Saturday, July 31, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2010

I can watch this movie over and over and over. Judy's shining moment.


Dinner last night: Pasta with broccoli rabe at Underhill Crossing in Bronxville.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Non-Celebrity Mugshots

Dedicated to all those regular citizens who also break the law. And, some of them, like Miss Hooters to the north, are just happy to get a room and a good meal for the night.

Nabbed for impersonating Dee from "What's Happening."

"I'se broke da law? O-tay!"

Whatever crime she committed, she had to do it while standing on a step ladder.

I'm dying to know.

Obviously, his blood grape juice level was way too high.

Shoplifting from the make-up counter at Target. Cirque De Criminal.

Dinner last night: Cold roast beef and salad plate.







Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nancy Bea

I can't believe that I've been writing this blog for over three years and I have yet to devote a daily post to Nancy Bea?

Who, you say?

Nancy Bea, I say.

And she does what, you say?

She plays the organ at Dodger Stadium, I say.

And if you ask me why the hell somebody is playing an organ at a baseball game, I wouldn't be surprised. I'd also be inclined to end our dialogue.

Organ music is as critical to the DNA of a baseball stadium as hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, and overbearing drunks. The sad thing is that, while the last three are either still plentiful or even growing in number (the overserved assholes, I mean), organ music is disappearing at an alarming rate. Nancy Bea Heffley is one of the few left.

I was raised on the Mets and the magnificent Jane Jarvis at the Thomas Organ. The keystrokes touch my heart everytime I hear them. You can hear her play "Meet the Mets" by clicking on the MP3 below.

http://youngmanhattanite.com/music/MeetTheMets_Organ.mp3
She was gone from Shea Stadium by the early 80s. Replaced by the pre-recorded hits of the day. Pure dreck. But, the Mets weren't the only ones. Organists were getting shitcanned in major league parks all across America. It's apparently cheaper to hire some two-bit DJ to keep the crowd entertained. You can then save some dough and sign some washed-up starter whose ERA never dips below 4.00.

The Dodgers were one of the few teams to hold firm. For years here in LA, they had a lady named Helen Dell who might have remembered when Sandy Koufax was wearing pull-up underwear. She retired in 1987 and the Dodgers then found Nancy Bea Heffley. She's still there.

Oh, they have tried to reduce her playing time so they can give our ears malignant tumors otherwise known as rap music. As a matter of fact, by 2004, Nancy was pretty much relegated to two tunes a night. The National Anthem and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." But, enough complaints came in to, at the very least, let her share the musical interludes with Will.i.am's latest CD.

Going to as many games as I do, I try to connect the tune she is playing to what is going on during the game. When there's a conference on the mound, it might be "Happy Talk" from "South Pacific." If an umpire is arguing with a manager, you could hear the theme from "The Odd Couple." On the day Barbara Bel Geddes died, I heard Nancy Bea play the theme from "Dallas" that very night and I wondered if she was making the connection after seeing the news on-line. If a loss is perfectly devastating, your exit music could be "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Here's just a taste.


The only problem is that there's just not enough of that.

Page down to last Friday night. The Dodgers were saluting their 1955 World Series win in Brooklyn. So, the stadium went retro. Diamondvision was shown in black and white. And they ditched all the pre-recorded crap in favor of Nancy Bea. Playing before the game. Playing between every inning. It was an extreme workout for her. I imagined her shaking her hands by the fifth inning in an effort to get her circulation going again. Usually, before the bottom of the eighth inning, the Dodger Stadium tradition is "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey and occasionally lip-synced by season ticket holder Jameson Moss. You have not lived until you hear that song played on an organ.

Nobody cared. The evening was glorious. I doubt anybody missed Snoop Dogg. I wanted to walk down to the owner's box and exclaim, "See!."

The woman's been doing this job for over twenty years and she doesn't seem to, pardon the pun, miss a beat. She commutes to Dodger Stadium from her home in Lake Arrowhead and is always on top of her game.

If only there could be more of it like there was last Friday night...

And, if you're like me and you simply can't get enough of Nancy Bea, try this on for size.




If the Dodgers don't let her play more, Nancy Bea just might sue.

Dinner last night: Turkey burger with German potato salad and cole slaw at the NY abode.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Wednesday Kind of Love

No hate. Just hugs and kisses.

---And we can begin with today's starting pitcher. Number 1. Pope Benedict. Number 1.

---New Era has hit on a new business model. The Vatican.

---Hey, it could be a major league franchise. Probably finish ahead of the Kansas City Royals.

---I like the look. It might be a great way for the Church to bring in new members.

---Giveaway days.

---Who doesn't want a Pope John Paul II bobblehead?

---Ladies Day? All nuns get in free.

---Oldtimers Day?

---"This oldtimer's career spanned over twenty years and his name now adorns a Bronx high school. Let's give a big St. Peter's Basilica welcome to...Cardinal Spellman!"

---Of course, the coaches down in the rookie league will have a field day with all those youngsters.

---"Hey, kid, let me show how to choke up on that bat."

---I could keep going. Just so you know.

---Vendors at Midnight Mass?

---"Get your beads. Get your rosary beads right here!"

---After services, they could do what the Mets and Dodgers do on Sundays. Let kids run the bases.

---Except here they're chased by priests.

---Okay, I'm done.

---Big, big, big props to the city of Bell here in California. Have you heard? The citizens have rebelled against the city council and the huge salaries they have designated for themselves, while severely cutting municipal services.

---Just when you think your voices are never heard...

---Of course, this is just one small town. This needs to happen all over the country.

---And in the House of Representatives.

---And in the Senate.

---And in the White House.

---Let's face it, the feds have effectively stolen our money.

---Social Security? Gone.

---Medicare? Gone.

---The Obama family? Gone. On vacation for most of August.

---When did the First Family become the country of France and close for one month in the summer?

---For her trip to Spain, FLOTUS and her two little chipmunks will be requiring about thirty hotel rooms. At a Ritz Carlton, no less.

---Jeez, what about doubling up? If Mickey Mantle used to have a roommate.

---The economy is in a shambles. And that should mean that those two kids better stay the hell out of those Pringles potato chips in the minibar.

---And, since we're talking about corrupt government...


---Let's hope we are finally saying goodbye to this old weasel, Charlie Rangel, who has been as dirty as dirt for years and is finally getting caught with his hand in the Keebler Cookie jar.

---Please shuffle him off to a porch and let him pick whether he wants the red or the black checkers.

---The poster boy for a crooked politician.

---And, this just in...

---Boy, if I'm going to scrape up some loose change for a hooker, I'd at least want one that's good looking.

---Looking at that young picture of her, I can swear that I remember seeing her in a couple of episodes of "What's Happening?"

---I'm thinking about the time that Oprah gave out a car to every member of her studio audience. And wondering if we can do a sequel to that now.

---"And you get a trick. And you get a trick. And you get a trick. And you get a trick!"

---Why, oh, why must we stand through somebody's audition tape as they sing the National Anthem in a ballpark? One version is more excruciating than the next.

---It should not be sung as if you are constipated.

---It should not take more than five minutes.

---You should not make the anthem sound like it was a number cut during the tryout run of "Evita."

---And then there was Anson "Potsie" Williams last Sunday at Dodger Stadium. He did it right. In less than a minute.

---He sped through the song like his living room curtains were on fire.

---I see where some movie theaters will be running a special version of "Grease," and the audiences will be allowed to sing along with the tunes.

---It's called "Grease - Singalong." And I'm betting some marketing department spent two weeks coming up with the title.

---I wonder if it will be playing in movie multiplexes around the Gulf of Mexico.

---For the record, I don't watch Mad Men. I won't try to watch Mad Men again. I have no real interest in dressing up in old 60s clothes to watch Mad Men. And I am praying for those of you who do.

---I guess that makes me a mad man.

---Len's Believe It or Not: I was in the waiting room at Toyota the other day, getting a cracked tail light fixed and also finally having my recall check. There were two Black women also waiting. For one solid hour, they did nothing but discuss where to buy good fried chicken in Los Angeles.

---'Nuff said.

---Oh, and that mosque they're building two blocks from Ground Zero? Radio host Mark Levin thinks it would be great if they put up a Hooters restaurant next door.

---If not that, how about someplace devoted to Yiddish theater?

---'Nuff said for the last time today.

Dinner last night: Homemade meat loaf, mac & cheese, and peas.

Tomorrow, my love train stops in NYC for a few days.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Can We Talk...Again?

Admittedly, Joan Rivers is an acquired taste. For some, you can never have enough. For others, a little goes a long, long way. Still more folks run like heck whenever they see her.

I'm proudly in the first category. And that was reaffirmed all over again last week when I caught her act at the Catalina Bar and Jazz Club on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Both Joan lovers and haters would have to agree on one thing. The woman is tenacious. In effect, she has re-invented and re-energized her show business career on three different occasions. And that's not easy to do when you move closer to the age of eighty. Now, in 2010, Joan is enjoying a new resurgence that is almost inexplicable.

I got hooked on her first go-round back in the early 80s. Oh, sure, she had been kicking around since the mid 60s. But, she really started to kick into high gear around the time she became the permanent guest host on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Back then, I saw her four or five times. In smaller venues like a tiny little comedy club in Century City. In big houses like the old Westbury Music Fair. Regardless of the size of the place, Joan never disappointed me. I remember one half-hour set at Westbury. She was on such a roll that I literally could not stop laughing once. Clearly, this might have been the funniest 30 minutes I have ever spent on earth.

Joan's "no holds barred" approach to comedy is a perfect fit for me, who clearly despises the pomposity of celebrity and the tendency toward politically correct humor. Joan will skewer anybody and say all the things we always think, but are too "sensitive" to say out loud. She really doesn't give a shit. If it's funny, she'll say it.

The skirmish with Carson and the ill-advised move to a Fox talk show is well documented and regretably derailed Joan's career for a while. Allegedly, she was even blackballed from appearing on NBC. But, after a few years of darkness, Joan picked herself up and became the "official" red carpet host for a variety of Hollywood awards shows. I never watched this nonsense, but plenty of folks did and Joan was hotter than hot again.

It didn't last long. Pretty soon, Joan was an outsider again. Petrified of the empty white pages on her day planner and forced to work hayseed nightclubs in Wisconsin. Resorting to extensive plastic surgery that made her part of her own comedy routine. And subsisting financially on whatever dough she made selling faux jewelry on QVC.

But, as the Tonight Show title card used to say, there would still be "More to Come."

Whoever came up with the idea to film as a documentary one year in the life of Joan Rivers is a genius. And Joan's willingness to reveal herself in such a forum may have been her smartest career move yet. "Joan Rivers - A PIece of Work" may be one of the best movies to be released in 2010. Because, in showing us all the highs of her lengthy career, it also gives us multiple snapshots of the many lows. Her husband's suicide, her skirmishes with the Hollywood establishment, her forays into both mania and likely depression. Yet, despite it all, Joan persists to exist. And work as a comedienne. A role for which she has few equals.

So, the documentary brings Joan Rivers' name again to the forefront. There is one more day at the fair. One more night in the limelight. One more opportunity to make us all laugh.

She's getting prime bookings again. She's amazingly working an audience not once, but twice a night. And, just like last Thursday at the Catalina Bar and Jazz Club, Joan is doing it better than anybody.

If you cringe at jokes that take you beyond propriety, Joan Rivers is not for you. Do as my grandmother would do most of her life. Stay home. But if this type of humor is your speed, run and don't walk if you have a golden chance to see her one more time.

In the space of an hour, she managed to touch on everything that is in our worlds now. Angelina Jolie, Mel Gibson, Lindsay "hic" Lohan, Jennifer Aniston, Barbra Streisand, Nicole Kidman. That's just for starters. Joan can still get away with it all. One of the only comics who dares to offend and live to tell another joke. And who among us still doesn't like a good Helen Keller joke?

My favorite line of the evening? Talking about Anne Frank, Joan lambasted her for not having a better ending to her book. "What a letdown. The Nazis came up the..."

If you just groaned, you're no fan of Joan Rivers. And you may just not be a friend of mine.

Joan, I'm waiting for your next engagement. Bravo!

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 26, 2010

Maybe the departed wanted to have a cremation.


Dinner last night: Steak and salad.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Honk If You're Laughing......






Dinner last night: Ham French Dip at Phillippe's.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Your Weekend Movie Guide for July 2010


Does anybody today even know what Cinerama was back in the 50s?

These were movie outings that were true entertainment experiences. Today? They layer on 50 million dollars worth of video game graphics and ten dollars worth of script. Voila! You have a movie. Well, not really.

Here's my monthly service to you. I'll scope out the ads in the LA Times and tell you what I think you should see or avoid. With emphasis on the latter.

Despicable Me: This is either some dreary cartoon or Nancy Pelosi's memoirs.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: If you go in expecting a revisit on Mickey Mouse in Fantasia, forget it. This is just another CGI-laden mess from Disney, who stopped knowing how to make decent live action features when Fred MacMurray died.

Grown Ups: Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Kevin James are in it, which means the title must be ironic. Sandler also wrote the script, which might actually make this garbage smell even more.

The Last Airbender: Was there a first Airbender? Refresh me please.

Knight and Day: Tom Cruise is back in a movie. And nobody bothered to sound one of those alarms like they do when a tsunami is coming?

Toy Story 3: The best movie of the summer that does not feature Joan Rivers.

Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work: The best movie of the summer that does feature Joan Rivers.

Ramona and Beezus: When I saw the ad for this, I was shocked. I remember these characters from books that I read when I was in the fourth grade! It took that long for them to make a movie with them. That would be the slowest moving development deal ever. The author of these books is Beverly Cleary and she's still alive at 94.

Salt: Angelina Jolie in some tired action yarn. Definitely limit your intake.

The Karate Kid: The needless remake is still hanging around and I doubt it's gotten any better since my Weekend Movie Guide for June 2010.

Mademoiselle Chambon: A romance between a married man and his son's teacher. Suddenly, the mental image in my head is my father kissing Mrs. Acunto from French class. Somebody please slap me now. And, yes, by the way, folks, that really was her name.

Inception: The media hype has begun. I've heard this is the greatest thing ever filmed. I saw the previews during the All Star Game and it looks dreadful, especially with those awful video-game-like slo-mo explosions. I felt for those good reviews once before. When Inception's director came out with that vastly overrated and just plain terrible "Dark Knight."

Predators: It's probably a sci-fi movie, but it's also a great name for a documentary about anybody in Congress who voted for Obama Care.

The Girl Who Played with Fire: Probably burned.

The Twilight Saga - Eclipse: I want some kudos. I've yet to see a single frame of anything involving this nonsense.

Get Him to the Greek: Here's your first opportunity to avoid that asshole Jonah Hill.

Cyrus: And here's your second opportunity to avoid that asshole Jonah Hill.

I Am Love: Hardly. Have you ever read this blog on a Wednesday?

Kings of the Evening: During the Depression, a Black guy returns home after spending years on a brutal chain gang in prison. I'll wait for the prequel.

Farewell: The true story of a KGB colonel who helped to hasten the end of the Cold War. I looked at the cast list and buried way down is David Soul from "Starsky and Hutch." I mention that only because I have nothing else to say about this movie.

The Kids Are All Right: But the adults? Maybe not so much. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are a lesbian couple raising two teenagers. Mother and Mother Knows Best. Major, major Oscar buzz. And not a single special effect. Friends who have seen it are in love with this movie.

Winter's Bone: There is also major Oscar buzz for this, but I know nothing about it. And I don't even have a joke about it.

Dinner last night: Pork chops and potato pancakes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Death of King George

Now that the corpse has cooled sufficiently, let's take another look and perspective on what was George M. Steinbrenner III.

Last week, upon the news of the Boss' demise after several years of ill health and oatmeal thrown at the walls, I took a few passing shots at him in my Wednesday rant. Heck, it was like a bowl of potato chips put in front of me. How could I resist? But, those one-liners really sparked a reaction in the world of Len Speaks readership. An on-line comment or two, plus a whole bunch of e-mails. The consensus? I was jealous. I was envious. I was mean. I wished I rooted for a baseball team that had an owner who cared this much about his baseball team.

And, from those statements, I will confess. Yes. Yes. Usually. And yes.

In five minutes, my responses to those statements might be as follows. No. No. Not always. And no.

Yes, twenty years ago, I would have done an Irish jig on Steinbrenner's freshly packed grave. Today, with him definitely in the ground, my feelings as a life-long Yankee hater are surprisingly ambivalent.

Not so the lamestream sports media, which has virtually canonized the guy. Okay, unless I misunderstand the rules, the signing of Reggie Jackson to a long term contract would not qualify as a miracle in the Pope's eyes. But, in death, Boss George seems to be getting the media hall pass that Barack Obama is enjoying in life.

So, I heard from a lot of Yankee fan friends last week. The dumb Yankee fans see nothing wrong with anything George did and they are all ready to pin dollar bills to his statue. The smart Yankee fans (there are quite a few) recognize his many flaws but appreciate the fact that he helped them enjoy several World Championships in their lifetimes while other baseball fans may experience none. The smartest Yankee fan (I know one) acknowledges everything the owner did for the year, but recognizes that the man essentially ruined the game of baseball for everybody else.

My feelings are in there somewhere.

As a Dodger and Met fan with current ownerships that are misguided at best, I do wish my teams had the werewithal to spend money freely for any free agent player that they needed. Let's face it, George always had the cash and the gumption to do so. A smart businessman, he kept the dollars flowing from smart business ventures and customized TV networks, etc.. The Mets and the eternally inept Wilpon family never did the same. The Dodgers are finally starting a TV network/cash cow in 2013, perhaps four years too late for soon-to-be-divorced-and-also-probably-gone-from-Los-Angeles Frank McCourt. Indeed, McCourt's money dried up two years ago, so I'm thinking he used to have Goldman Sachs on his speed dial.

So, yes, George wins hands down in the business acumen competition. But, at the same time, there is always something more likeable about watching home-grown talent come up and make the necessary mistakes on the road to superstardom. Back in the 80s with Mets like Ron Darling, Dwight Gooden, and Darryl Strawberry. Now in the 21st Century with Dodgers like Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, and James Loney. As a baseball fan, I can develop a solid relationship with someone that has grown with me. How do you manage that when your newest first baseman is playing with you simply because you gave him a blank check?

You can argue that the Yankees now have home-grown talent. But, let's be serious. That's because the Boss was doing nothing more strenuous than the TV Guide Crossword Puzzle the past five years. He's had nothing to do with the development of this team. Just like he had nothing to do with the nurturing of previous Yankee farmhands like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Why not? Well, during their development years, George had been banned from baseball. For the second time. Little factoids that were frequently missing from all the press coverage last week.

So, while Steinbrenner can and should be lauded for his desire to maintain a Yankee winning tradition, he contributed little to that beyond writing a check. When it came to judging talent on the field, the Boss was pretty dreadful. The years where he was completely hands-on in that area were perhaps the Yankees' worst seasons in the past four decades. More haziness and clouds that need to be considered when one contemplates the ultra-clear skies of a Steinbrenner career.

I've read and heard ad nauseum about the philantrophic tendencies of one Boss George. Incredibly generous. Overly charitable. He'd help anybody when they were down and out.

Uh huh.

Hey, if I've got the money, I might do the same. And, let's face it, folks. George probably deducted all of this from his taxes, so there was financial gain for him in the long run. I don't doubt that he did any of these wonderful gestures. But I also know that he surreptiously fired employees on a whim. Oh, I'm not talking about all those times when he shitcanned that pea-brained hapless drunk Billy Martin. I'm thinking about the unsung targets of daily rants from the paranoid schizophrenic Boss. Ticket takers, ushers, the average Joe working at Yankee Stadium. Where was the charity for them? I also read that Steinbrenner regularly fucked over employees by cutting medical plans and other benefits. Hey, who cares if Mabel the telephone operator no longer has dental coverage? The Yankees needed a pitcher like Ed Whitson.

Yogi Berra got it. At least for a while. He walked away from this asshole pledging never to set foot in Yankee Stadium while Steinbrenner was still in charge of the team. But, ultimately, he relented. Maybe because he realized that the guy was not completely a saint. Or completely the devil. In death, as in life, George should be viewed just like all of us. Flawed. Not black or white, but in many hues of gray.

Colors that communicate to me now at last in shades of complete ambivalence.

Dinner last night: Pork loin with fig and port gravy plus wild rice and roasted veggies.




Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hazy, Hot and Wednesday

And the nasty index always rises in proportion.

---This chart provides too many scientific theories that can simply be summed up in three words:

---It's fucking hot!

---Some really bizarro humidity showed up in Los Angeles last week and trust me when I tell you this. The gardener's Arrid Extra Dry ain't working.

---Or maybe just non-existent. You would think he would have packed some in the trunk when he came into the country.

---Even with the sudden and unusual moist heat enveloped California last week, these kooks don't know real heat discomfort.

---Try 75 degrees and 100 percent humidity while sitting on a New York City subway that's stuck in the tunnel.

---And, sitting next to you, there's a fat postal worker whose Arrid Extra Dry ain't working.

---Of course, whenever it gets hot during July, the hue and cry starts all over again.

---Global Warming!!!!

---It's summer, idiots!

----I can't wait for some of these environmentalists to experience sub-global warming. Pitchforks optional.

---For those of you who were wondering when I would include a photo of a donkey wearing a parachute...

---I knew I'd find a picture like this sooner or later. Ye of little faith.

---Of course, when donkeys fly, you can't expect them to stay up long.

---The one who staged this stunt is the real ass.

---This apparently happened on a Russian beach.

---And what's even more shocking is that there really is such a thing as a Russian beach.

---I have this disgusting mental image of one of those 100-year-old yogurt eaters wearing a thong.

---Pardon me while I slap myself back to my senses.

---Done. I'm better now.

---For those of you who were wondering when I would include a snapshot of a Black couple with their White, blue-eyed, and blonde-haired baby...

---Whoa! Mix-up at the Hospital!!

---They are thinking this is just a freak of nature.

---I'm thinking this is just a freak down at the bar who slept with Mama while Papa was doing a little time in the pokey.

---Or maybe it's like that Dick Van Dyke episode where the Petries thought they took home the wrong baby.

---Frankly, I think I'd check before I put the thing in the car seat.

---Hmm, little Junior doesn't look like Mom or Dad. Actually, he sort of reminds me of Sidney Poitier.

---And, speaking of race relations, the NAACP is still opening up their big mouths like it's 1963 all over again. They're bitching that conservatives are racists. But...check this out, admittedly with lousy audio.

---Uh huh, White folks are the only haters around here.

---One of the greatest misconceptions is that racial hatred is one-sided in this country.

---Trust me when I tell you. There is no rope in my garage or a tree in my front yard.

---Nor did my father own a slave. Although he might have considered it for about five weeks in 1952.

---This piece of crap got shitcanned from her job and rightfully so.

---If you think she got a bum deal, you can lend her your support. The next time you have your license renewed at the DMV.

---But she's still out on the loose and Lindsay Lohan is in jail. Fair trade?

---When she walked into court for her sentencing, I was expecting her to turn around and tell everybody the real criminal was her twin sister from England.

---Like in the movie "The Parent Trap."

---I'll wait.

---Still waiting.

---And still waiting.

---A-ha, now you get it!

---Actually, they could film her jail time and wind up with another great Disney remake.

---"Bedknobs and Broomsticks."

---I'll wait.

---Still waiting.

---And still waiting.

---Moving on...

---For those of you who were waiting for me to include a photo of President Obummer doing an impression of Popeye the Sailor...

---He could be posing for a new Disney theme park ride. "Pirates of the Potomac."

---Or maybe some of Michelle's hair lye got in there.

---Or myabe some of Michelle's fist got in there.

----AAArrrrrrrrrr!

---Well, the pirate motif fits. After all, the government has stolen all the money we have contributed to Social Security over the past five decades.

---"Yo ho ho ho. A President's life for me!!"

---Actually, you might have your own caption for this picture. Please send me your submissions. The winner will get...

---Yeah, like this blog generates revenue?

And, besides, it's still too fucking hot.

Dinner last night: Super Dodger Dog at the game.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where Have You Gone, Hollywood Bowl?

The summer evenings there used to be so magical.

Not anymore. The only magic that might be coming is when I, like David Copperfield, disappear from the Hollywood Bowl for good.

Oh, last Saturday night, the fireworks (shown above) that dotted the sky after "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony" were cool. But you have to wonder when you must depend upon a few pyrotechnics to save another evening of what is looking to be a dreadful summer at the Hollywood Bowl. That's sort of like going to see a production of "South Pacific" simply because you want to admire the grass skirts wore by the Seabees.

The Hollywood Bowl has gone off the track in ways that Amtrak couldn't even imagine. Indeed, the telltale signs of slow implosion began innocently several years back when former conductor and creative genius John Mauceri left the Bowl for a teaching gig back East. Under Mauceri, the Bowl had thrived with superlative entertainment. Admittedly, I focus on the more mainstream weekend fare. I could care less about the midweek displays of jazz or Mahler this and Mahler that. But, on the weekends, Mauceri led the Los Angeles Philharmonic and virtually caressed the Hollywood scene. He infused the Bowl schedule with film and Broadway music, along with the occasional detour into rock or country. The resulting energy could have powered the electricity of the entire city.

When Mauceri left, we worried a little about the future. In reality, we should have worried a lot. And, this season, we are watching the perfect storm of missteps and misjudgments that is now resulting in what could be perfectly described as a musical oil spill. It's been that bad. And I'm beginning to wonder if the Hollywood Bowl is now being managed by Rahm Emanuel.

So far, of those evenings I've attended, there has been little to admire. The Fourth of July spectacular with Vince Gill was definitely not. A Beatles celebration focused on their later works and was shepherded by a C-list of singers, save for perhaps the always reliable but misused Brian Stokes Mitchell. Last weekend, the annual Bugs Bunny concert, which features the orchestra playing live accompaniment to selected animated shorts, did the almost unthinkable and impossible. They managed to make Looney Tune cartoons boring.

At this point in my Bowl summer, I'm usually thinking "Gee, we only have five more evenings this summer." This year, I'm thinking "God, there are still five more evenings this summer." I'm particularly dreading next week where I misguidingly purchased tickets for an evening of music devoted to the "Planet Earth" TV show. I'm anticipating lots of tree-hugging, wild animal-loving, and incessant snoring from me. My seats might be available on StubHub as early as tonight.

Okay, there is still time for the Bowl to redeem me. There will be a concert performance of "Rent" directed by Neil Patrick Harris. A night of Harry Connick Jr. usually never disappoints. An evening of John Williams will probably be predictably schizophrenic. He will drive you crazy playing an hour's worth of a rotten film score and then pull you back with the first strains of the theme from "Star Wars," no doubt accompanied by light sabers in the audience. And we'll wind up the season with a night of Twentieth Century Fox music played against film clips on the big screen.

But, still, the seams are not only showing. They are tattered and frayed. Has the Bowl gone on the cheap? Apparently. In past years, even kitschy nights with the wigged Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli slip-sliding her dentures up and down the Cahuenga Pass brought smiles to my face. For the first time ever, there are no pleasure guarantees when you buy a ticket to the Hollywood Bowl.

The complete Bowl experience is always an arduous one anyway as you endure stacked parking lots, non-existent parking attendants, long walks up steep hills, and noisy Philistines who insist on talking behind you during performances. But, if the entertainment is good, those hassles melt away. Now, this year with lousy shows, those annoyances are even more pronounced. I think about the $16 dollar parking fee, the loudmouth in the next row, and the extreme marathon walk down the hill. And I wonder if my grandmother always had the right idea when she said "next time, I stay home."

To make matters worse, the venue itself has seen infinitely better days. I rarely bring food and could always rely on the concession stands to feed me. Not anymore. Inexplicably, the Bowl on several weekends has run out of hot dogs. How do you operate any kind of arena in 2010 and manage to do that? But, you certainly can count on getting a variety of sushi offerings. Raw fish on a humid summer night? Even if I did eat seafood, I'd rather eat something caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of my most favorite summer things to do is grab a Drumstick cone or Haagen-Daz bar during the intermission. Er, not anymore. Most of the stands no longer have freezers. Again, how do you operate any kind of summer area in 2010 and manage not to feature ice cream? Other friends have told me of other now-missing staples from the concession stands. Sangria, for one. Wine spritzers, for another. There's money to be made and the Hollywood Bowl is ignoring it.

I'm grinning, but not bearing it. I'll figure it out, but I'm already doubting if there's a Bowl in my 2011 summer. And, from my past life history, I can assure you. Once you've lost me, it's permanent.

Greek Theater, I'm available. What have you got?

Dinner last night: Grilled bratwurst sandwich.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 19, 2010

I loved watching "What's My Line?" when it was rerun on the Game Show Network. Here are three classic and awkward moments from the show. A intruder barges on the stage. Dorothy Kilgallen tries to cover up that she is drunk. And Bennett Cerf openly feuds with Henry Morgan.


Dinner last night: Crispy Spicy Beef at the Cheesecake Factory.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Summer Nights at the Drive-In


Even when I was a kid, I could pick up signals. The summer nights were warm. The skys were clear. And my father was suddenly washing the windshield of whatever Buick he was driving at the time. These signs could only point to one thing.We were going to the drive-in movie theater.And I would anxiously await the end of the day. This was one of my most special memories of childhood. And one that, unfortunately, later generations can't appreciate.


This is a 1954 aerial photo of our preferred drive-in venue, the Elmsford Drive-In. Sadly, the place got torn down in the early 80s and was replaced by a Sam's Club. Indeed, the theater tried to survive even with dwindling attendance. In its later years, it tried to attract audiences by showing porno films. The town got up-in-arms as a result. It turns out that teenagers were lingering in the strip mall across the street at night. Cheap thrills with binoculars. And who needed the in-car speakers to imagine the sound track?
That shut down the Elmsford Drive-In for good.
But it was in its glory days when I was a kid and chomping at the bit for my next drive-in experience. Now, within driving proximity to my family unit, there were two such outdoor theaters. The closer one was the Whitestone Drive-In down in the Bronx. But my mother hated that place.
"It smells."
It really did. Because it was right near the end of the dirty Hutchinson River, the humid nights overcooked the foulness of the water and it all wafted into the Whitestone Drive-In somewhere in the middle of the first feature. The rancid air also brought along a heft amount of mosquitoes. You might enjoy the movie, but you'd come home with itchy bumps from head-to-toe.
So, the long drive up Route 9A into Elmsford was the better spot for us. The drill was always the same. The double feature usually didn't start until dusk, but we'd head up there about an hour or two before. They had a nifty playground underneath the screen and the area was adorned by big posters of my favorite cartoon characters. That would keep me occupied for a while. And then I'd head back to the car. The sound of my footsteps on the gravel sticks with me to this day. The noise was fine as long as the picture wasn't on. But, during the movie, there was always some joker who was making his way from the bathroom. And you'd hear...
"Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch."
That would provoke some other idiots to voice their displeasure by honking their horns at the annoying pedestrian. Before you knew it, your cinematic experience was completely disrupted by a soundtrack that would rival Times Square at rush hour.
My father would drag me over to the snack bar so we could load up with goodies for the first movie. And then it was time. For my wardrobe change.
I'd have to toss myself into the back seat of the car and somehow manage to get into my pajamas. Because I was only parentally cleared for the first part of the double feature, which was always some kind of family-oriented fare. Dad would hook up the speaker on the car window and then I'd hang over the middle of the front seat to enjoy the movie. When that would end, most of the patrons would watch the cartoon intermission countdown. Replenishing of snacks was turned into a virtual game show stunt. Get your popcorn and soda now because the second feature was starting soon.











But, there would be no more Milk Duds or Pom Poms in my evening. I was commanded off to Dreamland.
And, sometimes, I actually did go to sleep. Except once I didn't.
To Be Continued.
Dinner last night: Roast beef panini at the Hollywood Bowl.




Saturday, July 17, 2010

Classic TV Theme of the Month - July 2010

The show was terrible, but the title credits and song for "Angie" were irresistible.

Dinner last night: Lasagna/sausage & peppers as wonderfully cooked by my childhood friend Leo's visiting mom.


Friday, July 16, 2010

This Month at Skymall

I've been flying again and you know what that means! I'm found some junk in the Skymall catalog that just screams to me "this country has gone to hell!"

Take, for instance, the photo above. A surveillance camera for your home. The only trouble is that it makes no bones about the fact that it doesn't work. It's called a dummy surveillance camera. And those who think that burglars won't catch on to this really are...well, dummies.

I have yet to see this at the Dodger Stadium Gift Shop. A yarmulke for your favorite team. A surefire way to make sure you get invited to Sandy Koufax' house for the High Holy Days.

This Indiana Jones whip is marketed as a children's toy. Yeah, right. Mom and Dad may be ordering for the kid, but they don't bring it out until little Junior's having a sleepover elsewhere.

Why give all that dough to a licensed plastic surgeon when you can tighten a face all on your own? Looks like one of those contraptions that Woody Allen was wearing on his head in "Sleeper."

Because sometimes a cat just needs a little assistance to get toilet trained. You know how I handle that? It's called a bathtub full of water and a firm grip around little Friskie's neck.

When simply knowing the temperature around your house just isn't enough. Now you can get a daily mold reading. And that probably goes up significantly when old uncle Louie shows up for Thanksgiving Day dinner.

You got that many snakes around? I'd suggest you move back from Africa. I wonder if there's a can that works specifically in corporate offices.

If you're too fuckin' lazy to exercise, you slip this junk on your arm and get a whole workout just by simply writing out "while you were out" messages.

George Steinbrenner lives!

Take a pill and grow your tits. It's that simple. Also available for women. How much money you want to bet that the Food and Drug Administration hasn't looked at this product for a single second?

Dinner last night: Salami sandwich.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Morons of the Month - July 2010

Yes, baseball fans, that is plural this month. Morons. An honor that looks to encompass all those who endeavor to report the sport to us. Not as play-by-play or color announcers. Not as team beat writers for the local newspaper. Nope, these are parasites. Cockroaches. Cancerous and inoperable tumors.

They are the so-called "Baseball Insiders."

There are many out among us. But, the three biggest offenders are...

Fox Sports' dumb-as-dirt Ken Rosenthal.

Sports Illustrated's "most likely to use this photo on a taxi cab license" Jon Heyman. Talent as small as the only snapshot I could find.
And MLB Analyst/lifelong Boston Red Sox fan Peter Gammons, who, to this day, reminds me of one of the elder chimps in "Planet of the Apes."

Okay, you see their pictures. Be aware that they walk among you. Len Speaks is granting you each permission. If anybody out there sees these three schmucks on the street, you are hereby allowed to bash in their skulls with the bluntest object you can find.

We find ourselves smack dab in the middle of July and the annual All-Star break. Teams are assessing where they are in the standings. Taking a breath and getting ready for the second half. Back in the old days, if you were already out of it for the season, you pressed on content to be spoilers and sold off hot dogs for half-price. Those teams still in the hunt look for extra production from their stars, hoping it will be enough to get them over the top. They start to charge twenty-five cents more per frankfurter.

Except now we have the July 31st trading deadline.

All of a sudden, it is frenzy. Chaos. Mania. Which team is a buyer, trying to get new players? Which team is a seller, looking to unload high-priced garbage in a cost-saving move? It all prompts a flurry of media histrionics.

And most of it is fueled by these three fecalheads. Reporting all the news? Hardly. Forget journalism. For them, it was probably nothing more than a class they slept through. Nope, these jerks take something they hear in a hotel elevator and turn it into a rumor that sounds like it could be right. To them. Forget logic. Forget facts. Damn it all to Hell. These are the guys who have their fingers on the pulse of America's pastime.

Gammons is a complete joke. He knows little about baseball except for whoever is on his beloved Boston Red Sox at the present time. Yet, he somehow parlays this into a Yoda-like existence that baffles any baseball fan. He likes to announce a pending trade that he has gotten from a reliable source, who might be simply the peanut vendor in the mezzanine. The standard joke is that, if Peter Gammons talks of a transaction, the opposite will actually happen. He can't discern fact from fiction. It's simply a matter of time before Gammons announces that Babe Ruth has been placed on waivers by the New York Yankees.

Jon Heyman, who has actually worked for news organizations that, from time to time, do hire professionals, is inherently dangerous. Because most of his "inside" dope is fed to him by agents who are using him to create a false marketplace for their ballplaying clients. Rumor has it that Heyman lives for part of each year in the breast pocket of super agent Scott Boras' sport jacket. When a sports reporter scores the unethical line as much as Heyman does, there is a major problem with the media allegedly covering the sport.

Ken Rosenthal is just a plain jackass. He pops up on Fox' national broadcasts, spewing gossip that he might have dreamed up on a breakfast napkin at Denny's. Several months ago, he "announced" that friends of Joe Torre have told him that he no longer wants to manage the Dodgers when his contract is up. What friends? Even Joe Torre didn't know when questioned about it. Yet, after several public and vehement denials, Rosenthal, who was probably beaten up regularly in high school, came back at it again. This time, it wasn't positioned as "friends of Joe Torre." Now, it's "Joe Torre's close confidentes." Oh, that makes a big difference. Does Rosenthal know anything really about the subject? Absolutely not. But, that doesn't stop him. After all, he is a "baseball insider."

As a baseball fan, I truly despise this month. As much as I'd like to hear that the Dodgers have resurrected Don Drysdale, the process of sifting through the nonsense around that news creates an ugly cloud that darkens my love of the game. Because, in my mind, it's not about single players, but the whole team.

Geeks like these three asswipes, however, feed on it all and make the days prior to the July inter-league trading deadline a mind-altering and headache-inducing event.

Let me know when it's August 1. I'll avoid these morons until then.

And, frankly, I'll probably ignore them after August 1 as well.

Dinner last night: Lasagna.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lethal Wednesday

I've unplugged my answering machine so please feel free to say whatever you'd like.

---Those of you who were thinking ahead and had Mel Gibson in next year's Oscar pool, er, well...

---His career died so fast you'd think his agent was Michael Jackson's doctor.

---My father warned me. Beware of a Russian woman with a Record-A-Call machine.

---You think Mel's rant was bad. You didn't hear my dad when I told him that I failed the Physics Regent Exam in Senior Year.

---I'm thinking that it might be too late for Mel and this broad to talk with Dr. Phil.

---At one point, Mel tells this bitch to "just smile and blow me."

---Hmmm, is that physically possible? Anybody??

---This woman has no idea how these telephone tapes got out. Yeah, right. She's probably made up about two dozen back-up CDs.

---If you listened to the rants, didn't it sound like her voice was dubbed in later?

---If you think this broad is innocent, you've never watched Russian women shop on Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood.

---So, I suppose attendance will be down in Mel's church next Sunday?

---Meanwhile, he's been working on a movie with Jodie Foster. Entitled "The Beaver."

---Here's a blank space for your own joke.

---

---Now, wasn't that easy?

---In this movie, Mel plays somebody who thinks his hand puppet is real. Oh, you got another one?

---

---Isn't blogging fun?

---Hey, George Steinbrenner, not so fast with that thumb.

---Twenty years ago, the news of his death would have me jumping for joy. Today? Well, no jumping. At least not with my knee.

---So, the nagging question is: George in the casket. Wig or no wig? Please vote.

---Boss George does it one last time. Grabs the back page and knocks the All Star Game right off.

---While most news services were reporting about George's death, the New York Mets medical staff was still listing him as "day-to-day."

---I was amused by the assholes on WFAN in New York as they discussed this "tragic death."

---For Pete's sake, he wasn't shot in a 7/11. The guy was 80 and had spent most of his life wearing size 52 waist pants.

---Gee, I feel even worse now for the still cooling Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard. Gets to heaven, turns around to look at the people behind him on line, and...

---"AW, FU-CK ME!"

---George finally got beat at his own game. Because, ultimately, the man upstairs holds the final option year.

---Unless, of course, the Devil has already opened up a spot on his 40-man roster.

---Yes, George could be going to Hell. But, God has announced that, starting with the 2013 season...

---Derek Jeter will be always introduced with a Bob Sheppard tape. Will future Yankee managers be terminated with a tape of George?

---"You're fired!"

---Wow, just when I thought there would be a Wednesday with nothing to write about...

---But, wait, there's more.

---Watching ESPN cover Sunday night's Dodger-Cub game, must they have a cameraman running around on the field to shoot everything? I literally saw some asshole with a hand-held run right behind James Loney after he hit a homerun.

---I would have loved to see Loney stop short so that the ESPN jerk would run right up his rectum.

---I skipped the Home Run Derby on ESPN. After all, they are going to rerun it another five hundred times in the next year.

---Where's my Steinbrenner tape?

---Cameraman? "You're fired!"

---The NAACP is back in the news. Hoo-ray! Calling the "tea party" movement a bunch of racists.

---Uh-huh. And what would you call the newly resurgent Black Panthers??? Here they are two years ago intimidating White voters at a polling place during the Presidential election.



---Who's a racist now???

---Meanwhile, genius Attorney General Eric Holder says these guys are okay to go.

---George?

---"You're fired!"

---Just checking, by the way. Shouldn't it now be the NAAAA? Because there is no such thing as CP?

---And, just so you know, the color of my shirt today? African-American.

---Welcome to America. George, the floor is all yours. Please speak to our society.

---"You're fired! You're all fired!"

---And the biggest winner at last night's All Star Game in Anaheim? George Takei.

---The guy was on two different commercials and did the voiceover on a third.

---Oh, my!

---And then, who do cameras show us sitting in the stands?

---Why, it's George Takei!

---Oh, my!

---Careful, Betty White. There is another C List retread nipping at your heels.

---If you have yet to make your summer vacation plans, Michelle Obummer invites everybody down to the Gulf, which it's still fun and safe. You'll love it, the Queen of Lye says.

---So, where is the First Family vacationing? In Maine.

Looking for my Steinbrenner tape one more time.

Dinner last night: Sausage and peppers sandwich.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Now Bat-ting...."

I was thrown a little bit while I sat at Sunday's Dodger game. Their longtime public address announcer, Eric Smith, was doing something completely different as he announced each batter. Usually, it's...

"Centerfield, Number 27, Matt Kemp."

The other day, it was suddenly...

"Centerfield, Number 27, Matt Kemp, Number 27."

The change, however slight, was jarring. He never says the uniform number twice. What gives?

And it took me a few batters to figure it out.

This was one baseball public address announcer's homage to perhaps the greatest baseball public address announcer ever to step before a microphone. The Yankees' own Bob Sheppard who had died earlier that day at the age of 99.

In a life where I filled myself with all sorts of New York Yankee hatreds, Bob Sheppard was never one of them. That voice and that resonance was unmistakable and had presided like a Pope over Yankee Stadium since 1951. Sheer class that turned a common baseball game into a religious experience.

Oh, sure, we've heard the way he majestically would introduce line-ups and players. Heck, there will be a lifetime recording of him doing it for Derek Jeter until the day the shortstop retires. But, even with normal stadium business, the man just exuded power. And perhaps even the wrath of God. Just listen to how he admonishes fans for unruly behavior.

That's enough to scare the Cracker Jacks out of you.

I remember when I worked at Yankee Stadium as a vendor. Sometimes, before game time, I'd try to make some extra bucks by hawking scorecards and yearbooks. As I was barking "Scorecards, scorecards, here," Sheppard was commanding over the loud speaker.

"...YAN-KEE YEAR-BOOKS AND SCORE-CARDS ARE AVAIL-ABLE AT....CON-CESSION STANDS...AND FROM STA-DI-UM VEN-DORS."

Meaning me. At the mere mention of this, Sheppard turned dozens of heads toward my direction. And I'd sell a bunch of them in minutes flat.

No piece from me that recalls Bob Sheppard is complete without this. A memory I've shared here before but it is apropos all over again.

The day Bob Sheppard's path crossed directly with mine.

Along with his duties at the Stadium for Yankee and Giant football games, Bob Sheppard was apparently a renowned speech professor. And one of his gigs was at St. John's University. This then morphed into Sheppard doing the PA at that school's football games. Okay, we're not talking the Big Ten here, folks. But, there he was. A booming voice covering every inch of a pretty chintzy football field.

Well, as luck would have it, Fordham was playing St. John's one crisp October Saturday afternoon. Perhaps 150 people were in attendance. Part of that throng was the WFUV-FM broadcast crew covering the game for Fordham. I was along for the ride, primarily because I was along for the ride. I was friends with the sports play-by-play guy and we were all going to a Ranger-Islander hockey game that night. My entire purpose at the football game was to stand quietly and out-of-the-way in the back of the tiny pressbox. In the booth next to us sat Bob Sheppard calling the results of each football play.

Now, there was a kid by the name of Steve on the Fordham Ram football team with a very long and convoluted Polish last name. The good news is that this running back didn't get into the game very often. But, when he did, our WFUV announcers got his last name dead-on. Why? Because I was an insider. Steve and I had been in French together the year before and were even study partners, so we were "class friends." More importantly, it made me a complete and thorough expert in the pronounciation of his last name which I dutifully share with my broadcast cohorts. Hell, I had to bring something to the party.

Around the fourth quarter that day, my language lesson buddy gets into the game at last. And even carries the ball for a couple of yards. Forward motion that is immediately reported over the loudspeaker by Mr. Sheppard.

"FORD-HAM FOUR YARD RUN BY STEVE........(totally butchered pronounciation of last name)."

Don't ask me why I did this. Perhaps I felt that I was the official spokesperson for this kid. But, that screw-up of his last name didn't sit well with me. I needed to step in. I yelled into Sheppard's booth the correct pronounciation. What the hell was I doing?

There was a ten second pause of eternal proportions. And then...

"COR-REC-TION. FORD-HAM FOUR YARD RUN BY STEVE...(totally correct pronounication of last name.)"

So there.

Bob Sheppard, you owed me one. But, in reality, baseball fans owed you millions. Thanks for everything.

Dinner last night: Sausage pizza at Maria's Italian Kitchen.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 12, 2010

I'm impressed...and horrified at the same time.



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


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Radio Home of the Mets

This station is now the "talk of New York." But, back when I was a kid listening to my beloved Mets on the radio, their home was at 970AM. WJRZ-AM in New Jersey.

Our Sunday Memory Drawer today opens with a little Len Speaks housekeeping. You might remember that I told you about my Dodger Think Cure auction bid win and that I will be somehow associated with the Dodger Talk post-game show one night. Well, that date has been confirmed for Thursday, August 5. I will send you all the appropriate links prior to that day.

Now, I'm not exactly sure what I will be doing with them. I know I'll watch the game from the press box. Beyond that, will I be on the air? Will I simply wear some headphones and wave to the non-viewing crowd when my name is mentioned on the air? Who knows? It's just a great reward for making my annual cancer research donation.

But, if I do get to have a moment on the air, I have one story all queued up to tell. And it's all about the only time in my life that I actually called a post-game baseball talk show.

I have digressed significantly. Let's time travel back to WJRZ-AM.

As a fledgling Met fan in my even more-fledgling youth, I had to depend upon the radio broadcasts more than ever. Not every game was telecast. Frequently, the big color Zenith TV in the living room was unavailable to me. And, if there was a West Coast start time, the transistor radio was on underneath my pillow until I was caught by the parental police force. WJRZ was my lifeline to the Mets. As faint as the signal was.

Indeed, WJRZ just added to my already burgeoning lack of baseball self-esteem. The Mets weren't the Yankees on the field. And, on the radio, the Mets' station wasn't the equal of the Yankees' flagship call letters. While the Bronx Pinstripes were on either WCBS or WHN with great personalities and musical formats, the Mets were broadcast from an antenna/coat hanger in Hackensack, New Jersey. I wanted to be a fan of my team's radio station, but it was a strain. Sometimes, you could hear it. Other times, the Mets might as well been broadcast on Radio Free Europe. The team's games came equipped with a steady and persistent hum.

To make matter even worse, I longed to identify with the music offered by WJRZ. Except it was country. Oh, not the hip, smart country music of today with the electric likes of Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw. Nope, this was the guitar-picking, straw-sucking, shoe-shedding country music of the hills. Every other song was sung by Eddy Arnold.

"Make the world goooooo awaaaaaaaaay!"

When it came to this station, I really wanted to. Make the world go away. The Mets were sloppy seconds again, and, as a result, so was I. Surely, nobody in my neighborhood would be caught dead listening to WJRZ nightly.

I was caught dead listening to WJRZ nightly.

The super down-home and folksy baseball coverage of the Mets was anchored in pre-game and post-game shows by one of the WJRZ deejays, a kindly sounding man named Bob Brown. In retrospect, he was probably in his forties at the time, but he sounded like your grandfather. Imagine what it would sound like if your pastor was doing a sports talk show.

There was nothing edgy about Bob Brown and his Met shows. His personality came across as slow and methodical. He even had an odd way to pronounce some Met player names which a friend at my school lunch table used to mimic.

"Art Shaaaammmmmmsky."

The phone calls Bob took were also of the rather boring variety. There was nothing ever contentious about his shows. No arguing. No disputes. No pulse, really.

And then there were his on-air contests, most notably the one offering your opportunity to be "Met Manager of the Day." Bob would dig into the previous season's archives and find a strategic moment in the game. He would tell the designated on-the-phone contestant what the game situation was. For instance, the Mets are down by a run in the seventh inning at home. Tommie Agee is on first base and Cleon Jones is at the plate. What does the manager ask Cleon to do?

A. Bunt to sacrifice.

B. Hit and run.

C. Swing away.

Okay, in today's internet world, this contest doesn't work. Because all a listener would have to do is access Retrosheet.com and look up the box score for the game in question. There would be no way you could lose.

But, in Bob Brown's day, there was also no way you could lose. Because he wouldn't let you. If you gave the wrong choice as your guess, Bob would lead you away from it.

"You don't want to do that."

If your second guess was also wrong...

"You don't want to do that."

Bob wouldn't stop until you cornered the right response which would then be validated by the play-by-play tape of that game.

Everybody was a winner in Bob Brown's world. Your prize?

A Dairy Queen Dilly Bar.

I repeat...

A Dairy Queen Dilly Bar.

I never entered to be a contestant. There wasn't a Dairy Queen within twenty miles of my Mount Vernon home address.

Inexplicably, Bob Brown and I would soon have a direct encounter. On the day the Mets won the 1969 World Series. This was euphoria for me. I had stayed home from school to watch the impending victory in Game 5. I was vindicated at last as a baseball fan.

As Cleon Jones clutched the ball for the final out, I needed to share this with somebody. Anybody. Mom was at work. Dad was at work. Grandma was home, but she was having her daily check-in with "General Hospital." My dog Tuffy was napping under the bed.

I ran outside and scooted up the block to gloat amongst my Yankee fan buddies. No one was around. I was immensely gleeful but sadly alone.

I went back into the house and tuned into WJRZ. Well, at least, I could stretch out the personal victory party a little longer by listening to Bob Brown's post-game show. And, then, a lightbulb...

I should call him and get on the air.

By now, I knew the drill. I knew the studio call-in number. I knew you had to turn down your radio. I just had never bothered to call before.

Back in those days, there wasn't even a call screener. You simply waited for your ringing signal to get picked up by Bob Brown himself. My first few attempts got me the nasty buzzy beep. But, suddenly, it was ringing. And, then...

"Hello, this is Bob Brown and you're on the air."

Er....................

I was one of those cute little adorable voices you hear on call-in shows today. Precious to a fault. Somehow, I stumbled through some congratulatory message to the New York Mets. As if the team was actually listening to me. Bob asked me if I had a question.

And I crossed the line.

"Bob, do you think the Mets will trade for a new third baseman because they can't go another season with Ed Charles and Wayne Garrett?"

Or something like that. I was now the typical asshole caller of any sports talk show. The Mets' victory in the World Series wasn't even an hour old and I was suggesting they dismantle part of the line-up for the next season.

My moronic question had also achieved the impossible. It made the kindly and almost saintly Bob Brown mad.

"Are you kidding, young man? You can't simply enjoy today's win. You're already worried about next year?"

Or something like that. I, of course, am paraphrasing. But Bob's anger came through loud and clear.

Click.

And so ended my one and only time to call a sports talk show. If I get the chance, I will tell that tale on Dodger Talk. But, if I don't, well, whoop, there it is.

Dinner last night: Cheese, crackers, fruit, and other wonderful snacks at the Hollywood Bowl. Thank you, Leo and Connie.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Classic TV Commercial of the Month - July 2010

Ann Miller selling soup!!!!! Supposedly, this was one of the most expensive commercials ever produced.


Dinner last night: Polish sausage at the Dodger game.


Friday, July 9, 2010

The 2010 Emmy Nominations - Kneejerk Reactions

Well, they've announced the 2010 Emmy nominations and now there are folks in Hollywood who are already trying to book their tanning sessions for the week before the August 29 award ceremony. Wait till these knuckleheads realize there's now a tax on those salons. That should get liberal Hollywood off the Obama bandwagon once and for all.

The actual PDF document that contains the nominations is 67 pages long and it will take me two months just to read them all. Trust me, if you simply sort out the doughnuts for Craft Services, there is probably an Emmy category for you. "Best Coordination of Sprinkled and Chocolate Pastries - Drama Series." It's apparently so easy to get an Emmy that I'm surprised they're not available at 99 Cent Stores.

As I tried to sift through the pile of nominations, several jumped out and put their hands around my windpipe. Little bizarro factoids that just add to the notion that this entire process is inexplicable.

---"Nurse Jackie" cleaned up with a bunch of nominations in the Comedy Series category. Okay, now I like this show, but I would argue that it's hardly a laugh riot. Let's face it, the lead character is a philanderer, a drug addict, and a compulsive liar. That's not like the old days when Lucy Ricardo was simply trying to get into Ricky's act at the Tropicana. While there are comedic overtones to this series, it falls clearly more on the side of drama.

---In the Outstanding Comedy Series category, "Nurse Jackie" again shows up and please see my aforementioned contention. But, these days, you also have the quirk that an hour-long show like "Glee," which really is impossible to categorize, qualifies against five other half-hour shows. You get twice as much time to impress voters. "Modern Family," the darling of Hollywood and also reportedly a show that is able to cure cancer in small children, is the frontrunner here. Oddly, after an absence of several years, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is nominated for their super-clever season tying in the Seinfeld reunion episodes.

---For the first time ever, I look at the Best Drama category and realize I don't watch any of the shows. "Breaking Bad?" Nope. "Dexter?" Saw it once and hated it. "The Good Wife?" I'm usually brushing my teeth. "Lost?" After the first five episodes, I was. "Mad Men?" Perhaps the most over-rated and over-written show in TV history. "True Blood? Who cares. Where the hell are "Lou Grant" and "St. Elsewhere" when you really need them?

---Well, who the heck is shocked by this? Betty White has been nominated for her hosting stint on SNL. Emmy voters, can you be any more obvious? Please! Leave the lady alone. Let her sit home for an evening with her fluffy slippers and a Lean Cuisine. You know she's going to win. If nothing else, Hollywood is always totally predictable in its predictability.

---While Jon Cryer and Holland Taylor got nominated for their work on "Two and A Half Men," Charlie Sheen did not for the first time in four years. I guess the Academy doesn't want to look out at a sea of black tuxedoes and see a single orange jump suit.

---The fabulous Jim Parsons was the only regular cast member from "The Big Bang Theory" to score a nomination. The show is not even up for Best Comedy Series. Where is the love? Meanwhile, Tony Shalhoub receives his 75th Emmy nomination for Best Actor in "Monk," a show which I don't believe really exists.

---Amongst all the acting categories, I see the same names over and over. I think Candice Bergen got it right during the "Murphy Brown" years. After a while, she just said "stop nominating me" and removed her name from submission.

---In a complete "fuck you" to Jay Leno, the Academy nominated the Conan O'Brien version of the "Tonight Show" for Outstanding Variety Show. More people probably saw the DVD screeners of those episodes than actually watched the show on the air. Yeah, we hear you, Hollywood dopes, you're siding with Conan. And what you all don't know is that he is one of the biggest bastards working in TV today.

---Well, the Obama bandwagon still has at least one tire still intact. That goofy HBO documentary on his campaign got nominated for something. Outstanding Non-Fiction Special, I think. Except now everybody realizes most of it really was made up...

---As always, the list of writer nominations for all the late night shows looks like the phone directory of the Harvard alumni society.

---Heidi Klum got nominated for Best Reality Host. And, yes, that movement you just felt was the earth slipping a little bit off its axis.

---Who knew? There is now a category for Best Commercial? One of the nominees is that asshole from the Old Spice Body Wash ads. You know, that barely-dressed Black guy on the horse. Some snarky Emmy producer will probably suggest he accept the award dressed the same way. See how predictable they can be? You read it here first.

Good luck to all the nominees. As usual, I'll be home with Chinese take-out.

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Sights and Sounds - Fireworks Over Dodger Stadium

Can't get enough pyrotechnics even if it's several days after the Fourth of July? Here's what we saw the other night at Dodger Stadium. Your cinematographer? Moi.

Everytime I see fireworks in the sky, I hear the same thing in my head over and over and over.

"JACKIE GLEASON!"

"THE HONEYMOONERS WITH ITS STARS..."

"ART CARNEY!"

"AUDREY MEADOWS!"

"AND JOYCE RANDOLPH!"





Dinner last night: Lemon chicken and spinach risotto.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NObama Wednesday

Today's Wednesday rant comes with a little bit of a preamble.

Over the course of this blog, I have had repeated comments from several readers who tell me that I go a little too hard on President Obummer. I counter with the retort that they have no real benchmark because he is the only President this blogger has known. Since I pretty much have contempt for all politicians, any President would be a target for me.

And just to prove that, I will make no Obummer references today. But, I will take on every other President I can think of. This will be as if Len Speaks is writing in 1915. My guess is that the computer back then would be a tad slower.

---And, speaking of Woodrow Wilson, our President had a stroke and lived.

---Natalie Wood didn't have a stroke and died. Makes no sense to me.

---Wilson wants to put together a League of Nations. I'm all for it as long as there's no designated hitter.

---This just in from Mrs. Teddy Roosevelt: "I'm the one who can tell you why he's called a Rough Rider."

---Does Abe Lincoln ever get asked if he's Jewish?

---I mean, the last name could have been changed. And really, in some of those portraits, you can see where his hair might have suffered "Yamulke Head."

---We told you, Mr. Lincoln, you should have spent the extra money for the orchestra seat.

---From the Stupid Question Department: "Does anybody have the zipcode for Lincoln's Gettysburg address?"

---There are crappy TV shows that lasted longer than Warren G. Harding's presidency.

---Grover Cleveland? Such a great American that they named a city and a Muppet after him.

---James Polk? Anybody?

---Our next spokesperson for Jenny Craig? President William Howard Taft. Because when President Taft sits around the White House, he sits around the White House.

---I wonder if it was called the Oval Office before Taft got elected.

---Oxymoronic News Headline of the Week: FDR "running" for another term.

---Does Roosevelt realize this isn't a civil service job? If he wanted employment for life, what about the DMV?

---Come on, FDR, can you at least get Eleanor to try Invisalign?

---Meanwhile, you just know that Mamie Eisenhower is a fox. I don't buy all that stuff about her teetering and tottering because of an inner ear infection. The woman has a regular hourly appointment with Jim Beam.

---Why did Truman remove General McArthur so quickly? High pitch count? A lefty coming up?

---Trust me, General McArthur, you were better off in Korea where you did have to listen to Margaret Truman playing the piano.

---When people look at the 1929 stock market crash, everybody exclaimed that Hoover sucked.

---Well, is there any better marketing slogan for a vacuum cleaner company?

---Benjamin Harrison? Anybody?

---For those who tell me that President Clinton doesn't care where he sleeps...




---Meanwhile, the only way Bill ever stains Hillary's dress is if he spills mustard on it.

---Cue the Dick Van Dyke Show theme for this new sitcom starring President Ford.


---You will note that it was the sober one who couldn't make it down the stairs.

---Er, Betty, just how dark was the lighting in that hat shop?

---There are so many women on their knees in the John F. Kennedy Oval Office you would think it was the opening scenes of "The Sound of Music."

---You know. Maria. All the nuns. Oh, never mind.

---Zachary Taylor. Please! Anybody?

---Do you think the lost eighteen minutes of Nixon will make it onto the special features of the DVD?

---This just in from Pat Nixon: "I can tell you how they named him Tricky Dick."

---Message for President Carter's mother Lillian: "Your new teeth are ready and this time we used maple."

---I have a few idiot friends who voted for Carter because he gave them "a good feeling."

---Er, that would be called a handjob.

---First Lady Nancy Reagan tells us to "just say no."

---This just in from President Ronald Reagan: "And I can tell you how that saying got started."

---The way those two George W. Bush kids drive, you would think they were Asian.

---And now that I write that, I'm guessing he's thinking back to his days at Yale.

---"Who was that girl that delivered the subgum duck and fried rice the night before my finals?"

And next Wednesday, we move from jokes about all the White Presidents to jokes about all the Black ones.

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