Thursday, April 30, 2009

Every Little Step

If the barometer of a Broadway show’s success is how many times I see it, the greatest hit ever would be the musical “They’re Playing Our Song.” I saw it six times, which is remarkable given that it only ran a little over two years. I was so enamored by it that I had to see new cast iterations, etc.. And, of course, I felt compelled to see it with all my friends as if I was showing off my new car.

However, there is another musical that comes in at a close second to “They’re Playing Our Song” with respect to Len-attendance. That would be the superlative “A Chorus Line,” which I saw five times. Spaced out a bit more judiciously given that it originally ran on Broadway for over fifteen years.

I remember my first time at the Shubert Theater. The show was fresh, new, and the hottest ticket on Broadway. I desperately had to see it just to keep up with the party conversation amongst my friends. So I took a date to the very top row of the balcony. There’s a problem seeing a musical about dancers when you can only see the tops of their heads. The evening was made worse by my evening companion who was a pill on her very best days. There was one nosebleed joke after another, until I literally wanted to toss her to Donna McKechnie’s feet on the fly. Needless to say, on that particular night, I didn’t get “A Chorus Line.”

The second time was the charm. Through a friend at work who went to the same temple as one of the Shuberts, I wound up with house seats. Tenth row center, on the aisle. And, on my own, I had ditched the bitch in favor of a more pleasant compatriot. And then I got to see the magic that was truly “A Chorus Line.”

While it’s about show business, there is a thread of life that all can identify with in that story. Getting a job. Achieving something. The pain of trying and not succeeding. The joy of trying and succeeding. Set against some of the most glorious music ever penned for Broadway, “A Chorus Line” deserved every kudo it ever got.

And now, you can relive it all with the amazing new documentary “Every Little Step.” In a story set in a story set in a story, this film follows the journey of those auditioning to be in the 2006 revival of the musical. Juxtaposed against the original tapes of dancers in conversation with show creator Michael Bennett, history from over 30 years ago is miraculously updated and even rewritten. I did not see the recent revival primarily because it looked more like a museum piece than a new rethink on a classic. But, now I regret my decision. Having met the cast and the would-be cast in this movie, I shouldn’t have been so quick to shortchange their talents.

Oddly enough, when I first saw “A Chorus Line,” I was under the mistaken impression that the show changed every night. I was convinced by some urban legend that different characters were selected on different nights. I couldn’t have been more wrong. “A Chorus Line” was carefully crafted and done to the letter every night. I did learn from this documentary, however, a fascinating factoid about the character of Cassie, a successful dancer desperately looking for one last job. When it first previewed, Cassie does not get the job. Oddly enough, actress and then-wife of Neil Simon, Marsha Mason, came to see the show one night and noted the empty feeling in the audience when Cassie is not selected. Marsha made a beeline for Michael Bennett and told him that Cassie’s non-selection sabotages the show for the audience. The next night, they did it Marsha’s way and the standing ovation at the end lasted for ten minutes. The rest was Broadway history.

I was enthralled by some of the dancers/characters trying out for the 2006 version. One is this girl from Parsippany, New Jersey, who had no Broadway experience. But, having done "A Chorus Line" in a college production, it was her lifelong dream to do it on the Great White Way. Another actress is almost a cinch to play the hardboiled character of Sheila. But, between callbacks, she totally forgets how she plays the role from one audition to another. Having worked with some actors in showcases, I can identify. When we were casting for our series of table reads, there was one actress who got her role immediately. Except she completely lost it the very next time. It was like the girl had disappeared. We literally had to work with her day and night over numerous dinners to help her find it again. I realized then what an amazingly difficult craft acting is. And how wobbly it can be from one day to the next.

"Every Little Step" is also one more prime example of just how good a movie documentary can be. Even if you never saw "A Chorus Line," you'll love this snapshot of hopes and dreams.

I am convinced, however, that my first Chorus Line date would find plenty wrong with it.

Dinner last night: Back in LA---got bumped up to business class so I had AA's reuben sandwich.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Wednesday


My grandmother probably would have called it "schwein" flu.

---Here in NY, I actually saw people walking around with face masks, so I guess this disease is for real.

---But, then again, New Yorkers are already stocking up on flu medicine and clearing it off Duane Reade shelves.

---That's sort of like thinking you're going to get arthritis so you amputate your leg ahead of time.

---So how does a prep school in Queens wind up with 28 cases of this illness when it started in a Mexican pig farm?

---George Orwell doesn't look so silly now, does he?

---The news reports here tell you to practice good coughing etiquette.

---Huh? I had no idea this was an issue until I watched people on the train coughing and sneezing on one another with nary a hand to the face.

---Who are the real pigs here??

---When I had my stomach issues over the weekend, I had a few moments where I thought I had Arnold-itis. Turns out it was nothing but sloppy restauranteuring.

---With all the disease floating around, I compounded it by somehow winding up in front of Ground Zero. Lord knows how toxic I am now.

---Excuse me.....hack, hack, hack.

---It's Obama's 100th day in office and I want to know when do we start counting how many days he has left.

---He's going to celebrate by making a primetime press conference. Which Fox won't even air since it's time for American Idol results.

---I'm thinking that, in a competition with Idol finalists Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert, Obama comes in third.

---That fossil, Arlen Specter, is switching parties. From Republican to Democratic. This supposedly makes the Dem votes a lock on most issues.

---Except the guy is 140 years old and still thinks we're better off ignoring Churchill's pleas for help against the Nazis.

---Who elects these old farts over and over and over? And that means you, Massachusetts. The state that hasn't figured out to get that piece of shit, Teddy Kennedy, out of office.

---The once junior senator of Massachusetts will soon be the senior senator of Hell.

---Excuse me. Hack, hack, hack, hack.

---In Manhattan, you can lots o' signs of a bad economy.

---No lines for lunch.

---No wait for tables at restaurants.

---Hookers are honoring discount coupons that have expired.

---No traffic. Which is convenient since most of the streets in Midtown are so torn up with potholes that they're undrivable.

---But, still, you can walk through Times Square and look at all the lighted signs and have laser eye surgery at the same time.

---Another telling sign I have noticed: since the recession, most restaurants don't have after dinner mints for you as you exit.

---Who knew they were that expensive???

---Lots of nifty luxury apartments along the West Side Highway.

---All empty.

---Lots of great seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

---All empty.

---My lungs? Feeling like they're filling up with fluid.

---Hack, hack, hack. I'm headed back to LA.

---I hope.

Dinner last night: Some sliced salami and a salad.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My First Trip to Citi Field - A Photo Essay

Like the challenge its weird outfield dimensions present for some hitters, it was going to be very hard for the New York Mets' new home, Citi Field, to hit a homerun with me. After my initial game there on Saturday, April 25 with my new partial seat plan, I can tell you that all the place gets with me is a single. Hard hit. A line drive. But a single nonetheless.

As you approach the new park, the outside facade heralds every memory from every picture you ever saw of the old Ebbets Field. Not a surprise since former Brooklyn Dodger fan and current Met owner/Bernard Madoff victim Fred Wilpon has a nightly wet dream over his childhood baseball home. So much so that it's really hard to find much about the New York Mets in their own stadium. As a matter of fact, the rubble that was Shea Stadium lies to the left of the entrance and my baseball memories have pretty much crumbled down with it.

Eventually, the Shea ashes will be removed to create more parking that now costs more money. $18 per game and I wonder how much of that is going to be used to pay off the Ponzi scheme. As a matter of fact, given the Mets' rotating ticket price scale, there are some games this season where the parking fee will actually be more than the price of admission. Go figure. Outside the entrance to Citi Field, there are rows of commemorative bricks from fans. I had wanted to buy one that perserved my Shea location forever. Loge, Section 7, Row E, Seats 1 and 2. By the time I got around to it, they were no longer available. Pretty much par for the course as far as the Mets and I go. Too little, too late.

After your bag is checked, your body is patted down, and your ticket is scanned, you enter the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Named once again for that legendary New York Met Jackie Robinson. And he played how many games for them? Trust me, I have nothing against the legendary #42. He broke barriers and changed the game forever. But, the Mets have existed since 1962 and have some history of their own that should be perserved as well. What about Casey Stengel? Or the Tom Seaver Rotunda? Anybody who has seen the pitcher lately knows that the word "rotunda" fits him well.

And, on huge video screens overhead, Jackie's hits just keep on coming. I felt a need to cross myself and kneel down in front of a can of Chock Full O'Nuts coffee (where Robinson worked when his baseball days were over).

In the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, you head up these two nifty escalators. A ride I should have savored more since they were not working in the opposite direction after the game. As a matter of fact, I couldn't find anything working upon my exit except for stairs. Lots and lots and lots of stairs. More on this phenomenon later.

We opted to do a complete wraparound of the park before we mounted the climb to my new seats. After walking through an area which looked alarmingly like the corridor that connects the 7 train to the Times Square Shuttle, we approached "the bridge." This is supposed to signify one of the many spans that connects the boroughs of New York. At Citi Field, it represents the way you get to one of the four dozen food courts. There is so much commerce being done here that you think about the Bible and Jesus Christ overturning all the tables in the temple.

Unlike Shea where an usher might shoot you for attempting to enter the Field Level with a Mezzanine ticket, you can wander freely around Citi Field. That is the only thing you can do there freely. Above you see one of the many concession stands adorned by the skylight that once sat atop the Shea scoreboard. There is a myriad of food choices. One stand features the "Catch of the Day." Even if I did eat seafood, I would probably draw the line at fish served a la fast food. By the way, you can get a lobster tail for $17.95. Is there a Met bib that comes with that?

In this area, you can always find a little kiddie baseball park and a waterless dunk tank (what the hell kind of fun is that?). To be honest, Citi Field is nothing more than the food court and amusement area at any major shopping mall. They just happen to have a major league baseball game going on at the same time. If you are so inclined. From what I could see, not many were. Citi Field is the ideal place for those afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder. There's just too much going on. And nobody seems to sit still for a second.

There is a new Home Run Apple at Citi Field. The old one is there as well and available for photo opportunities. I declined. I always hated the Home Run Apple. Next to Mettle the Mule and Vince Coleman, this was the Met organization's biggest mistake.

As a baseball stadium, Citi Field is almost too quirky for its own good. Indeed, it's not innovative at all. Ever since Camden Yards was built, all the new baseball parks are copying one another to the point where they now all look eccentrically the same. A prime factor in this is that the same architect firm, HOK, is used over and over and over and their originality was probably dried up by 1997. Remember the day when you saw a brick wall behind home plate and you instantly knew the game was in Chicago's Wrigley Field. Now everybody has a freakin' brick wall. Enough.

I understand the Citi sightlines here are all screwed up as well. I know two plan holders who have already had seats moved because they missed part of the field. I remember going to the SF Giants' park and sitting in the upper deck around third base. I couldn't see Barry Bonds standing in left field and he's a pretty big object to miss. Does anybody at HOK even bother to sit in these seats when they design these suckers?

Section 509 is my new Saturday home. It was interesting to note that not an usher was to be found nearby. But, frankly, ushers are not needed. You do, however, want to seek out a sherpa with a pick axe when you want to climb the 13 rows to your seat.

So from a Shea view that was "so close you could touch the Met on-deck hitter," here's the vantage point from my seats now. A trifle high. We met my former Shea seat neighbors who are now next to me in the new park and they are not terribly happy either. Frankly, once I got used to the visual dynamic, it wasn't so bad. But, it's not the same. It's definitely not the same. The good news is that we are under what little overhang there is in Citi Field.

The bad news is that this overhang is also a nesting place for birds who flew up there frequently on Saturday. Perhaps, they're all trying to avoid LaGuardia Airport and getting sucked into another US Airways jet. Of course, my new location is not ideal for foul balls. But other "fowl" projectile will be a given.

The stairs up to my seats are incredibly steep and one beer too many will get you down to the field level on the fly. I stood up quickly at one point and almost fell over myself. By the way, if you're looking for the Met dugout or the on-deck circle, don't strain your eyes. It's not visible from my seats. But, then again, the pitchers in the bullpen apparently can't see the game either.

Here's that dopey Pepsi porch overhang which can give the rightfield a little shade if he wants to get out of the sun for a minute. Once again, this is a stadium that is trying way too hard to be cute. Less should have been more.

Diamondvision is now bigger than ever here and relentlessly assaults the sense even more than it did in its last days at Shea. "Everybody clap your hands." Gag. Note the sponsorship from a tractor company. Because NYC is such a farming community?

Okay, with the big emphasis on the Brooklyn Dodgers, can somebody explain to me why the outfield walls are black with orange lettering? Hello??? Anybody??? Giant colors??? Tres offensive.

The memory of leaving Shea via the ramps is also a distant one here. When the game was over, we looked for an escalator down. There is none. You could wait on line for an elevator. Or, like everybody else, take the freakin' stairs. Down and down and down. Like you're leaving the Statue of Liberty. A Stairmaster workout worthy of your meanest personal trainer. Handicapped people need to watch Met games on TV only. Talk about a misstep. Or three.

Citi Field did mark a first for me in another mysterious way. I woke up Saturday morning with a nasty stomach bug, which manifested itself in the kind of outflow you never want. This explains why, despite all the food options, there was nothing on my bill of fare for the afternoon. But, given the need for some...ahem....relief... Well, in all my years at Shea Stadium, I never once sat on a toilet in that place. At Citi Field, in my very first game? Twice. And I can tell you that the much heralded flushless toilets don't work as well as you would think. First hand knowledge.

Stomach cramping aside, overall, I decided finally on Saturday that this is no longer my home baseball park. Nope, my residence is that classic stadium nestled amongst the palm trees and hills surrounding Chavez Ravine. While there are some things to like about Citi Field, the Mets pretty much got it wrong. And should have copied what the Dodgers are doing with that baseball village they will be constructing in the parking lot. Make the stadium focused solely on the game at hand. Put all the restaurants, museums, etc.. outside so that people can even visit them year-round. And you don't need to buy a ticket to do so.

But, that would have been too easy.

Dinner last night: Fusilli with chicken and sundried tomatoes at Azalea.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - April 27, 2009

In honor of Beatrice Arthur who passed away over the weekend, here's the very last scene of "The Golden Girls." A wonderful blend of poignancy and laughs.

Dinner last night: Ham sandwich.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Casketphobia


As much as I loved Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" when I was a kid, the above scene creeps me out to this day. Snow White "stretched out," as my father would say, in a glass casket. A scary prospect to see when you're five years old. I wondered how she could breathe in this thing.

Kids these days are coddled too much with regard to life's nasty twists and turns. Overly protected against the simplest of hardships. But, with regard to children being subjected to the harshness of funerals and all the morbid trappings, I applaud the restraint. And only wish my family had the sense to show some when I was a wee tot.

Inexplicably, I was dragged to a funeral parlor wake at the age of four. The dead guy was a distant relative who had been older than dirt. Nevertheless, I was in tow when we went to see him reposing in that mahogany box. Naturally, I was told that he was "just sleeping." So, boldly, I climbed up and tried to flip open his eyelids. Hello, Mom, Dad. What the hell were you thinking? I didn't know any better. And so you should have, too.

A few short years later, it was back to the same undertaker in very different circumstances. The corpse in residence was much younger and much closer to us all: my father's 45-year-old brother. I was petrified by it all. I refused to go into his house. I was so traumatized that I easily could have been shuttled off to some friend's house for an afternoon of Popeye and the Three Stooges while the mourning was conducted. But, no. I was suited up by my father's cousin, replete with cuff links! All the while, she told me that I needed to go to the wake and the funeral to show my support for the rest of the family. How do you argue that when you're six???

I lingered in the waiting room of the funeral parlor for what was probably an eternity. I was asked repeatedly when I was going to go up and see my uncle. The dead uncle. For Pete's sake, doesn't being in the same building get me off the hook?? No, they all wanted me to go up and kneel and say my respects. And, of course, the eyelid trick was going to be completely retired.

To make this pilgrimage to the casket, I would have to walk a straight line from the door. So, as I would amble up, I would see nothing but the dead uncle "just sleeping." If I closed my eyes during the walk, I would most certainly fall over a folding chair. And, worse, a quickly folding older relative. That would not work.

I hit on a solution with another distant cousin who was about my age. He would walk in front of me all the way up to the casket, blocking my view. As soon as we arrived at our destination, he would step and...ta da. Len is at the casket.

Well, the scheme worked, but the end result was still horrible. In front of me was a young man, only slightly older than my dad. Dead. There were constant sobs behind me. The vision has stayed me for all these years. I even dream about it to this day. And it all effectively swore me off funerals and wakes for life.

Oh, I've been to a few. Both my grandparents. Parents of some friends. When I was a teenager, another uncle died. On the first night of the wake, the power went off in the funeral parlor. My father and I started looking in the backrooms to find the fuse box. I opened one door to find some guy holding a flashlight while a cosmetician combed some dead lady's hair. I ran out of there like I was one of the Little Rascals in a haunted house.

So, if I have to go, I go. But, I'm always in the same place in that funeral parlor. Way in the back. Looking anyway but at the front. And, as a result, I never held any wakes for my own parents. I rationalized by saying they hated them. But, the real reason is...I hate them. And always will. Because I don't need the images of dead Uncle Fritz refreshed in my memory bank.

Hell, it's taken me this long to watch "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" again.

Dinner last night: Grilled cheese with bacon at Athena Diner in Mount Vernon.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Classic Newsreel of the Month - April 2009

My, how things have changed...in this newsreel, Watts burns down.


Dinner last night: Pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage at Il Bacio in Bronxville.


Friday, April 24, 2009

When Pigs and Babies Fly...


I'm definitely a snob. No doubt about it. So, when I wind up not being upgraded on a cross country flight, it's always unsettling for me. Yesterday, more than usual.

Sequestered back in coach on American Flight 118 from LAX to JFK, I handled the day's demotion from the elite with a little grit and a hard swallow. It wouldn't be so bad. I had some DVDs in my bag. The latest Writers Guild magazine with a nifty dialogue between Larry Gelbart and Phil Rosenthal. My Bose headphones plugged into my iPod. And I planned to go Wifi to do a little e-mail and blogging at 35,000 feet.

But, then, I saw....THEM.

No, not the 1950s sci-fi movie with James Arness. It was another...THEM. In the two rows directly in front of me, there would be two young couples.

With their one-year-old babies.

Before we even took off from LAX, I heard these dreaded words from one of the moms.

"He's teething."

Is there another seat available? Perhaps on the wing?

Actually, the two babies weren't so bad. There was a minimum of noise. Teething never looked easier. Indeed, it was the adults that were the true test of patience.

First of all, they came on board as strangers but the toddlers of the same age instantly bonded the parents for life. I noted immediately one interesting tie between all of them. Each sported tattoos on their arms. The mom and dad directly in front of me sported matching tatts. Skulls and crossbones. Images of cafe society were immediately dashed for me.

The babies amused each other quietly while the parents didn't shut up for 2475 miles. Using the loudest of outdoor voices, these four boobs shared every nuance from the child rearing department. Brands of formula. Mother's milk. Colic. And, believe it or not, the color of their respective toddler's shit. There went the other half of the chocolate chip cookie I was saving for later in the flight. One dad took his daughter and hoisted her high over his head as baby drool dripped down onto his head and the floor respectively.

As we neared New York, these numbskulls realized that their kids were made for each other. A boy and a girl. One of the idiots decided that the moment was perfect for the babies to kiss, so they could say they were in the Mile High Club. They knocked their kids' head together a couple of times and laughed hysterically. The event was announced to all around them.

"Hey, look, this is my daughter's first hook-up on a plane."

The little girl wasn't even 13 months old and already she was branded a slut.

As if I needed one more reason why I strive always to be on the other side of that velvet rope.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers at the NY abode.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let's Lock the Door and Throw Away the Key

It's been two weeks since Angel pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends were murdered by drunk driver Andrew Gallo, shown above with his attorney. The fourth passenger in Nick's car is still in intensive care and facing a life that will, at best, be dramatically altered.

You will note the verb I used. Murdered. Because that's what this was. A murder.

Of course, if you listen to Gallo's parents who are naturally biased, this was nothing but a horrible accident.

Hmm. If you look up the word "accident" on Dictionary.com, you'll see the same descriptive words showing up throughout the definitions.

Unexpected.

Without foresight.

Undesigned.

Unforeseen.

This was not an accident. Oh, sure, anybody can wind up in a car crash after a sip or twelve of MGD alters your driving and ability to react behind the wheel. But, when the warning signs have been there for years for all, especially your loving parents, to see, you move from random act to something a lot more sinister in a heartbeat. Usually the last heartbeat of an innocent bystander.

Listening to Mommy and Daddy Dearest wring their hands on ESPN about their son's new lot in life, I could connote it all to everything that is wrong in society today. He never meant to hurt anybody, Mommy says. People think my son is a monster and he's not, Daddy says. Boo hoo boo hoo.

This happened under your watch, folks, so your bad parenting has now created three untimely holes in the ground.

When somebody does something bad these days, it's never their fault. Always the other guy. Rationalization like this is now running rampant one more time. Daddy Dearest tells how his son was devastated by his folks' divorce. With logic like that and the divorce rate currently at 50 percent, I'm surprised there isn't a totalled car at every intersection in the country. Mommy Dearest reasons that her son was lonely. Everybody is at some time or another. Gee, when I'm feeling down, I aim for the chocolate, not the liquor cabinet and the car keys. Luckily, if justice has its merry way, little Andrew will be making lots of new friends, some equipped with shanks and/or broomsticks.

These two parental numbskulls watched their son cavort with other known alcoholics in their extended family and did nothing about it. They watched their son get thrown into a drunk tank more than once and did nothing about it. They are witness to their golden boy getting bounced from a Bible Tabernacle because he was verbally abusive. A church group that probably prides itself on tolerance couldn't take this kid one more day. Meanwhile, the parents raised him so well that he didn't even bother to stop or call 911 after he plowed into his victims. Hitting and running is the most reprehensible act of all. The other day, an actress friend of mine got automotively savaged by some rich drunken bitch who also sped off. Luckily, my friend got the license plate and this broad now faces a future of serious litigation. Amen. But, I digress...

Nowhere in the parents' comments have I heard the three words that need to be said.

"We fucked up."

Yep, Andrew was an accident waiting to happen. Excuse me, Andrew was a murder waiting to be executed. And now we watch as this plays out in the courts. The lawyer on Andrew's side will be forced to do his job and try to defend the kid. The broken home. The alcoholism around him. The lagging economy, because that is now the alibi deluxe for any crimes committed over the next few years. And, I'm sure somebody is bound to mention that, just perhaps, Nick Adenhart and his friends might not have been downing chocolate malteds themselves.

As far as I'm concerned, there's only one verdict. Because, at the end of the day, Andrew Gallo should be at the end of his day.

And, in another non-accident, his life was effectively murdered by his own unaccountable parents.

Dinner last night: The salad bar from Gelson's.

And tomorrow...greetings from NYC.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baba-Wednesday


The Wednesday rant always filled with your favorite exploding cigars.

---Here's Desi Arnaz, one of the last decent things to come out of Cuba, our neighbors to the south.

---Of course, Desi showed up here in the 30s so it's been a long time between worthwhile exports.

---Oh, there are some folks here who fleed the torrent that is Fidel Castro. And they tell, as did one friend of my roommate, of stories of torture for those family members left behind.

---Let's see. What else? Letting missiles in from Russia. People escaping the island only to be a smorgasbord for sharks patrolling the waters off Florida.

---And let's not forget a bunch of 75-year-old major league pitchers.

---But, now all is forgiven. Let's be friends. Please wear my ring.

---Gag!

---I say we confiscate all the Bacardi rum and let's be done with them.

---The way President Urkel is running around the world and trying to become BFF with a bunch of thugs, you'd think he's getting paid by commission.

---It's as if being a stateman is no different than working the men's department at Nordstroms.

---"Can I help you find a tie that goes with that shirt, Mr. Dictator?"

---Is Hugo Chavez the same guy we ran off so we could build Dodger Stadium? Let me know.

---Last week, the Urkels had pizza delivered to Washington, DC from Chicago. So much for the guy with good crust in St. Louis.

---If the pizza doesn't get there from Chicago in 30 minutes, do the Urkels get a free coupon? Let me know.

---So, I get it now. The entire economic stimulus depends upon mozzarella cheese.

---I was confused. I thought all those tea parties last week were a new promotion from the American Girl cafes.

---Speaking of which, Jeaneane Garofolo, who has unfortunately sullied the cast of 24 this past season, says that the people who attended those ad hoc demonstrations were all racist. Anybody who protests these days is mad because there's a Black in the White House.

---No, I protest these days because there's a guy in the White House who is wasting taxpayer dollars on extra pepperoni.

---Is it me or does Garofolo always look like she got hit in the face with a bag of ball bearings?

---Speaking of Garofolo, let's move on to something she'll never be in. A beauty pageant. And that Miss California who is under fire for dissing gay marriage.

---I don't agree with her statements, but she's entitled to her opinion, which, unlike a lot of beauty pageant contestants, came out in a complete sentence.

---She's not running for political office. She's not making government policy. Leave her the hell alone. Give her a pair of scissors and send her off to the newest super market in town.

---Of course, what is laughable is the fact that this chick was virtually ambushed with this question by one of the judges, sleazeball blogger Perez Hilton, who was simply looking for camera time.

---It's hilarious that this asshole is judging a beauty pageant, since it is well known in Hollywood that the guy is a slob and apparently considers soap to be a high ticket luxury item.

---This jerk is frequently spotted around West Hollywood wearing dirty pajamas and being followed by a pack of stray dogs.

---It is official. There are now more paid bloggers in this country than there are attorneys.

---So, is the joke now "what do you call 500 bloggers on the bottom of the ocean?"

---Paid bloggers? Where did I go wrong?

---No charge, folks. I remind you, no charge.

---But I will also now be very happy to represent you if you've taken a fall at work.

---American Idol last night was devoted to disco music and the seven remaining finalists were all probably conceived to some of those songs.

---When Paula Abdul looks at frontrunner Adam Lambert, you can see her eyes saying, "I can change you, I can change you, give me a shot, I can change you."

---I'm convinced that Matt Giraud wears hats to cover up that mole in the middle of his forehead.

---By the way, there's no truth to the rumor that his father was once married to Rhoda Morgenstern.

---I'll wait till you get that joke.

---Still waiting.

---And still waiting.

---A-ha, I caught you laughing.

---From my vantage point, Lil Rounds will go home to listen to all the singers she has thoroughly copied throughout the competition.

---Since it's a double elimination, the second ouster is liable to be Slumdog Anoop Desai. Unless, of course, they manage to get some calls outsourced to Bombay.

Dinner last night: Hawaiian turkey burger at Islands.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Diamond Dust

There used to be a daily section in the NY Daily News when I was a kid. At the end of some baseball coverage, there would be a little added commentary called “Diamond Dust.” I want to think it was devised by that dirtbag columnist Dick Young. Nevertheless, since we just wrapped up the first two weeks of the 2009 baseball season, I thought I would sprinkle a little of my own.

MLB Network vs. ESPN: Say, hallelujah! There is finally a television network that actually understands the sport. The fledgling MLB Network puts ESPN and their awful Baseball Tonight to shame. It seems like all the latter focuses on are homeruns hit on the East Coast. The MLB Network actually recognizes there are baseball teams situated in that ungodly phenomenon---the Western time zone. If you watched ESPN over the last few days, they were gushing constantly over the Florida Marlins and their 11-1 start. Hello, what about the Dodgers going 10-3???

The Florida Marlins: What a dynamite start to the season? My God, they may actually draw more than 10,000 a night on their next homestand. My contention is that this franchise doesn’t draw more people because the city is full of illegals who don’t want to be shown fighting for a foulball on television.

The NL East: You know it’s unlikely, but, if the Marlins pull away from the pack early just as the Mets did in 1986, the Wilpon family with their new Citi Field could be knee deep in unsold pulled BBQ pork sandwiches by June 15.

The New Yankee Stadium: With the high price of tickets into this new museum, the fans got their money’s worth with 26 runs scoring last Saturday. Except 22 of them were not scored by the Yankees. Desperate for pitching, the Yankees have put out a call to the late Herb Pennock. I also wonder how difficult it must be for Yankee fans to get off the subway and find the old place to the left and the new stadium to the right. Sort of like two of your ex-girlfriends moving next door to each other.

The Death of Phillie Announcer Harry Kalas: This was portrayed as an absolute tragedy and I guess somebody’s passing should be. But, I’ve read that the guy used to go out and smoke a ciggy after every inning, so it should be no surprise his heart stopped like a two dollar wristwatch. I saw clips of the guy from his broadcast the weekend before and he looked like a character in the new Tim Burton movie. Creepy. Also, in my humble opinion, a bit overrated in his play-by-play. Kalas always sounded like a 45 RPM record played at 33 1/3. “Pop……………up………..to…………..Mickey………….Morendini………….He…………..catches………….it…………Phillies……………win." Yawn!!!

Manny Ramirez Imploding: When Manny went a dozen games without hitting a homerun, Red Sox Nation, AKA the Third Reich of Baseball, was laughing hysterically. Ha, ha, ha, they said. Here's Manny dogging it, just like we expected. They all need to get a fuckin' life. Maybe, just maybe, Manny has turned a corner. Maybe, just maybe, he was a cancerous tumor growing only because the environment was so toxic around him. What a bunch of assholes. I wish them nothing but endless loops of the following four words uttered by Vin Scully: "It gets through Buckner."

God Bless America: Hopefully, this was just a MLB edict for the first weeks of the season. But, everybody in every major league city was subjected to some local high school senior singing this during the seventh inning stretch. Enough. I like the song and think it should be our National Anthem. But, we've heard it so much over the past 14 days that even Kate Smith would be throwing up by now.

Does Everything Have to Be Sponsored?: At Dodger Stadium, the traditional seventh inning stretch singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is now sponsored by California Super Lotto. But, even worse, the usual Diamondvision shots of organist Nancy Bea Heffley playing the tune also feature a huge Super Lotto behind her. It's almost like she's working the counter down at the 7Eleven. Can I have a pint of gin and two scratches, please?

The Death of Angel Pitcher Nick Adenhart: This was heartbreaking and I have no idea how a baseball team overcomes this. Especially since they are maintaining the daily reminder of his death with a photo on the outfield wall, a uniform patch over their hearts, etc.. I'm surprised they didn't actually bury him in that fountain/grotto just past the Anaheim centerfield wall. I understand they want to continue his memory, but is there a point in time where they simply move on? I remember there was one season where so many old Yankees had died that the Yankee uniform looked like the guest book at a funeral parlor. I don't know the answer to this dilemma, but Adenhart is going to linger over the Angels for a long, long time if they are not careful.
Reunited and It Feels So Good: Talk about an uncomfortable photo opportunity. Here, Met manager Jerry Manuel is reunited with Brewer coach and former Met manager Willie Randolph. From what I read, Jerry couldn't waited to see Willie again. From what I have heard from one of Willie's closest friends who happens to be a friend of mine, Willie absolutely detests Manuel because the latter pretty much undercut him all the way down the line at the beginning of last season. This picture is sort of what you might see if Jesus and Judas went out for cocktails after the Last Supper. And is it me or is Jerry Manuel a double for the liver-spotted actor Morgan Freeman?

Dinner last night: Evelyn's Favorite Pasta at the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - April 20, 2009

Why Cleveland City Council members should not eat broccoli before a meeting.


Dinner last night: Chinese buffet from Panda Express


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Me and Don Imus


Today's post is rated R for obscene language. THere's your warning, folks.

The recent news about radio personality Don Imus and his prostate cancer got me thinking. Not about the disease. Since my father succumbed to this, I’ve been going for blood and miscellaneous other tests for years. Nope, my mind drifted back a lot further. To my first job ever when I actually had some direct dealings with the esteemed Mr. Imus. And, folks, it wasn’t pretty.

I’ve written previously of my very first job after college. Working as the all-purpose assistant in the advertising department for Carvel Ice Cream’s corporate headquarters. As Tom Carvel, the old fart, used to refer to me, I was “the kid.” Well, it was more than a reference. It was usually a nasty order.

”Send the kid.”

”Make the kid do it.”

”My porno films are ready downtown. Have the kid go get them.”

Dirty old bastard that he was, I got thrown a myriad of weird assignments. But, there was one project that actually was fun to do. At least, it sounded like fun on paper.

”We need a MC for the participating dealers’ banquet. Have the kid get somebody.”

I’m not sure how I became a talent coordinator at this juncture of my very fledgling career, but it seemed like a plum task. Those Carvel dealers, who were sucker enough to subscribe and pay extra bucks to be a so-called “participating” store, were awarded with this annual dinner at the ultra-dumpy Carvel Inn on Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers. The chicken at this event was so rubbery, it was more Spalding and less Tyson Farms. Nevertheless, we needed somebody with a reasonable name to act as MC. Tom Carvel’s two big celebrity connections, Bob Hope and ventriloquist Paul Winchell, were obviously smart enough to have a ready excuse. Since I was the one who dealt with all the radio stations running the Carvel commercials, I had better connections to some ideal MC talent.

The only trouble was that the radio stations we were forced to buy time on were not what you would call the best talent providers. Tom Carvel’s radio advertising was dictated by the two NY radio stations he listened to. WNEW-AM, which was then the home of William B. Williams and a lot of Eydie Gorme records. And WOR-AM, which was skewing so old that even my own grandmother had stopped listening to them. I have always contended that WOR-AM’s highest audience concentration could be found in Woodlawn Cemetery. I swear I can still hear the faintest hum of that station whenever I drive past that graveyard. But, I digress…

Since neither WNEW or WOR had any personalities on staff that didn't smell like formaldehyde, I hit on an alternative. For the first time, we were running a commercial schedule on 66WNBC. The home of popular morning jock Don Imus, although I didn't think we could get him. I called our WNBC sales person and asked who was available. His reply stunned me.

"Well, what about Imus?"

Huh? At the time, Imus was hotter than hot. He couldn't possibly be interested in coming up to Yonkers to gnaw on almost raw chicken with a bunch of former steamfitters now dressed up in ice cream parlor aprons. Was the sales guy sure he could deliver? The dude called me back ten minutes later. Obviously, thinking that an Imus appearance would lead to a 52 week extension of Carvel's current commercial schedule on their station.

"Don would love to. We can give him the details when we get closer to the date."

For some reason, there was a tinge of uncertainty and vagueness to that last sentence. But, nevertheless, we proceeded on our end. My boss announced to Tom Carvel who the MC would be.

"Who the fuck is he?"

Once the ice cream magnate was brought up to speed, he agreed to Imus. Sort of.

"He better be fucking funny. He's no fucking Bob Hope."

And no Paul Winchell either, TC.

As the date of the dinner approached, the silence from 66WNBC was deafening. My sales guy was always conveniently on a client call. Finally, he responded. With a little schmooze.

"We're still on, kid. Here's Don's number. Call him with the details."

Me? I just graduated from college. Yes, at my Fordham radio station, I had interviewed a host of celebrities. But, for some nagging reason, I was not yet up to the task of calling Don Imus on the phone. Something about him scared me. It took a day or so to suck it up and hit the touchtones. My voice probably cracked like a 12-year-old as the party on the other end picked up.

"Er....Mr. Imus?" Gulp.

"Yeah, what?"

I quickly explained who I was and why I was calling. I offered directions to the Carvel Inn. I don't think Imus was writing them down.

"Fucking Yonkers? I ain't driving up to no fucking Yonkers to sit with some pansy ass mother fucking ice cream cone licking dicks."

Having a bad day, Don? I immediately went into defense mode. My rule of thumb has always been that, if somebody uses more than three instances of profanity in one sentence, I need to back off the lunatic pronto. Actually, I didn't have to back off far. Mr. Imus did it for me.

Click. Bizzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Naturally, the sales guy offered apologies and tried to intervene. But, something told me that he had been down this road before. We were forced to go into recovery mode and luckily my boss called him an old favor. From Larry Kenney, the then host of TV's Bowling for Dollars. A true comic legend who lulled people to sleep all over dinner tables situated around the Carvel Inn ballroom. Tom Carvel didn't even notice.

"I told you that guy was no fucking Bob Hope."

Years later, I wound up in another radio concern that had sales people dealing directly with their newest national radio personality, Don Imus. He promised advertisers that he would appear and then tell them to get lost at the last minute. One sales person told me that, when Imus did show up at a client event, he was equally as gracious.

"Your product fucking sucks and your CEO is a cock sucking dick."

The concept of the latter is redundant in itself. But, nevertheless, time had obviously not mellowed Don Imus.

Oddly enough, when Imus got in trouble with those nasty remarks about the Black women's basketball team, I felt sorry for him. He truly got railroaded. But, at the same time, I was not surprised. From previous experience, I already knew how that mouth worked.

Dinner last night: Popcorn chicken.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Classic TV Theme of the Month - April 2009

Oh, God, it's Karen Valentine!!!


Dinner last night: The Friday night pre-Dodger game meal from Phillippe's---Ham French Dip with potato salad and cole slaw.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Sorry, Tubby....


If I didn't already have over one million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines, I would switch exclusively to United. Why? Because you won't find slobs like these on board.

God bless the folks from the Friendly Skies. They have announced that, moving forward, if you're too big to fit into one seat, you need to buy two of them. Discrimination? Hell, no. Because just as the guy down at the 7/Eleven doesn't discriminate when you want to buy yourself five or six bags of Cheez Doodles, the people at United aren't discriminating because your ass is wider than the aisle on a 757 because you wanted to buy yourself five or six bags of Cheez Doodles.

This is love as tough as the hide on some of these two ton Tommys and Tessies. If you're looking for sympathy from me, try the Hostess Cup Cake display on the next aisle. You'll go hungry looking for support from me.

Okay, I'm no Michael Phelps. At the same time, I'm not Junior Samples either. I have struggled with up and down weight all my life. But, when I leave my home in the morning, I can depart through the front door. Nobody needs to remove a fourth wall so I can exit. I'm also proud to say that I can place myself comfortably in most public seating. And I'm also proud to say that I have pride. Pride in how I look. Pride in how I dress. Pride in not embarrassing my friends around me. And when my friends are around me, they are not "around" me. The circle does not have a diameter of several miles.

In over ten years of consistent transcontinental travel, I have been lucky with my airline seatmates. The biggest offender next to me on one trip was Carson Kressley from that Queer Eye show and he reeked of not bathing for a year or so---hard-to-fathom bad grooming from a gay guy. But, thankfully, I have never found myself sharing an arm rest with Haystacks Calhoun.

Not to say that I haven't feared it. I always board ahead of other folks and survey the rest of the passengers as I whizz by. Whenever I see one of those unpleasingly plump cows sashaying down the aisle and knocking out windows with every sway of their hips, I say a silent prayer. Over and over and over.

"Please not here. Please not here. Please not here. Please not here."

God is good. He has always answered. But, two trips ago, the guy across from was not so lucky. The middle seat next door would be occupied by some slob close to 350 pounds and carrying a bag of pastries bought at Starbucks. Fat Stuff aimed his ass at the seat and overshot it on both sides by about 50 pounds. He overlapped so much that he literally covered the console controls on the armrest. As Fatso settled in, he gave an apologetic glance to the side. "Ooops. Sorry."

If it had been me, I would have insisted on a move. Anywhere. The back of the plane. The flight attendant jump seat. The wing. I felt badly for the poor man trapped to this 5 X 7 torture chamber. I had no compassion for the pig next to him.

Those sob story lovers in my audience will argue that, perhaps, this man had a glandular condition. Maybe he's on steroids for a life-altering illness. Indeed, maybe he can't help it.

Bullshit. For every case where obesity can't be helped, there are two million other instances where it's simply caused by bad diet. And lots and lots and lots of Twinkies. Hit a fuckin' salad bar once in a blue cheese dressing moon. Your eternal sweet tooth should not impact me in any shape or form literally.

I've already read some reactions to United's new policy. Who will make the ultimate call that Fatty is too, well, fat? As if that's ever a discussion point? Even 325 pounds can't be covered up by a judicious use of black as a wardrobe color choice. And I'm guessing some citizens group---a PETA-like organization devoted to tubs of lard----will start yakking up the notion that fat people have rights, too. The right to fly. The right to travel.

And, realistically in my kingdom, the right to buy a radish instead of a jelly donut.

American Airlines, when does this policy start on your planes?

Dinner last night: Chicken salad sandwich.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Matter of Semantics

I’ll write here in generalities to protect the innocent. And me. And my bank account. But, business concerns recently required me to take part in the new and burgeoning American pastime. Downsizing. Reductions in force. Indeed, slice it any way you like it. The bottom line is it’s a mass firing.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this news. As a matter of fact, the time I “got it” a decade or so ago, I was already planning to leave that place and move to the land of palm trees and traffic jams. So, I silently but gleefully took the news and waited to cash the huge severance check which would be my seed money for a new life. So, in reality, I have never gotten axed without an immediate and hopeful plan. Unless, of course, if you want to count the time I got fired from the Carvel Ice Cream corporation for not putting paper in the Xerox machine. But, alas, I digress…

Not knowing what it’s really like to be the receiver, I can only report what it’s like to be the quarterback---the one throwing the pass that will result in a 25 yard loss for some unassuming halfback. I can tell you it’s not easy. I’ve fired people for incompetence or bad behavior. That’s actually fun. But, dispatching someone to days of watching“All My Children” and “Judge Judy” is another sad tale. Your only rationale is that somebody has told you that you have to because there’s a ledger someplace that features more red than Busch Stadium during the World Series. It’s gut wrenching for sure. On both sides of the desk.

I was coached with other people in advance. Don’t use the word “sorry.” Why not? You really are. And, in 2009, the words “elimination” and “downsizing” are all verboten. Nope, today, you are “separated” from your employment. A supersized spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Let’s face it. You tell a person who has a job that he or she doesn’t have one tomorrow. You’re fired in most languages. When I read “Blondie” in the comic pages every morning, I never hear Mr. Dithers threaten to separate Dagwood from his job. Nope, usually, it's "Bumstead, you're fired!"

I was advised how to react in different situations. If the person gets emotional. If the person is non-responsive. If the person becomes violent. In the event of the latter, I should call someone four states away. By the time they could react, crows would be having a field day with a dead and bloodied carcass.

Yep, two sides to every coin and story. And, even at my age, I learn I can mature a little bit more.

Dinner last night: Short ribs at Melograno.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dog Day Wednesday


I'm always more fun when I'm growling.

---I might be the exception, but I absolutely don't, don't, don't, don't give a shit about the Obamas and their new dog.

---Frankly, one bitch in the White House is enough.

---Yeah, I said it. Half of you are booing, while the other half are laughing your collective asses off.

---I love them talking about how their kids are now up to this responsibility. As if these two are going to walking up and down Pennsylvania Avenue with a pooper scooper.

---You know there is some poor White House aide or Secret Service guy who's already been assigned to walk Bo, when the Obama girls are too busy drawing moustaches on Zachary Taylor.

---And while we're talking about the Urkels, what the hell was that with the special delivery pizza??? So that the ideal family unit could have their regular Friday night pizza soiree, the President had some pizza parlor in St. Louis deliver one.

---What? There's no Dominos or Papa John in Washington, DC???

---Obama says he prefers the St. Louis pizza because he loves their crust.

---And my grandmother would say that the President has some crust himself.

---So, the St. Louis pizza guy flies up with the pizza. Burning fuel. How's that carbon footprint now, Urkel?

---Meanwhile, even though he finally did the job needed, why did the President initially react to those pirates as if there was a malfunction on the Disneyland ride?

---Must have really pained the guy to have them killed. After all, they were from Africa and some were Muslims. My God, he probably wanted to have them over to watch the Super Bowl.

---With pizza flown in from St. Louis. Hold the anchovies.

---Like everybody else, I was shocked to hear about Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas going buns up in the press box the other day. Until I saw a picture of the guy taken last weekend.

---Talk about somebody who looked like death warmed over. He was literally a corpse holding a scorebook.

---Speaking of which, I got tremendous jollies listening to this jury foreperson

tearfully giving her guilty verdict in the Phil Spector murder charge. This screwball actually weeped over how hard a decision this was.

---WTF! Phil Spector stuck a gun in Lana Clarkson's mouth and blew her teeth all over Orange County and this is a tough call??

---Why do these wimpy juries trying to be so non-judgmental when it's their job to do just that?

---After all, what do they call the guy on the bench in the big black robe? A JUDGE!!!

---This is why nobody wants me on a jury. I got opinions and plenty of them.

---For instance, as far as I'm concerned, no trial is needed for that drunken piece of shit who mowed down Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two of his friends. GUILTY!! Take a good look at the sun in the sky. It's your last time.

---I guess the good news is that a celebrity finally got convicted in Los Angeles.

---I don't watch House, but I know some character blew his brains out and surprised everybody.

---Since then, there are on-line memorials and all sorts of grieving on Facebook. Some people even think that the actor really did kill himself.

---Hello, stupid folks everywhere, it's a freakin' TV show!!!

---It's amazing how seemingly bright people can so easily fall over the line of reality.

---The actor is alive and well and taking a job in the Obama administration.

---Which means he will be returning to his acting career four years from now.

---Working in this White House? Now, that's really suicide.

---Forget about the talent of the singers. This year's American Idol has been one of the sloppiest seasons ever.

---Missed cues, shows running way too long, and too, too much fooling around from the judges. This week, they were so worried about the time that the entire show felt like you were running for a train on Metro North.

---And they still ran five minutes over.

---This week's theme was movie music and the guest mentor was that shithead Quentin Tarantino. Because when I think of musical expertise, the first name that comes to my mind is this bloated, overrated director?

---I have to admit that I can't stand this year's frontrunner, Adam Lambert. Performances way too showy and he's almost too professional for this competition.

---And this week, he went back to the Liza Minnelli hair style. And wore more make-up than one of her husbands.

---The kid I like, Kris Allen, may have lost the crowd by singing a great song from a very smart Irish film, Once, that only adults saw.

---Which is doomsday when it comes to Idol's 13 year-old audience.

---Lil Rounds may have finally sunk herself with a rendition of Bette Midler's The Rose that sounded as if it was being vocalized by Jethrine from The Beverly Hillbillies.

---Lil also got into Simon Cowell's face with a little attitude after he gave her some touch criticism. Lil reacted as if Simon had gotten into the wrong line at the DMV.

---Sassing Simon might be enough to get Lil kicked off. But she is the only Black finalist left, so a hefty voting bloc is solidly behind her. My guess is that either Anoop Desai or Matt Giraud gets the boot.

Dinner last night: Leftover antipasto salad.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back To Baseball One More Time

How many times have I done this? I have no clue but it always has the same sensation.

Like sleeping on a bed with brand new sheets.

Like tasting cold water after a long walk.

Like a great hot meal on a cold winter's night.

Comforting. Reaffirming. Relaxing.

That's what happens every baseball season when I go to my first game of the year. Just as I did yesterday at Dodger Stadium.

New York baseball in 2009 will be brand spanking different. Sparkling new ball parks. Citi Field awaits me next week with its seemingly endless food courts, dunk tanks, and tons of reasons to avoid watching the game.

At Chavez Ravine yesterday, there was nothing new. The loge level still needs some promised remodeling. The bathroom lines, crowded with businessmen who go to just one game per year, stretched all the way to Pasadena. The park was still spotless, but no different that it was when I left it during Game 5 of last year's playoff against the Phillies.

And the consistency and sameness was just fine with me.

The season ticket holders around my section were all in their usual places. Except for a moustache that he promised me he would shave off before my next game, Richard the usher was just where he always was. And most of the Dodgers from last year's division winning season were on the field. Seamless. A good book that I simply picked back up, removing the ticket stub I had used as a placeholder.

I was back for another year as a baseball fan.

The pre-game ceremonies embraced LA Dodger history one more time. The rosters were introduced in numerical order, which was an odd switch. But explained perfectly once everybody realized that #99, Manny Ramirez, would be the last one to be revealed to the crowd. The Dodgers entered the game not from the dugout but via the field level seats, highfiving fans on their way to the contest.

Celebrating his 60th year behind the Dodger mike, Vin Scully (entering in the picture above) threw the first ball to catcher Joe Torre and he got more on the one pitch than Giant starter Randy Johnson would be able to muster an hour later. Some in the crowd, notably me, wondered whether Vin would end his career at this round number. Especially since we all learned just minutes before that the voice of the Phillies, Harry Kalas, had dropped dead in the press box of Nationals Stadium an hour ago. If anything might propel Vin Scully to retirement, this could be it.

But, after flyovers, doves, fireworks, and an American flag stretched from foul pole to foul pole, the baseball game at hand took center stage.And the newest Dodger, Orlando Hudson, provided a tour de force performance hitting for the cycle---a feat I have never seen in person. Indeed, the only other LA Dodger to do this was Wes Parker in May of 1970---probaby right after he tutored Barry Williams on an episode of The Brady Bunch. On a day where I was appreciating sameness, I got something from beyond the realm.

But, that's what is so glorious about baseball. Like life itself, there are always surprises. Pleasant and otherwise. That's why people keep coming back.

That's why I keep coming back.

Dinner last night: Antipasto salad.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - April 13, 2009

A while back, I ran the original That Girl title sequence. Well, here's some slob's takeoff on that. And it's pretty damn funny. I think it's a guy in drag, but you make the call.




Dinner last night: Easter ham dinner at the home of one of my Dodger cohorts.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Easter Outfits

Thank God I've outgrown this nonsense. Indeed, Easter has become for me the lost holiday. I'll go to church, for sure. But, after that, I usually head home, switch to my play clothes, and watch a baseball game. If you're not exchanging gifts, what the hell is the point?

I didn't have the luxury when I was a kid. Because this was the annual family photo op day. The women in my family decked out in their finest. And me winding up in some ridiculous get-up that no self-assured five-year-old should ever endure. For instance...

This is the Easter picture during my Bing Crosby period. I don't look happy in this photo. Would you? I look like some old Jewish ex-vaudevillean waiting for a bus on the Grand Concourse. Or one of those Jerry Mahoney dummies. With emphasis on the word "dummy." This is why all children, at some point in time, hate their parents.

To make matters worse, my father was going through his creative period in playing with his prized Argus Technicolor camera.

"Lenny, go stand by that tree and pretend you're looking for something."

Like what? My dignity. That's AWOL. As I look at these photos all over again, I can feel the shirt tightening around my neck one more time. As if I'm being choked by that fucking bowtie. Now, I know why they didn't flinch when I told them I wanted to live at a college that was less than 10 miles from my house. They knew that these pictures existed and there was a price that needed to be paid.


At least, the three of us are captured for posterity in this one. Knowing my mtoher's fashion sense, I have no idea why she's wearing a red dress that clearly clashes with my red sport jacket.

A RED SPORT JACKET! With something in the pocket that might be a handkerchief. What the hell is going on in my life at this juncture??? And, from the twisted expression on my face, I'm pondering that very question at this exact moment. Either that or perhaps I'm the youngest person to ever endure a stroke.

In retrospect, I realize that my dad wore a suit rarely. On Easter or whenever somebody wound up being "stretched out" down at Suchy's Funeral Parlor in the Bronx. From what I see here, he wore the fancier outfits well. I doubt Mom wore this dress to any wakes. On second thought, she might have. It all depends on who it was.

Happy Easter. Time to put on the sweats.

Dinner last night: Bacon cheeseburger at Pig N' Whistle.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - April 2009

It's impossible to believe that this movie is over 25 years old. A wonderful trailer that never once shows you what ET looks like.



Dinner last night: Pizza with olives and mushrooms at Maria's Italian Kitchen

Friday, April 10, 2009

Your Weekend Movie Guide for April 2009

Everybody line up at this classic old style movie box office. This one is still picturesquely stationed in front of the wonderfully restored Alex Theater in Glendale, California. It's a lot classier than reading those electronic boards that brusquely remind you that the 810PM showing of Watchmen is "SOLD OUT."

Using the Los Angeles Times as my guide, let me steer you to (or away from , as is probably the case) some of the junk unspooling this weekend at your local cinematic dumpster.

A Haunting in Connecticut: Frankly, I think Christopher Dodd is enough to drive people out of the state.

Race to Witch Mountain: Lots of people are racing to get there. I, however, am taking my time. I should arrive there around the 13th of...Never.

Monsters Vs. Aliens in 3D: Those glasses always bother me. I'm just saying.

I Love You, Man: Previously disemboweled on Len Speaks. Note to the filmmakers: I Hate You, All.

Goodbye Solo: Did they finally make another Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie? Nope, this is some sappy slop about a Southern good ol' boy and a taxi driver from Africa. They will obviously embrace each other and show the world that it's all about love and peace. I'd prefer to see David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll.

Hannah Montana; The Movie: Which would probably give me Hannah Montana: The Migraine.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil: A documentary about a heavy metal group. And here I thought it was all about that thing that Wile E. Coyote would try to drop on the Road Runner's head.

Observe and Report: Seth Rogen shit. Three words that go together as easily as turkey with stuffing. Can we please put this guy on some boat near Africa and let the pirates have their barbaric way with him?

Shall We Kiss?: A romantic comedy from France. Bring your own deodorant.

Adventureland: From the producers of Superbad and you could have fooled me. I liked this movie. Very deceiving. A charming story about coming-of-age while working at a summer amusement park. Huge and pleasant surprise like money being willed to you by somebody you despised.

Fast and Furious: They have made how many of these movies? Can anybody do a fast count? Car crashes all over Southern California. But, I looked at the cast list and there's not a single Asian woman listed. What gives?

Duplicity: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, some dull repartee, and a two hour nap for me.

Knowing: Nicolas Cage and that's enough for me. Next. Has he made a decent movie since "Leaving Las Vegas?" Which, in reality, was over-rated as far as I was concerned.

Sunshine Cleaning: A quirky little movie that could have been even quirkier. Decent film but I still left the theater feeling unsatisfied. Like eating one of those Lean Cuisines for Thanksgiving dinner.

Dragonball Evolution: Some Chinese comic book crap about looking for dragonballs. That's how they came up with the clever title. Whatever happened to a simple plot that had Bette Davis falling in love and then going blind?

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: Hopefully they explain the main one. What would anybody live there?

Paris 36: You mean there were 35 movies before this one?

Sugar: This one intrigues me as it's all about baseball. Some Dominican baseball player winds up in the US minor leagues and has to learn about life. I'll let you know.

Watchmen: What??!!! You haven't seen this yet??!!! Good. Neither have I.

Slumdog Millionaire: What??!!! You haven't seen this yet??!!! Good. I, unfortunately, did. Along with Shakespeare in Love, the two worst choices for the Best Picture Oscar in the past 40 years.

The Song of Sparrows: All about that noise outside which annoys you every Saturday morning.

Dinner last night: Had a big lunch, so nothing but an ice cream sandwich.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Great Great Buck Howard

These days, when you run across a good movie, you want to run through the Swiss mountains like Maria Von Trapp and sing to the heavens. Because, for one brief moment, the hills of Hollywood are alive with the sound of creativity.

The Great Buck Howard is just such a movie. Perfect in every way. Acting, writing, cleverness. With belly laughs worthy of the best Billy Wilder film. And, when it ends after just 90 minutes, this is one picture you wish could last longer.

The Great Buck Howard is such a smart movie you wonder how it even got made in the first place. But, with a story that is so spot on, even the dopiest of development executives couldn't fuck it up. And, in its comedy, it examines deeply the plight of what happens when a C list celebrity moves down one more rung to oblivion.

Buck Howard is one of those mentalists who used to show up on every television talk show in the 60s and 70s. As a matter of fact, he boasts having been on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 61 times, although he later admits that not one of those appearances came in Johnny's last 10 years on the air. Buck Howard is not so loosely based on the Amazing Kreskin who pretty much dominated the airwaves back when. The big finish of Kreskin's act was always that he could, with mental telepathy, tell where his paycheck was hidden in the audience. Buck Howard has the same knack and it is played to the hilt in this film, which depicts his attempts to make a big comeback.

The wonderfully understated Colin Hanks plays Buck's roadie, longing himself for a show biz career after quitting law school, much to the chagrin of his dad played conveniently by Tom Hanks. On tour in small towns and seedy theaters, Colin's character learns about life, the entertainment industry, and, most importantly, how a man comes to grips with the end of his career. As the winding-down mentalist, the always creepy John Malkovich lets his own weird persona embrace the character and the blending is ideal. You hate Buck, you love Buck, you laugh at Buck, and you cry for Buck. Sometimes on consecutive minutes.

In their dissertation on C list celebrities, the filmmakers smartly include cameos of real life once-weres playing themselves. Gary Coleman, the guy who did the sound effects in all the Police Academy, that "you can call me Ray" guy, George Takei. They are all here in their has-been glory. Donny "Ralph Malph" Most shows up inexplicably as the producer of the Tonight Show, as does Jay Leno himself. On Buck's downward journey, you also meet Regis and Kelly, Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, and even Martha Stewart. Their cameos provide the cherry on an already exquisite cinematic sundae.

I was sorry to see this movie end. So will you.

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich from Clementine's.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Marshmallow Wednesday


No hidden Easter eggs here. Everything is out in the open.

---Here you see some of that traditional Easter candy. Marshmallow Peeps. And you might as well eat sweetened styrofoam.

---If you look at the website devoted to Peeps, you see that they promote them for all sorts of holidays.

---Because Christmas is all about putting this giant lint ball in your mouth.

---What the hell has all this candy to do with Easter? From all the Bible pictures I've seen, Jesus and the disciples didn't finish off the Last Supper with some Godiva chocolate mints.

---If they had a basketful of Peeps on that table, who knows? Judas might have left early and the rest would be history.

---That way, Obama could really be the true Messiah.

---What's with the cheapo gifts the President is dragging around the world?

---An iPod for the Queen? Pre-loaded with some of Obama's speeches. Well, Phillip can now cross that off his wife's holiday gift list.

---It's like somebody at the White House had a cow. "Holy shit, we're going to Europe and we have nothing to bring. Somebody make a Best Buy run, please!"

---Looking at the Queen in those pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Urkel, you had to wonder what the woman was thinking.

---"I've had dealings with people like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt. And now these two schvugs..."

---When did women stop curtsying upon being presented to the Queen? For Pete's sake, there was a whole "I Love Lucy" episode devoted to this.

---Except when Mrs. Urkel was presented, she patted the Queen on the back like she was greeting Halle Berry on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

---Thank God she didn't try to fist bump with the Royal Family.

---I brought this all up at a church gathering. One British-born friend was equally appalled. Meanwhile, all the liberal folks were tripping over each other defending the behavior.

---"This was all cleared by the Office of Protocol."

---And who phoned and told you this? The freakin' Prince of Wales?

---North Korea is now shooting off long range missiles towards Alaska.

---So they don't like Sarah Palin either?

---How come our President gets more angry at American talk radio hosts than at our enemies around the world?

---That's right, folks. There are places on this globe that have hated the United States and will always hate the United States. So, put down the peace pipe, stow the Joan Baez records, and get a move on.

---The good news is that North Korea won't point anything at Los Angeles. Too many relatives could be included in the collateral damage.

---If we get into another fracas with Korea, at least Mike Farrell and Loretta Swit could find work again.

---I read that China is in the middle of all this, providing technology and stirring the pot against America.

---All of you who got all those warm and fuzzy feelings during the Bei-jing Olympics can re-enter the real world.

---If Asians don't kill us with WMDs, they'll do it with car insurance premiums.

---Or with rifles like that Vietnamese kook who shot up Binghamton, New York.

---Of course, we now hear that his angst was all driven by the lagging economy.

---Huh??? Why can't we admit that there are deranged people in this country???

---I voluntarily took a 20 percent paycut, so I guess there's a bloodied doctor's office with my name on it.

---And you want nuts? How about those dumbbells from PETA, filing a lawsuit against US Airways for hitting all those birds before it had to crash land in the Hudson River???

---Gee, did that Sully pilot guy make a mistake? Hmm.....150 people or a flock of seagulls? What to do? What to do?

---This week on Idol, the contestants all sang songs from the year they were born. Sorry, folks, not a 70s birthday in the bunch.

---The 16 year-old girl, Alison, sang the Bonnie Raitt song about turning down the bed and turning out the lights and I wonder how many parents turned off their daughters' TVs at that point.

---Scott, the blind kid who won't go away, sang some song with a lot of sight references and I figure there's a real prankster on the Idol production staff.

---The way this guy played his electric guitar, he reminded me of Keith Partridge practicing in Shirley Jones' garage.

---My guess is that he will be shown the door this week---literally.

And I'm exiting as well. Till tomorrow, my Peeps.

Dinner last night: Pork chops with orange roulade, rice, and steamed broccoli.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ER Code Blue

Last Thursday night, I watched the two hour series finale of ER. That means, over its 15 year run, I probably saw a total of one season’s worth of episodes.

Don’t get me wrong. I know this was a superlatively done show. What I have caught over the years was always compelling. But, as a former devout fan of the miraculous St. Elsewhere, I pretty much didn’t get addicted to ER because it felt like I was cheating on my wife. When it came to medical drama, nothing could ever match the doctors of St. Eligius. Probably unfair to the folks who crafted ER, but I figured that I had seen it all already.

When we were at Murphy Brown on the Warners lot in the 90s, the ER soundstage was right next door. And there were several times when it was completely empty with the doors open. I’d wander through the set which literally looked like a hospital emergency room. I completely forgot that I was in Hollywood. Everything was real from the syringes to the Bandaids to the blood-stained sheets on the gurneys. Incredible realism and a lot more interesting than wandering through the Friends apartments. (We did that, too.)

Everytime I watched ER, it was pretty frenetic. Patients rushing in, doctors rushing out, lives being saved left and right. The action never stopped. And everybody got immediate medical attention. And that always got me thinking. Where the hell did the producers do their research? Because every emergency room I’ve been in was anything but…

Yeah, I have done my time in emergency rooms. Luckily, never as a result of an auto accident or the type of power plant explosion that was ER’s final trauma event last week. But, with health-challenged parents (and some goofiness provided by friends), I have logged some hours on the budget furniture you find in those always-sloppy waiting rooms. Watching the crazy pace on ER, I always wanted to see what was going on beyond those swinging double doors. On the other side of that window where some slob sits and yells “Next.”

Usually, the only way you can fasttracked in an emergency room is if you have a heart attack. When my mother was having some arthritic pain that needed attention, I used to tell her to say that the discomfort was traveling up and down her left arm, even if it wasn’t. Of course, she’d never lie and, before you know, you’ve sifted through a year-old People Magazine for the twelfth time.

Part of the issue here is that segment of our population which totally abuses the concept of a medical emergency. Too, too many folks (and I am sorry to say we are talking about some Black people here, gang) think an emergency room is the same thing as their general internist. Every single time I had to visit an ER, I would see at least one fat slob with toddler in tow at the glass window.

”My baby girl got the sniffles.”

Ask anybody in the medical profession to tell you the single biggest reason why there are money problems and they will tell you it's this kind of emergency room abuse. And now they want to make this even easier with universal health care. Trust me, we will see a day where a patient, gasping for breath, heads into an emergency room for a tracheotomy and a nurse will hand them a box cutter to do it themselves.

You see all the dregs of humanity in an ER waiting room. Some unlucky people have been hanging around for days. I remember seeing one man who actually had cobwebs forming around his eyelids. It takes forever for the patient to get through the magic doors. That's just the mindnumbing start. Once inside, you often find yourself laying on a gurney in some hallway waiting for the quintessential "tests." Meanwhile, your friend or loved one is out there amongst a sea of torn-up magazines and trying to figure out how to put some mustard on the armchair they are getting ready to gnaw on, since the cafeteria always seems to be closed.

A few years ago, my writing partner suffered some sort of internal stomach muscle contusion that looked a lot like a ruptured appendix. We ventured over to Cedars-Sinai where the stars go to die in LA. Once he got beyond the special doors, he was shuttled from one ultrasound machine to another. With a two hour wait in between each one. Meanwhile, I was outside and literally finished a 500 page book cover to cover. In by 2PM, out by 12Midnight.

If I had a DVD set of ER, I could finish a half a season in the same time. And wonder how the hell they manage to always move so fast.

Dinner last night: Cervelat sandwich and tossed salad.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Morning Video Laugh - April 6, 2009

Baseball Opening Day is here! And, to commemorate that, here's a hilarious clip of the Dodgers' newest reliever, Will Ohman, doing a spot on imitation of that fat, bloated windbag Harry Caray. This apparently aired last summer when Ohman was with the Braves. Enjoy! And play ball!


Dinner last night: Leftover sausage and peppers.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Shea Loge Section 7: The Final Days

The very last out of the very last Saturday game ever to be played at Shea Stadium. And the very last game I would see from Loge 7, Row E, Seat 1. Let's finish up with the concluding installment of my essay "The Saturday Plan" which was published last year.

Saturday, July 22, 1989. Mets 4, Braves 2. An otherwise meaningless game as the Mets spend another summer uselessly chasing the Cardinal Cub Pirates Braves. It would be the last baseball game my father ever attended. In the latter years of my Saturday plan, my father only acted as a last minute fill-in for a Seat 2 cancellation. He didn’t feel up to it that day, but he went anyway. It was the day that I couldn’t park in my usual lot, because my father couldn’t walk far. It was the day that my father winced every time somebody in Row E went to the concession stand. It was the day I realized that the prostate cancer had probably metastasized in his right leg. He told me not to count on him as a fill-in anymore. About a year later, I knew that I was going to have to do a lot more than that.

Things were going to change again, as they always did in my life as a Met Saturday plan holder. From Hodges to Randolph. From Seaver to Pedro. From high school to career. From best friend to best friend. From $ 2.50 to almost $ 50.00 per loge reserved seat ticket.

And, in 1997, from coast to coast. My writing career created a bi-coastal existence, with Southern California the provider of my oxygen intake 75 percent of the year. Yet, I held onto Loge Section 7. The Wilpon’s bottomless pit of a bank account made it easy to sell tickets to my friends and associates. Indeed, I still Saturday-ed at Shea four or five times a season. I made a point of always traveling back for the Yankees’ inter-league visit and praying that Mike Piazza would somehow propel us to a victory.

There’s yet another group of regular Section 7 denizens, all of whom seem to be consistently unimpressed with Aaron Heilman. But, on my Saturday forays now, I see a difference. The experience is noisier. The advertisements never stop. And T-shirts are used as heat-seeking missiles. I look around and do what my parents and my grandparents did. Remember the good old days.

In 2008, on the eighteenth hole of the Shea Stadium golf course of life, Section 7 in the Loge has become painfully aware that our days as Saturday plan holders may be winding down. Carefully worded disclaimers attached to our final invoices can be de-coded to reveal that, with 10,000 less seats, there is probably no room for any of us in the new Citi Field. At the very, very least, we might wind up with Saturday seats next to a Korean BBQ on Northern Boulevard. I curse the person who coined the phrase, “all good things must come to an end.” I regret that I may never ride the Citi Field elevator.

Some good friends in Los Angeles have completed their CIA brainwashing and there is now a computer chip in my head that responds only to commands from Vin Scully. I am now a full season ticket holder at Dodger Stadium. On the first base side. In the loge. I can be found there on most Tuesdays and Fridays and Sundays.

But, ironically, I’m never in Dodger Stadium on Saturdays. That will always be reserved for only one special stadium. In two special seats. With one special friend.

On a lifetime of very special Saturdays.

Ultimately, we now know that there is room for us in Citi Field. I will be there for the first time on Saturday, April 25.

But it will never ever be the same. Or as much fun.

Dinner last night: Chicken ala Romana at Fabiolus