Friday, January 31, 2014

If I Tweeted - January 2014

I don't, you know.   But, if I did, here's what I would have tweeted this past month.

#LenSpeaks  Much of the country is under the grip of the Polar Vortex.   Which I think starred Jean Claude Van Damme.

#LenSpeaks  It's fun to watch a global warming environmentalist wait for a bus during a snowstorm.

#LenSpeaks  Reporters are showing how to make instant snow on the air.  Meanwhile, nobody is still mentioning Benghazi.

#LenSpeaks  A report came out that said the State Department screwed up on Benghazi.  That would be the fault of everybody there but the woman in charge.

#LenSpeaks  Hillary is desperate to get back into the White House.  It's like she left an expensive piece of jewelry under the couch.

#LenSpeaks  PS, if the Obamas found it, they probably sold it on e-Bay by now.

#LenSpeaks  Michelle Obama is now 50.   That's age and not waist size, in case you were wondering.

#LenSpeaks  I love the nonsense about Chris Christie being such a thug.   As if every resident of the White House over the past half century hasn't strong-armed somebody.

#LenSpeaks  I mean, Obama grew up in Illinois politics.  That's not exactly the type of election where Marcia Brady runs for student body president.

#LenSpeaks  And you know Clinton was dirty.   There's a list of about 100 women who will verify that.

#LenSpeaks  And Reagan probably was a goon as well.   He just didn't know it.

#LenSpeaks  Everybody should leave Christie alone and let him have his stroke in peace.

#LenSpeaks  This idiot that's the new mayor of New York actually makes me think fondly of David Dinkins.

#LenSpeaks  This new screwball actually posed for a photo op, shoveling snow off his sidewalk.  Right.

#LenSpeaks  Ten seconds after cameras stopped rolling, he handed the shovel to some Puerto Rican kid from the gas station on the corner.

#LenSpeaks  Here's a lucrative job idea:  be a designated driver for the Golden Globes.

#LenSpeaks  I wonder if these Hollywood stars get that liquored up when they're at an Obama fundraiser.

#LenSpeaks  Jacqueline Bisset won an award and look comatose during her acceptance speech.   The good news is most people thought she had already died.

#LenSpeaks Personally, I have no use for either Tina Fey or Amy Poehler.  Unless they're hosting the Golden Globes.

#LenSpeaks  The SAG Awards were held several nights later.   Does Hollywood ever cook at home?

#LenSpeaks  There was major omissions in the Oscar nominations.  Ballots must have been filled out at one of those booze-filled award shows.

#LenSpeaks  Matthew McConaughey got nominated for an Oscar.   So we are that much closer to the apocalypse.

#LenSpeaks  It's never a good sign if I have to go into a hardware store.

#LenSpeaks  Jay Leno has one more week before the Tonight Show moves to NY and Jimmy Fallon takes over.

#LenSpeaks  PS, I still won't watch it.  Johnny, you are still my one and only king.

#LenSpeaks  Non-surprise of the month:  Justin Bieber arrested for DUI.

#LenSpeaks  If you're a news organization and you don't yet have his obit written, you're inept.

#LenSpeaks  Hey, Justin, two words...John Belushi.

#LenSpeaks  Two more words...Dana Plato.

#LenSpeaks  Two more words...Whitney Houston.

#LenSpeaks  And, Justin, one more note.  Avoid hotel bathtubs.

#LenSpeaks  The State of the Union?  It sucks.

Dinner last night:  Salad.      

    

                   

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yay! I Finished Another Book - "Johnny Carson" by Henry Bushkin

Yeah, I knew that, as soon as this book came out, it would soar to the top of my reading list.   And, when I cracked it open on a flight from LA to NY, I couldn't put it down.  So much so that I finished it on a single plane ride.  It reads so quickly that the foreword should have been written by Evelyn Wood.

And that last line sounds like a joke that might have been in one of Johnny Carson's monologues.

Of course, I was captivated by this guy for many years.  He was the show business king starting in my childhood.  I've written before about my very young excursions with my best buddy Leo to see the Tonight Show taped whenever it was in NY.  I would write bits for the neighborhood kids that mimicked some of Johnny's routines. 

And I never really stopped watching when I was an adult.  I'd always tune in to hear his monologue.  I mean, that's how I found out what was going on in the world.   And, unlike the late night talk show comics that followed, you never knew where Johnny's political side leaned.  (You learn in this book that he was a bit of a Republican and may have gravitated to the Tea Party.)  He skewered everybody and that's what made it so grand.

Sometimes, I'd hang in there on a work night, depending upon who was the guest.  Folks like Suzanne Pleshette or Tony Randall or Joan Rivers or Jimmy Stewart or Don Rickles or Bob Newhart would keep me tuned in.  Or if that gal from the San Diego Zoo was showing up with a chimp or an ocelot.

When Johnny Carson retired in 1992, I made a silent vow never to walk late night television again.   And, except for some isolated incidents where I was intrigued by a guest or two, I held steadfast and loyal to Mr. Carson.

With this book, you learn everything that was going on with the man for the twenty year span of 1970 through 1990.  Those were the years when the author, Henry Buskin, was Johnny's lawyer, confidante, and best friend.  Of course, since Carson's been dead for about a decade, Bushkin is now telling tales out of school and I suppose that, with a best friend like this, you don't need an enemy.

Still, Bushkin offers a very insightful and multi-layered look at this television genius.  Here was a complex guy.  On camera, he was personable and funny and a joy to be around.   Off camera, he was personable and funny and a joy to be around.

Sometimes.

Off stage, Johnny could also be petty, generous, mean, vicious, and loving.   Five of a thousand adjectives that could be used to describe him correctly at any given moment in his life.  The umbrella description would be one word.

Complex.

From the author, you hear it all.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Several of the revelations are amazing. 

Sneaking into his second wife's apartment to gain evidence that she was cheating on Johnny with that lummox Frank Gifford.

Carrying a loaded gun on his person or in his car's glove compartment.

A drunken brawl at Chasen's where Johnny lunges to choke the life out of Tom Snyder, only to be stopped when Ed McMahon throws his body in front of Snyder.

Carson's prickly relationship with Frank Sinatra.

The secret negotiations that would have had the Tonight Show and Johnny defect to ABC, all of which was engineered by Joan Rivers' husband Edgar.

The Vegas weekend when Johnny tried to steal away Bushkin's then-girlfriend Joyce DeWitt.

This book is as juicy as a prime cut steak at Peter Lugar's.  None of it surprised me, but all of it surprised me.  Of course, at the center of it all, is the impact of Johnny's mother, a Joan-Crawford-like parent who perhaps set the stage for the creation of an incredibly complex and flawed human being.  As a result, this is one of the fastest page turners you will ever order from Amazon.

More importantly, the author does not shy away from casting a negative light on his own exploits.  When Carson wanted to party, Bushkin frequently joined right in and has a broken marriage to prove it.  Honesty, as a result, serves as a two lane highway and you watch the author's life become consumed by a job and serving a master that may or may not ever be pleased.

It's a fascinating view then of two men, whose business relationship and then close friendship was likely doomed from the start.

Yes, there's tons of dirty laundry hanging on this clothesline.  But, despite it all, nothing in it has diminished my view of Johnny Carson as a supreme talent and one of the greatest memories of my life.

You will not be dissuaded either.

Dinner last night:  Moo shu pork from First Szechwan Wok.







Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Date in History - January 29

Happy birthday to Katharine Ross.   I've seen her recently and she doesn't look like this picture any more.   But, then again, who does?

757:  AN LUSHAN, LEADER OF A REVOLT AGAINST THE TANG DYNASTY AND EMPEROR OF YAN, IS MURDERED BY HIS OWN SON.

Tang Dynasty?   Do I have a coupon from them?  Or am I confused?

904:  SERGIUS III COMES OUT OF RETIREMENT TO TAKE OVER THE PAPACY FROM THE DEPOSED ANTIPOPE.

Is there such a thing as an Unclepope?

1834:  US PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON ORDERS FIRST USE OF FEDERAL SOLDIERS TO SUPPRESS A LABOR DISPUTE.

And won't be the last.

1845:  "THE RAVEN" BY EDGAR ALLAN POE IS PUBLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Book report due on February 5, 1845.

1861:  KANSAS IS ADMITTED AS THE 34TH US STATE.

Well, Dorothy and Toto have to live someplace.

1880:  ACTOR W.C. FIELDS IS BORN.

Whipsnade, whipsnade.

1886:  KARL BENZ PATENTS THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL GAS-DRIVEN AUTOMOBILE.

Somebody get Mercedes on the horn.

1900:  THE AMERICAN LEAGUE IS ORGANIZED WITH EIGHT FOUNDING TEAMS.

And no designated hitter, I might add.

1913:  ACTOR VICTOR MATURE IS BORN.

He lived for 86 years so he did live up to his last name.

1916:  DURING WORLD WAR I, PARIS IS FIRST BOMBED BY GERMAN ZEPPELINS.

And it won't be the last.

1918:  THE BOLSHEVIK RED ARMY, ON ITS WAY TO BESIEGE KIEV, IS MET BY A SMALL GROUP OF MILITARY STUDENTS.

At what point does the chicken get to Kiev?

1918:  ACTOR JOHN FORSYTHE IS BORN.

Bachelor Father!

1923:  AUTHOR PADDY CHAYEFSKY IS BORN.

I'm mad as hell and I'm going to take it anymore!

1936:  THE FIRST INDUCTEES INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME ARE ANNOUNCED.

And they were Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson, Honus Wagner, and Babe Ruth.

1942:  SINGER CLAUDINE LONGET IS BORN.

She's a killer on the ski slopes.   Really.

1943:  ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE OF RENNELL ISLAND, THE US CRUISER CHICAGO IS TORPEDOED AND HEAVILY DAMAGED BY JAPANESE BOMBERS.

War is hell.  So is doing comedy.

1944:  ACTRESS KATHARINE ROSS IS BORN.

An early fantasy for yours truly.

1963:  THE FIRST INDUCTEES INTO THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME ARE ANNOUNCED.

There were about twenty of them.  I can't be bothered.  Look them up yourself.

1963:  POET ROBERT FROST DIES.

The temperature must have gone over 32 degrees.

1964:  ACTOR ALAN LADD DIES.

Goodbye, Shane.

1967:  THE "ULTIMATE HIGH"  OF THE HIPPIE ERA TAKES PLACE IN SAN FRANCISCO AND FEATURES JANIS JOPLIN, GRATEFUL DEAD, AND ALLEN GINSBERG.

I'll bet.

1977:  ACTOR FREDDIE PRINZE DIES.

Shot himself in the head at a hotel around the corner from my current home.  

1980:  ENTERTAINER JIMMY DURANTE DIES.

Good night from Mrs. Calabash.

1996:  PRESIDENT JACQUES CHIRAC ANNOUNCES A DEFINITIVE END TO FRENCH NUCLEAR WEAPONS TESTING.

As if anybody is scared of the French.

2002:  IN HIS STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH DESCRIBES "REGIMES THAT SPONSOR TERROR" AS AN AXIS OF EVIL IN WHICH HE INCLUDES IRAQ, IRAN, AND NORTH KOREA.

Face it, gang.  Was he wrong?

2002:  ACTOR HAROLD RUSSELL DIES.

The guy with the hooks in "Best Years of Our Lives."

2007:  RACE HORSE BARBARO DIES.

Allegedly a suicide.

2008:  SINGER MARGARET TRUMAN DIES.

She still couldn't play that damn piano.

2009:  GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS ROD BLAGOJEVICH IS CONVICTED OF SEVERAL CORRUPTION CHARGES, INCLUDING THE ALLEGED SOLICITATION OF PERSONAL BENEFIT IN EXCHANGE FOR AN APPOINTMENT TO THE US SENATE.

It seems like just yesterday that this was swept under the rug.

Dinner last night:  Leftover beef stew.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

And Here's Another Bad Idea

TV Land had hit upon a great and novel concept several years back.   Bring the audience some "new" classic sitcoms.   Smart writing.  Familiar faces that we loved in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.   And shoot it all in front of that wonderful relic, the guffawing, live studio audience.

Their first foray into this arena was a huge success.  "Hot in Cleveland."  With one of the familiar, returning faces being that of one Valerie Bertinelli, I was an immediate and eager buyer.   So what if the show ran out of creative gas after the first season?  The "new" old sitcom business model was back.

Unfortunately, TV Land never could capitalize on that first success.  Indeed, their restorative concept was essentially a one-hit wonder.   None of these subsequent efforts got a lot of traction with the audience.

And then they hit total rock bottom.   With the bomb shown above.  "Kirstie."

It's like TV Land took the polar opposite direction in what they wanted to do.  Writing that was sophomoric.  Sure, the guffawing, live studio audience is there, but the giddiness might be due to the sugar high they get from the free candy often dispensed by the warm-up comics.  

The real problem with "Kirstie" is the concept.  And the cast.  Old faces that nobody really wanted to see again.  And, frankly, some of those old faces already have new faces that shouldn't be seen in the first place.  The show must be produced at a plastic surgery suite down on Wilshire Boulevard.

Yes, everybody loved Kirstie Alley on "Cheers."  But that was two decades and three chins ago.  Nobody has really been looking for her since, except maybe for the weight loss counselor down at Jenny Craig when she misses her check-in.  And, truth be told, her rather stilted acting could be tolerated when she was surrounded by a strong cast.   On her own, you can see all the seams.  She delivers a joke like Sonny Liston.

Meanwhile, with this misguided mess, you also get back Rhea Perlman, who was my least favorite "Cheers" character and Michael Richards, who was my least favorite "Seinfeld" character.  Thanks so much, TV Land.  Nobody was looking for these two.  Why did you bother finding them?

Mix in some other unknown doofus as Kirstie's long lost son and you have the cast photo above which should come with some of those warnings you find on the bottle of some sinus medicine.  

Inexplicably, the producers have put these clowns into a setting that virtually nobody can identify with.   Kirstie plays a Broadway actress/diva, living in a posh Manhattan apartment with Rhea and Michael as her household staff.  Gee, just like me.  You realize that the creative forces here are not staging this for the general audience, but for the industry.   The whole production looks like a house party at Kirstie's and the cheap wine is plentiful.  This is not a recipe for "classic" sitcom, whether it be new, old, or restored.

I've watched a few episodes and I've been light-headed ever since.   Except for a funny guest star turn by Kristen Chenowith, this show just lies there in front of you.  You keep staring at it to see if it is actually breathing.   The only thing that holds your attention is Kirstie's hips, which seem to get wider each episode.

Throwing another dagger at America, Kirstie dug up another fossil/old friend to play her boyfriend in another episode.
Yep, gang, it's John Travolta for that much coveted "Look Who's Talking" reunion.  If you thought Kirstie had work done, John looks like an old GI Joe figurine.  His hair looks actually painted on by Earl Scheib.  In comparison, you could find more wrinkles under Joan Rivers' eyes.  Once again, nobody was looking for Travolta, so TV Land goes out and finds him.  He gladly does the gig.  Maybe he has to pay his membership dues down at the Scientology factory.  Or he simply wants to swap some clothing with Kirstie.  Wait till he finds out that he'll take the skirts in by a few inches.

It's all imminently forgettable and sad.   TV Land really had us stoked for some "new" old sitcoms.   Why give us them?  Why put them in a setting that only two or three people in the world could identify with?

Hey, TV Land, I've got a list of names we all want to see again.   I've got a computer chock full of wonderful settings and concepts.  Give me a call.

Or, on second thought, don't.

Dinner last night:  Leftover beef stew.




 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - January 27, 2014

From the days when TV talk shows brought together the strangest combinations of people.   Watch this as Mike Douglas, Robert Klein, and Totie Fields meet Gene Simmons.

Dinner last night:  Beef stew.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - From the Bottom of My Toy Chest

This wasn't the toy chest I had in my room, but it could have been.   Mine had the Three Little Pigs on the outside.   Inexplicably, it remained in my childhood bedroom right through my college years.   Of course, in my later years, I never opened it.  My portable television sat on top of it.

But, as a kid, this was my treasure chest.  Hours and hours of fun were contained within.  Toys that held my interest long after the Christmas tree had been stowed away.  When you're an only child, you have to amuse yourself.   And this toy chest did just that.

You think that the memories from your youth are
unique.  But, with photos strewn all over the internet, you discover that you're not all that singular or special.  All of my favorite toys can be easily Googled.   And brought back to life for sharing with you.
I loved my GI Joe.  I go back to the original days of this toy.  Before he was Black.   Before he had a beard.  I first sunk my allowance into this purchase when he turned up at Firestone Tires on White Plains Road in the Bronx.   Yes, they had radials, but toys as well.  I came home to begin the adventures GI Joe would have in my backyard.  I remember my grandmother's quizzical look.

"That's a doll you're playing with."

No, I would gush with pride.  It's an action figure!


This was a very early and welcome Christmas present derived from the Disney TV show.  It took you hours to set up the Spanish fortress which was surprisingly made of metal and lots of sharp edges.  Band Aids should have been included.  Once you set the stage, you'd move Zorro and the Spanish army all around the living room.  Invariably, one or two of the soldiers would go MIA under the sofa.
My very next play set and this one was devoted to the Flintstones.   Somebody had gotten smart and allowed Bedrock to be made totally of plastic.  Once I set up the street as shown, I'd conjure up some story to be acted out by Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty.  There was no Pebbles yet.   After all, this play set was for the pre-puberty age group.
Ah, the wonderful Remco company.  I loved their stuff.   You are seeing a theme emerging.  I loved play sets that allowed me to develop stories and plot lines.   Since I loved going to the Elmsford Drive-In Theater with my parents, I was a natural for this toy.  You could even show photos on the little screen.  Popcorn was not included.
Marx Toys were also big when I was a kid.  Here was the exact same gas station I had.  This was handy since my mom's best friend was married to the guy who owned our local service station.  Business was always booming there.  In my bedroom, traffic, as you can see, was much lighter.
For some reason, my parents gave me my own Jerry Mahoney dummy.  There were instructions included on how to throw your voice professionally.   I actually tried to do this.   Perhaps, my folks were trying to get me on an early, money-making career path.

Horrifically, Jerry's arm popped off, which prompted the usual comment from Mom or Dad.

"You're too damn rough with your things."

No worries as long as Grandma was around.   Jerry entered her hospital downstairs.   She closed the door to her kitchen.

"Don't come in.  He's having surgery."

Oddly enough, I still have Jerry's head.  It sits on my bookcase in my New York apartment.   More than once, it has startled the lady who comes in to water my plants.
If you needed to keep me occupied and there was no play set available, Colorforms also worked well.  I could spend hours peeling off the little vinyl pieces and setting them around the board.  Once again, I am developing witty dialogue for Popeye, Olive, Wimpy, and Bluto.  Or, in this case...
...the Flintstones.   Here you had to dress the characters as well.  Truth be told, as much fun as Colorforms was, the thing I loved the most about them was the "new toy" plastic smell of the vinyl figures.  It was pure nirvana.  Again, because of the size of some of the pieces, they all ended up getting lost around the house.  Prompting yet another typical parental warning.

"Take better care of your toys."
I tossed a lot of comic books into my toy chest as well.  I'd run down to Intown Newspapers on First Street in Mount Vernon every week with whatever change I could get out of my parents.   You could buy a couple.  Look.  They were only fifteen cents!

While most kids my age devoured the likes of Superman and Batman, I was certainly a television child.   Hit shows had their own comic books and naturally "The Andy Griffith Show" was in my wheel house.  
So was "The Lucy Show."   You could certainly do a lot more with these characters in comic books.   I mean, at Desilu Studios, Lucy and Viv couldn't actually venture down to darkest Africa.
The first thing I ever slept with...ahem.  Zippy the Chimp.   In retrospect, it's rather ugly.  Zippy is also another patient of Dr. Grandma.  His arm needed to be re-attached as well.  
This game got dragged out for holiday gatherings with the family.  Of course, you had to read the password through this little red screen.  If somebody had already gotten a snootful, the word would be misinterpreted.   This would prompt hilarity in some families.  In mine, there would be slamming doors and curse words.  The password is "dysfunction."
Another board game that actually had an endorsement by Art Linkletter on the cover.   I think his picture was actually on the money as well.   This game was sort of Monopoly-light.  You'd get a little car, go to college, get married, have a family, and wind up in the poor house.   But you could do that all in less than a half-hour, while Monopoly took several hours to play.  If we had dragged out the former for a holiday, somebody would accuse somebody else of cheating or taking extra money out of the kitty.  Just like with Password, there would be slamming doors and curse words.  
This wasn't in my toy chest.   Nope, Roger Maris' figurine sat proudly on my dresser.   It was very early brain washing by my dad, who was still a New York Yankee fan.  I, of course, lost the bat and ruined the statue's effect.  My parents ultimately tossed it out.   Years later, I found one for sale on e-Bay.  The price?  $250.  Thank you, Mom and Dad.
This was another gem I bought at that tire/toy store.  The original James Bond doll.  No, make that "action figure."   Despite the fact that 007 is dressed for underwater adventures, the action figure was, alas, not.   I found that out when I submerged him in the bathtub and ruined all the action mechanisms.
I was smart enough not to get his arch enemy Oddjob wet.  Like the movie character, you could snap his arm back and the metal hat would go flying.   Of course, I flung the hat someplace where it was never found again.   It likely wound up with Roger Maris' bat, some Colorform pieces of Wilma Flintstone's dress, and whatever else I managed to lose over the years.

Dinner last night:  BLT sandwich at Blue Plate.


 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - January 2014

One of the great screen westerns.  Now out on glorious Blu-ray.  But, as good as it looks, Alan Ladd is still short.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Smart Phone Camera At Work In Your Local Walmart

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.
 "If you can't read this sign, press here."
"Well, I think she's real."
Super casual Fridays.
I see London.  I see France....
 Bozo's grandma.
I hope she didn't drive.
While you're shopping at Walmart, keep in mind they do have mirrors.
Ladies toiletries are in Aisle 7, sir.
"Do you know where you're going to....?"
Bad in-store promotion idea # 245.
The extra-soft paper towel....

Dinner last night:  Chinese chicken salad.