane Russell.

It was an absolute hoot. She has held up very nicely for her age (83 at the time). Except she can’t see and she subsequently asked me to read the entire menu to her. I did so with all the aplomb of the best waiter.

"And then, Miss Russell, there is a sauteed chicken breast with a delicate white wine sauce and capers on the side."

Jane brightened. "I love capers!"

And talk about name dropping. Marilyn…….as in Monroe. Howard……as in Hughes. Shelley…as in Winters. Being the ultimate gentleman (or patsy), I paid for lunch. She was so impressed.

“Look at you. Getting stuck picking up the check for a couple of old broads!”

On the way home, she even showed us where Bob Hope lived. Knowing that my writing partner would be disappointed that he wasn’t there----and that I forgot to ask Jane to autograph one of those bras for him, I casually suggested she come over for a home cooked meal the next time she was in town. Imagine my surprise when she answered.

"Sure. When?”

It hasn't happened yet. We're waiting for capers to go on sale.

Dinner last night: Waffle and sausage at the Waffle.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Have You Heard of Ed Zachary Disease?

This joke came to me and it was apropos given my recent excursion into acupuncture. Enjoy.

A woman was very distraught at the fact that she had not had a date or any sex in quite some time. She was afraid she might have something wrong with her, so she decided to seek the medical expertise of a sex therapist.

Her doctor recommended that she see the well known Chinese sex therapist Dr. Chang. So she went to see him. Upon entering the examination room Dr. Chang said "OK, take off aw your crose."

The woman did as she was told.

"Now get down and craw reery, reery fass to odderside of room."

Again the woman did as she was instructed.

Dr. Chang then said "OK, now craw reery, reery fass back to me."

So she did.

Dr.Chang shook his head slowly and said, "Your probrem velly bad. You have Ed Zachary disease. Worse case I ever see. Dat why you not have sex or dates."

Worried, the woman asked anxiously, "Oh, my God, Dr.Chang, what is Ed Zachary Disease?"

Dr. Chang sighed deeply and replied, "It's when your face look Ed Zachary like your ass."

Dinner last night: Hawaiian Burger at Islands.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anatomy of a Knee


This tale will be told in several parts. Almost as many as my knee feels like it is in right now.

Those of you up on your Len trivia know that I have a Mickey Mantle knee. No cartilege in the right one. Bone on bone, ladies and gentlemen. Been like that since I had some asshole for a gym teacher in senior year of high school. The guy who thought seventeen year-olds should exercise harder than the Green Bay Packers. The only difference between me and Mickey is that I haven't used bourbon as a pain reliever.

Usually I experience a lot of stiffness after sitting. I'm a candidate for knee replacement surgery, but I am not supposed to deal with that prospect until I am much older. For now, I deal and cope. Generally, there is no pain, just a lack of mobility. And the bone-on-bone grinding makes for a great party trick.

About a year ago, it flared up badly. It was so swollen that it was almost the size of Rosie O'Donnell's head. My amazing internist fixed it quickly with a handy cortisone shot. The pain of the injection alone made me pass out in his office. It was a miracle cure, once I came to a week later.

Then, a month ago, I heard a news report about the miraculous healing powers of cherries. They interviewed some folks with arthritis who admitted to sudden absences of pain due to the daily ingesting of some form of cherry, except for maybe Diet Dr. Pepper. I gave it a whirl. Not wanting to choke on pits, I opted for an extract in pill form from the vitamin store.

Within two days, I was a believer. My knee was suddenly flexible. The dexterity was increased. I'd still need a pinch runner in a softball game, but my knee hadn't felt this good in years. I walked around LA actually looking for stairs to climb.

Until last Monday. When my knee finally said, "Yeah, you think you're so smart with those freakin' cherries." Back to the swelling. Back to the pain. And, for the first time, a cane.

Not wanting to subject myself to more steroids in the event I am signed to a minor league contract with the Dodgers, I tried to grit it out. And then a work colleague made a suggestion.

"What about acupuncture?"

Huh?

Now, frankly, I've always been skeptical about this. Everytime I see some doctor doing it, I'm convinced he also has some white shirts under an iron in another room. It always reminds me of a bad episode of "Kung Fu." My friend offered the name of her doctor, conveniently located down the street from our office. Even more noteworthy is that there is a Chinese restaurant next door. I wondered if they were sharing staff, because I'd hate for my tendons to be confused with some spring rolls. The doctor's name is Dr. Gu, pronounced Goo. I first thought she said "Dr. Magoo" and I envisioned the guy sticking needles into my backpack. Or, more likely, my wallet. But faced with a decided hobble, the Dodger Christmas party on Sunday, and a cross country plane trip next week, I took the deep dive into Chinese medicine.

He's an interesting little man who had little to say as he listened to my tale of orthpaedic woe. I lied down and in went needles all around my knee. I glanced for a moment and my leg looked like Angelina Jolie's dress ready to be altered for the next Academy Awards. What I didn't know is that these needles are hooked up to little electrodes that start sending some currents into your body. I waited for Dr. Gu to exclaim, "it is alive!" If this is an ancient Chinese medicine that has been around for centuries, how did they do it back then? Did they simply lay a patient out into a field and wait for lightning?

I napped for the next 45 minutes as these jumper cables did their magic. When Dr. Gu came back, he massaged my leg up and down. That was worth the price of the appointment. Surprisingly, the knee felt 75 percent better. It wasn't exactly Lourdes or any other child named by Madonna. But it was a helluva lot better than getting steroids injected into a muscle. I go back for Part 2 on Saturday and hope the cure is complete by then. If not, I have to figure out how to get Dr. Gu onto my flight to NY next Tuesday.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers at San Gennaro in Brentwood.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Badass-est Show on Earth


Caution to all readers: politically incorrect comments are ahead. I am getting as many of them in now as possible prior to the Era of Change that begins on January 20, 2009. The Thought Police will be looking for me at that point.

I could not write this concept for laughs if I tried. But, I recently saw TV ads for the Universoul Circus. Yep, an all-Black circus. Insert your own joke here. It promises all sorts of death-defying acts. Given the crummy area where it was camped here in Los Angeles, the real treacherous challenge is for the audience to actually show up at the tent alive.

I guess it would be cool to see this dude flying around, except if your window is open and there's a fire escape handy.

Here's some real talent. Featuring more twists and turns than OJ's last defense plea.

Obviously the food stamp version of a circus. No animals, just lots of string.


Is that now "Elephant Trainer Al Sharpton?"

I'm actually tempted to go, but both the white guy and the purple elephant in the room will be quite noticeable.

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Four Shopping Wednesdays Till Christmas

Nothing is discounted here today. All jokes are full price.

---Black Friday was a disaster. Because nothing conveys the true spirit of Christmas better than a pistol fight at a toy store.

---That Walmart sale in Valley Stream, NY, literally had them bowled over.

---Of course, some poor employee/schmuck wound up as road kill.

---Or maybe it was Aisle 12 kill?

---If you read all the stories about these horrible incidents, you will discern one common denominator.

---I'll wait.

---Still waiting.

---This is called dark humor, my friends. In more ways than one.

---I call it all savage behavior.

---Democrats will tell you that it is hope and change.

---I had one lunatic "friend" tell me that all this frenzy was a result of Black people being beaten down by the economy.

---Oh, fucking please!!!

---Contrast this to pictures from the Depression of 1929 when hordes of people waited quietly in line for a piece of bread.

---I'd like to know how many of the chimps in the picture above went hungry on Thanksgiving. Or left that Walmart with a couple of iPhones in their shopping cart.

---Meanwhile, the President-Elect (or so all the placards tell us) helps the economy along by buying his wife a $30,000 ring as a thank you for all the support over the past two years.

---That's probably the annual salary for some administrative assistant now out of work. Yeah, he's in touch with all of us.

---Of course, Obama has now denied all of this.

---Uh huh. And now we'll wait for the National Enquirer who will probably produce a copy of the receipt.

---So, Hillary Clinton will get the 3AM call after all.

---"Is Bill there. Er, never mind."

---Since Obama is pulling in all of Clinton's old cronies, I'm wondering where Monica Lewinsky will be working.

---She'd love the new Oval Office. There's new berber carpeting.

---The big winner with Hillary moving to Washington? The state of New York.

---Now, I hear that Barry Obama is considering LA sleazoid Mayor Tony V for a Fed job.

----Please, please, please. Make that happen. Obama, I'd donate money to your next campaign if you take this cockroach off our hands.

---Maybe LA would finally get a mayor that spends more than 13 minutes a day on the job.

---I love the way Obama and Clinton are so kissy-kissy now after months of trashing each other.

---Sort of like when Sonny and Cher were doing their variety show after the divorce.

---Speaking of variety shows, were you one of the seven people nationwide who watched the Rosie O'Donnell afterbirth on Thanksgiving Eve?

---I watched about ten minutes out of sheer curiosity. The same way I can't help but stare at the JFK autopsy photos.

---If this show had been televised worldwide, this would no longer be a crowded planet.

---Rosie, now tipping the scales at around 300 pounds, lumbered her way into every act. Hogging the spotlight, literally and figuratively.

---What can you say when Liza Minnelli presents the most balanced performance of the night?

---There was not enough Visine in the house for me to wash my eyes out.

---This was probably the first Thanksgiving weekend where I didn't go to the movies. Because there was nothing playing.

---That ultra-dreary Vince Vaughn in a comedy? No, thank you.

---Nicole Kidman in some Australian epic that runs about three days? No, thank you.

---Transporter 3? As with the first two movies of the franchise, no, thank you.

---Frankly, I'd be a little scared if I heard the New York Giants offense was in shotgun formation.

---Well, at least, if you're bringing a gun to a nightclub, it's probably okay if you shoot nobody but yourself.

And I'm done shooting for now.

Dinner last night: Penne and meatballs.



Tuesday, December 2, 2008

So, What's the Plan?

So, this Friday is D-Day. Or M-Day. The day I decide whether my relationship with the New York Mets will continue.

If you've been following the soap opera here in past posts, the Mets have announced that they will offer partial ticket plans for Citi Field in 2009. Last week, the specific logistics of such purchases were made available. Indeed, past plan holders have been lumped together into one group that can go on-line and select their seats and plans ahead of the general public. This is a far cry from the day when I picked out my Shea Saturday plan seats. Being escorted up to the section in the dead of winter with snow blanketing the field. Nope, after 41 years of faithful invoice paying, I am packaged in with the general public.

The good news? There is a Saturday plan. But, not like the Saturday plan of the past. At Shea, I got the same seats for every Saturday game (always totalling 13) along with the chance to buy one or two games for each postseason series, September stretch drive choke permitting. The Citi Field Saturday plan is, however, a little different. Because Met management now considers some Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays as Saturdays. You can get 10 Saturday games plus 5 other weeknight games. You know the ones I mean? The games that usually go un-sold out in April and May.

Location-wise, there is also a downgrade. At Shea, I was rooted in Loge Section 7 on the aisle. Perhaps one of the best seats in the house. At Citi, there are a number of seat options. When I clicked on the most expensive one, I found the location to be in left field. Len doesn't do outfield seating, folks. Ever. The cheaper plans were in the Citi upper deck down the left or right field lines. The salad days are over. And binoculars are not offered at a discounted rate.

As for the postseason, you are now unguaranteed for seats. But, they will let you go on-line during a presale provided the Met bullpen has not imploded by September 15.

If you're thinking that this is really a non-decision, you don't really know the strange ties I am feeling right now. Could this be the first season in four decades that there is no invoice with my name on it from the Mets? If I've been writing about this trial separation, this news is indeed the final divorce decree. And I am still holding out because that first baseball wife was so loyal for such a long time.

I'm thinking about how to process. I will put in a call to my Mets contact to see if he is at all moved by my supposed lifetime devotion. I will contact my friends who have had seats next to me at Shea for the past 15 years. If they're in, I might be. And then I will use the Met rep to ensure we are seated together. And I'm also looking for your input. Yep, another poll to the right.

At the end of Friday, I may just say "what the fuck." Either way. And enjoy this photo of how I chose to commemorate my years at Shea. I took the two tickets to my very last Saturday game at Shea and had our art department blow them into a framed poster. It hangs in my room for the rest of my days. And perhaps that is the very best way I can move forward.

Dinner last night: Turkey pastrami reuben at the Cheesecake Factory.