Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Noshing On The Emmys

The 62nd annual Emmy Awards were held on Sunday and we turn to our two favorite old Hollywood veterans, Saul and Hesse, as they kibitz about the telecast.

"Did you watch?"

"I was so confused. The Emmys were on at the same time as the Chabad telethon."

"No, no, no. They showed the Emmys live for once. None of that tape delay nonsense. You can doze earlier. Like an afternoon nap."

"I still did that thing with the Teebow. Skip all the commercials for all that new dead air premiering on NBC."

"How come a show saluting excellent television is always the worst program of the year."

"They showed a clock on the screen that told you if the show was running over. They wouldn't happen if Bud Collyer was in charge."

"The show was already running late a week ago."

"I tell you. The Emmys, not like the old days. When you'd get all dolled up and then head to the bar and listen to Betty White tell dirty jokes."

"She was there. Betty's never home anymore. She must have lost her house keys."

"Oy. Betty, enough already. Have you got a Kindle to read? Always making the schlep out. It's okay to watch on the couch with a tuna melt. Art's Deli delivers."

"Who was that pisher that was the host?

"Jimmy Fallon. He has a late night show on NBC."

"I haven't watched since Johnny was fooling around with Suzie Pleshette. God bless both of them."

"That Fallon was as funny as an enema with Drano. Running around in that white dinner jacket, playing his guitar. What? He's Trini Lopez?"

"And not even any good songs. Lemon tree, very pretty, yada, yada. Nothing!"

"The rabbis on Chabad carried a tune better."

"Jimmy was making all these jokes about twitting. Please, stop. Not everybody is playing with the computers all day."

"I still haven't figured out that, when somebody mentions a browser, they're not talking about my wife at Fred Segal's.

"Did you see Tom Hanks waddling around? He won for that Pacific thing. A little chubbsey, ubbsey, heh?"

"And the wife also not so fast to close up the bag of Funyons."

"What's Tom going to do with himself when he runs out of wars?"

"Maybe he can come to my house and watch me fight with my crazy housekeeper. I caught her down in the kitchen. Dancing with a Swifter mop and singing "Mr. Big Stuff.'"

"Who was that rodeo clown they kept showing in the audience?"

"No, no, that was somebody from a movie on HBO. Temple Grandin."

"That the synagogue on Wilshire?"

"No, no, that's her name. She did something with animals. And she's got autism."

"Autism? Is that with the feet?"

"You need to look it up on the world wide web.."

"I told you. I don't like the AOL."

"Who was that lunatic that was babbling all through her acceptance speech?"

"Julia Ormond."

"Tomato, tomatoe. Have my secretary call for a car that will take her back to Mars."

"Lady, you won an award for acting. You didn't find Jimmy Hoffa under your bed."

"Did you see that nice kid won for the Big Bang Theory?"

"Jim Parsons. Good for him. When I close my eyes, he reminds me of Tony Randall in 'Oh Men, Oh Women.'"

"So many of the others I had no clue who they were. There was somebody named January Jones?"

"That was a Shirley Temple movie, right?"

"I ask my grandkids who all these people are and they tell me to look on Facebook. I got no time to read another magazine."

"They gave George Clooney some Bob Hope award."

"Did George go to Vietnam with Joey Heatherton?

"No, I think he was schlepping around Haiti."

"With Joey Heatherton?"

"Nobody's seen her for years."

"I think we saw her at Jerry's Deli last month."

"No, you're thinking of Jamie Farr."

"Okay, him, I didn't schtupp."

"And did you see all those commercials about Oprah's last year? All those old clips."

"First, there's five chins. Then, there's two. Then, there's six. Oprah, meet the Amazing Randi."

"I won't be happy till she disappears altogether."

"Soon, she'll be forgotten. Just like Virginia Graham when she stopped doing 'Girl Talk.'"

"Why do we watch this shit every year? All we ever do is bitch, moan, and groan."

"Yeah, but I even donated money this year."

"To the Emmys?"

"No, the Chabad telethon. Aw, crap, I made the check out wrong. I get so confused."

Dinner last night: Chicken tenders at Islands.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 30, 2010

The perfect video laugh. It works for both cat lovers and cat haters.

Dinner last night: Chicken in pesto sauce with pasta.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer Redux - Me and Rosemary Clooney

Let's chill with another summer rerun. The Best of Len Speaks. And a birthday multi-years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was no reservation in my name.


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

Still nothing. Sorry.

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


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

Happy birthday to me. And a glorious Fuck You from the Rainbow Room.

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

I got ugly.

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

Yeah, I didn't care.

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

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

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

And we were standing there alongside Rosemary Clooney!

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

Me: "Have a great show."

Rosemary: "I'm a little nervous."

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

And Harry Crosby is in my original seats.

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

And off she went for an hour of musical nirvana.

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

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

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

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

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

It really was my birthday!

Dinner last night: Roast beef panini at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Classic TV Theme of the Month - August 2010

Dig that list of "special guest stars in alphabetical order."

Dinner last night: Chicken and pasta salad from California Chicken Cafe.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bad Yearbook Photos

If you wanted to see what Georgia Engel would look like as a male...

And he's also a rake.

Canon has introduced the first combination digital camera/tazer.

Voted "Most Likely to Swallow a Fly in this Photo Session."

Right after graduation, there was a rewarding career as a busboy at Medieval Times.

Her head is an apartment complex for split ends.

Lips or glasses? Which are bigger? You decide.

You think this kid's school was in a very, er, urban area? I wonder how the hair-do looks after this dude has been stuffed in a gym locker.

Dinner last night: Cervelat sandwich.

Moron of the Month - August 2010

Truth be told, this jerk should have been the Moron of the Month in April, when the incident originally happened. But it took until August for the courts to throw his ass in jail, so we might as well honor him now.

The shithead's name is Matthew Clemmens, but, to me, he is representative of a whole group of morons that can be classified under an umbrella title.

The Philadelphia Phillies fan.

Look at what he's wearing in his delightful mug shot. That's the Majestic logo on what appears to be some form of Phillie wardrobe. It's terrific that this absolutely vile baseball franchise is being represented in its rightful place. In some Pennsyvlania prison.

What Matthew Clemmens did was get into a skirmish at a Phillie game back in April. To put the exclamation point on the fracas, this neanderthal put his finger down his throat and tapped a lavaflow of vomit that landed on an 11-year-old girl. What are the odds that some of the assholes who saw this happen in person applauded him like he was one of those plate spinners on the Ed Sullivan Show?

The louts that inhabit Citizens Bank Ballpark are all the same and have been for years. Am I painting with the broadest of brush strokes? You bet your Benjamin Moore color wheel. But, frankly, I've never heard or see the kind of exemplary behavior that refutes this claim. Let's face it, the Philadelphia Phillie fan is such a despicable slob that they probably look at Flintstone cartoons and consider them futuristic. Anybody who even chuckles at the antics of the Phillie Phanatic is immediately incarcerated in my society.

I've never been to their newest asylum, but I previously made some visits to the Phillies' former home known as the Vet. This cookie-cutter stadium of the 70s resembled a toilet bowl and the connection to the fans there couldn't have been more apropos. All I can remember from my games there was bad language and plenty of it. There was bad grammar, to boot. If you're going to use profanity, at least you should get the verb tenses correctly. When they finally imploded this dump, my biggest regret is that they didn't do smack in the middle of Fan Appreciation Day.

I've heard from a good friend who took his two children to one of the World Series games there last year. Okay, during the Fall Classic, you're going to see a mix of fans from both teams. So, my friends and his kids thought they were safe rooting for the visiting New York Yankees. Not so much. The experience was gutteral and the children spent the entire car ride asking for specific definitions to very choice words.

Two years ago, I was entering Dodger Stadium for the 2008 NLCS playoffs against the same Phillies. In the parking lot, I spotted a couple of chimps wearing red and swinging from the Chavez Ravine palm trees. Piecing together the few coherent words, their team was going to do to the Dodgers what an overworked prostitute has done to her several times a night. In a rare moment of unclarity, I decided to engage one of them in a conversation. I reminded them of one of the more infamous Phillie fan legends.

"Your fans booed Santa Claus!"

Bonzo responded without skipping a beat.

"Yeah, but only once."

It was the Philadelphia Phillie fanbase that prompted a momentous decision in my life. When I publicly announced prior to last year's World Series that I, for the first time ever, was rooting for the New York Yankees.

That's how much I hate these cretins.

Dinner last night: German salami sandwich.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Date in History - August 25

It's suddenly summer here in Los Angeles. I wonder if it was as hot on these August 25ths.


The score was 2-1 and the soccer match was just repeated on ESPN Really, Really Classic.


They practiced with him by spying on the naked chick in the next building. Eventually, this led to the invention of the Venetian Blinds.


So, who was the knucklehead that bothered to rebuild it?


If you ask me, it's pretty stupid to have a war solely based on chocolate.


No clue. But I dig the symmetry. Sun, moon. Get it?


Years later, we can't eat eggs. We've come a long way, baby.


And how long did we have to wait for somebody to invent those beaded cushions that drivers sit on?


One day later, we see the invention of the litterbug.


Still going strong at 89, he obviously picked Door #2.


Obviously, this is a popular date with game show hosts.


Now there's a day in history I wish we could do over.


And they haven't run on time since.


They must have lowered the annual dues.


Liquor stores all over Massachusetts dim their lights in his memory.

Dinner last night: Grilled sausage and beet salad.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sleepless in Los Angeles

A note to those of you east of Los Angeles: that sudden cool breeze you felt on Sunday was not a Canadian cold front. That was our city exhaling.

You probably heard the news already. Vin Scully is returning in 2011 for his 62nd (!!!!) year as Dodger broadcaster.

Oh, wow, I typed that and exhaled all over again.

The release of that news was not as easy as it sounds. Indeed, waiting to hear it was akin to wondering if Sputnik I had passed over the United States without destroying the nation with nuclear weaponry.

It had unfolded so innocently.

I was driving home Saturday night from a dinner and theater date with some friends. The Dodgers had wrapped up a victory on the car radio. That's big news in itself these days. Dodger Talk co-host Josh Suchon was doing a post-game interview with Dodger hitting star-of-the-game Jay Gibbons. And the final question was...

What did Gibbons think about the fact that, on Sunday morning, Vin Scully would be making an announcement about his future?


I turned up the radio several decibels as if a louder noise was going to provide me with more information.

This was what we have been dreading for years. The big Dodger Blue elephant in the closet. Vin was going to finalize a finality.

This was the last year of his current contract. The man is in his early 80s. The Dodgers can't get more than two runs per game. Why wouldn't this be an ideal time for Vin Scully to retire?


It was incomprehensible. Inevitability suddenly seemed so unpredictable. I flashed back to just two weeks before. I had met Vin Scully myself. Was this the tipping point for his decision? Would I get blamed for this?

As per usual, I tuned into my Dodger ports in a storm. My former Dodger Talk co-hosts, Ken Levine and Josh Suchon, to inject some sense into the senseless. Just kidding, guys. Right? Right?


Ken and Josh were just as numb as I was. And knew nothing more than what was already reported.

Earlier that night, Vin had made an off-handed remark to a member of the press corps. He had decided what he was going to do for the future. There would be an announcement on Sunday morning. He owed it to the Dodgers to not make a comment before then.

This certainly didn't sound like Vin had renewed his Costco membership.

I was home by now and still tuned to Dodger Talk. We were all grasping at straws. From the sound of the callers, the uneasiness had spread from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Lake Tahoe. I personally subscribed to Ken Levine's hypothesis. Vin had always said that, if he was to retire, he would do it quietly. With little fanfare and certainly not a farewell tour. If Vin were to announce his retirement on August 22, there would be six weeks left of a dismal baseball season. Plenty of time for a good ole Irish wake. And a farewell tour that would rival the dozen or so that Barbra Streisand has already gone on. I liked Ken's reasoning best. That smelled right. I went to bed. Lights off.

And couldn't sleep.

My mind kept sprinting ahead to Sunday morning and the sadness that might envelop us all. I wanted to process and couldn't. Somehow, I needed to get some thoughts down that would be used to comfort me.

Lights on.

I went to my cyber psychologist. The Blogger Dashboard that provides you with this nonsense every single day.

I wrote about the unique bond that a fan has with the perfect baseball announcer. For me, there was a childhood with those special guys in the New York Met radio and TV booths. Messrs Nelson, Kiner, and Murphy. The comfort and solace and joy they gave me summer night after night. When Lindsey Nelson had scooted off on September Saturdays to do a college football game, there was a piece missing to my world and the Met broadcasts didn't sound correct.

I remembered the pain I felt when that Met triumverate was broken up. But, eventually, there was more good times. Messrs Kiner, Zabriskie, and McCarver. Wonderful broadcasts that engaged Met fans so completely. Baseball discussions that turned my own mother into a fan of the sports she had sneered at all through my youth.

I wrote about Vin and those fans who had similar relationships with him here in Los Angeles since 1958. I suddenly felt cheated that I had only had him in my world since 1997 when I moved to Los Angeles. What had I missed all those years?

But, I thought about those thirteen years when a New York baseball fan was transported to another time zone and another baseball franchise. When the Dodgers began to be more important to me and the Mets a little less. And all the nights I came home from what appeared to be an uncertain career move and immersed myself into verbal literature as essayed by baseball's poet laureate himself. Vin steered me through a lot of evenings of self doubt. By simply and expertly taking my mind off it for nine innings.

I saved it all for posterity and figured that I would run the blog postmortem today. Instead, you are getting this. By Sunday morning, we learned that Vin Scully indeed still loves this game and won't leave it for at least another year. He apologized for the hysterity that had ensued from the misquotes and missteps in the press box. A classic "whoops" just like when he told me about that ball that had gone through Bil Buckner's legs in 1986. He was sorry if he had given anybody a sleepless night.

No worries, Vin. Welcome back!

As for the missed sleep, I was able to make it up by taking a long nap at the Dodger game on Sunday afternoon.

Dinner last night: Sausage and olive pizza from Maria's Italian Kitchen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 23, 2010

Still missing "Everybody Loves Raymond." More laughs in this less-than-a-minute clip than in 30 minutes of "The Office." I'm just saying.

Dinner last night: Salisbury steak at the Cheesecake Factory.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer Redux - Cool Summer Reading

August has been kicking in with some heat, so let's cool off with this entry from the summer of 2007.
I can tell you that, as a kid, the months of July and August always prompted some voracious reading on my part. There was always something different about diving into a book when you didn't have to as opposed to when it was assigned to you by some nutty seventh grade English teacher. All those designated "must-reads" ever did was promote the opportunities to make sport of the titles.

Silly Ass Marner.

Great Expectorations.

And the boys locker room classic: A Sale of Two Titties.

Reading on hot and humid nights was a completely different thing, though. I couldn't wait to hit a book around 9PM and go till about 12 Midnight. Even then, my reading preference tended to be more film and sports biographies. I would attack a novel from time to time. Usually, if some best seller was being made into a movie for summer release, I would race to finish the book before seeing the film. I remember vividly the breakneck speed at which I finished "The Godfather." And, for this innocent youngster, Page 27 was more education than I ever needed.

But, the simple act of nightly reading was not the complete nirvana. I had another bizarre ritual that went along with it hand-in-hand.

I did not grow up in central air conditioning. Far from it. We had one room that was air conditioned. The living room. The rest of the house was up for murky grabs. The only cooling process was this huge window fan in the kitchen. Now, my father had this scientific procedure that managed to effectively cool the whole house by simply shutting some doors. The fan drew a healthy breeze from all other open windows and, voila, a cool night for all.

I loved the sound of that fan. Especially when it was on high. For me, it was akin to listening to the roar of the ocean. The fan in the kitchen was situated right next to a china closet. And there is where my summer nightly reading took place. With a tensor lamp and me wedged in between the fan and the china closet with a good book. It was almost like my own private little cave.

To this day, the sound of an electric fan does a little more than just comfort me. It blows me right back to Don Corleone, Rhett and Scarlett, and a biography of Charlie Chaplin.

And that is way too cool.

Dinner last night: Roast pork and sauerkraut at Bistro Provence in Burbank.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - August 2010

Connie Francis eventually found out where they were. Hiding in a closet in a Westbury Howard Johnson's motel.

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Your Weekend Movie Guide for August 2010

Well, this looks like a bizarre double feature. In reality, this photo was taken after the Loews New Rochelle Theater was savagely carved up into two screens. Another childhood movie house disemboweled for no good reason.

Meanwhile, in present day Movieland, things are no better this summer as we are subjected to the worst summer crop of films ever. You know the monthly drill. I'll scout the LA Times movie pages to see if there's anything out there worth your time.

Salt: It's better for your blood pressure...and your eyes if you skip this one.

Flipped: Rob Reiner, who regularly sits right below me at Dodger Stadium, badly needs a hit film. This coming-of-age movie has a shot at my money.

The Kids Are All Right: You read it here earlier. Embrace the children. Lock out the parents. An overhyped mess.

The Tillman Story: A documentary on that ASU/NFL player killed in Iraq. Now, how am I supposed to write something funny about this???

Mao's Last Dancer: A young boy in China becomes a classical dancer. Surprise, surprise. The cast list includes Bruce Greenwood and Kyle MacLachlan. English is spoken here. So I don't have to look up the Chinese translation for "boring."

Eat Pray Love: Avoid. Does anybody remember when Julia Roberts was guaranteed box office dollars? Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the American Dental Association's version of this. Rinse Spit Repeat.

The Other Guys: Every summer, there has to be at least one Will Ferrell movie that I need to ignore.

Dinner for Schmucks: Because, every summer, there has to be at least one Steve Carell/Paul Rudd movie I need to ignore. Meanwhile, Vin Scully has been doing live read promos for this during Dodger games. There's something very wrong hearing Vin use the word "schmucks" in a sentence.

Tales from Earthsea: Some Japanese anime about dragons. Don't tell me they're endangering them, too???

The Expendables: As the ad reads --- Stallone Statham Li Lundgren Couture Austin Crews Rourke Willis and...Not Me.

Despicable Me: This blog on certain days of the week.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector: So, am I reading this correctly? The record producer once met Michelangelo?

Peepli Live: When I was in the third grade, we used to call it "number 2."

Toy Story 3: And you're waiting for what?

Cats and Dogs - The Revenge of Kitty Galore: Does this provoke a lawsuit from Ian Fleming's estate? Talking dogs and cats. Nothing annoyed my grandmother more.

Get Low: Robert Duvall once again plays some peckerwood badly in need of a bath. I smell a trend. Literally.

Vampires Suck: You open yourself up badly if you put a word like that in your movie title.

Piranha 3D: Now this is one I can sink my teeth into.

Nanny McPhee Returns: You mean there was a first time??

A Film Unfinished: With a title like that, why should I bother?

Lottery Ticket: A kid in the projects is the big winner with the scratches. Starring Bow Wow and I never miss one of his movies.

The Switch: Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in a comedy of mishaps by a sperm donor. Given this and the absurdity that occurs in "The Kids Are All Right," I am thinking these sperm banks are manned by nothing but college interns.

Cairo Time: Patricia Clarkson in a romance set in a foreign land. I'm supposing this isn't Cairo, Illinois.

Cyrus: That Jonah Hill lingers like a bad sinus infection.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Just so you know, this isn't about the first Thanksgiving.

Step Up 3D: I'll be staying home in 4B.

Ramona and Beezus: I'm still in shock that it took almost fifty years to bring these stories to the silver screen. Many years too late for the book report I needed to deliver.

The Extra Man: Kevin Kline is in this, which means the movie audience will be one man short. Me.

Middle Men: Based on a true story on how adult entertainment is sold on the Internet. Hopefully, my credit card has not been used in the film.

Inception: Scroll back to Tuesday and you'll get a rough idea on how that went.

Grown Ups: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, Kevin James, and Hardly.

The A-Team: Mostly C-list.

Charlie St. Cloud: Zac Efron keeps seeing his dead kid brother. Truth be told, there's never a good time for a ghostly sighting.

Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work: You still haven't? After you've finally caught up with "Toy Story 3," you need to see this terrific documentary.

Dinner last night: Chicken and pasta salad from California Chicken Cafe.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What About a Joe Torre Farewell Tour?

Bobby Cox, who's been managing the Atlanta Braves since the book of Leviticus was still in hard cover, is retiring at the end of this season. And it looks like his team will give him one last shot at postseason glory.

Meanwhile, Major League baseball teams have gone out of their way to honor Bobby as he passes through their cities one last time. The Dodger fans accorded him a standing ovation. The Houston Astros presented Cox with a cowboy hat that made him look a lot like Walter Brennan in "Stagecoach." As an appreciative gesture for being a worthy competitor all these years, the New York Mets offered to give him pitcher Oliver Perez, but Bobby wisely declined.

At the same time, Lou Piniella, currently at the helm for the Chicago Cubs, is also headed toward the AARP database this fall and he is getting accolades as well. He'll probably wind up back in some car dealership where, in a fit of rage, he will overturn a Smart Car.

It's "Goodbye Time" for these guys who have put together quite the managing careers.

And then there's Joe Torre...

The three year contract with the Dodgers is up. It appears at this writing that Joe's long playoff streak is over. The one-year renewal he was trying to negotiate last spring was put on hold as Joe probably worried that owner Frank McCourt was going to do away with annual salaries and put everybody on commissions as if they are selling mens' shoes at Nordstrom's.

Needless to say, nobody really knows what Joe is going to do, except that he will say so sometime in September.

Of course, that doesn't stop the baseball pundits who have got it all figured out. He's going to replace Lou in Chicago. He's going to get Cox' job in Atlanta. He's headed back to the Mets to stick it to Brian Cashman in the confines of his hometown. It's all conjecture and the only rumor we can really dismiss is the one where he replaces Kara DioGuardi on the American Idol judging panel.

Okay, let's think about this. One could argue that Joe is up there in age. But, as they tell us every day on "Oprah," 70 is the new 60. At the same time, he is a cancer survivor and I would imagine that ordeal is always on his mind. He might need another year of Matt Kemp like he needs another biopsy by his urologist.

For those goofballs who are of the mindset that Joe will apply for every managerial job short of the frozen food department at Gelson's, there is another factor that may deter Joe from simply moving to another city.

His teenage daughter.

I've heard from folks in the know that his kid had a really hard time relocating to the West Coast from Westchester, NY. But, she got involved in a great school situation here and now loves, loves, loves it in the Pacific Time Zone. Is this a consideration for Joe? I am guessing it's a major one. And, let's face it, some other club won't be looking to hire him for just one year. Another team would be at least a two-year commitment. There goes the junior and senior proms.

Now, Dodger fans are quite polarized when it comes to Joe Torre. Many have felt that he really isn't a Dodger and is simply like that efficiency expert the home office sends to jumpstart employee morale in Yakkapukka, Iowa. Some appreciate the class and demeanor he brought to the team after two years of management under Pa Kettle. Others are already in line to help Joe put his toiletries into a small plastic bag for the carry-on he will hopefully be flying with tomorrow.

Me? I've had issues with the way he handles a bullpen, but who's ever watched Joe Torre and didn't? There were times this season where I was convinced that Joe was even calling Ramon Troncoso to come over and clean out the gutters in his pool. Ultimately, you can argue with any manager anywhere. I still have appreciated what he has done here. And, honestly, do we really want Joe Torre to end his Hall-of-Fame managing career with Jonathan Broxton standing dejected on a mound in Philadelphia?

I thought Joe didn't really know what he was going to do until I heard his recent comments. He said he wouldn't announce his decision until the Dodgers were mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt. At this rate, that might happen by Labor Day. And that sets up a very Ingmar Bergman-esque scenario for the last weeks of the season. When a manager gets a good look at some rookies that will never play for him again.

Still, I think somebody needs to step in and talk him into one more year in Chavez Ravine. There should be agreement that April 2011 should be the start of the Joe Torre Farewell Tour. Give him one more year in Dodger Blue and hope it's a good one. Let the guy take his final bows in baseball stadiums all over the nation. Let him get that standing ovation in San Francisco. Let him get that Indian headdress in Atlanta. And allow him to turn down Oliver Perez when the Mets offer him up again.

Joe Torre needs to leave the game with the same class and dignity he brought to it.

Even better, Bigelow Green Tea gets to stay in business one more year. Anybody who listens to Dodger games on the radio will know from what I speak.

Dinner last night: Short ribs at the poolside restaurant in downtown LA's Marriott Hotel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This Day in History: August 18

This is a statue of Augustus Caesar, who apparently started the month as a bridge between July and September and a reason for the country of France to close down once a year.

Welcome to our new weekly history lesson. And, for starters, we head all the way back to...


Later it merged with the city of Toni to start the first ever pasta factory.


And how did that work out for you? Meanwhile, years later, my grandmother was still bitching whenever one of my cousins married a Catholic.


Little did they know at the time that she'd also be one of the last.


A lot of things changed by the time Samantha Stephens came around.


Okay, I sure hope those explorations were done on separate trips. Aren't the Puget Sound and Antarctica on opposite ends of the world? I'm wondering if the Captain got a little confused on Google Maps.


Huh? Was he killed by crazed environmentalists when he refused to recycle?


And two days later, Janssen's teenage son shows his friends a great party trick.


If they put it on the ballot this year, we might have a different outcome.


Born over 60 years after the abolition of slavery, Marge was way, way too late.


Which means that, around 1950, he was the right age for that girl.


Go ahead. Do the math. The guy is really old now.


That had to be a lonely study group. Meanwhile, how many kids in this school can actually spell the name of the state they're in?


So, was there an official last day of the Woodstock Festival? I am guessing some of the attendees are still hearing music in their heads.


Don't call me until dolphins or sharks get a vote.


A good lawyer gets that sentence commuted to 125 years.

Dinner last night: The wonderful buffet at the Dodger Stadium Club.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010



Is there even such a word and is the spelling correct?

I yi yi yi yi yi yi.

Is that how they wrote a line for Ricky Ricardo in an "I Love Lucy" script?

That blew the big one!

Did we even know what that meant when we haphazardly called out that phrase at the schoolyard?

You think the opening to this entry makes no sense? Wait till you see "Inception."

If I simply said that I hated this movie, you might argue that I'm being too easy. Indeed, "Inception" is probably one of the worst movies I've seen in my life. And when you think that I might prefer "Susan Slade" with Connie Stevens and Troy Donahue over this, you get a sense of just how bad "Inception" is.

I went in with the lowest of expectations and they were quickly met. It was all downhill right after the welcoming usher said "sit back and enjoy Inception." Most friends of mine who have seen it (save for one) told me it was way overrated. But, still, I had to see with my own eyes. After all, I have heard talk of Oscars in the film's future.

Uh huh. In their dreams. Literally.

In reality, you don't see "Inception." You stare at it. Because none of the action on the screen makes any sense. Surprised? I shouldn't have been. This is the work of the criminally over-hyped director Christopher Nolan, who also helmed the outrageously bad "Dark Knight." I now calculate that I've devoted almost six hours of my life to his garbage and I want to know who I can see in his office that would get me that time back.

"Inception" is all about a bunch of idiots who somehow hi-jack and inject themselves into each other's dreams. One is looking for his father's last will and testament. Another is trying to ease the guilt over his wife's death and see if his children still have faces (at least that's the way I understood it). Nobody is bothering to look for the real thing that's missing, which is a coherent script. Nolan is credited with the writing as well, and what can you say about somebody whose first exposure to story structure might have been an episode of "Saved By the Bell?"

The cast hops aboard a ten-hour flight from Paris to Los Angeles, settles into first class, and immediately pops some Ambiens so they can commence to dreaming. The only rationale being that one of them discovered the in-flight movie was "Marmaduke." A film I didn't see, but is also perhaps several notches above "Inception."

In their dreams, one character is stuck in an elevator shaft, several others are submerged under water in a SUV, and still more are shooting it out under an avalanche. I looked at all these action sequences, which dominate the last two-thirds of the movie, and realized that it was as if somebody took the first reel of every James Bond film and edited them together two frames at a time. It is impossible to follow and "Inception" might be the first movie in history that needs a libretto.

There are actors being wasted here. Leonardo DiCaprio, while underwater, was undoubtedly flashing back to other better movies that waterlogged him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so good in last summer's "500 Days of Summer," is wasted here as is "Juno" star Ellen Page, who I keep inviting to the imaginary Hollywood dinner party I'm throwing. Michael Caine shows up for two scenes, but, then again, try naming one movie after the year 2000 where he didn't.

Marion Cotillard, recently an Oscar winner for playing chanteuse Edith Piaf, is also around for the fun. Ironically, one of the dream triggers is the famous Piaf song "Je Ne Regret Rien." Of course, nobody under the age of 40 gets this inside joke. I'm guessing that director Nolan didn't get it either.

When you put it all together, "Inception" is like looking in a toilet bowl in Houlihan's Tavern at 3AM. No matter how much you've drunk, it's still looks like shit.

Meanwhile, my dreams are nothing like what the people in this movie experience. Just last week, I imagined that the Dodgers, leading by seven runs in the eighth inning, somehow lost the game.

No, wait, that really happened?


Dinner last night: Chicken tenders and risotto.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 16, 2010

Only on the NY subway....

Dinner last night: Reuben sandwich at Cafe 50s diner.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer Redux: My Lunch with a Bombshell

The summer rerun season continues in the Sunday Memory Drawer. Here's an entry from 2008.

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

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

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

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

Bang! I could have had a V-8.

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

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


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

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

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

Yes, Jane Russell.

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

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

Jane brightened. "I love capers!"

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

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

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

"Sure. When?”

It hasn't happened yet. I'm waiting for capers to go on sale.

Dinner last night: Turkey panini at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Classic Newsreel of the Month - August 2010

A very, very, very slow news week.

Dinner last night: Spaghetti and meatballs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Dodger Talk Experience

Well, there was one bright spot in a dismal Dodger season.

Take a good long look at this picture. It's the only one you will see (other than some photos I pulled down off the internet). Okay, study it again. That will be the sum illustrative total of my experience hanging with the Dodger Talk crowd last Thursday night.

Not that I was planning on a lot of photo opportunities. Oh, I had the digital camera with me and the battery had been refreshed. But, driving to Dodger Stadium for the game, I had a small epiphany. And a large panic attack.

What the hell was I doing?

Disregard the fact that I bloviate here daily in endless rantings and ravings about my world. When and if you really know me, most realize that I really do like to play my cards intimately close to my vest. Yet, here I was motoring. To claim a charity auction prize which I bid on as a complete lark. I'm good for annual donations to cancer causes. The Dodger Think Cure! fund is a worthy conduit. I did so two years ago and wound up with a Clayton Kershaw autographed baseball. Why not shoot for something different in 2010 and get a return that doesn't have to be dusted?

Yep, I had bid and won an evening with Dodger Talk, KABC's post-game show hosted by Ken Levine and Josh Suchon. This auction item had intrigued me, simply because the show is a great leveling agent for Dodger fans. Ken and Josh do a terrific job of laying out where the team is on any given day in a season. Certainly not an easy task, but they arguably do the best radio post-game talk show in baseball. Anybody who has ever listened to WFAN in NY would certainly agree. So, pour moi, it would be a kick to hang with them for an evening.

Still, I suddenly had great apprehensions. I didn't want to be a bother. I didn't want to be in the way. I wanted to blend into whatever woodwork that adorns the walls of Dodger Stadium's Vin Scully Press Box.

Hours later, I drove home westbound on the 10 Freeway. In a much different state of mind. For the first time ever on the route back from a Dodger game, I missed my Overland Avenue exit.

It was a complete blast straight from Yucca Flats.

When I was setting up the evening's logistics with Dodger Talk co-host Josh Suchon, I kept reiterating that I had no expectations, so anything accorded me would be whipped cream on top of your favorite dessert. Yet, even if I had the loftiest of expectations, they still managed to top them all. Clearly, this was one for my highlight reel.

It brought back to me worlds and corners and careers ignored. Way back yonder, my utopian job path would have been to work in the media covering baseball. I remembered when I had press credentials for the Yankees while working at Fordham's WFUV-FM. Running around the field before a game collecting sound bites from fifth starters and back-up catchers. I looked back in my mental hard drive for some of those phone interviews I did with the likes of Rusty Staub, manager Dick Williams, and Willie Stargell who hung up on me. I recalled the moment that common sense prevailed and derailed those aspirations. My one three-inning stint doing the play-by-play of a Fordham Ram baseball game. I was so bad that the FCC questioned WFUV's next license renewal.

So, to suddenly be in a major league press box with credentials around my neck, I was reliving it all one more time. And it couldn't have been sweeter.

Not that the evening started out on a good note. I arrived in the press box and connected with Josh just in time to watch LA paramedics feverishly working over a fan who had collapsed on the field. It was Mormon Night at Chavez Ravine and one of the leaders apparently suffered a massive coronary prior to tossing out the first ball. I thought that this, coupled with the California courts finally overturning the Mormon-backed Prop 8 ban on gay marriage, was making it a tough week to be an Osmond. Nevertheless, there was an immediate pall cast about, especially since one of the TV camera guys remarked that, for a moment, he had seen a prostrate white-haired man on the field and immediately thought it was Tommy Lasorda.

While I assured Josh that I didn't want to get in the way, he very nicely gave me a tour of the press facilities. Except everyone was elsewhere. TV booth. Empty. Radio booth. Empty. Spanish TV booth. Empty. But, turning the very next corner, we walked right into Vin Scully.

Now, this would have been the photo opportunity that could have led today's entry. Again, I was self-conscious enough to make sure everybody knew I was not there for the King Kong 3D ride at Universal Studios. There was no Kodak Instamatic draping my neck.

I knew what I wanted to say if I was ever introduced to Vin. I actually have known for the past twenty years. I wanted to simply mention our connection. WFUV. Fordham graduates. The quintessential college alumni bond. I garbled the year of my graduation intentionally. Vin laughed and said he graduated probably twenty years before that. A gracious, wonderful man who even remembered my name seven innings later when we bumped into each other again as I was getting a Diet Coke. And the good news is that I hadn't booted the meeting. I had sounded coherent and nothing like Ralph Kramden explaining to Alice why he had spent all night at the bowling alley.

Along our route, there were other introductions offered by my affable host Josh. Fernando Valenzuela. Rick Monday. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. The company was much less than shabby.

Josh invited me to join him for dinner at the press box cafeteria. Not trying to be a pest but still interested, I wanted to get his take on some baseball issues involving the Dodgers. Torre coming back or not? Bobby Valentine as a possible replacement? Josh has a smart, intuitive, and impressive handle on all things in the sport. As a radio sports host, he would stick out like a dislocated thumb on WFAN in New York, primarily because he knows what the heck he's talking about. Josh reminds me that there is no cheering in the press box. That I knew, having been myself in such press boxes as Madison Square Garden, the Boston Garden, and Yankee Stadium. I wonder for a moment if Josh has ever listened to the Yankees' shill John Sterling. No press box cheering indeed.

When the game started, I was seated between Josh and the other Dodger Talk co-host, Ken Levine. The really astute readers to this blog have already linked to him. In fact, it was Ken's blog that was one of many reasons why Len Speaks came out of the internet womb. Witty and clever on a computer screen, Ken's even more so in person.

Beyond his baseball broadcasting career, Ken has also racked up an impressive career writing, producing, directing, and creating some of the best television sitcoms this side of "M*A*S*H*," which was one of his as well. I felt totally comfortable telling him I have dabbled a little in the same arena. I wanted to engage him, but, at the same time, not come off sounding like Glenn Close in the last two reels of "Fatal Attraction." I looked at my evening's compatriots on both sides of me in press box row and I was in a very comfortable place. Watching the activities of all around me was fascinating. The guy below me was clearly a San Diego newspaper guy. In the very third inning with the score still tied at zero, he had already typed his lead. "The Padres have come through again." I wanted to wait for him to go to the bathroom so I could go down and hit his delete button. Meanwhile, the number of folks there checking Twitter, Facebook, and other blogs blew me away. In 2010, this is sports journalism in all its glorious keystrokes and toggle switches.

Watching Josh during the game, he was equally occupied but with a focus. Checking out some baseball websites, he was listing the names of some catchers who would be available free agents in 2011. Knowing full well that, with the injury and possible non-tender to Russell Martin, Dodger fans were probably going to be asking this question later on Dodger Talk. From friends in the business, I hear Josh's kind of due diligence and passion is uncommon. It's a matter of time before some major league baseball franchise gobbles him up to be their play-by-play guy. Does Joe Buck do this kind of prep work for Fox Baseball?

Meanwhile, next door on my right at Ken Levine Land, there is a different kind of concentration going on. Sure, he's updating his blog, but I also hear from his conversation that he's picking up the vibe of the game. As a writer, he realizes that every baseball game is, in itself, a self-contained short story. And he's slowly crafting the logline that will be the focus of the post-game talk. Are the Dodgers done for the year? Should third baseman Casey Blake be used on the second base side of the infield during a shift against Adrian Gonzalez? Was there one too many bunt opportunities missed?

And then Ken starts to read this blog.

D'oh! Inaudible scream!

Every insecurity embedded in my DNA suddenly returns for a cameo appearance on "The Love Boat." Suddenly, I'm fourteen again. Mom has come into my bedroom and caught me with that magazine. I want to yell, but refrain so as not to disturb organist Nancy Bea Hefley who's stashed away with her organ keyboard at the opposite end of the press box.

PLEASE DON'T DO THAT IN FRONT OF ME, ESPECIALLY SINCE I'M MAKING SOME LONG PLANNED CHANGES IN CONTENT AND TONE. (Check back to Wednesday's entry if you're at all interested in the details)

Ken remarks that I list what I had for dinner last night and tells me about another blog writer who does something similar. I wish I could say I copied that, but I simply use the device to track my eating habits and let friends back East know that I'm trying to be diet-conscious. Ken tells me he'll tap into the blog again, and I hope, at the very least, he checks out this very entry you are reading right now.

The atmosphere of the press box is quite informal and affable. Most of these folks see the same faces each day, so they're all up on the latest real estate transactions, Little League scores, and Pepcid price changes at the CVS Pharmacy in Westwood. At one point, they announce the paid attendance at 44, 739 and someone remembers the recently deceased Mormon and quips that only 44,738 survived tonight's Dodger game. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who found this very funny. But, then again, I wasn't in support of Prop 8 in the first place.

Ken looks over to my scorebook and wants to see if he can follow an inning that I have transcribed. Heck, I've been doing the same notations for years in the same Gene Elston scorebooks. I realize nobody has ever looked at my scoring process before. Ken asks what a particular black mark signifies.

"That would be a mistake."

Sorry, I always use a pen.

During the eighth inning, Josh heads downstairs to prep for a post-game guest. I've seen him myself from my season seats night after night, perched alongside the Dodger dugout. Except, in this night's dreary loss to the Padres, his microphone and questions will be clearly San Diego dugout-bound.

Meanwhile, in the press box, it is now Ken's sole responsibility to make sure I don't play with matches. We chit chat a little more. He talks about being in the studio audience for the filming of the classic Mary Tyler Moore episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust." Total dumb luck and he likens it to being in the stands for a perfect game. And then the Cuisinart of my world is set to "puree" when we even discuss the latest developments in radio research.

When the Dodgers officially lose again, most of the reporters disappear for locker room interviews. Ken and later Josh retire to a small room that is their show studio, but might have contained a slop sink when Sandy Koufax was pitching. Yet, regardless of the space, they still manage to do a top-notch show which always seems to catch the right mood and vibe for the evening. The care and feeding of smart (yes, there are some) Dodger fans is entrusted to these guys on a nightly basis. Sadly, it appears that their weekly Sunday night offseason version of this show will not be around this year and the Dodger fanbase/LA radio market will be diminished by that.

Not surprisingly, Josh grabs for his notebook and pulls out all the info he retrieved during the game on free agent catchers. They intermingle some sound bites from an elaborate computer database and, even with my knowledge of radio and TV production, these processes still fascinate me.

The show will run an hour this night, all the way to 1130PM. Naturally, given the Dodgers' latest demise, the phone lines and torches are again lit. Both Frankenstein and Matt Kemp are being hunted down by the villagers.

Before the last commercial break, Ken heralds the final segment of the show. With an appearance by a special guest.

I looked around from my perch on the stool. Is Orel Hershiser here?

No, that would be me. Truth be told, I was surprised when they told me that I would get to be on the air with them a bit. Totally not expected. And, obviously, nobody told either of them about that infamous top-of-the-fourth inning years before on Fordham's Jack Coffey Field with me behind the WFUV microphone. But, after spending four plus hours together, they must have realized that I didn't possess the syntax of a 17-year-old birthday party planner at Chuck E. Cheese.

Josh mentions to me that he will get my take on bunting, which again had been up for debate amongst the night's callers. (Josh, by the way, is not a fan of the bunt). So, this is good. I get a minute-and-a-half to prepare an answer. This is just like the old Hollywood Squares when they gave a heads-up to Karen Valentine. I fashion my opinion on the bunt, which is well known to friends I go to baseball games with. I support the notion that a manager should let the batter swing away on the first pitch if there's an obvious bunt situation. The infield is already moving around and then anything can happen. Okay, got it. I am ready, Los Angeles Metro and DMA.

Back from commercial, Ken acknowledges my presence and the reasons behind it. And then turns to me and asks...

"So, what's your assessment of this team?"


The pause lasted either five seconds or five days. Excuse me , guys. That was not a bunting question.

I flummoxed through some prattle about going to meaningless games in September and bringing a book along to while away the time. Huh??? It probably sounded better than that. And the book reference gave both Ken and Josh an opportunity to plug their latest publications at Amazon.

Five minutes later, I think of what I should have answered.

"Well, while the Dodger prospects for post-season play seem bleak at the moment, I think the division will be decided by somebody's hot or cold streak. And let's not discount the fact that the young Padre arms may be taxed by the time September rolls around."

Or something like that. While the audio of the show is now available in a variety of places, I'll never listen to it. At least, I didn't have a Don Imus moment.

Off air, Ken mentions to me that I sound just like restaurant critic Merrill Schindler and, amazingly, this is now the second time I have heard this. I now think that I should be eating a lot better than I am already reporting.

When asked on the air to summarize the experience for me, Ken ticks off that I met Vin and Fernando, ate the press box food at Dave's Diner, and all the rest. I respond that the highlight for me was to simply hang with these two solid professionals and enjoy ever so briefly one of the many paths not pursued in my life.

Maybe I'll even bid for it next year and I hope they don't roll their eyes when I show up again. Or, maybe I'll bid for something more tangible, although I have missed my chance at a Garret Anderson game-worn jersey. But, at the end of the show and the night and the season, the real winner was not me. My contribution was small, but there's probably a huge reward elsewhere.

Somebody with cancer hopefully will have one less moment of pain here on Planet Earth.

Forget all this nonsensical self involvement. That's what it was all about.


Dinner last night: BLT sandwich at Islands.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crazy Or...?

...brilliant? It all depends upon how you look at it.

You may have heard of this JetBlue flight attendant. He went total Peter Finch. He was mad as hell and he couldn't take it anymore. After one final skirmish with a passenger as a plane was taxiing to a gate, Steven Slater grabbed a beer, popped the emergency chute open, and went home.

Oh, he's in a cargoload of trouble now. Reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, swigging a beer without a glass. Probably even a lifetime profiling from the good folks at Homeland Security. And, from my vantage point, some of it is warranted. As much as we all might like to, you don't just walk away from your job.


There's a big purple Kate Smith in the coach section of our flight today. A fact nobody wants to acknowledge or talk about. That certain something that potentially turns Steven Slater from a "gone postal" flight attendant to a fully absolved hero. How does this happen?

He's somebody who has had to deal with the dreaded public.

They're all around us. We walk among them. Like it or not, we are part of the general populus.

We are the world. We are the assholes. Oh, you and I aren't. But a lot of them are.

I see it myself all the time on my own flights. That moronic passenger who refuses to sit down despite repeated warnings to do so. That's just what Slater ran into. Some jerk who absolutely needed to get something out of his luggage in the overhead bin, despite the fact that the seatbelt light was on and he should have been buckled into 21J. Sir, you can't do that. Oh, yes, I can.

One more example that the word "no" has disappeared from our vocabulary.

As a society, it has become ingrained in each of us that we can do what we want whenever and however we want because, at the end of the day, there is some attorney someplace who will defend our right to do so.

I watch flight attendants put up with the worst of the worst, many of them even validated with business class tickets.

"Sir, you'll have to turn off your laptop now."

"But I'm not finished."

Okay, we'll circle the airport for about an hour so you can wrap up the edits to your Powerpoint presentation.

I hear the same exchanges over and over and over. And then pick up the newspaper every morning and see the same thing going on with our law enforcement.

"Sir, can I see your driver's license please?"

"But I wasn't doing anything."

Uh huh. I don't know about you, but I was raised to be afraid of the police. Whether you agreed or not, you did exactly what they asked you to do. Today? Look at YouTube for the grim update on our lives.

Where did it all start? More importantly, when does it all end? One after another, dumbbells around us line up to make the world all about them.

Talk to people who work in retail. They have stories that would curl your hair. From the famous such as Rosie O'Donnell who, along with her neanderthal children, storms through a Barnes and Noble bookstore every week to yell at the poor college student behind the counter. I've seen this with my own eyes in the Palisades Mall in New York. Or what about this one?

A wild-eyed lunatic bangs on the door of a department store as it is being locked at the end of the day.

"You can't close! I have to buy something!"

Okay, Miss, where the hell were you for the other twelve hours of the day when we were open?

"I was busy! You have to stay open now. I have rights!"

And there it is. Our rights. We all have them.

Well, so did Steven Slater. You may not agree with the execution, but you want to applaud the concept. I am clapping right along with you.

To all those who have to deal with the general public, I salute you!

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We Interrupt This Wednesday For....

...a visit from Hazel the blog housekeeper. This maintenance has been planned for a while and all good things need to be dusted and polished from time to time.

Or repaired.

First of all, thanks to all who check in daily. For some mystifying reason, traffic has been way, way up for about three months and I don't know why. Readership is also coming from a lot of different places around the globe. So, buenos dias, Spain. Bonjeur, Ottawa, Canada. Hi, y'all, Arkansas. And lots of points in between. This is noteworthy since I don't have family or friends in all those places. Unless, of course, my father got around much more than I thought when he was in the Army.

We're still light on the commenting in this blog, averaging 1.7 comments per day. This means there are some folks who never manage to finish their sentences. But I certainly get your feedback privately via e-mail and it is appreciated.

I didn't know where this whole blog thing was going over three years ago when I started it primarily to give myself a daily writing exercise. Of course, there are some weeks where the daily writing exercise is confined to working a whole lot on one day of the week and then goofing off the other six, but that's not the point. You still get something here every day and it's well worth the price you pay for an annual subscription.

Nevertheless, this blog has settled into a pretty predictable format. Videos on Saturdays and Mondays. More lengthy written pieces on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And, of course, the Sunday Memory Drawer is probably the best received of all days. Who knew that all my youthful neuroses would have a positive result years later?

Speaking of Sundays, regular readers will notice some reruns coming up as I re-purpose older entries for a second glance and take a little Summer siesta. If you're willing to watch Seinfeld episodes for the sixteenth time, you can certainly read my writing twice. Think of all those new people I mentioned above. They never saw the stuff the first time.

Besides, the Memory Drawer is not a bottomless well. I'm going to run out of funny things my grandmother did. She's been dead for almost thirty years and less available for new nonsense.

Meanwhile, there's one day, however, that I still grapple with every week. Some of you love it. Some of you hate it. Some of you stopped reading this altogether and aren't even seeing this entry.

That would be Wednesday. Ironically, the highest traffic day of the week.

Way back in the early days, this was supposed to be my spoof of that stupid column Larry King used to do for USA Today. Remember it? When he used to pen nonsense like...

"For my money, there's no better hard salami than Oscar Meyer's."

But my ramblings sort of meandered into a weekly monologue about current events. And, frankly, I was never happy about it. Try as I would, the piece always became a bit mean. I'd become conscious of it and start to soften the tone. But, like a picture you would draw on Etch A Sketch, somebody would shake the box and I'd have to re-establish tone all over again.

Meanwhile, the country about us gets more and more polarized every single day. And that angst creeps in on Wednesdays. It's made worse by my own political views. I hate everybody regardless of what side of the aisle they sit on. Nothing in America is being helped by this. From my vantage point, they all stink.

So, why should I muddy the waters even more? The blogosphere needs another pundit like it needs another...well, pundit. Indeed, there have been some written moments that even made me cringe. And the tipping point was three weeks ago when I wrote something down and then paused to stare at it.

"Oh, my God, I've already made that joke here before."

Oh, trust me, I'll write about a current event if it is warranted. When somebody does something really, really stupid, I'll be here. That, of course, could have me writing about it as early as tomorrow. But, I can't do the weekly rant anymore. Sorry. If you need the mental discharges, tune in to Fox News or MSNBC or, if you're really a weirdo, the Animal Planet. You won't get fed here. The restaurant is closed. Alice and Flo have left Mel's Diner for good.

So, in between time, there is the matter of next Wednesday and all the Wednesdays after that. How do I fill the white space on my computer screen?

Unintentionally, the answer came to me from my friend, the Bibster. He doesn't even know it.

For the past few years, the Bibster has been sending me a daily e-mail of quite morose and ridiculous proportions. "This Date in Dead History." It's a listing of famous people who died on that day. Stupid? You betcha. But, it's quite amazing to see how many people checked out on the same date years apart. Or maybe even on the same day.

For Wednesdays in Len Speaks, I am going to expand upon this device. Each week, I will pull down important things that happened on that very date throughout history. With the usually wry comments provided. Quite educational and hopefully clever as well. For instance, here's a small sample of what I'm planning if we were to start this new feature today on August 11.


So, there was a specially selected starting time for this? Was there a pre-riot show for TV? And who got to throw out the ceremonial first brick?

Or something like that.

Effective next Wednesday, check in here for "This Date in History - August 18." Heck, this device will allow me to write a lot of entries in advance. If I'm ambitious, I might have all the Wednesdays through 2011 done by the end of August.

Even better!

Dinner last night: Turkey burger.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Buy, Don't Rent

Another Saturday night misfire. And now this year's Hollywood Bowl season resembles my father's 1971 Buick LeSabre.

That didn't start either.

Last weekend, the Bowl mistakenly staged a version of the Broadway musical "Rent" and it was directed by none other than Neil Patrick Harris, who now can do anything even remotely connected to show business. Doogie did the best he could with the cavernous arena and a musical that is admittedly meant to be intimate. But, at the end of the evening, there was always something that didn't match. Like the tie that didn't quite go with that shirt you bought separately at Nordstrom's.

In the past, the Hollywood Bowl has made an annual habit of staging a classic Broadway musical. We've seen "Mame," "My Fair Lady," "Camelot," "The Music Man," and, most notably a wonderful "South Pacific" with Reba McEntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell. I've loved the tradition, but I realize that it's a great way to get Grandma and Grandpa unto the Bowl shuttle bus from Chatsworth, but not their kids. And, indeed, they might be running out of classic musicals to stage. After all, what could be next? Carol Channing singing "Before the Parade Passes By" while tooling around the Bowl stage in a Hoveround?

So, now they're looking at more current musicals to produce and why not "Rent," which made its heralded Broadway debut in 1996?

Well, thanks for asking and I've got some reasons why they shouldn't have bothered.

You might want to start with the show itself. "Rent" has always been an enigma with me. I saw the stage version. I thought I liked it. I saw the movie version. I thought I liked it even more. When I saw the Bowl version, I no longer knew why I thought I liked it on two earlier occasions. It all confuses me.

Let's face it. The show has one memorable song. One. Only one. The rest of the rest is so jumbled together that it's like an explosion at the Muzak factory. The score is so forgettable that I couldn't remember what is in the first act by the time we got to the second act. And the story is really a rip-off. La Boheme with AIDS. The shortest pitch meeting in Broadway history.

Neil Patrick Harris, meanwhile, needs to adapt the show to fit the confines and the time restraints of the Hollywood Bowl so he cuts and pastes it together again like a Powerpoint presentation. Now, the story, which never made sense in the first place, comes off like "Charlie Chan in Reno." Who are these people? Where were they before? Is anybody connected to anybody else? The Bowl includes a plot summary in the program, but that's useful only if you remembered to bring your night vision goggles.

The Bowl production is ballyhooed as having an "all star" cast. That's sort of like mistaking Joseph Papp's Public Theater for the cast list from an episode of 'Murder, She Wrote." Save for Wayne Brady, I know none of them. There is allegedly a Pussycat Doll somewhere on stage, but I wouldn't know one of them from a Guy Lombardo Royal Canadian. One of the actors is named Aaron Tveit and I spend part of the night obsessing over how his last name is actually pronounced.

Truth be told, the detractors in the audience were few and far between. The show has its ardent fans as evidenced by all the screaming around me. Most in the throng were gasping for a sight of director Harris at the show's conclusion and I was not surprised that he did not comply. Neil, along with being incredibly talented, strikes me as one classy individual who was plainly aware that the night was all about the material and not Doogie Howser MD.

When I think about the "Rent" overall phenomenon, I'm starting to believe that the show got a lifetime hall pass when its creator, Jonathan Larson, died ten days before its Broadway opening. How could anybody possibly give it a shitty review? As a result, the myth has prevailed over the years and elevated it to heavenly status? It's amazing how mediocrity can be massaged into something much loftier.

Sort of like the Hollywood Bowl fare every weekend in 2010.

Dinner last night: Short ribs with hoisin sauce.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Morning Video Laugh - August 9, 2010

What could be better for a laugh on a summer morning? Perhaps the funniest scene ever on "I Love Lucy." Lucy, Bill Holden, the Brown Derby. Sheer comic nirvana.

Dinner last night: Chicken piccata.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Sunday Memory Drawer: Revisiting the Mothers-In-Law

All good TV shows can be rerun. Same goes for blog pieces devoted to good TV shows. The following entry ran here two years ago when I was listing my top 25 favorite television programs of all time. "The Mothers-In-Law" came in at #8. And, as I wrote back then...

You're probably thinking right now. Hmmmm....

"An odd choice for such a high rank?"

"I hadn't thought of that show for years."

"When the hell was that on???"

Well, maybe it is a weird choice for such a high rank on my list. And, even I hadn't thought of the show for years. And, it was on NBC for only two seasons from 1967 through 1969.

But, that was apparently long enough for the complete series to come out in 2010 on a DVD boxed set. I picked it up as soon as it landed on the shelves. And, from the ten or so episodes I have already watched, it's still pure gold. With an infectious theme song.

As I wrote before...

"The Mothers-In-Law" was a hallmark show of my youth. And later became a very interesting part of my life some thirty years after its premiere. I will elaborate and caution you at the same time. In the body of this post, shameless namedropping will occur.

Once again, during its original primetime run, I was led to this Sunday night show by my grandmother. Back then, Sunday nights were meant for America to connect with Ed Sullivan, who had his finger on the pulse of the nation's entertainment scene. But, as he gravitated towards nothing but Motown groups and endless chats with Topo Gigio, my grandmother was ready to disconnect.

"Ed Sullivan? He's got too many n%g*ers and puppets!"

Indeed, she had never really forgiven him for bringing over the Beatles and "all that hippie style."

Her TV dial drifted over to "The Mothers-In-Law." And, as usual, I followed.

"The Mothers-In-Law" was safe and fun. As developed by "I Love Lucy" creators, the late Bob Carroll Jr. & Madelyn Pugh Davis, and executive produced by none other than Desi Arnaz, the show was essentially a throwback to the 1950s. In reality, "The Mothers-in-Law" was nothing more than an extension of what might have happened if the Ricardos and the Mertzes had children and then they married. Reviewers called it "old hat."

In the living room on 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon, we loved it. The cast, as
led by Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard, was marvelous and I remember us laughing a lot. For budgetary reasons, "The Mothers-in-Law" didn't make it past its second season. We noticed its cancellation. Not many others did. And, except for maybe a few years being rerun on WNEW Channel 5 in NY, "The Mothers-in-Law" drifted away to whatever oblivion marginally successful TV shows enter. Sadly, I never really gave it a second thought.

Until three decades later.

My writing partner and I had just moved to LA. And we had become friends with Bob and Madelyn. We have even become business partners with Madelyn's stepson. And, one day, we are having lunch with these two legendary TV writers. As Bob ate French Fries off my partner's plate, the conversation surprisingly meandered off "I Love Lucy." Both Carroll and Davis started talking affectionately about Desi Arnaz. And doing "The Mothers-in-Law." I mentioned how I used to love watching it with my grandmother, although I did not share that it was due to her disdain for specific races and/or Italian puppets. We all lamented that the show was not available for viewing anymore.

And then my partner and I got to thinking. There was, at the time, a magazine devoted to articles on retro TV shows. I queried the publisher if there would be any interest in running a story on "The Mothers-In-Law." She bought in big time.

"People have been dying to see it again."

So, two would-be TV writers suddenly became magazine writers. And set about researching anything and everything about "The Mothers-in-Law."

Spending time on this with Bob and Madelyn was a slam dunk. We formally taped an interview with them in Madelyn's home office, while I salivated over a huge framed and autographed wall poster of Lucy and Ethel on the candy factory assembly line. But, it was also key for us to hook up with the surviving cast as well. Madelyn very matter-of-factly offered up what she knew.

"Well, Eve's dead."

But she also knew that Kaye Ballard had bought Desi's Palm Springs house. And she thought that veteran actor Herbert Rudley, who played Eve's husband, was living someplace in Marina del Rey.

Eleven years ago, there was the Internet, but IMDB was less reliable. We proceeded to do searches on Kaye, Herb, and the two actors who played the young married couple, Jerry Fogel and Deborah Walley.

When our investigative work on Rudley revealed that he had retired from acting in 1984, we went to a very obvious last resort. The Marina del Rey telephone book. Sure enough, there was a Herbert Rudley listed. After many coin flips and several days of procrastination, I picked up the phone and dialed the number.

"May I speak to Herbert Rudley, please."

"This is he."

I gulped again.

"Is this the actor Herbert Rudley?"

"Yes, it is."


And, amazingly, after only five minutes on the phone, he invited us down to spend an afternoon at his condo. He was close to 90, but amazingly compliant with memories. Not only about "The Mothers-in-Law," but also about his film career in the 40s and 50s. He also regaled us with the tale of how he and Ingrid Bergman made out in the backseat of a sedan. We were astonished at how welcome he made us feel, given we were complete strangers who had essentially "cold-called" him out of the clear blue sky. And he shared with us for copying his complete collection of "Mothers-In-Law" episodes, which were recorded on that old trusty VCR.

We found Kaye Ballard through her agent, but she was equally accommodating and invited us down to her (Desi's) house in Palm Springs for lunch. Not only was she a fabulous host, but her assistant concocted some dynamite garlic toast. I remember using her bathroom and, as I peed, found myself staring at a painting done by Red Skelton. The only thing I ever saw while I was peeing back in Mount Vernon was my mother's can of Caryl Richards Just Wonderful Hard to Hold hair spray.

We moved on to tracking down the actors who played the newlyweds. To be efficient, we divided them up between us. I did my detective work on Jerry Fogel, who played Jerry Buell. He had given up acting and Hollywood. I traced him to some real estate/financial investment company in Kansas City. As I was not budgeted or really interested for a trip to the Midwest, Jerry and I spent 90 minutes on the phone and he waxed fondly about all his acting memories.

My partner found it a bit harder to track down former "Gidget" Deborah Walley, who had apparently did some hard living in the wild and wooly Hollywood of the 60s and perhaps evaporated into a narcotic haze. Somehow and someway, he talked to somebody who knew somebody else who knew where she was living in Sedona, Arizona.

When he finally got her on the phone, the Deborah Walley who was some goofy teen starlet/air head/pot head of previous decades had morphed into a crafty businesswoman and proud mother. More importantly, she was very candid about her past and was even more interested in our future. Several months later, she moved back to Los Angeles to try and start up her acting career one more time. We got together from time to time. And, for some reason, my partner and Deborah developed a unique on-line relationship of trading jokes, stories, etc.. Indeed, he was on the short list of her friends who received the news a few years later that she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the esophagus. He was on the e-mail cc: list when she sent out a note to close associates that talked about how she wanted to aggressively beat the dreaded disease. And he got the e-mail news from her assistant when she finally succumbed to her illness in 2001.

All of the research and interviews lended to a terrific story when it finally appeared in the magazine. Moreover, thanks to Herb's tapes, I got to revisit a show that I had not seen in over 30 years. A bit "old hat?" Perhaps. But, the writing and acting was spot on. Crisp, clean, and professional. And there were certain episodes that I would put alongside other sitcom classics. One show featured the in-laws and the newlyweds participating in a group therapy session. The final scene of that script featured some of the best writing that I have ever heard in any comedy show ever.

Another episode was super-clever, because it employed the no-longer-used-by-Hollywood theater of the mind. Harkening back to the days of radio when you didn't have to visually absorb something in order to get to the comedy. The kids have moved and the two in-law couples sneak into their new digs one at a time to inspect. Each of them winds up piling into an old armoire when they are caught. Of course, at the end of the scene, the kids have sold the armoire and the delivery guys show up to take it. The armoire is tipped on its side, rolled onto a dolly, and dragged out of the room. Of course, you know the actors aren't really inside. But, for the moments you are suspending reality, there are waves of laughter that I have never heard before from the legendary "live studio audience." Brilliant comedy. And it's even more amazing since Madelyn told us that particular script had been concocted quickly over a single weekend.

After the article, we tried to pitch a reunion of the surviving cast and writers to the Museum of TV and Radio. They didn't bite. Now, sadly, that is impossible. Bob Carroll Jr. has passed on. So have Herb and Deborah. But we still send Madelyn a floral arrangement every Christmas, and, of course, still work with her stepson. Kaye was in touch for a while via holiday cards and keeps talking about getting the show out on DVD.

I concur. And we are available to do the accompanying commentary track. Heck, who better to do it than us?

Well, maybe my grandmother.

Well, it's out on DVD now. They didn't ask us to do the commentary track. And that's okay. As long as "The Mothers-In-Law" now sits in my DVD collection.

Dinner last night: Roast beef panini at the Hollywood Bowl.