Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If I Tweeted - July 2012

I don't, you know. But, if I did, here's what was on my mind this past month.

#LenSpeaks  Happy Fourth of July, everybody.  The holiday most hated by dogs across America.

#LenSpeaks  Independence Day is the equivalent of the Christmas shopping rush in Chinatown.

#LenSpeaks  Some dopey town in the Northwest banned town fireworks because they scared the birds.

#LenSpeaks  That's the reason why the only people who should get bird shit on these cars are those loopy environmentalists.

#LenSpeaks  56,000 people at Dodger Stadium for Japan Day and Hello Kitty bobblehead. Kill me now.

#LenSpeaks  The Dodgers had a horrible June.  Magic Johnson wants to know the MLB policy on returning a franchise. He still has his receipt.

#LenSpeaks  Does anybody really watch the baseball All-Star Game anymore?

#LenSpeaks  Why is La Russa allowed to manage and pick a Cardinal outfielder to replace a third catcher? Why is that dumbbell from Texas allowed to shove about a dozen Rangers on his team?    

#LenSpeaks  Why is that slob Sandoval starting for the NL when he was on the DL for a lot of the first half?  Why am I writing about any of this???

#LenSpeaks  There's black bunting around the door to the Sheriff's office in Mayberry.  Andy Griffith, we appreciate it and good night.

#LenSpeaks  The Mets are just five relievers away from having a good bullpen.

#LenSpeaks  Who knew that Met fans would look back on Doug Sisk fondly?

#LenSpeaks  Come on, Fred Willard, really???? In public? What's wrong with Korean porn in the privacy of your home computer??

#LenSpeaks  He was caught doing this nasty in some place called the Tiki Theater and, for a minute, I thought he was whacking off in front of those mechanical birds at Disneyland.

#LenSpeaks  A word of advice to all those mental midgets who will be lining up at midnight to see that new Dark Knight movie: the same picture will be playing tomorrow afternoon at 3PM.

#LenSpeaks   Oooh, I tweeted too soon.  I told you so.  Now that bargain matinee on Friday looks good, doesn't it, Aurora, Colorado?

#LenSpeaks   People were wondering how the theater possibly could have admitted this guy dressed as he was.   Er, it is the middle of the country, folks where garb like this might be worn by wedding parties.

#LenSpeaks  Hey, now what Fred Willard was doing in that theater doesn't seem so bad, does it??

#LenSpeaks I think these guys are hooking up the new flat screen in my NY apartment. At least, the Russian they are talking seems kind of technological.

#LenSpeaks  That was actually kind of sad. The TV guys just took away the 19 inch Zenith portable TV my dad bought for me in 1982. And it was still working. Except, in the widescreen age, the aspect ratio never allowed you to see the baseball score in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

#LenSpeaks  Except, in the widescreen age, the aspect ratio never allowed you to see the baseball score in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

#LenSpeaks  I guess that means the Mets will never lose on an old television set.

#LenSpeaks  A rainy New York Friday.  I just came back from outside and I am soaked. Only to find that TCM is running a Natalie Wood film marathon. Raise your hand if you get the joke.

#LenSpeaks  If the Dodgers make their new acquisition wear # 99, they can finally get rid of all those "Ramirez" jerseys they got stuck with two years ago.

#LenSpeaks  Sherman Hemsley finally gets that deluxe apartment in the sky.

#LenSpeaks   Hey, and you thought that I was going to make a joke about "movin' on up." 

#LenSpeaks   Chad Everett died the same day as George Jefferson.  So, apparently, TV dry cleaners and doctors don't live forever??

#LenSpeaks  I don't agree with what that Chick-Fil-A guy said about gay marriage, but I acknowledge his right to say whatever he wants.  And conduct his business in any way he can.  After all, this is America.

#LenSpeaks  I mean, that was America.  Free speech now comes with a price in the United States.


#LenSpeaks   New York Mayor Bloomturd says he has no problem if Chick-Fil-A wants to open in the city.  You just won't be able to buy an extra large Coke there.

#LenSpeaks  There were more murders in Chicago the first six months of 2012 than there were in the Afghanistan war zone.  Sounds like that town needs some community organizing. 

#LenSpeaks  Oh, and I know where they can find a good one next January.

#LenSpeaks  The Olympic opening ceremonies was the world's longest ever half-time show at the Orange Bowl.  And NBC made it longer with commercials.

#LenSpeaks  They had a stunt double for the Queen parachute out of a helicopter.  I know it was a stand-in because there was no black pocketbook attached.

#LenSpeaks  Film director Danny Boyle ran the show and it was an unabashed advertisement for socialized medicine in England with sick kids jumping up and down on hospital beds.  Because I often connote hospital stays with recess time in the playground.

#LenSpeaks  When the only highlight in four hours was an appearance by Mr. Bean, you know the opening ceremonies were a train wreck.

#LenSpeaks  Made even worse by the constant prattling of Matt Lauer, who might lock up the title of "Dumbest American" for the sixth year in a row. 

#LenSpeaks  I saw Matt's name in an article next to the word "journalist."  And that's another reason why you can never believe anything you see in the newspapers.

#LenSpeaks  Paul McCartney closed the show and I screamed one word at the TV set.  "RETIRE."

#LenSpeaks  The last time McCartney could sing, Mark David Chapman was still a free man.

#LenSpeaks  Those folks who think Joan Rivers' plastic surgery is bad haven't seen Sir Paul lately.  I look at his face and I recall my mom's favorite saying.

#LenSpeaks  "Who did it and ran?"

Dinner last night:  Leftover ravioli and meatballs.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 30, 2012

The worst wedding best man ever. A classic video laugh rerun.


Dinner last night:  Ravioli and meatballs.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Late Night Summer Hideaway


We're deep now in the belly of Summer 2012.  On my last trip to New York, I got the tail end of some really sweltering weather on my first two days there.  Last week in Los Angeles, there was the unusual wisps of...gasp...some humidity.  And, now back here in New York, the humidity in the air can be sliced with a butter knife.  You can almost see it as it envelops every pore of your body. 

Global warming?  Phooey.  Yeah, it's summer and it gets freakin' hot.  We deal with it.

When I was a kid, it was a lot easier to cope.  I had nothing else to do.  In that youthful purgatory of being too old to sit in a wading pool down on the backyard lawn and too young to get a summer job, I was a bit lost during the summer months.  We had one air conditioner in our house, situated in the living room.  Spend all day inside and watch TV?  That got a little old by the second week of July.  Spend all night inside the ultra-coolness that surrounded the Zenith picture tube?  Well, that wasn't an option.  When it was really, really hot, my mother, already commuting to a NY job every day, slept on the living room couch so she could be crisp for the morning run to the train station. 

So what to do at night when the temperature still hadn't dropped below 85?

Well, eventually, a routine developed for summer nights on 15th Avenue in Mount Vernon.

The post 6PM hours were easy to cover.  I've written before of our neighborhood vacant lot that was nightly transformed into our own personal ballpark.  Surrounded by weeds that were virtual condominiums for mosquitos, this was hardly the ideal way for me and my buddies to stay cool.  Running around till we were sweaty and playing our own special brand of baseball with ground rules that had to be perfectly tailored for our dimensions.  Hit the ball in the big thoroughfare of First Street, you're out.  Hit the sliver of a sidewalk and you've got a homer.  Throw the ball over the head of the kid playing first base and expect a ten minute delay while we rifled through the aforementioned weeds looking for the ball.

But, there we were every night from about 6PM to around 830PM or whenever the ball was declared officially lost.  We needed to head back to our block anyway.

Coot and his Good Humor truck were due at 845PM.  Dessert!!  And we would savor our treats on somebody's front steps.  Landing en masse as a group.  Or sometimes it was just me and my best neighborhood pal Leo munching our Chocolate Chip Candys on the cement stairs in front of my house and yakking up the day's events. 

By about 930PM or 10PM, Leo would retire to his home which included two parents and three lively brothers.  As for me, the house was deadly quiet and sibling-less.  Upstairs, my mother was asleep in the living room, chilling away for her next day of work.  Downstairs, Grandma had decided once again that television was for the birds and headed off to bed herself.  Meanwhile, my father wouldn't be home from his night job until after 1AM. 

Now an official summer night owl, I had at least three or four hours to kill before I would hit the hay myself.  Back then, nighttime Met home games started at 8PM, so sometimes there was still a contest to watch finish up on the rickety black-and-white portable television in my room.  But it was still way too hot for that and the bedspread worked up the sweat that had finally evaporated after my baseball exploits on the lot earlier that evening.  I could have watched Johnny Carson, but his jokes were not as funny while you were losing quarts of water in your own personal sauna.

I had hours to spend and a body to cool.  What's a kid to do?

There was only one place for me.  Our kitchen.  With the enormous fan in the window.  It made the sound of the D train rushing through a local subway station. But, like ocean water crashing up against a shore, there was something oddly soothing with that loud whirring of our kitchen fan. I could listen to it for hours. And frequently did. Way up close.

I was a weird kid.

And electric fans had been the way our family kept cool during the summer. 

My grandmother had one mounted in her kitchen downstairs as well and that must have been how people stayed cool during World War II. Apparently, there are all sorts of scientific solutions on how to use the fan to get gusts of wind going throughout the house. It must have been handed down like family lore, because both my dad and Grandma were cooling experts.

If you're in the bedroom, you turn on the kitchen fan and then close all the doors of the house except for the room you're in. Voila. The whole opening in the home gets all the intake and you have a breeze. Naturally, I would invariably go into one of the other rooms and then I would hear the wail.

"Close the door!!"

But, after 10PM every steamy summer night, I had to be near that monster of a fan.  For the breeze, but also for the noise.  It shut me into my own special world.  This was my "alone" time and I valued it.

So did my dog Tuffy, who would sequester herself in her sleeping box and keep me quiet company.  This would be my hideaway for the next three hours.

First order of business?  I'd make myself a sandwich with one of the German cold cuts my father had bought the previous Saturday morning.  Usually my beloved Taylor Ham or some Cervelat.  Wait, didn't I just have a Good Humor ice cream?  No worries.  That had to be...wow...over an hour ago.

For two summers, I would spend the 10PM hour and playing out past New York Met seasons with my Strat-O-Matic baseball game.  These were the versions of the popular strategy game that were not computerized.  I'd follow the games of an earlier season schedule and simply replay the games.  Then, I'd record the stats in a spiral bound notebook.  The goal was to see if I could duplicate the same statistics that each player had actually recorded in that season.  And was it possible for me to manage the New York Mets and improve their overall record?

I told you I was a weird kid.   And obviously an only child.

I was only good for about two or three games a night.  I had to set aside quality time for my next nightly activity.

Reading.  And summer was the best time to do it.

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 11PM and go till about 1AM or whenever Dad popped home from work and sent me to bed. 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 needed to have a glass of iced tea at my side.  Usually the Nestea powder brand.  Nobody in my house had the time or the inclination to brew it from scratch.

I'd then take the kitchen chair and put it as close to the monstrosity of a kitchen fan, which was always spinning on the highest speed.   It was situated right next to a china closet, which created a pretty dark corner and a very small space.  No worries.  I was snug.  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.

Before I knew it, I would be stirred back to reality by a male voice.

"Go to bed already."

Dad was home.  I'd stumble down the hall to my Gobi Desert of a bedroom.  Thinking fondly of the next night.   When I would repeat the routine all over again.

Dinner last night:  Wine and cheese at the Hollywood Bowl.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - July 2012

This is what my parents made me sleep through one night at the drive-in.


Dinner last night: Salad bar from Gelson's.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hazy, Hot, and Awkward

Obviously, the photographer had told them this would be nothing but a head shot.
If this is a familyu portrait, I have some questions.
Little Petunia is being blocked by, well, a little petunia.
The way Dad is sitting behind Mom, you would think she would have a bigger smile on her face. 
This time, the dog is giving Mom a bath.
Future pole dancer.
Trying to fit a size 6 baby into a size 4 wagon.
"Mommy, this uncle is drunk now, too."
I need her phone number.
Surprisingly, the most awkward thing in this picture is the sofa.

Dinner last night:  Back in LA and, for the first time reported on this blog......a Big Mac and large fries!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Snoozeroom

Back in the very early days of this blog, I made some disparaging remarks about screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.  You have no idea how many nasty comments I got back for Sorkin fans.  The guy has a deep and devoted following. 

Now, to be fair, I can be objective.  I liked "The Social Network."  Aaron was involved in that.  I loved "Moneyball."  Aaron was involved in that.  And I must admit that I was one of the three people in America who actually watched and liked that "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" TV show he created.

Meanwhile, I hated "The West Wing," which was nothing more than Sorkin transcribing what he bloviates over politically at a dinner party.  And, while it was a decent film, the one big problem in "A Few Good Men" was the stilted and overwrought dialogue as crafted by the always-impressed-by-himself Aaron.

So, as you can see, I can run both very hot and very cold when it comes to Aaron Sorkin.  I was intrigued by the prospect of his new HBO drama, "The Newsroom."  I always love the premise of working journalists, even though they barely exist in the lamestream media world of 2012.  As always, this program would probably be very, very good and engaging for me.  Or it could be very, very bad and having me groping for the remote control.

I choose the latter.  "The Newsroom," as written and created by Aaron Sorkin, is a mess.  Before it even premiered, I had popped it into my DVR series queue.  After watching the first four episodes, I have popped it right out. 

So, Sorkin-ites, read on.  And get some ink into those poison pens of yours.

Even though it's tough for any writer to find fault with the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" show, my writing partner always had one major quibble about that program.

"That has to be the most un-busiest newsroom in television."

True.  Besides Mary, Murray, Ted, and Lou, you really only saw one or two other people bee-bopping around WJM.  Contrast that with the Los Angeles Tribune newsroom later depicted on the wonderful "Lou Grant" spin-off series.  Now that felt realistic and exciting.

Somewhere in between those two benchmarks, you find "The Newsroom."  A lot of running around by not a lot of people and there's absolutely nothing going on.  They have it both ways and really no ways.  Nothing could be duller and I was secretly hoping that Rhoda or Georgette would show up to have lunch with one of the characters.  Anything to spice up this complete misfire of a television show.

This is ACN.  Atlantis Cable News and the name is fitting because it should sink to the bottom of the ocean.  ACN looks a little bit like CNN, a little bit like Fox, and a whole lot like the editorial staff working at "Highlights for Children."  The head anchor is Will McAvoy and he's conflicted from the very first scene when we watch him have a You Tube melt down at a panel discussion.  Jeff Daniels once again overplays his role and Honey Baked should offer such a big ham. 

Well, McAvoy goes back to work but is demoted to doing a different anchor position, although the one that is most suited to him would dump him 20,000 fathoms under the sea.  Oh, maybe that's the metaphor Sorkin had in mind when he named this place Atlantis.  Whatever.  I'm already thinking way too much about this show.

So, McAvoy has to adapt to a new crew of "journalists," which is being commandeered now by an....watch for this convenient plot twist...ex-girlfriend.  She's played by Emily Mortimer, who's about twenty years younger than Daniels and they look virtually implausible side-by-side.  They banter as if they are the smartest people in the universe, but, then again, I thought the writer behind it was the smartest person in the universe.  Meanwhile, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn played this dynamic a lot better in "Woman of the Year" and that was produced over seventy years ago when real and impartial journalists actually did exist.

All the youngsters on the newsroom staff are smart and witty.  None of them live in any sort of reality.  But we know they're on top of things because they drop in references to Barack Obama and healthcare.  In an effort to make this show sound current, the whole thing becomes incredibly dated five minutes after it airs.  The shelf life for "The Newsroom" is only about one day longer than a package of Thomas' English Muffins at Ralph's Supermarket.

As you expect, the dialogue is Aaron Sorkin on steroids.  Because he can include politics, every character is made to wax poetic on every liberal talking point ever crafted by Nancy Pelosi.  As a result, nobody sounds even remotely realistic.  No one in any Aaron Sorkin production really talks like a real, genuine person.  My guess is that they all sound like him.  And, if that's the case, I'm glad he's not coming to my house this Thanksgiving.

Perhaps my biggest problem with "The Newsroom" is the implication that a non-biased, purely objective journalistic venture even exists in 2012.  There is no more news.  Nowadays, there is only conjecture and opinions.  Is somebody trying to tell me that CNN doesn't have a point of view or an agenda?  That's a place where the only real news that emanated was the recent announcement that Anderson Cooper was gay.  And who really was surprised by that???  Meanwhile, we have Fox News and the NBC-produced embarrassment MSNB-Hee Haw with its gaggle of morons and low lifes---from the Morning Schmoe to that unconvicted felon Al Sharpton.  News???  Hardly.

So, indeed, maybe "The Newsroom" should be viewed as a world that no longer exists.  A fairy tale. 

Once upon a time, Aaron Sorkin created a series....and all the king's horses and all the king's men....well, all of them sounded just like Aaron Sorkin.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just some Thai noodles.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This Date in History - July 25

Happy birthday to everybody's "Friend." 

285:  DIOCLETIAN APPOINTS MAXIMIAN AS CAESAR, CO-RULER.

Co-ruler?  Yeah, that never works.

306:  CONSTANTINE I IS PROCLAIMED ROMAN EMPEROR BY HIS TROOPS.

Not even twenty years later and Maximian is out.  Told ya so.

315:  THE ARCH OF CONSTANTINE IS COMPLETED NEAR THE COLOSSEUM AT ROME TO COMMEMORATE HIS VICTORY OVER MEXENTIUS.

And what's these Romans' focus on naming their kids either Constantine or something beginning with "Max?"

864:  THE EDICT OF PISTRES OF CHARLES THE BALD ORDERS DEFENSIVE MEASURES AGAINST THE VIKING.

A bald guy's defensive measures?  Wouldn't that include Rogaine?

1261:  THE CITY OF CONSTANTINOPLE IS RECAPTURED BY NICAEAN FORCES, RE-ESTABLISHING THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE.

And you thought all the shit was happening over in Rome....

1554:  MARY I MARRIES PHILIP II OF SPAIN AT WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL.

"You're bringing me down.  A vo de o doe, a vo de o doe....."

1593:  HENRY IV OF FRANCE PUBLICLY CONVERTS FROM PROTESTANTISM TO ROMAN CATHOLICISM.

That's a new one.  A lapsed Protestant.

1722:  DUMMER'S WAR BEGINS ALONG THE MAINE-MASSACHUSETTS BORDER.

When did you ever hear of Maine fighting for anything???

1759:  DURING THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, BRITISH FORCES CAPTURE FORT NIAGARA FROM THE FRENCH.

They had them over a barrel.  Yeah, I know.  Groan.

1788:  WOLFGANG MOZART COMPLETES HIS SYMPHONY NO. 40 IN G MINOR.

Musicians know what that means.  I, however, do not.

1797;  HORATIO NELSON LOSES MORE THAN 300 MEN AND HIS RIGHT ARM DURING A BATTLE IN SPAIN.

This is just a guess, but I'm thinking the arm pissed him off more than the men.

1837:  THE FIRST COMMERCIAL USE OF AN ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH IS SUCCESSFULLY DEMONSTATED IN LONDON.

Dot dot dot dash dash dot dash.  

1861:  DURING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS PASSES THE CRITTENDEN-JOHNSON RESOLUTION, STATING THAT THE WAR IS BEING FOUGHT TO PRESERVE THE UNION AND NOT TO END SLAVERY.

Yeah, right.

1894:  THE FIRST SINO-JAPANESE WAR BEGINS WHEN THE JAPANESE FIRE UPON A CHINESE WARSHIP.

This is obviously page one in the Japs' playbook.

1894:  ACTOR WALTER BRENNAN IS BORN.

"Pepino!"

1908:  ACTOR JACK GILFORD IS BORN.

Cracker Jacks, anybody?

1917:  SIR ROBERT BORDEN INTRODUCES THE FIRST INCOME TAX IN CANADA AS A TEMPORARY MEASURE.

I bet they say that to all the citizens.

1923:  ACTRESS ESTELLE GETTY IS BORN.

She created the character of Sophia on "The Golden Girls."  One of the great roles in sitcom history.

1925:  ACTOR/DIRECTOR JERRY PARIS IS BORN.

Jerry Halper on the "Dick Van Dyke Show" and how bad was his eyesight to be married to Millie?

1942:  NORWEGIAN MANIFESTO CALLS FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE TO THE NAZIS.

Taking their cue from the scummy French people.

1943:  BENITO MUSSOLINI IS FORCED OUT OF OFFICE BY HIS OWN ITALIAN GRAND COUNCIL.

They didn't want him hanging around any more.

1946:  AT CLUB 500 IN ATLANTIC CITY, DEAN MARTIN AND JERRY LEWIS STAGE THEIR FIRST SHOW AS A COMEDY TEAM.

The hottest thing in show business for about ten years.

1961:  IN A SPEECH, JOHN F. KENNEDY EMPHASIZES THAT ANY ATTACK ON BERLIN IS AN ATTACK ON NATO.

One wall going up, please.

1965:  BOB DYLAN GOES ELECTRIC AS HE PLUGS IN AT THE NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL.

I know somebody who once shared a limo with.  He may not have bathed since July 25, 1965.

1967:  ACTOR MATT LE BLANC IS BORN.

Translated, he is "Matt the White."

1978:  LOUISE BROWN, THE WORLD'S FIRST TEST TUBE BABY, IS BORN.

How did they get it out???

1986:  DIRECTOR VINCENTE MINNELLI DIES.

An American in Heaven.

1989:  NIGHTCLUB OWNER STEVE RUBELL DIES.

From Studio 54 to Gravesite # 267.

1993:  ISRAEL LAUNCHES A MASSIVE ATTACK AGAINST LEBANON IN WHAT THE ISRAELIS CALL OPERATION ACCOUNTABILITY.

Unlike Operation Petticoat, which was a hilarious movie from 1959.

1995:  COUNTRY MUSICIAN CHARLIE RICH DIES.

So much for being Rich.

1997:  GOLFER BEN HOGAN DIES.

Finishes two under ground.

2010:  WIKILEAKS PUBLISHES CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS ABOUT THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, ONE OF THE LARGEST LEAKS IN U.S. MILITARY HISTORY.

To quote Ralph Kramden....."I'VE GOT A BIG MOUTH!!!"

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









Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh, The Humanity!

Let's all agree on one thing. 

What happened in Aurora, Colorado last week was deplorable.  A sin of wasted, mostly young lives who will never realize full potential.  No careers that will thrive.  No babies that will be born.  No footprints in the sand extending down the beach of a long, long life.  Especially for that six-year-old who was inexplicably taken to a midnight movie.

But, thanks to the undying need for us to blame something or somebody else for whatever calamity happens in our world, we suddenly don't agree on one thing.

Whose fault is it?

Hmmm, let's blame Hollywood.  After all, it was Warner Brothers who put out this latest Dark Knight dreck.  Hell, I'm not going to see this, but I defend their right to release whatever film they want.  Let's face it, Tinseltown is just addressing the needs of the average, young moviegoer in 2012.  A consumer who is delivering a darker and darker view of life as each decade passes.

Hmmm, let's blame any theater chain that schedules midnight showings of anxiously anticipated films on opening day.  I've always been completely confused by any idiot who would run out to see a movie at the stroke of 12AM.  Don't you have a freakin' job???  Isn't there someplace you need to be in the morning like the rest of us????  Isn't it time you went down to Walmart and put a life in your shopping basket????  Nevertheless, there are people who somehow think that the movie is a lot better at 12 Midnight than it would be at a bargain matinee around 3PM the next day.  So, theater operators are again addressing the needs of the average, young moviegoer in 2012.

Hmmm, let's blame the Tea Party.  Heck, ABC News did.  They Googled the name of the killer, James Holmes, and the first thing that found was somebody with the same name who was registered as a Tea Party member in some state.  Well, then it must be the same guy because all Tea Party folks are vile, despicable, and prone to murdering innocent citizens in mass quantities.  Another sterling example of shlock and reprehensible journalism by the lamestream media.  ABC, NBC, CBS.  All one in the same.  The culprits here were Brian Ross and George Stephanopoulos, the latter never shredding his original career stripes as a political operative.  With any guts, both of these asswipes should be fired...and then sued for slander by the James Holmes they smeared as an assassin. 

Hmmm, let's blame the theater staff.  Yeah, let's do that.  After all, they should have spotted somebody dressed all in black and carrying in a couple of canisters filled with lethal gas.  Right.  Have you ever noticed who is working in a movie multiplex these days?  Teen agers.  Making a part-time buck to get through college or buy that used Camaro.  The only question they are equipped and, more importantly, allowed to ask the patrons is whether they'd like an extra large Coke for just a quarter more.  Frankly, if one of these youngsters use this fiend come into the theater dressed like that, you'd just figure it was costume night at the movies.

Hmmm, let's blame the family of the killer, James Holmes.  They should have alerted somebody that their relative had these tendencies.  Er, yeah, right.  Spoken by folks who don't have the first clue on how you deal with mental illnesses.  Usually, the family is the last to notice.  And, frankly, how hard must it be to call the local mental hospital when it looks like your son just might be "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."  How gut wrenching must that be?  Yet, that doesn't stop some of the usual loudmouths who know it all.  Take, for instance, movie critic and apparent psychological profiler Roger Ebert.  He wrote a whole mental work-up of James Holmes in his column.  Here's another jerk who should keep his mouth shut.  Or keep closed whatever he is using now to voice his opinions.  Ebert is fast becoming one of the dumbest things on two legs and one jaw.

Hmmm, let's blame Barack Obama.  Hell, half the country does that anyway these days.  He must be guilty of something, so let's pin the motive of the shooting on him.  In this case, folks, the fundraiser-in-chief gets a pass, although he should be slapped on the knuckles for once again turning this occasion into another excuse for a campaign rally.  His comments to the nation about the shootings included references to his own kids.  They easily could have been victims in that theater.  Oh, sure, right.  Only if they were wearing bullet point vests and guarded by a phalanx of Secret Service agents, who have surrounded these two urchins for the past five years.  Come to grips, America.  This is not your average American family.  They are rich.  They are elitist.  They are not the people next door.  And please stop pushing us with the notion that Michelle Obama, the alleged Pontius Pilate of sensible dinner meals, has seen the inside of a kitchen for the past fifteen years, except maybe to yell at the help.

Hmmm, let's blame Mitt Romney.  Hell, half the country does that anyway these days.  He must be guilt of something.  He has a Swiss bank account.  He's worked for supposed evil empires.  Maybe James Holmes worked for a company that had jobs outsourced to India and he was replaced by some goofball in New Delhi.  Yeah, that sounds right.  Or maybe the killer really, really hated Mormons.  Sounds stupid?  Of course, but I guarantee that there was some media pundit out there who echoed that very sentiment on a Sunday morning talk show someplace in America.

Hmmm, let's blame the NRA.  Yeah, let's.  Those guns, those damn pesky, madcap guns.  Weapons of semi-mass destruction.  Sadly, I don't have a fast answer to this.  Yes, the Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, but I don't think the founding fathers counted on the possibility of mental illness in our country's framework.  Ban them all, as fat slob Michael Moore suggests?  Umm, no.  If a dad wants to have a handgun for the bedroom night table so he can protect his family from a home invasion, he should be able to.  But, the ability for some nutjob to arm himself like he's his own Middle Eastern country, there needs to be some controls.  Better and tighter legislation.  At the same time, when Richard Speck slashed up eight student nurses back in the 60s, nobody tried to close down the doors of their local Hoffritz Cutlery store.

And, there is the issue, gang.  Plenty of non-blames and we forget a simple fact of life.

There are lunatics out there.

The aforementioned Speck.

Charles "Clock Tower" Whitman.

David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz.

Charles "Helter Skelter" Manson.

Name the decade and I can name the heinous crime carried out by some wacko.  Down through American history. 

The bottom line is that it will happen.  These crazies will persist, all of them zooming in for their date with psychotic destiny.  And all the finger pointing and hand wringing and politicians and gun laws will not be able to stop them.

Sadly, and usually without reason or warning, shit happens.

The one area in which we can all share a little of the small blame that can be allotted for this mass mayhem is the darkness that more and more envelops our world.  Yours and mine.  It's unescapable and growing at a quantum pace.  Our insatiable desire and need to enjoy suffering.  Misery is now entertainment. 

Look at our television shows and our movies.  Pitch black motifs.  Harsh reality displayed nightly for our collective grins.  Who's going home?  Who's getting kicked off?  Who's the big loser today?  Can that Snooki and/or Kardashian be any more pathetic??

Where's the civility of it all any more?  What happened to the days when the biggest dilemma in our nighttime viewing was how Lucy would manage to get into Ricky's show down at the Tropicana?

Hell, in my seemingly harmless array of Words with Friends games I have going, there's even a nasty hint of competition.  Whenever you score enough points to take the lead, what does the site say?

"You've left ____________ in the cold!"

Heck, I was just trying to have fun, not humiliate a friend.  Shouldn't we all have the same objective?  I'm not playing "Words with People I Hate."

But, no, we open the door to darkness.  And then get upset when it actually enters the room.

Dinner last night:  Leftover sausage and peppers from Carlo's.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - July 23, 2012

I absolutely loved the segments of Johnny with these animals.


Dinner last night:  Cold cut plate and salads.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Remembering Ernest Borgnine

If celebrities keep dying at this rate, I won't have any problem filling up the Sunday Memory Drawer every week.

Truth be told, I didn't have the same affinity for the late Ernest Borgnine as I did for Andy Griffith.  I was one of the oddballs in my grade school who didn't love the TV series, "McHale's Navy."  But, nevertheless, the guy struck me pretty much as the average working actor who was proud and eternally grateful to be able to do his craft.   I caught him several months ago on one of those TCM interviews with Robert Osborne and Borgnine was amazingly real, organic, and essentially the next door neighbor who might have just borrowed your step ladder.

Okay, I'm sure he had his bizarre moments.  Let's face it, the guy inexplicably married Ethel Merman and divorced her about a month later.  I could make a salient argument on which end of that union was the crazier action.  Still, Borgnine struck me as being incredibly normal.

Several years ago, my writing partner/roommate and I went through a period where we would procrastinate being creative by watching the Home Shopping Network.  If a celebrity was hawking something, we were even more attentive.  There is nothing funnier than watching a C-list actor selling their soul in the name of a fantastic new juicer.  Or some gaudy baubles on a chain.  Anyway, on this particular day, Tova Borgnine, Ernest's last wife, was peddling a bunch of skin care products designed to melt away the wrinkles of some slob living in Oklahoma.  Tova was taking calls from viewers/would-be customers when, suddenly, a familiar voice dialed in.

"Tova, it's Ernie.  You didn't leave me any mayonnaise."

On national television, a husband and wife were overheard discussing their grocery list.  And it all sounded very real.

But, indeed, I think Ernest Borgnine was very real.  How else could you explain how perfectly he realized the role of Marty, the lonely Bronx butcher, in the 1955 Oscar-winning film of the same name?  About five years ago, I did a blog series where I listed my Top 25 Favorite Films of all time.  "Marty" came in at #22.  It's a movie that I can watch over and over and over, primarily because it hits home for a myriad of reasons.

As I wrote previously....

In the neighborhood of my childhood, I was always captivated by the guy who owned the delicatessen a block away. His name was Charlie and he always looked so sad. I know he had a wife and daughter who lived upstairs from the store, but he never appeared to enjoy slicing ham. I'd go in there usually once a day. I would be armed with a grocery list from one of my parents, requesting I bring home the staples of a daily existence. A quarter pound of salami, a quart of milk, a six pack of Schaefer, and a pack of Kents. At such an early age, I was already an enabler.

Charlie was always nice to me, but I never knew anything about him, except that he was a big fan of Red Skelton. He couldn't get enough of Freddie the Freeloader. I was crazy enough to think that I'd have a future summer job delivering groceries for Charlie. When I got older, I remember asking him. He just smiled faintly. "No thank you." And he went back to his quiet, almost dour existence.I think of Charlie every time I see the movie "Marty." This phenomenal 1955 winner of the Best Picture Oscar offers a portrayal of somebody almost as sad as Charlie.

Marty is the local butcher in a Bronx neighborhood somewhere near Fordham Road. He is a nice and personable overweight man, who is perpetually and probably eternally single. As played by Ernest Borgnine (who could give you stys if you look too long at him), Marty is not the greatest looker in the world. And, except for a couple of losers from the local gin mill on Webster Avenue, everybody around him is married. He lives with his Italian mother, who constantly wonders why he hasn't found that nice girl. Marty starts to become philosophical about it all.

"Ma, sooner or later, there comes a point in a man's life when he's gotta face some facts. And one fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain't got it. I chased after enough girls in my life, I went to enough dances. I got hurt enough, I don't wanna get hurt no more. I just called up a girl this afternoon, and I got a real brush-off, boy! I figured I was past the point of being hurt, but that hurt. Some stupid woman who I didn't even want to call up. She gave me the brush. No, Ma, I don't wanna go to Stardust Ballroom because all that ever happened to me there was girls made me feel like I was a-a-a bug. I got feelings, you know. I-I had enough pain. No thanks, Ma!"

So, Marty adopts the sadness as a part of his life. Just as I watched Charlie the deli owner do when I was a kid.

This is a real movie and it feels even more genuine every time I see it. Let's face it, most men can identify to walking up to someone and asking them out or for a dance---and be summarily dismissed. And most all people can connect with the sensation of human rejection. Despite the fact that it is set in the Bronx of the 1950s, there is a universality that transcends the years. And it sparks anew feelings of a simpler time. Indeed, "Marty" was filmed entirely on the streets of the Bronx depicted in the movie, which makes it exude even more genuineness.

My roommate once mentioned this movie as being thoroughly depressing. Maybe, but always real. And, like life, there is the roller coaster for Marty, because hope is always right around the corner.

When I see "Marty" now, I wonder if Charlie, at one point, asked his wife out for a date at the RKO Fordham. And was there at least a smile on his face that very night?

Reading this passage again, I have been jolted back to that speech Marty makes to his mother.  And a thought came back from the recesses of my mind.

I had a similar moment with my own mother.

In high school, I myself was Marty-like.  A little chubby, a little self-conscious, and a whole lot shy.  Other than my church girlfriend, I was pretty dormant in high school as far as dating was concerned.  Or is that "doormat?"  Whatever the case, my school social life was null and void and I was pretty much relegated to playing penny hockey in the cafeteria during lunch periods.

And, one strange night, it didn't help that my own mother was curious as to my non-comings and non-goings.

"How come you don't date anybody in school?"

Are you freakin' kidding me?????  How dare you poke around in my business????  Do I snoop around yours????

And, the short answer is....

No.

I was asked for simple information and felt completely violated.  My ineptitude was now a topic for discussion in my home.  With a parent, no less.

I could have left it there, but I didn't.  Something propelled me to answer her firmly.  And, all of a sudden, the verbal floodgates opened.

What resulted was not the same prose as Marty shared with his mother.  But, the sentiment was pretty much spot-on.

I went on and on and on.

I was fat.

I thought I was ugly.

I couldn't stand myself.

There, now, Mom, are you glad you asked?

She never did again.

But, the words had been uttered.  And it was all very real for me.  And Charlie.  And Marty.   And, because he seemed to understand that same vulnerability as an actor, probably Ernest Borgnine.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers at Carlo's in Yonkers.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Classic TV Theme of the Month - July 2012

Vacationing anybody?   Dig that crazy guest star list!


Dinner last night:   BBQ spare ribs at Half-Moon in Dobbs Ferry.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your Wedding Album from Hell - 2012

Grandma's slipcovers sure did come in handy.
How much you want to bet that this photo was taken in Las Vegas??
Looks like the kid popped out of her uterus fully formed...and already dressed.

Keeping abreast of all the wedding festivities.
Must be tough to dance on those wooden legs.
From the looks of this maid of honor, the best man's gonna get awful lucky tonight.
Hope they're not serving chocolate fondue at the reception.
Shotgun wedding joke?  Anybody?
I guess there is such a thing as spring training for your honeymoon.
L'il Abner and Daisy Mae finally tied the knot.

Dinner last night:  Turkey burger at the NY apartment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Meanwhile, Down at Floyd's Barber Shop


Continuing along with the Andy Griffith Appreciation theme...

Floyd's Barber Shop in Mayberry was like any barber shop in America.  Friends gathered to shoot the breeze while waiting for their turn with the clippers in the chair.  Andy, Barney, Goober, and maybe even Howard jawing about the latest doings in town.  Whose house was getting a new paint job?  Whose mother just whipped a new recipe for boysenberry pie?  Who got a new tie for the big town dance?

And, while we never really saw this on television, barber shops are also the place to take the temperature of the country.  Here's where you can discount the polls offered by USA Today/Gallup, the New York Times, and CNN.  You want to know what the nation is really thinking?  Go get your hair done.

And, so it was for me two weeks ago.  And I unexpectedly got an earful.

I've been seeing the same great hair stylist for most of my time in Los Angeles.  I have followed her to a variety of venues and her latest gig is in a pretty high end salon in West Hollywood.  There's always good and funny dialogue there on any given Saturday between her and the other folks that toil around her station.  From cut to ultimate blow dry, it's always an engaging ninety or so minutes for me.

Now, please keep in mind that the conversation never really gets that heavy.  And almost never gravitates to politics.  Even if it did, I would likely keep my mouth shut.  This is Los Angeles and the world of show business.  Unless you have an extreme and radical liberal viewpoint, your thoughts are almost always and immediately dismissed.

But, two Saturdays ago, I walked into a discussion that was already at its midpoint.  And, as I sat down in my chair, I was alerted by my hair stylist.

"We're talking politics."

Umm, okay.  I'll be quiet.  Since I hate both sides usually.

Except this was a crowd that was up in arms.  All women.  A variety of ages.  And almost all of them had voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

But I quickly learned that those ballot checkmarks might have been a one-time-only event.  These folks were angry.

Annoyed by a health care plan that they all seemed to know was going to hit them in their pocketbook.

Exhausted by all the talk of class warfare. 

"What's so bad about people trying to make a million dollars?  Isn't that how our country was built?"

No longer buying into the notion that Barack and Michelle Obama were the idyllic benchmarks to emulate.

"I don't buy her act.  She hasn't seen the inside of a kitchen in twenty years."

"Who cares what George Clooney thinks?"

One client in the other chair had just finished Edward Klein's Obama-focused expose, "The Amateur," a book that I myself was reading at the same time.  She couldn't stop talking about the contents of that tome.  Plans were made to pass it around like a joint.

Knowing that this was not a combat zone for equal-hating-both-sides me, I chimed in a bit.  I brought up my long-standing notion that all Presidential candidates must take an extensive American History test and then a complete psychiatric work-up.  High fives were exchanged at the very mention.

"I don't know what's so bad about Mitt Romney.  At least, he's run a business." 

When the "Amateur-reading" client mentioned that the book reports about a major falling-out between Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas, that was the last straw.  If Oprah was no longer lock step in formation with the First Family, how could they be?

I listened to all this and surveyed the demographics.  A wide range of ages on the female side of the ledger.  They had mostly all voted for Barack in 2008.  And were no longer standing behind him.

I thought about what was happening around me.  This was West Hollywood.  The belly of the liberal beast.  If the President was no longer delivering this crowd, perhaps the upcoming election won't be as close as it seems.  Just maybe the anger and disillusionment will show up at the polling places come November.  Granted this is California and a lost cause in the electoral college anyway.  But, still....

This was Obama's crowd and he has lost them.  Hmmmmm......

Gee, I wonder what Andy and Barney are thinking.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This Date in History - July 18

Happy birthday, Joe Torre.  I'll bet there's a big old plate of shrimp scampi in front of him tonight.

390 BC:  A ROMAN ARMY IS DEFEATED BY RAIDING GAULS, LEADING TO THE SUBSEQUENT SACKING OF ROME.

Some Gauls have all the gall.

362:  EMPEROR JULIAN ARRIVES AT ANTIOCH WITH A ROMAN FORCE OF 60,000 MEN AND STAYS THERE FOR NINE MONTHS. 

An influx of 60,000 men.  I hope there were more than 10 prostitutes in town.

1290:  KING EDWARD I OF ENGLAND ISSUES THE EDICT OF EXPULSION, BANISHING ALL JEWS FROM ENGLAND.

Just in case you thought Hitler was the one who started it all.

1334:  THE BISHOP OF FLORENCE BLESSES THE FIRST FOUNDATION STONE FOR THE NEW BELL TOWER OF THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL.

In a later trip, Norman Lear later named the character of a maid after the same bell tower.

1555:  THE COLLEGE OF ARMS WAS REINCORPORATED BY A ROYAL CHARTER SIGNED BY QUEEN MARY I OF ENGLAND AND KING PHILIP II OF SPAIN.

The College of Legs was later started by a decree issued by Jane Russell and Betty Grable.

1792:  NAVAL COMMANDER JOHN PAUL JONES DIES.

He never lived to know that they would name one-half of a musical group after him.

1862:  THE FIRST ASCENT OF DENT BLANCHE, ONE OF THE HIGHEST SUMMITS IN THE ALPS.

Somebody tried to make a dent.  Oh, don't groan.  You try to do this every Wednesday.

1870:  THE FIRST VATICAN COUNCIL DECREES THE DOGMA OF PAPAL INFALLIBILITY.

Infallible?  Anybody talk to the altar boys?

1903:  ACTOR CHILL WILLS IS BORN.

Who names their kid after a word you would find on a weather map?

1909:  ACTRESS HARRIET NELSON IS BORN.

The most famous womb in television history.

1911:  ACTOR HUME CRONYN IS BORN.

Who names their kid after....er, what the hell is a "hume" again?

1913:  COMEDIAN RED SKELTON IS BORN.

"Two seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliff...."

1925:  ADOLF HITLER PUBLISHES HIS MANIFEST "MEIN KAMPF."

Just wait for the paperback.

1940:  ACTOR JAMES BROLIN IS BORN.

You just look at him and you know he's a box of rocks.

1940:  BASEBALL PLAYER AND MANAGER JOE TORRE IS BORN.

The best description I ever heard of an ugly girl?  "She looks like Joe Torre with tits."

1941:  SINGER MARTHA REEVES IS BORN.

Bring on those Vandellas.

1944:  HIDEKI TOJO RESIGNS AS PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN.

Sayonara.  Rat bastard.

1955:  DISNEYLAND OFFICIALLY OPENS TO THE PUBLIC.

Several were still waiting on-line the next day.

1961:  ACTRESS ELIZABETH MCGOVERN IS BORN.

I cannot wait for Season 3 of "Downton Abbey!"

1968:  THE INTEL CORPORATION IS FOUNDED IN SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA.

The birth of the chiphead.

1969:  AFTER A PARTY ON CHAPPAQUIDDICK, SENATOR TED KENNEDY DRIVES AN OLDSMOBILE OFF A BRIDGE.

And just who was the designated driver on duty this night?

1969:  MARY JO KOPECHNE DIES IN SAID OLDSMOBILE.

The fact that this fat bastard got away with this and was re-elected to the Senate for years and years later is one of the biggest injustices in American History.

1976:  NADIA COMANECI BECAME THE FIRST PERSON IN OLYMPIC HISTORY TO SCORE A PERFECT 10 IN GYMNASTICS.

Bo Derek will tell you that there are no perfect 10s.

1984:  IN A SAN YSIDRO, CALIFORNIA MCDONALDS, A SNIPER OPENS FIRE, KILLING 21 PEOPLE AND INJURING 19 OTHERS.

Michelle Obama is right.  Fast food kills you.

1989:  BASEBALL PLAYER DONNIE MOORE DIES.

Suicide.  Because he gave up a homerun in the 1986 playoffs.  If he had been managed by Joe Torre earlier in his career, his arm would have been injured and he might be still alive today.

1989:  ACTRESS REBECCA SCHAEFFER DIES.

My Sister Sam.  Killed by a jealous guy.  O.J., your alibi is???

1990:  COMEDIAN JOHNNY WAYNE DIES.

And Schuster weeps.

1995:  ON THE ISLAND OF MONTSERRAT, THE SOUFRIERE HILLS VOLCANO ERUPTS AND DESTROYS THE ISLAND.

Just in case you had vacation plans in 1996....

2005:  GENERAL WILLIAM WESTMORELAND DIES.

Cue the rider-less horse.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers at La Dolce Vita.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Devil Made Me See It

The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, California, is a wonderfully intimate theater.  But, until August 12, it will be serving as an extension of the Los Angeles County Morgue where 500 or so patrons will likely die from boredom during each evening's inexplicable performance of "The Exorcist."

No, not the movie, folks.  That still and will always work as a crafty horror film, thanks to the lush direction of William Friedkin and finely-honed performances by the likes of Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller, Ellen Burstyn, and Linda Blair.  Say what you want about the controversial subject matter, it is a screen classic that still works well on your Blu-Ray player, especially with the lights out.

Yet, in a desperate attempt to find any kind of content to mount on the legitimate stage, some producing felons have turned this tale into a drama that is allegedly destined for Broadway.  From what I saw in its Los Angeles run, it will never reach the Great White Way, unless somebody in New York decides it's a great way to ease traffic on 44th Street.  More likely, "The Exorcist" will stumble around and land somewhere in Nebraska, which is a fitting site for a theatrical pergatory.  And, if the producers follow it to that state, they should know that I think the act of stoning is still legal there.

Mercifully, the culprits behind "The Exorcist" have chosen to move the story along at a crisp pace.  What apparently started as a two act play has been reduced to one act running 95 minutes.  Don't think the playwright-in-question was trying to be precise.  He had a hidden agenda.  If there was an intermission, most of the audience would likely head for the exits at the act break. 

What possessed me to see this swill?  Well, I have to admit to a bit of curiosity.  How would they pull off all those special effects on the stage?  And would there be the expected projectile vomiting?  Luckily, there was none, although, by the end of the Geffen run, it might actually happen and come from the direction of the audience.  Yep, "The Exorcist" can be that unsettling.

But, I sampled this dreck nonetheless, accompanied by my pastor who was really there to fulfill a lifetime desire to drool over star Richard Chamberlain in person, as if she even has a shot with the guy.  On my other side was good friend and staunch Catholic, Djinn from the Bronx, who was fretting pre-show about being exposed to the William Peter Blatty saga for the first time in her life.  I figured that, with these two religious devotees in tow, I was in good company.  And, indeed, we all were.  But, by the end of the show, we were stifling giggles.  Only the Devil knows how we could keep a straight face.

The major problem, as if I can only concentrate on one, is the script itself.  Okay, the writer is John Pielmeier, who previously wrote "Agnes of God," so we know that, at the very least, he knows how to roll a piece of paper into a Smith Corona.  But, what results from his adaptation of the Blatty novel is the most stilted dialogue this side of an episode of "Full House."  The words are so ludicrous that the only place this script might work is as a daily novella on Telemundo.  In Spanish, the play would make a whole lot more sense.  Or maybe not. 

Perhaps, a comedic touch would have been more welcomed.   How about running this through script doctor Neil Simon?  I can see wonderful possibilities.  There's "Vatican Suite."  Or "Barefoot in the Narthex."  Hey, here's an idea.  John the Baptist is forced to live with Jesus while visiting Nazareth.  John's a little messy and...

Oh, well.  Thank goodness nobody opted to turn "The Exorcist" into a musical.  Can you imagine that?  With Harry Connick Jr. as Father Karras?

"Life ain't grand.  Life ain't so well.  The Devil wants me to go to Hell."

I doth digress...

Pielmeier sticks more closely to Blatty's original work, so there's less of a reliance on scare tactics in this stage production.  Other than that, the story remains the same.  Young Regan, daughter of screen actress Chris, is possessed by Satan.  You know when Lucifer shows up because the lights flash and there are screeching noises you normally hear on the 405 Freeway during a sudden downpour.  The entire cast remains on-stage throughout the show.  If not doing their own lines, they're in the background adding to the soundtrack as the Devil.  Or simply mumbling endless vespers and they all sound like a cartoon where Mr. Magoo gets lost in St. Peter's Basilica.   

Teller, of the famed Penn and Teller, is credited with some of the flimsy slight-of-hand used in the show.  There's a quick levitation, but, sadly, the power of the script was not raised concurrently.  Blood spills from a cross that hangs over the proceedings and all that did was prove to me that the Geffen's recent remodel might have included a nifty new drainage system.  Meanwhile, it appears that the producers could spring for only one prop.  A chalice that is used over and over.  One of the priests wants some coffee?   Out comes the chalice.  One character munching on popcorn served in a....wait for it, chalice.  Some people might call this symbolism.  I call it a show budget of about nine bucks.

As for the cast and the acting, less could be said, but what fun would that be?  Brooke Shields, who I think does have some comedic chops, doesn't find the funny here.  She plays Regan's mother as if she's still channeling the character of "Rizzo" from "Grease."  We know she's really concerned about her daughter because she says "fuck" a lot.  Meanwhile, Brooke hasn't looked this uncomfortable since she was running around in her Fruit-of-the-Looms with Christopher Atkins in "The Blue Lagoon."  Thank God she can fall back on her job as spokesperson for La-Z-Boy furniture.  Hey, that can be a lucrative gig.  Heck, I just bought a living room set from them.
Meanwhile, poor and unsuspecting Emily Yetter is stuck for the evening as even poorer and even more unsuspecting Regan.  Emily is listed in the Playbill as a graduate of the UCLA Theater Department, although, from her work here, she might as well have graduated with a degree in gymnastics.  If they had produced this twenty years ago, Mary Lou Retton might have played the role.  As Satan's vessel, all Emily gets to do is a lot of pelvic thrusts.  Talent like that might not get her many more theater parts, but she'll never be lacking for boyfriends.

In the pivotal role of Father Damien Karras, some nebbish named David Wilson Barnes brings as much energy to the evening as a motor home generator that somebody forgot to recharge.  His main acting choice is to stare down at his shoes and question his religious belief, as if he just discovered that  God doesn't look kindly on people who wear penny loafers.  His delivery facilitates between Gobi Desert-flat to one that you would hear on a television game show.  Father Bill Cullen.  According to the credits, Barnes has worked before.  After "The Exorcist," he might not ever again.

Broadway veteran Harry Groener hams up the role of drunken film director Burke Dennings so much that he probably should enter the stage wearing pineapple glaze and some cloves.  His presence in the play prompts the most ridiculous suspension of logic.   Worried about her daughter's health, why, oh, why would a mother leave her child for ten minutes in the care of an alcoholic lunatic?  Forget calling the Catholic Church about this play.   Somebody notify Social Services about the poor parenting choice suggested by this playwright.   In a dramatic moment, Regan snaps Burke's neck.  I swear that I heard several people in the theater cheer.

As the object of my pastor's optical affection, Richard Chamberlain perhaps suffers the most in the "lead" role of Father Merrin.  Besides conducting the exorcism himself, his job is to pop out from time to time and offer little mini-sermons that may have originated in the pages of the Catholic Digest.  At the very beginning, he tells us that Satan has appeared in a variety of places.  Cambodia, Auschwitz, Somalia and maybe even in San Francisco at Nancy Pelosi's house.  Attempting to tie this old story into current events, Chamberlain acts less as a narrator and more like the New York Times Archives. 

Meanwhile, Chamberlain looks so pained that you would think he just got a dressing down from Raymond Massey as Dr. Gillespie.  Supposedly, our own Dr. Kildare is only doing this role in the LA production.  If the show goes to Broadway...please hold for my laughter...Father Merrin will be played by Malcolm McDowell.  Smart move, Dick.  You can hightail it back to Hawaii and sip a smart cocktail underneath a palm tree and forget about your six weeks at the Geffen.

These days, you can't go to a theatrical production without seeing the requisite standing ovation at the conclusion.  Very few shows merit such a reaction, but virtually all get it.  Except for "The Exorcist."  At the end and during the curtain calls, there was mild applause.  Hands clapping.  Or maybe that was the sound of folks slapping themselves awake.  Whatever the case, tepid responses in a small theater in Los Angeles certainly never translate to good reviews in Times Square.

There are ways they could have mounted this show.  Personally, a complete satirical touch would have been welcomed.   "National Lampoon's Exorcist," anybody?  But, realistically, the producers should have just looked at the original script and say what I should have said when presented with the notion of buying tickets to "The Exorcist."

The hell with it.

Just for the record again, "The Exorcist" was written by John Pielmeier, directed by Randall Arney, and produced by complete mistake.

Dinner last night:  Steak, mushrooms, and salad---a great dinner at the home of good friends Leo and Connie.