Saturday, November 30, 2013

Classic Musical Comedy Production of the Month - November 2013

Woo hoo!  A five month Saturday and we get to see a classic musical comedy number. This one from the terrific "Bells Are Ringing" with Judy Holliday and Dean Martin.  A song completely built out of celebrity names.
Dinner last night:  Thanksgiving leftovers.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Your Holiday Shopping Guide for 2013

If you are one of the idiots who went out Christmas shopping at 3AM today, please never cross my path.  There is no need for that nonsense.   Let me...and Skymall...shop for you with these nifty gift ideas.
Make your front yard festive for the holidays with this inflatable tree.  You don't have to water it.  You don't have to worry about Fluffy eating the tinsel and crapping silver strands for weeks.  You don't have to clean up pine needles until July.  Simply select your favorite relative with the most hot air and let them blow.  
Because your dog deserves a mattress as firm as yours.   Sealy now making posture-pedic comfort for Skippy.   Meanwhile, have you seen a dog with a bad back?
Want some body ink without the needles?   These T-shirts are clear with some tatts already painted on.  I can't think of a bigger waste of money this holiday season.
When you stop worrying about the pooch's posture, focus on yours with this harness.  Endorsed personally by Joan Crawford.  Used it on our her own children for years.
Drink champagne out of the shoe of your football widow before she hits you over the head with the bottle.
This is a tracking device for your luggage.  And that's terrific if your suitcase actually winds up in the same airport as you.
A single device that will store every one of your passwords.  Of course, if one thief finds the whole thing, you are definitely screwed.
A safe for your valuables hidden in a Pringles can.  Of course, if crooks access Skymall, they will be on the lookout for your potato chip stash.
It's a living room end table.   And a bathroom for Frisky.   Okay, you're sitting and watching your favorite TV show while the cat is taking a crap inches away.  This piece of junk better come with a big can of Glade.
As if we don't have enough lawyers in this country.   Available in adult and children's versions, the latter called the "John F. Kennedy Jr." edition.
Let your kid dress up like a doctor.   And, if you like your child, you can keep your child.
Take this junk and watch the fat melt away.  Endorsed by Oprah's quack, Dr. Oz, which tells me this crap doesn't work.

Dinner last night:  The traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

If I Tweeted - November 2013 "Special Thanksgiving Edition"

I don't, you know.   But, if I did, here's what was on my mind this past month.  And be careful not to drop your phone into the gravy.

#LenSpeaks  So many health insurance plans are being cancelled, it's as if they're all airing on NBC.

#LenSpeaks  Obama Lied.   Healthcare died.  As if a lying President is a new phenomenon.

#LenSpeaks  There have been 44 Presidents.   I'm guessing 43 of them have been liars.   I think Zachary Taylor was squeaky clean, though.

#LenSpeaks  You will all note the Obama's re-election website never went down.  

#LenSpeaks  If you like your President, you can keep your President.

#LenSpeaks  When Len rewrites the US Constitution, I will insist that all Presidential candidates pass a history test and a psychological exam.

#LenSpeaks  If that's the case, the last seven Presidents don't even come close to Pennsylvania Avenue. 

#LenSpeaks  To those who embraced the new Democratic Mayor of New York City, I have two words.   David Dinkins.

#LenSpeaks  Dinkins opened up a donut stand, right?

#LenSpeaks  If you didn't pay attention to Veterans Day, shame on you.

#LenSpeaks  Some guy went nuts in LAX Airport and shot a TSA agent.  Oh, just wait on line like everybody else.

#LenSpeaks   Or go TSA-Preferred like I do.  Which is shooting-free

#LenSpeaks  This shooting prompted another call for gun control.  Those people are the same ones going to Quentin Tarantino movies on opening weekend.

#LenSpeaks  Let's face it.   There is a lot of anger in this country.

#LenSpeaks  When the anarchy hits the street, can we put Nancy Pelosi in the front?

#LenSpeaks   I saw Jon Voight in a pastry shop.  Asking for the price on each and every scone.

#LenSpeaks   Jon, you didn't have to do that.  We all noticed you.

#LenSpeaks A typhoon in the Philippines and a tornado in the Midwest.  Which disaster do you think Hollywood will raise money for?

#LenSpeaks  From a recent Big Bang Theory, a hilarious line by Bob Newhart's character on what he does when he wakes up in the middle of the night: "I get up. I pee. And then I wander around the house for a while."

#LenSpeaks   There was a Dodger season ticket holder pre-sale for anybody who wanted to buy tickets for that NHL hockey game being played at the Stadium in January. 

#LenSpeaks   My ticket level price is $279, which is more than what my WS ticket would have cost. Bye, bye, NHL. Pass.

#LenSpeaks  I guess they stopped giving tests to be on Jeopardy.
 #LenSpeaks  Think of the possibilities when it was 9:10 on 11/12/13.

#LenSpeaks   CVS automated checkout: "Please select your language." There is no prompt for "English, God damn it."

#LenSpeaks  The 50th anniversary of JFK is happening.   If Jack Bauer had been there that day, none of it would have happened.

#LenSpeaks  It was also the 50th anniversary of the death of Aldous Huxley on the same day.  Didn't see a single mention on CNN.

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, I popped this CBS retrospective DVD in and look at the menu screen.
#LenSpeaks  This could only come from the idiots at CSB News. 

#LenSpeaks  When the next national calamity happens, you do realize it will be completely driven by Facebook and Twitter.

#LenSpeaks  Twitter if it existed on 11/22/63.  #JackieBK  "Oh, no."

#LenSpeaks  Twitter if it existed on 11/24/63.  #LeeHO  "Ouch."

#LenSpeaks  A redundant Macy's balloon?  Chris Christie.

#LenSpeaks  Al Roker looks like a candy bar you left in the car last July.

#LenSpeaks  For me, these are the only people I enjoyed as hosts of the Macy's Parade.
#LenSpeaks  And guess what, NBC?   One of them is still available.

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

        

       

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Date in History - November 27

Happy birthday, Barbara Anderson.  I remember you from "Ironside."  So do my hormones.

176:  EMPEROR MARCUS AURELIUS GRANTS HIS SON COMMODUS THE RANK OF IMPERATOR.

Commodus? Later the toilet bowl?

395:  RUFINUS, PRAETORIAN PREFECT OF THE EAST, IS MURDERED BY GOTHIC MERCENARIES.

Well, nobody is prefect.

602:  EMPEROR MAURICE IS FORCED TO WATCH HIS FIVE SONS BE EXECUTED BEFORE BEING BEHEADED HIMSELF.

Well, that's a lot of news for their upcoming Christmas newsletter.

1095:  POPE URBAN II DECLARES THE FIRST CRUSADE AT THE COUNCIL OF CLERMONT.

What was this Pope's last name?  Blight?  Legend?

1295:  THE FIRST ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES FROM LANCASHIRE ARE CALLED TO WESTMINSTER BY KING EDWARD I TO ATTEND A "MODEL PARLIAMENT."

As opposed to a "model Winston" or a "model Newport."

1727:  THE FOUNDATION STONE TO THE JERUSALEM'S CHURCH IN BERLIN IS LAID.  

So even stones can be sluts.

1830:  ST. CATHERINE LABOURE EXPERIENCES A VISION OF THE BLESSED BIRGIN STANDING ON A GLOBE, CRUSHING A SERPENT WITH HER FEET, AND EMANATING RAYS OF LIGHT FROM HER HANDS.

That's a little too specific for me.

1835:  JAMES PRATT AND JOHN SMITH ARE HANGED IN LONDON.  THEY ARE THE LAST TWO TO BE EXECUTED FOR SODOMY IN ENGLAND. 

The ones that followed were all elected into government.

1839:  IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, THE AMERICAN STATISTICAL ASSOCIATION IS FOUNDED.

And, on this day, somebody starts with the number 1.

1863:  DURING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, UNION FORCES UNDER GENERAL GEORGE MEADE POSITION AGAINST TROOPS FROM THE SOUTH.

Also under the General---Mrs. Meade.

1868:  UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER LEADS AN ATTACK ON CHEYENNE.

Pissing them off for a future last stand.

1895:  IN PARIS, ALFRED NOBEL SIGNS HIS LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, SETTING ASIDE HIS ESTATE TO ESTABLISH THE NOBEL PRIZE.

This used to be a big deal when they announced the winners.   But when they gave it to Durward Kirby, I was done.

1916:  SPORTSCASTER CHICK HEARN IS BORN.

Who names their kid "Chick?"

1917:  TV HOST BUFFALO BOB SMITH IS BORN.

And I looked it up.  He really was born in Buffalo.

1924:  IN NEW YORK CITY, THE FIRST MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE IS HELD.

And the very first balloon was Felix the Cat.   For those in the American Statistical Association who are keeping track.

1925:  ACTOR MARSHALL THOMPSON IS BORN.

TV's Daktari!!!

1934:  BANK ROBBER BABY FACE NELSON DIES IN A SHOOTOUT WITH THE FBI.

He had the cutest little.....

1940:  ACTOR BRUCE LEE IS BORN.

A chop off the old block.

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE FRENCH NAVY SCUTTLES ITS SHIPS AND SUBMARINES TO KEEP THEM OUT OF NAZI HANDS.

It never ceases to amaze me how cowardly the French are.

1942:  ROCK STAR JIMI HENDRIX IS BORN.

Everybody say "high."

1945:  ACTRESS BARBARA ANDERSON IS BORN.

She disappeared after only a few years on television.  Another woman that I had wished was my mother.

1953:  PLAYWRIGHT EUGENE O'NEILL DIES.

A long day's journey into casket.

1954:  ALGER HISS IS RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER SERVING 44 MONTHS FOR PERJURY.

Boo Hiss.

1957:  AUTHOR CAROLINE KENNEDY IS BORN.

So, yes, her birthday was ruined six years later.

1965:  THE PENTAGON TELLS US PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON THAT IF PLANNED OPERATIONS ARE TO SUCCEED, THE NUMBER OF AMERICAN TROOPS IN VIETNAM HAD TO BE QUADRUPLED.

And, stupid fool that he was, he listened to them.

1968:  PENNY ANN EARLY BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN TO PLAY MAJOR PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL IN AN ABA GAME.

She's still with us so she's not yet the late Penny Ann Early.

1973:  THE US SENATE VOTES 92 TO 3 TO CONFIRM GERALD FORD AS VICE PRESIDENT.

And the three were?

1978:  IN SAN FRANCISCO, CITY MAYOR GEORGE MOSCONE AND GAY CITY SUPERVISOR HARVEY MILK ARE KILLED BY FORMER SUPERVISOR DAN WHITE.

Don't cry over spilled Moscone.

1981:  SINGER LOTTE LENYA DIES.

The big villain versus James Bond in "From Russia With Love."  Oh, yeah, and she did a bunch of other stuff.

1990:  ACTOR DAVID WHITE DIES.

Larry Tate from TV's "Bewitched."

2004:  POPE JOHN PAUL II RETURNS THE RELICS OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM TO THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH.

Who knew he even had them??

2005:  THE FIRST PARTIAL HUMAN FACE TRANSPLANT IS COMPLETED IN FRANCE.

So there is hope for the Phantom of the Opera after all.

2012:  UNION LEADER MARVIN MILLER DIES.

Led the strikes of the players against Major League Baseball.  For ruining my summer, you're getting what you deserve.

Dinner last night:  Bratwurst burger.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recycled

As you may know, I'm a big fan of documentaries.   They give me the opportunity to learn a different slant on an old news topic.  Or to learn about something completely new on a subject which may have eluded me over time.

So I guess one of those reasons is why I went to see filmmaker Alex Gibney's "The Armstrong Lie."  I knew very little about champion cyclist Lance Armstrong except that he came out on Oprah's show last year and admitted he lied about using performance enhancing drugs.  I wanted to know more.

I saw the movie and learned little less.  As it turns out, "The Armstrong Lie" is a rather uncompelling documentary that left me...well...sleepy.  

Okay, I will be right up front.  There are two sports or activities that I completely don't understand.  Running, especially the marathon type.  There are folks who are addicted to this and I have seen all their futures.  It's crippling arthritis.

Cycling also has its devotees and I totally understand the exhilaration they must feel on some long rides on country roads over crisp fall weekends.  The bikers who love to do this on main roads and cause auto smack-ups?  Well, they can go to hell.  But, the cycling done by one Lance Armstrong is in a sport that, for our sake, stays off the streets and out of traffic.

Except it's a sport that I don't understand.  I have no clue how the Tour De France is organized.  If you're not familiar with the competitive rules of cycling, this movie is totally over your head.  As it was mine.

Truth be told, I would have a soft spot for somebody like Lance Armstrong.  He's a cancer survivor for one of the body parts that I also worried about.  Well, he had it.  I didn't.  But I can share a lot of the fears associated with testicular cancer.

Armstrong recovers from this disease and ends up winning that French bike race a whole bunch of times.  In the process, he pisses off a lot of people who eventually turn him in for doping up during those big races.

Done.  End of documentary.  Please leave the theater.  Remember to throw your soda cup into the trash can on your way out.

If you're dying to watch lots and lots and lots of footage of professional bicycle races, this is the film to see.  If you're not, the couch at home is quite comfortable and feel free to nap there instead of the theater playing "The Armstrong Lie."

You learn nothing new from this movie that you didn't already know from watching five minutes of ESPN Sportscenter.  Lance lied.  He's a total prick.  Who cares?

There are no revelations or hypotheses offered by the filmmaker.  In a film that is craving for some sort of opinion, you get none.  And, even worse, this is a documentary that is almost two hours long.  

One hour and forty-five minutes of which are spent watching people pedal all over the French countryside.  

A good documentary makes me want to learn more.  "The Armstrong Lie" made me want to know less.  And, as I drove home, I was cut off by one of those lunatics on a bicycle.

I hit the horn a little longer.  Get out of the way, stupid!

LEN'S RATING:   One star.

Dinner last night:  Pancetta and provolone panini.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 25, 2013

I never tire of this scene from a Thanksgiving episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Dinner last night:  Proscuitto and provolone panini.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Pinnacle of Sunday Memories

Fifty years ago today, this happened.  About two seconds later, this happened.
The first photo was thought to be a real doozy.   Until the second one surfaced and then won the Pulitzer Prize.

Either way, this was a lot for us to handle as a country.  We were all still reeling from the devastating Friday before.  The day America changed forever.

The President of the United States was dead.  Shot in cold blood.  And little kids like me at the time couldn't comprehend it all.  Prior to the Kennedy White House, all the previous Presidents in our school books looked old.  They had beards.  They looked older than our own grandfathers. 

But John F. Kennedy and Jackie.  They looked like Mom and Dad.  They had two little children who are our own ages.  Heck, what a play date that would have been for all of us.

Maybe that's why these dates and that weekend a half century ago still haunt and occupy the memory bank of this youngster. 

On that Friday, we had taken one of those class trips.  You would walk arm in arm with your trip buddy in double file.  We had traversed about nine city blocks to the Mount Vernon Public Library.  Get the kids started early with a reading habit.  After all, books had words, not just pictures. 

Sometime before being presented with our first library cards, we noticed all the librarians huddled behind a counter.  Two of them were crying.  Had one of us put back a book on the wrong shelf?  Or was our little class simply too much to handle on one Friday afternoon?

We reassumed our double file order on the street outside for the walk back to Grimes School.  I remember the sound of church bells.  Had we been in the library that long?  Was it already Sunday?

As we passed through the Mount Vernon, New York shopping district, there was more scurrying around than usual.  It all seemed different.  As we passed several schools on our walk home, we saw flags being lowered to halfway down the pole.  What was happening?

When we were back at the school building, teachers were gathered in the hallway.  Some were crying, too.  Had news of our bad behavior in the library traveled that fast?  Was it me? Had I been the one who put the book back on the wrong shelf?

Seated in our class, our teacher Mrs. Ian told us what had happened in Dallas.  Even our small minds could process this big news.  A bad man had shot and killed President Kennedy.  And, in a bizarre way, we peppered Mrs. Ian with questions.

Were Caroline and John John all right?

Who is the new President?

Does he have any children?

We were relating to the news as only we could as kids. 

School was immediately dismissed on this Friday and, for this one time only, there was no cheer.  I scurried home to make sense of it all.  I wanted to be safely there with my family.

Of course, the first folks I ran into were my grandparents.  They always had an odd take on current events.  My grandmother was upset.

"My stories aren't on."

That figured.  My grandmother always said that John F. Kennedy was going to turn us into Catholics. As for my grandfather, seated with the Daily News on the kitchen table, he had his usual "go to" response whenever something bad happened to America.

"Communists."

From Presidential assassinations to the rise in beer prices, Grandpa was always suspecting a plot from the Soviet Union.

Like all of the nation and some of the world that day, we had our televisions on.  And stared at images of flag-draped coffins and blood-stained skirts and the creepy, skinny guy who may have caused this all. 

That night, I was happier than usual when both my parents had come home from work and we were all safely under one roof.  I tried to read my new library book in bed.  "Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine," I believe.  But I couldn't help but see that image of Lee Harvey Oswald before me.  I got scared and retreated to that lair where all frightened little kids go.

I pulled the covers over my head.

If you're were in the Northeast the next day, the weather outside fit your mood.  Dark and rainy and somber.  We, like millions of Americans, went through the motions.  Despite the lousy weather, my parents and I took a ride up Central Avenue to go shopping at the EJ Korvette's department store.  We weren't looking for anything in particular.  It was simply to get out of the house and away from the television which was repeating the same grimness over and over and over.

It was all a blur and suitably so.

Sunday, however, was bright and cold and windy.  I was advised early on that we would be dining out and that I would be getting dressed up.  Fancy eats for a Sunday dinner. 

But I was still home around noontime.  Laying on the floor in front of my grandparents' black and white television downstairs in their living room.  It was 12 o'clock so naturally Grandma and Grandpa were having their big dinner in the kitchen.  Dead President or not, they couldn't deviate from their regular schedule.

My eyes focused on a scuffle that enveloped the TV screen.  Now what?  Then I heard the words from a TV reporter.

"He's been shot.  Lee Oswald has been shot."

It was probably the only time in my life that I stood and ran in one simultaneous motion.  I relayed the news to my grandparents.  Grandma was munching on some cucumbers and sour cream.

"Now my stories won't be on tomorrow, either."

Grandpa?

"Communists."

More numbness overtook our world.  I had watched a murder on television.  This was clearly no Bugs Bunny cartoon.  Or Moe hitting Curly over the head with a wrench.  This was real. 

Our Sunday afternoon dinner that day was an event.  My father's cousin's husband was looking to buy an eating establishment.  He and his wife, my Aunt Ollie, had invited my parents along to see a place in Larchmont.  I was dragged along because...well...I was always dragged along.  On this day, I did not mind the expected loneliness.  Sipping a Coke in a corner while adults talked adult stuff.

This would not be a good day to see what this restaurant was like.  Except for the primed-to-sell owner and us, there was nobody there.  No one else had left their televisions.  Ultimately, we were able to sit there for hours in complete quiet.  Except for the sounds of the adult voices, it was all still.  No television.  No radio.  No newspaper.

No real world.

Of course, the starkness eventually came to their conversation as well.  Aunt Ollie was talking that our own Lutheran church would be having a special service tomorrow on what was now a national day of mourning.  She always treated me as an adult and, on this day, would be no different.

"Would you like to come with me?"

I nodded yes.  You would think that the notion of sitting through some boring church memorial would be a horrific thought for this little kid.  But, something inside of me made me want to go.  To participate in it all.  To say a special prayer for the Kennedy kids and the Johnson girls. 

Everybody, regardless of the age, needed to figure this all out.  But, in reality, I don't think any of us did.

We went back to school on Tuesday.  My folks returned to their jobs.  My dad's cousin ultimately bought a bar in the Bronx, not Larchmont.  Our lives went on.

Or did they?  Because, thinking about what happened this weekend a half century ago, it all seems like just yesterday.

Dinner last night: Roast beef sandwich.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - November 2013

It opened fifty years ago this month at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

Dinner last night:  General Chang's Chicken from P.F. Chang.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Today...

The news traveled in so many different ways.  On CBS...
  On a local TV station in Dallas... Or, if you were at the Boston Symphony, you heard this from conductor Erich Leinsdorf...

America changed forever.

Dinner last night:   Bacon burger at a McDonald's in Costa Mesa.   Don't ask.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Mrs. Kennedy

And so the 50th anniversary begins.

There's a new documentary floating around theaters and cable TV right now called "Letters to Jackie" and it's from Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment banner. 

I knew little about this film except that it's based on a book of the same name by Ellen Fitzpatrick.  But I got an e-mail from my local gem of a vintage movie house "The Crest" that they were screening it one afternoon.  Being the Kennedy and assassination buff that I am, I couldn't resist.

I was one of the few.  There were a total of seven folks in the house.  

But we were seven lucky people who got to see this wonderful movie in advance and we can spread the word prior to its television premiere.  Run, don't walk.  Well, at least to the remote control of your television.

After the President was shot to death on November 22, 1963, Americans were apparently moved enough to take pen and paper in hand to write to his widow.   I guess, in 2013, people would jump on Facebook or a White House website.  Fifty years ago, you needed to compose your thoughts and then affix a postage stamp.   It was a lot more effort.

At the outset of this movie, we are told that, by November 25, 1963, Jackie Kennedy had already received 45,000 letters.  Within the next two weeks, that number had swelled to over 800,000.  And this is at a time when you simply didn't hit "send" to convey your thoughts.

In "Letters to Jackie," filmmaker Bill Couturie takes 20 of those letters and lets that become the script for a terrific look at the Kennedy years of Camelot in the White House.  The only writing in the film is done by those twenty folks who took the time to send Jackie their condolences.  And it is amazing to hear that common Americans can be such magnificent poets.  The words that are shared shine brightly as read by the likes of Channing Tatum, Laura Linney, Anne Hathaway, Allison Janney, Viola Davis, Mark Ruffalo, Octavia Spencer, Chris Cooper, and even Betty White.  

The voices and words that are highlighted serve to demonstrate one more time how deeply our country was impacted by this loss.  Meanwhile, in between the letters, archival footage from the JFK Library in Boston sketches together a stirring retrospective of the Kennedy years in Washington, DC.  You see the statesman.  You see the tough leader.  You see the husband.  You see the father.  Many of the excerpts and clips were new to me, culled from home  movies from the Kennedy compound and the assassination itself.  If you can surprise a Kennedy-phile like me with new material, you certainly have done a great job.

And that's exactly what "Letters to Jackie" is.  One more chance to watch America shine.  Through its President and the Americans who watched him live and then sadly die.

When this movie is in your area, whether it be on the big or small screen, please check it out.

LEN'S RATING:  Three and a half stars.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch on the plane so nothing really.


This Date in History - November 20

Happy birthday to Kaye Ballard.  A lady who actually hosted me for lunch at her home.

284:  DIOCLETIAN IS CHOSEN AS ROMAN EMPEROR.

Diocletian sounds like something you would take for allergies.

1194:  PALERMO IS CONQUERED BY EMPEROR HENRY VI.

Hey, if you want to conquer some place, Palermo is really nice.

1407:  A TRUCE BETWEEN JOHN THE FEARLESS, DUKE OF BURGUNDY AND LOUIS OF VALOIS, DUKE OF ORLEANS IS AGREED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF JOHN, DUKE OF BERRY.

The Duke of Earl was busy?

1518:  SOLDIER MARMADUKE CONSTABLE DIES.

Do I actually need to type the obvious joke here?

1739:  START OF THE BATTLE OF PORTO BELLO BETWEEN BRITISH AND SPANISH FORCES DURING THE WAR OF JENKINS' EAR.

Why fight over somebody's ear.  Especially in a town famous for mushrooms.

1789:  NEW JERSEY BECOMES THE FIRST US STATE TO RATIFY THE BILL OF RIGHTS.

As if they're smarter than anybody else.

1820:  AN 80 TON SPERM WHALE ATTACKS THE ESSEX.  THIS INSPIRES THE WRITING OF "MOBY DICK."

You're gonna need a bigger book.

1861:  DURING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, SECESSION ORDINANCE IS FILED BY KENTUCKY.  

Well, then fine.  Go.  We'll hold the Derby elsewhere.

1900:  CARTOONIST CHESTER GOULD IS BORN.

Calling Dick Tracy.

1907:  ACTRESS FRAN ALLISON IS BORN.

Paging Kukla and Ollie.

1913:  COMIC JUDY CANOVA IS BORN.

She was Minnie Pearl before Minnie Pearl was Minnie Pearl.

1917:  UKRAINE IS DECLARED A REPUBLIC.

You care?   Anybody?

1921:  LAWYER JIM GARRISON IS BORN.

Back and to the left.  Back and to the left.  Two days and forty two years later, this guy's career got a big boost.

1923:  RENTENMARK REPLACES THE PAPIERMARK AS THE OFFICIAL CURRENCY OF GERMANY.

And the official grocery store would be Pathmark.

1925:  ACTRESS KAYE BALLARD IS BORN.

Nice lady.  I was on her Christmas card list for two years.  I peed in her guest bathroom while staring at a Red Skelton original painting that was hung over the toilet.

1925:  ROBERT F. KENNEDY IS BORN.

Gee, his 38th birthday weekend really sucked.

1932:  GAME SHOW HOST RICHARD DAWSON IS BORN.

Survey says!!!!!

1942:  VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN IS BORN.

Yes, Dan Quayle was a dummy.  But this guy just might be the most stupid Vice President ever.  Google his mistakes.  Your computer will crash.

1945:  BASEBALL STAR/ANNOUNCER RICK MONDAY IS BORN.

And don't ever try to burn an American flag in front of him.

1945:   AT NUREMBERG, TRIALS AGAINST 24 NAZI WAR CRIMINALS BEGIN.

I smell a movie.

1947:  THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH MARRIES LIEUTENANT PHILIP MOUNTBATTEN, WHO BECOMES THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH IN LONDON.

The crown's in the mail.

1962:  THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS OFFICIALLY ENDS WHEN PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY ENDS THE QUARANTINE OF CUBA.

I thought it was 13 days in October.   At least, that was the title of the movie.

1969:  THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER PUBLISHES EXPLICIT PHOTOGRAPHS OF DEAD VILLAGES FROM THE MY LAI MASSACRE IN VIETNAM.

That's not My Lai, it's yours.

1973:  COMIC ALLAN SHERMAN DIES.

Hello Rigor.  Hello Mortis.

1977:  EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT ANWAR SADAT BECOMES THE FIRST ARAB LEADER TO OFFICIALLY VISIT ISRAEL WHEN HE MEETS MENACHEM BEGIN TO DISCUSS A PEACE SETTLEMENT.

How many times have I typed a sentence like this over the years?  And still no peace.

1985:  MICROSOFT WINDOWS 1.0 IS RELEASED.

Well, there had to be a first version at some point.

1992:  IN ENGLAND, A FIRE BREAKS OUT IN WINDSOR CASTLE, BADLY DAMAGING THE CASTLE.

What's London's version of State Farm?

1998:  A COURT IN AFGHANISTAN DECLARES ACCUSED TERRORIST OSAMA BIN LADEN A "MAN WITHOUT SIN" IN REGARD TO THE 1998 US EMBASSY BOMBINGS IN KENYA AND TANZANIA.

That's a good lawyer for you.

2001:  IN WASHINGTON DC, US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH DEDICATES THE US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HEADQUARTERS AS THE ROBERT F. KENNEDY BUILDING.

Aw, how nice.  And on his birthday.

2006:  DIRECTOR ROBERT ALTMAN DIES.

D*E*A*D*.

2008:  AFTER THE US FINANCIAL SYSTEM COLLAPSE, THE DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE REACHES ITS LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 1997.

When everybody's 401 K became a 201 J.

2010:  BASEBALL PLAYER DANNY MCDEVITT DIES.

He pitched and won the last game ever to played in Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.

Dinner last night: Sandwich at the NY apartment.




 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Being Surprised on Broadway

Going back 25 years to my days in New York, I've always enjoyed regular theater nights with my college buddy Lorraine.  She is indeed a New York theater buff. Back in the days where we worked together at Fordham University's WFUV radio station, she anchored a weekly show devoted to musical called "Showstoppers."  It's actually the forerunner for that Broadway channel on Sirius/XM.

Lorraine always knows what's opening.  She hears what's going to be hot.  Her ear on the ground picks up the buzz.  She literally walks around with the Sunday theater section of the New York Times.  If Lorraine had been born in a previous century, she might have been in Ford's Theater the night Lincoln was shot.

Of course, over the years, we have seen the best and the worst that Broadway has to offer.  If it's a revival, Lorraine probably saw the original and will make the requisite notes of comparison.

"He was good but no Jerry Orbach."

If the show stinks, I will always verbally abuse Lorraine all the way home and vow never to let her do that to me again.

And I always do.

So, living three thousand miles away, I still love to book in advance a theater soiree with Lorraine (and, frequently another college chum Dennis, who is also no theater slouch himself).  I knew I was coming to town this month and I called Lorraine.  Whatcha got for me?

"Oh, there's this new musical opening.  It's got some buzz."

For some reason, the name of the show went in one ear and out the other.  I said fine.  Make sure I get an aisle seat because old Broadway houses and leg room were built originally for Doc, Sleepy, and Dopey.  How much?  I sent my check for the ticket and was once again pleased that Lorraine also knows how to work all the Broadway discount promotions.  I was going to the theater.

Friends kept asking me what I was seeing.  I said I had no clue.  And I didn't.  

Truth be told, I didn't really know where I was going until Lorraine handed me the ticket in our pre-theater dinner with Dennis at the E and E Grill House.  I scanned the information.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."

Oh.

"It's got some buzz.  It's probably pretty short but it's a one-man show."

Dennis interceded.

"No, it's a musical.  I think it runs two and a half hours and there are other people in the cast."

Uh oh.  I pondered how far off Lorraine was on this.  What the hell am I in for?

Well, it was terrific.  Perhaps one of the most enjoyable shows I've seen in a long time. 

And Dennis was right.  And so was Lorraine.  A little.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" is a musical and it runs two and a half hours.  While it does have multiple people on stage, one might call it a one-man show as the star, one Jefferson Mays, gives a tour de force...make that tour de farce...performance.  I had no idea what to expect.  And I was blown away by the fun of it all.

To show you how confused I was prior to the show, I thought the main character was the star of the show.  I hadn't checked the Playbill.   I was too busy trying to figure out how to stick my leg out into the aisle for maximum comfort.  The musical, set in London of 1909, tells the tale of suave Monty Navarro who is the heir to the fortune of the D'Ysquith family.  So I figured this guy was the Jefferson Mays everybody was talking about.

Wrong.

The hero has to figure out how to get rid of the eight D'Ysquith family members that are ahead of him in succession.   All eight of them are played by the same actor, the aforementioned Mays.

Oh.

It took me two D'Ysquiths to figure that out.

For the first fifteen minutes, I was thoroughly addled.  But enjoying myself. 

Mays does so many quick costume changes in this show that the Tony Award for this production should go to the backstage dresser.  Because one minute he's a gay beekeeper and the next he's a tipsy vicar or an old lady on her way to darkest Africa.  Meanwhile, the grisly ends that all these D'Ysquiths meet are insanely funny and almost Looney Tune-like as if the show was really directed by Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng.   All along the way, there are wonderfully punny and funny songs with deliciously dark titles.

"I Don't Understand the Poor."

"Poison In My Pocket."

"Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun."

"That Horrible Woman."

"Why Are All The D'Ysquiths Dying?"

There's one extended number where Monty juggles two loves in hiding through an intricate series of door openings and closings.  It's straight from a 1953 Bugs Bunny cartoon and it's hilarious.

Everything about this show is so immensely clever that I devoured the Playbill when I got home.  Who are all these people involved?  I recognized none of the names.  Even the snarkiness extended to the cast bios.  One of the actresses pointed to her IMDB.com listing if you wanted to know her credits.  Ha.

I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed a show that I had no expectations of.  And ever thankful of some New York friends like Lorraine and Dennis who are always willing to point me in the right direction.

Where are we going next, guys?

Dinner last night:  Had a very late lunch so just a sandwich.