Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Sunday Night Television Back When


Okay, this isn't quite my family.   I didn't have brothers or sisters.   And most of my TV viewing was done downstairs with my grandparents.   Still, it's as close as we're going to get. 

I wrote the other day about my current Sunday night TV dilemma.   Lots of good shows to watch and I’m overheating two DVRs to get it all done.

And that got me to thinking about the past.  Almost everything can ultimately time-transport me back to my childhood.   To the pre-DVR days when I looked forward to television every Sunday night.  Just like now.

It would be my challenge every week.   If teachers loaded me down with homework, I would stay in the house after school on Friday to get it all done.  Who needed to be encumbered by the enormity of a book report or a spelling quiz when you have a very full night of Sunday television?   I cleared the decks each and every week to be ready for it all.  

And then I 'd hear the fatal words from my mother on a Sunday morning.

"We're going to go and visit Aunt _____ and Uncle ______?"

Shit.  Or whatever word would get a bar of soap in a kid's mouth.

I'd have to go into major engineering mode.   By around 5:30 PM, I'd start getting tired and/or restless.  If that didn't get attention, I'd grab my stomach and/or my head.  Gee, I don't feel so good.   I'd pull any trick out of my bag to make sure we would get home in time for my Sunday night euphoria in front of the tube.


It always started with "Mister Ed."  I was in love with this program and I think it was on around 6:30PM.  To this day, I want the show to be rebooted.   Or made into a movie.  I want to write it.  This time, the horse is incredibly politically-incorrect.   You’d pay good dollars to see that, right?   Back in the day, this was my comedy highlights of the week.  After it went off each Sunday, I’d keep singing the theme song over and over and over.

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course, And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.  You never heard of a talking horse?  Well, listen to this.”

I’d take my little voice and go as low as I could.

“I AM MISTER ED.”

My throat would hurt.  While my grandmother was a fan of the show, she was always done with my rendition of the theme song.

“Oh, shaddup already.”
I'd go from comedy to tears as soon as the Lassie theme song would go on.  Talk about a show that pulled your heartstrings every freakin' week.  And it was made worse by the constant Campbell Soup ads.   They always reminded me of being sick because that's really the only time I ate soup.   Ten minutes into the show, Lassie was usually limping.

As soon as I got my own dog Tuffy, I envisioned that I was just like Timmy on the show.  Of course, my grandfather never fell down a well.   I decided one week to hold my beagle in front of the set to watch Lassie with me.  I remember Tuffy's ears being activated when the collie barked.  But, unlike the always heroic Lassie, this always prompted Tuffy to run and hide under the bed.
My parents hated that I would watch "Dennis The Menace."   I figure they must have thought I would pick up some bratty habits from Jay North.  So, I had to go and commandeer the TV set down at Grandma's to get my fix. 

Oddly enough, this comedy program provided one of my first exposures to death.  Oh, I had already been around for the death of some family members.   But, as most TV shows do, their characters became family to me as well.   And, in a bizarre way, I was closer to them than my own relatives.

Somewhere later in the show's run, Joseph Kearns, the actor who played Mr. Wilson, died.  It actually happened in the middle of the season.  Back then, there were a lot more episodes in the can.  I remember my dad telling me that the actor died.   And, for about another three months, I watched as the once-alive/now-dead Mr. Wilson still appeared in front of me every Sunday night.   And, to me, it was all a little sad.  And made me think about the finality of the world around me.
This show provided my Sunday night TV time with my mother, who particularly liked it when Walt Disney featured his looks at nature.   Hmmm, let's see how a squirrel goes about his day.  As for me, I'd endure the hour-long program mainly because, at the end, they always showed you what big Disney movie was coming out to theaters.

Of course, the irony with it all was that, for the longest time, we were watching the "Wonderful World of Color" in black and white.  I'd ask the inevitable question and always get the same response.

"Ask your father."

Oh.
"Car 54, Where Are You" was only on for two years of Sundays, but it was perhaps the only TV time I had all week with my father.  This was a knock-off of the old Phil Silvers Sgt. Bilko show and ideal for my ex-Army-guy Dad.   Even better, the sitcom was shot completely in the Bronx, where my dad grew up.   So, in between the laughs generated by Officer Toody and Muldoon, my father would act as tour guide.

"Oh, look, there's my old high school."

"Hey, there's Bathgate Avenue."

"I used to play in that vacant lot."

It was all lost on me.
Of course, everybody has their Ed Sullivan Show moment.  Most probably remember it for the debut of the Beatles.  As for me, I prefer to recall the hours I spent watching this variety show with my grandparents.   Ed always gave you something for everybody.  A dog act for the kids.   A rock and roll group for the teenagers.   A comic for the parents.   Some old relic for the grandparents.   The performers would run a very wide gamut.   And I always loved to hear the knee-jerk reactions from Grandma and Grandpa.

"If I couldn't sing any better than that, I wouldn't try."

"He thinks he's so funny, but he's not."

"Oh, go home already!"

To this very day, I can't stand Tony Bennett mainly because my grandmother despised him so.

"Look at that big schnozzola on that ugly greaseball."

Yeah, politically correct, she wasn't.
I think Grandma finally signed off with Ed Sullivan when Jim Morrison and the Doors showed up.   We started to look for something else on another channel and wound up with one of my favorite sitcoms of all time.   "The Mothers-In-Law" lasted only two years but it was so much like "I Love Lucy" that I was totally in.  Indeed, this is the show that prompted me to try and write funny for the very first time in my life.  

And if you don't remember this Sunday night treat at all, I have already written about it.   Here's the link from four years ago.   The story about my connection with the show gets much bigger.

  http://lenspeaks.blogspot.com/2010/08/sunday-memory-drawer-revisiting-mothers.html

And, speaking of color TV...

Here's how I closed my childhood Sunday nights for years.

Arguably, "Bonanza" did more to sell new color television sets than any appliance store salesperson could hope to do. When this show, with its lush filming of the Lake Tahoe area, was the only program broadcast in color, folks clamored to buy one so they too could be enveloped by the splendor of the scenery.

You count my parents in that group. You cannot count my grandmother among those sales.

Actually, my parents took their own sweet time moving out of the black and white TV world. There was one token color television in our family. My aunt had one and we all descended on her living room if ever there was a "must see in color" program. The only problem with her set, which might have been one of the first off the assembly line, is that the colors were never coordinated properly. Grass was blue. Tree trunks were red. Faces were green.

Once my parents were content that the technology had all the bugs worked out, they were buyers. And so, on one March Saturday afternoon, this super clunky Zenith console got delivered to our home. And then, for the rest of the weekend, we watched everything and anything just to see what it looked like in color. 

And, unlike my aunt's set, people actually had flesh tones that didn't make them look like third degree burn victims. We absorbed it all. But the focus of that weekend was Sunday night at 9PM on NBC. When we finally could watch an episode of "Bonanza" on our very own color TV.

"Bonanza" was one of the few TV shows that got two floor viewing in my house. My grandmother was watching downstairs and we were tuned in upstairs. I would act as Kissinger. One week, I would watch it with my grandmother and then the next week with my parents. It was a tradition I held to for many years. But, with the purchase of that huge Zenith, I would be multi-conflicted. Black and white vs. color. A major dilemma.

My mother, in a rare display of multi-generational family unity, had a solution. Grandma could come up and watch "Bonanza" in color with us. So, on that first "colorful" Sunday, my grandmother mounted the three flights of stairs to our living room. She sat down and wasn't there more than five minutes into the program.

"This doesn't look right."

She gave a cursory wave at the dastardly television set and went back downstairs. And never returned on a Sunday at 9PM ever again. To the day she died, she was one of the few stalwarts in America who would not cave in to that crazy fad of color TVs.

So, I spent many a Sunday watching "Bonanza" in black and white. 

Nevertheless, it didn't diminish my love of this classic western. As I got older, the tradition held, but I came to appreciate that the better episodes were written and directed by co-star Michael Landon, who clearly was a gifted creative force. As soon as Dan "Hoss" Blocker died, the show pretty much lost its cohesiveness. But, given that, it still had an amazing run with close to 500 episodes.

Thanks to DVDs and nostalgia TV networks like Me TV, I can still enjoy all of the shows mentioned above.   It takes me right back to the easy chair in my grandmother's house or the floor in front of my parent's Zenith console.  

And I realize just how much television is the fascia for our collective lives.  On Sunday nights.  And the other six days of the week, too.

Dinner last night:  Steak dinner at a reception in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Classic Musical Comedy Production Number of the Month - November 2014

Woo hoo!  A five Saturday month, which means we get a musical comedy production number.   And here's one you might not have seen ever.   The wonderful "I Could Have Danced All Night" from "My Fair Lady."   But have you ever heard with Audrey Hepburn's own voice before it was dubbed?
Dinner last night:  Hot dog at the Grove.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Your Black Friday Holiday Shopping Guide for 2014

If you're out in the malls today, you're no friend of mine.  I don't like to associate with crazy people.  Especially when you have at your virtual fingertips my annual shopping guide.   For the hard-to-gift.   Or just plain folks you'd like to be rid of.  Once again, Sky Mall gives us lots of great holiday present ideas.  
It's a pillow.   No, it's a TV remote.  No, it's a pillow.  No, it's a TV remote.  Hey, it is easier to throw at the screen when your team loses.
My family never wore matching Christmas clothes.  Ever.

A Darth Vader toaster.  May the margarine be with you.
A remote control-powered tarantula.  When the real thing isn't revolting enough.
With this extension, you can take a selfie that includes all 12 of your friends.  As if you had 12 friends you wanted to be in a picture with.
Just in case Tommy Smothers is on your gift list.
For the Ebola victim in your family.
For 400 bucks, you can get your cat this robotic litter box.  For two bucks, I'll come over and hold his head under water.
For a mere fifteen thousand dollars, you can have your own tanning spa at home.   And doesn't this gift idea have "Fire Department" written all over it?
How fucking lazy are you if you can't hold a hair dryer in your hand???
For those who think Louie the Barber's rates have gone up.  Have plenty of iodine handy.
The extra heavy fins might make a nice gift for the missus that needs to sink to the bottom.

Dinner last night:  The traditional Thanksgiving Day feast cooked by yours truly.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Don't you laugh at all those Thanksgiving Day cards that show a turkey proudly strutting around?   Doesn't that damn thing know what's going to happen next?  This cartoon says it better.  A turkey's bewildered look.  WTF???!!

May your day be filled with good foods and even better friends.  And, hopefully, your main course doesn't wind up like the one in this classic and frequently-used clip from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Enjoy it all, gang.


Dinner last night:  Big Mac.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This Date in History - November 26

Happy birthday, Tina Turner.   75 this year.  I don't know many at the same age who look like this!

783:  THE ASTURIAN QUEEN ADOSINDA IS PUT UP IN A MONASTERY TO PREVENT HER KIN FROM RETAKING THE THRONE FROM MAUREGATUS.

Sounds like a logline for a comic book.

1476:  VLAD THE IMPALER DEFEATS BASARAB LAIOTA WITH THE HELP OF STEPHEN THE GREAT AND STEPHEN V BATHORY.

Sounds like a logline for an episode of the WWF.

1703:  THE GREAT STORM OF 1703 IS THE GREATEST WINDSTORM EVER RECORDED IN THE SOUTHERN PART OF GREAT BRITAIN.

All that air must be coming from Parliament.

1778:  IN THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS, CAPTAIN JAMES COOK BECOMES THE FIRST EUROPEAN TO VISIT MAUI.

Wowee.

1789:  A NATIONAL THANKSGIVING DAY IS OBSERVED IN THE US AS RECOMMENDED BY PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON.

Pass the cranberries.

1825:  AT UNION COLLEGE IN SCHENECTADY, NY, KAPPA ALPHA SOCIETY, THE FIRST COLLEGE FRATERNITY, IS FORMED.

Party on!

1842:  THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME IS FOUNDED.

And are immediately seven point favorites.

1863:  US PRESIDENT ABE LINCOLN PROCLAIMS NOVEMBER 26 AS A NATIONAL THANKSGIVING DAY, TO BE CELEBRATED ANNUALLY ON THE FINAL THURSDAY OF NOVEMBER.

It was later moved to the fourth Thursday and that had everything to do with Christmas shopping.

1899:  BRUNO RICHARD HAUPTMANN IS BORN.

Murderer!

1912:  JOURNALIST ERIC SEVAREID IS BORN.

That's the way he was.

1917:  THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE IS FORMED.

And the losing streak begins for the NY Rangers.

1922:  CARTOONIST CHARLES SCHULZ IS BORN.

What do you think of that, Charlie Brown?

1922:  HOWARD CARTER AND LORD CARNARVON BECOME THE FIRST PEOPLE TO ENTER THE TOMB OF KING TUT IN OVER 3000 YEARS.

Did they come out? 

1922:  TOLL OF THE SEA DEBUTS AS THE FIRST GENERAL RELEASE FILM TO FILM IN TECHNICOLOR.

Check IMDB for the particulars.

1933:  SINGER ROBERT GOULET IS BORN.

Later marries punching bag Carol Lawrence.

1939:  PUPPETEER WAYLAND FLOWERS IS BORN.

Oddly enough, Madame was born two years earlier.

1939:  SINGER TINA TURNER IS BORN.

Later became a punching bag for Ike Turner.

1944:  DURING WORLD WAR II, A GERMAN ROCKET HITS A WOOLWORTH'S STORE IN LONDON, KILLING 168 PEOPLE.

So much for Five and Ten.

1950:  DURING THE KOREAN WAR, CHINA LAUNCHES A MASSIVE COUNTERATTACK IN NORTH KOREA AGAINST SOUTH KOREA.

The good news is that this all gave us M*A*S*H*.

1956:  BANDLEADER TOMMY DORSEY DIES.

He'll never smile again. 

1968:  DURING THE VIETNAM WAR, USAF PILOT JAMES FLEMING RESCUES AN ARMY SPECIAL FORCES UNIT PINNED DOWN BY VIET CONG FIRE.  HE IS LATER AWARDED THE MEDAL OF HONOR.

As well he should be.

1986:  THE IRAN-CONTRA SCANDAL - US PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN ANNOUNCES THE MEMBERS OF WHAT WILL BECOME THE TOWER COMMISSION.

What arms?

1998:  TONY BLAIR BECOMES THE FIRST PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM TO ADDRESS THE PARLIAMENT OF IRELAND.

They'll drink to that.

2000:  GEORGE W BUSH IS CERTIFIED THE WINNER OF FLORIDA'S ELECTORAL VOTES, ULTIMATELY ALLOWING HIM TO WIN THE 2000 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

There are some still counting ballots.

2005:  AUTHOR STAN BERENSTAIN DIES.

Those freakin' bears.

2013:  ACTRESS JANE KEAN DIES.

She was Trixie on the Honeymooners.  But, not really.  Joyce Randolph is the only one in my book.

Dinner last night:  Leftover ravioli.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I"m Watching on Sunday Nights

The answer is "way too much."   I mean, I could go some evenings during the week and never turn on the television.   But, right now on Sunday nights, I can only get through it all with not one but two Direct TV DVRs in my house.  There is that much for me to watch.

Okay, admittedly, I could stagger this all out and watch stuff on my own convenience later on.  But, I'm still old school.  If an episode of a favorite show airs, I generally want to see it the same day.   Sometimes, plot points leak out the next day and ruin it all for me.   And, let's face it, I was born and raised in the non-VCR era.  This is what's in my TV DNA.

So, at the moment, I wind up recording five different TV shows on Sunday nights.   This is not going to be forever.  Most of them are short flight series and will disappear soon.  A good thing because Downton Abbey is back this January.  On Sunday nights, natch.  But, for now, I am carefully programming two different DVRs to capture all five shows every week.  Thank God for east and west coast feeds.
In its fourth season, Homeland has experienced a creative regeneration.  Over the first three seasons, the plot around Muslim terrorist Martin Brody and CIA operative Carrie Matheson's fixation on him got incredibly played out.  Producers wisely discovered that they needed to reinvent the show for a fourth year.  And, with their storyline this season of Americans accidentally blowing up a Muslim wedding reception in Islamabad, the show has been captivating and scary.  And I think the horrific world depicted over in the Middle East is one that is closer to truth than we imagine.
I wrote several weeks ago about this interesting new show on CBS.   Admittedly, the things that happen to Tea Leoni as the US Secretary of State are a stretch, but she's a damn lot smarter than Hillary Clinton ever was.   And the storyline is starting to move into a soapy area as she discovers that somebody in the White House may be a crook.   Surprise?  Meanwhile, I get a kick out of all the college campus scenes shot at my alma mater Fordham University.
I got into The Affair on Showtime because I was under the impression that it was simply going to be a ten episode series.  But I recently heard they got picked up for a second season and I have no idea where the story goes after this.   The Affair is essentially what the title is.   Two married people meet during the summer at Montauk and have a no-holds-barred tryst.  Lots of naked flesh flying around and you can't quibble with that.  But, there's also a mystery going on and the details are coming out at the pace of an IV drip.  Once that gets resolved, I have no clue what they can possibly do next.  But, for now, I'm in and so is my DVR.
The second season return of The Comeback on HBO has been long awaited, given that its first season ended in 2005.  Lisa Kudrow is a marvel in this reality series/sitcom about a washed-up sitcom/reality star named Valerie Cherish who is still trying to make a buck in Hollywood.  The show is incredibly inside Hollywood and wonderful.  Perhaps the most clever depiction of the world of television since Paddy Chayefsky's Network.  Valerie is tough to watch, but she's really that fender bender on the side of the 110 Freeway.  You can't help but rubberneck at her imploding life.
Adding to the Sunday night viewing frenzy is the second season return of this HBO comedy called Getting On.  It ran for six episodes last year and some wise cookie brought it back.   It's all about the nurses and doctors at a make-believe California hospital and, specifically, the geriatric ward.  Laurie Metcalf is hilarious as the head doctor who is so bizarre and quirky that you just know she exists somewhere in real life.   The physician is more interested in getting her studies published than the care and well being of her patients.  During the first year, she was doing a study on stool samples.   This season, she's all about photographing the genitalia of senior citizens.  Yes, the show is that weird.  The best part of Getting On is the guest cast which usually is a who's that of oldtime Hollywood actresses laid out on some hospital mattress.  Just last Sunday, Betty Buckley played an old alcoholic going cold turkey.  In the middle of the night, she wakes up and starts to drink the hand sanitizer from all the hospital dispensers.  How could you not tape that?

And, frankly, how could you not tape any of these shows?  It will be short-lived but, for now, my Sunday nights are jam packed with great television.  Who knew??

Dinner last night:  Ravioli and salad.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 24, 2014

It's time for holiday parades!!!

Dinner last night:  Various appetizers at the Cheesecake Factory.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - My Years as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Commentator

Well, sort of.   These days, my Thanksgiving mornings are spent cooking.   I am usually up by 830AM, sauteing sausage, onions, and celery so I can start making the stuffing in the slow cooker.

But, I've only had a Thanksgiving chef hat in recent years.  Most of my life, I was parked in front of the television.   And gaping at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And that brings to mind this sidebar comment.

Some years back, I was actually asked this question by a work colleague in New York.

"When is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?"

I replied that I was not sure. October sometime?

The idiot said, "Oh," and walked away. I made a mental note never to speak to that person ever again.

Okay, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an integral part of the holiday's celebration. Right along with football, cranberries, and a post-dinner nap on the couch with your pants unbuttoned. And, for the complete sensory experience, you have to watch the parade on television with either one of two smells emanating from your kitchen. The aforementioned sauteed onions for stuffing. Or a pumpkin pie baking in the oven. It all goes hand in hand.

When I was a kid, I was totally into the balloons, because they were all my favorite cartoon characters. 

Popeye. 

Bullwinkle. 

Bugs Bunny. 

Somewhere along the way, Macy's went off the track and started devoting balloons to commercial sponsors. Because I'm a big fan of the Snuggle Bear? When you're ten years old, you really don't give a shit about what fabric softener your mother is using.

Back in my youthful days, the parade was always hosted by Lorne Greene and Betty White and they were delightful. Later on, they were replaced by the idiots from the "Today Show," who introduced every float as written on the cue cards. It all became a lot less spontaneous. 

"Guess who's coming, kids? I can see his sleigh." 

Duh.

I dreamed always of going to the Macy's parade one year. Of course, this would never happen as it fell totally into my father's tried and true trilogy of excuses.

"It's too crowded."

"It's too far to drive."

"It's too hot and/or cold."

Thanks, Dad. Again.

It would be years later that I would finally see the parade live. Up close and in person. And I would do so for five Thanksgivings in a row.

A company I worked for in New York had offices on Broadway. Third floor directly opposite the Ed Sullivan Theater. With picture windows that were ideal for parade viewing. It became an annual party for employees and clients plus their kids. A continental breakfast was served and then folks would line the windows as soon as the first drum roll was heard.

We were eye level with the balloons. And, despite the fact all these rubber creatures were now nothing more than commercial placements, they were still spectacular to look at. And it was also a great way to see just how broken down they were. The number of patches were plentiful as they did their best to keep the air from going out of Snoopy's ass. It obviously required a lot of surgery to get Underdog through Times Square every year.

Up in our penthouse of viewing, we were above the hordes on the street. Folks down there brought their own ladders in an attempt to get a better look. It was fun for us to watch the ladder climbers eventually fall off their perches sometime during the morning. While the parade was certainly the main attraction, the curbside morons were a delectable side show.

One year, one of our sales managers (sadly he has since passed away) was standing next to me at the window. We started cracking wise about some of the Hollywood has-beens that always seem to show up in the parade. Before you knew it, we were getting laughs up and down the row of windows. A ha! An audience. Our color commentary was appreciated.

"Ah, Joanne Worley is the old woman in the shoe. She has a lot of children and no real career since Laugh-In."

"When do we tie some strings to Al Roker and float him down Broadway?"

"The Popeye balloon has a big tear down his crotch. Must have been a rough night with Olive."

Betty White and Lorne Greene were never like this. 

The next year, one of our annual guests, a young boy, came up to me.

"Are you and that guy going to make jokes again this year?"

There was a look of hope on the kid's face.

"We would be happy to."

And another holiday tradition was born. And I was a heck of a lot funnier than Matt Lauer.

Dinner last night:  French dip panini.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Classic Newsreel of the Month - November 2014

It's coming.   Like clockwork.
Dinner last night:  Japanese noodle bowl.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Your Awkward Thanksgiving Photos for 2014

Smoked turkey.
I'll pass the cranberries.   You pass me the baby.
Don't you love Grandma's ink?
 I'll have some stuffing, Norman.  Norman?  Norman?
 The original Pilgrims probably had to pee in the woods.  Not so in this century.
Thanksgiving at the home of teen-age Jerry Lewis.
Why buy a real pilgrim hat when some cardboard will do?
Voted Most Likely to Drown Her Children When She Turns 30.
 Straight from the beauty parlor to your Thanksgiving table.
God, I hate my mother-in-law.
 I can see his giblets.
Some watch the parade.   Others tune into football.  And there are some homes that settle down for some old fashioned Thanksgiving porn.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and salad.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For Those Keeping Score....

To date, the number of alleged rape and sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby?  Five.

To date, the number of alleged rape and sexual abuse allegations against former President Bill Clinton?  Six.

The number of years Bill Cosby was President?  Zero.

The number of years Bill Clinton was President?  Eight.

This is not a political diatribe.  Far from it.   Simply a statement of facts.   The groundswell against Bill Cosby over the past several days has been monumental.   No need to go over the stories and charges.   Punishment is already being doled out.

No more appearances on late night talk shows.

No more development deal with NBC.

No more videos available on Netflix.

No more reruns shown on TV Land.

And I'm thinking the Cosby household, or what's left of it, no longer has access to free Jell-O Pudding.

The former President?   He walks into a luncheon attended by over 1000 women and is given a standing ovation.

That's where we are, folks.   America.  The land of the free.   And the home of the double standards.  

Don't get me wrong, gang.  There's smoke and, yes, there's fire.  Cosby's been pulling this dirty act for years and years.   And it probably doesn't stop with five.

About twenty years ago in NY, we were in a prestigious sitcom writing workshop.   One of the people running it was a former showrunner for the Cosby Show, the one with all those kids.  In a rare candid moment, he mentioned all the "activity" in Bill's office and dressing room.    So, when I hear the things over the past few days, yours truly is not surprised.

But Slick Willie Clinton gets a pass as a revered statesman.   And this antics probably don't stop with six.   I heard from a friend several years ago that he would hang around the local Starbucks in upper Westchester and...well...violate the personal space of the cute, young baristas.


So, yeah, that all happened, too.   And I think back to a story I heard.  Also twenty years ago.

A very good friend of mine was in politics at the time and was pretty damn involved in the 1992 Presidential campaign.  As I was told, Clinton was speaking before an enthusiastic crowd somewhere in the Midwest.   He spotted a cute thing in the front and, as was his usual procedure, asked the Secret Service to bring her in for a...ahem...personal meeting.  

Well, the cheese stood alone.   And Bill had scrambled egg on his face when he discovered that the apple of his...ahem...eye was the daughter of then Democratic Party chairman Ron Brown.  Oops.

That tale always stuck with me.   About a year later, Ron Brown is killed in a plane crash.   I hear this news from the CBS Nightly News which I usually watched from my perch on top of a Nordic Track at my old gym in Yonkers.   I'm watching the footage as Bill and Hillary are shown making a condolence call at the Brown home.   And the President hugs the daughter he wanted to screw way back on the campaign trail.  Wow.

So, I have no skin in this game.   I don't really like Bill Cosby.   And, since he's a politician, you know I don't like Bill Clinton.   But the most detestable of all?   The people around us who act like one Bill matters and the other doesn't.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and salad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

This Date in History - November 19

Happy birthday, Alan Young.  He's the one on the left.

636:  THE RASHIDUN CALIPHATE DEFEATED THE SASSANIAN EMPIRE IN IRAQ.

These damned caliphates are still around, God damn it.

1095:  THE COUNCIL OF CLERMONT, CALLED BY POPE URBAN II TO DISCUSS SENDING THE FIRST CRUSADE TO THE HOLY LAND, BEGINS.

I'm personally waiting for the Third Crusade.  By then, they will have all the kinks out.

1493:  CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS GOES ASHORE ON AN ISLAND HE FIRST SAW THE DAY BEFORE.   THIS WILL LATER BECOME PUERTO RICO.

So he discovered that?  Gee, thanks, Chris.

1794:  THE UNITED STATES AND THE KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN SIGN JAY'S TREATY, WHICH ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE SOME OF THE LINGERING PROBLEMS LEFT OVER FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR.

Jay's Treaty sounds like a bit on the old Tonight Show.

1863:  US PRESIDENT ABE LINCOLN DELIVERS THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS.

Without a teleprompter, I might add.

1905:  BANDLEADER TOMMY DORSEY IS BORN.

And what about Jimmy??

1911:  THE DOOM BAR IN CORNWALL CLAIMED TWO SHIPS, KILLING THE ENTIRE CREW OF ONE EXCEPT THE CAPTAIN.

So they don't all go down with the ship.

1916:  SAMUEL GOLDWYN AND EDGAR SELWYN ESTABLISH GOLDWYN PICTURES.

A Wyn Wyn.

1917:  INDIAN POLITICIAN INDIRA GANDHI IS BORN.

Along with probably three million other Indians the same day.

1919:  ACTOR ALAN YOUNG IS BORN.

And still with us.  Or so the horse tells me.

1920:  ACTRESS GENE TIERNEY IS BORN.

I'll never forget the day that Laura died.

1921:  BASEBALL STAR ROY CAMPANELLA IS BORN.

Yes, his father was Italian.

1933:  TV HOST LARRY KING IS BORN.

Sad to report.

1936:  TV HOST DICK CAVETT IS BORN.

Remember when there were only three late-night hosts?   Oh, wait, there still are.

1938:  BUSINESSMAN TED TURNER IS BORN.

For a while, Mr. Jane Fonda.

1942:  DURING WORLD WAR II, SOVIET FORCES LAUNCH THE OPERATION URANUS COUNTERATTACKS AT STALINGRAD.

Everybody forgets they were on our side at this point.

1942:  FASHION DESIGNER CALVIN KLEIN IS BORN.

Nice pants.

1943:  THE HOLOCAUST - NAZIS LIQUIDATE JANOWSKA CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE WESTERN UKRAINE, MURDERING AT LEAST 6,000 JEWS.

They could use a better word than "liquidate."

1944:  US PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT ANNOUNCES THE 6TH WAR LOAN DRIVE.

Buy Bonds Now.  Still.

1946:  AFGHANISTAN, ICELAND, AND SWEDEN JOIN THE UNITED NATIONS.

You're going to regret letting in the first one.

1950:  US GENERAL DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER BECOMES SUPREME COMMANDER OF NATO-EUROPE.

A bigger job coming shortly.

1959:  THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY DISCONTINUES THE EDSEL.

So much for getting new parts.

1962:  ACTRESS JODIE FOSTER IS BORN.

No truth to the rumor that her middle name is Bananas.

1969:  APOLLO 12 ASTROANUTS PETE CONRAD AND ALAN BEAN BECOME THE THIRD AND FOURTH HUMANS TO WALK ON THE MOON.

Names we never remember.

1969:  SOCCER STAR PELE SCORES HIS 1,000TH GOAL.

That's an awful lot of running around.

1985:  US PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN AND SOVIET UNION LEADER MIKHAIL GORBACHEV MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME.

About that wall....

1985:  ACTOR STEPHIN FETCHIT DIES.

So go and shine your own shoes.

1988:  BUSINESSWOMAN CHRISTINA ONASSIS DIES.

Who wouldn't want to be mentioned in this will?

1990:  POP GROUP MILLI VANILLI ARE STRIPPED OF THEIR GRAMMY AWARD BECAUSE THE DUO DIDN'T SING ON THEIR LAST ALBUM.

These days, there are dozens of rock stars I wish wouldn't sing.

1998:  THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JUDICIARY COMMITTEE BEGINS IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS AGAINST PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON.

Who me?  What did I do?

1998:  DIRECTOR ALAN J. PAKULA DIES.

Killed tragically when a metal pipe from the car in front of him shot through his windshield on the Long Island Expressway.  Dying on that road is redundant.

2004:  PRODUCER TERRY MELCHER DIES.

Doris Day outlives her son by a decade.

Dinner last night:  Pepperoni pizza.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World

It sure does seem like I've used today's blog title before.   Indeed, I probably have.   The last time the world intervened in my life and turned it upside down.

You see, my laptop came down with the Ebola virus.  Or the virtual version of the malady.   In this case, it's called RSA 2048.   If those digits show up on your computer screen, you are FUCKED 2014.

I've got multiple computer connections.   My desktop at home.  A tablet.  A Smart Phone.  And a laptop which is plasma for anybody who's an independent contractor like me.  That computer goes where I go.   Plugging in here, there, and everywhere.  It's a Hewlett Packard slut.  And has served me well for almost two years.

But, all the unplugging and plugging and unplugging comes with a price.  The more you're out there in the world, the more likely that your laptop can get infected.  People have told me that Macbooks are hacker-proof.   I may go that route next time.  But, for now, it's my little diseased HP friend that needs some TLC.

It happened all of a sudden.   I turned on my laptop and there was a message first in DOS then in a classier font.  The above virus was in my computer and I could never open any Word or EXCEL files without providing the new Bazooka gum comic book code.  It reminded me of all those guide books Chico sold Groucho in "A Day at the Races."   The thoughtful thieves even provided several links to websites where I could make this transaction.   I needed to buy and convert 500 dollars of bitcoins on-line to get the super code that would unlock my computer files.

I don't even know what the hell a bitcoin is.

I asked one computer expert who surprised the bejeebers out of me. He said there was no workaround.  I should go ahead and buy the code.

Effectively, that means the crooks win.  Oh, by the way, they're probably the same folks who will be granted instant amnesty in the next month or so.

I couldn't do it.   Nobody was going to rob me hook, line, and bitcoin.

I resolved that the work files on my laptop could be replaced.   All of them have been e-mailed to somebody and I can easily restore them by going through my old mail folders.  I had one script saved there.  My writing partner has it saved.  A human back-up.   I realize I need to somehow sync up my desktop with my laptop so they become each other's electronic back-up.   That will be next week's project.

This week, I let the computer guys sweep my laptop clean as a whistle.   I had my Windows reinstalled.  I ask for a super-duper virus program to prevent this from happening again.

Realistically, there is none.   We live in a bad, bad, bad, bad world.  And we are all subject to the evil.   The more we tweet and text and like on the internet, the more we become victims.  How do we solve this?

We don't.  Unless we go back about fifty or sixty years.   When you connected with friends on the new Princess phone.   And if you had to type something, the most dirt you were subjected to was the ink that got on your fingers from changing the typewriter ribbon.

Maybe that's not so bad after all.

Dinner last night:  Leftover pork tenderloin and veggies.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Video Laugh - November 17, 2014

The audio is terrible but feel free to come up with your own dialogue.

Dinner last night:  Pork tenderloin, rice, and broccoli.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The World of Laser Discs

Last week, I let you in on how I amassed my first debt as a young adult.  I overbought suits from Wallach's.   Well, just you know, I eventually did diversify.   And overdid it in another area.

Ladies and gentlemen, look at the photo above.  That is a laser disc player.   Not the one I still own to this day in my NY apartment, but it's pretty darn close.  And so begins the excavation of another money pit for yours truly.

I became a laser disc fanatic.

These days, it's all about the DVD and even those are disappearing as more and more folks view their movies on computers via streams, etc..  But, just a short three decades ago, real film devotees were not seeing their at-home entertainment via that clunky VHS tape recorder.   Nope, if you loved film, you wanted to see your favorites in the finest presentation possible.   And, back when, that was only possible with a laser disc.

It all started so innocently for me.   Gee, doesn't it always?

As a newbie working in Manhattan for the first time, one of my co-workers was this radio salesman who loved classic movies.   He found a kindred spirit in me and we would waste a lot of business time discussing the works of Billy Wilder, Frank Capra, George Stevens, and the like.  At this time, there was no Turner Classic Movies network.   If you wanted to see old stuff, you had to rent them.  On VHS.

"Oh, no.  The only way to go is with a laser disc."

I had no clue what the hell he was talking about.  I probably shouldn't have asked for more information.  But I did.

And so it began.

This guy had a whole in-home theater setup in his house and he invited me over for a day of movies as they needed to be shown.   Through many speakers and via his beloved Laser Disc player.

I became a convert that afternoon.  And now needed to figure out how to bring this all to my home.  With a budget that was probably one tenth of a successful radio salesperson.

Naturally, I deliberated on this all for about a year.  I researched the laser disc equipment market exhaustively.  Because, in reality, you need more than just the player.  You need speakers.  You need a receiver to run it all through.  And, let's face it, my screen was going to have to be that 19 inch Zenith portable TV.

I overthought it all long enough.  Armed with a spanking new Bankamericard, I did the deed.  And then, of course, realized I was ill-equipped to put all this electronic stuff together on my own.

I hadn't even purchased a movie yet and I was already in over my financial head.

But, as soon as Cinema Len was up and running, my apartment was the place to go.  Microwave up some Orville Whathisname Popcorn and hit the start button.  I certainly was the only one in my group of friends with a laser disc player.  Most of them didn't even know what the heck a laser disc was.

They looked like long playing albums and came in jacket sleeves just like the ones that housed the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.  Indeed, a two hour movie had to be divided up across the two sides of the laser disc.  Sometime in the middle of the film you were watching, it would stop.  The needle would go from one side to the other.   And then your movie would pick up where it left off.   If the film was more than two hours, it would be spread out over two discs.   

But I didn't care.   Laser discs were the only way you could access those popular "extras."   Commentary tracks.  Deleted scenes.  Trailers.  Plus the quality, even on the boxy Zenith, was sterling.  

I was in heaven.   And then, thanks to the price of said laser discs, moving quickly to the poor house of Hell.

You see, when this technology began, laser discs were pricey.  Each movie was, for the longest time, priced between $79-100.  And, except for Tower Records in Manhattan, there was very few stores that carried them.   Nope, if you really wanted to collect laser discs, you needed to go mail order and get discount prices from Ken Crane's in Huntington Beach, California.

For about three years, there was never a time in my life when I wasn't expecting a shipment from Ken Crane's.  I always had something on order.  The UPS guy needed to be added to my Christmas card list.  As classic movies were converted to and released on laser disc, I was ordering them.  Sometimes on the day they were released.

Some Like It Hot.  I have to have.

The Apartment.   I have to have.

Singing in the Rain.  I have to have.

North by Northwest.  I have to have.

Eventually, my "have to haves" numbered in the four hundreds.  Laser discs were stored all over my house.  

Looking back at this period in my life, I realize now what was going on.  My father was sick and dying.  Indeed, as I went through that pain each and every day, these laser discs became my in-home escape from it all.  I relished the quiet of a favorite movie, flipping on the player midway through.  

Eventually, I moved and upgraded the TV to some of those 35 inch Mitsubishi screens.  And, all over again, my mom became ill and began her slow exit out.  

I'd go home and hit "play."  It all went away.  Thanks to the likes of Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, James Dean, Jack Lemmon, and the like.

So, the debt that I piled on was not just for laser discs.   I was really paying for a type of therapy.  

When my writing partner and I started looking west, we made several trips to Los Angeles.  On one of those sojourns, I dragged him down the 405 for a pilgrimage.  Catholics visit the Vatican.  Me?  I needed to see the Ken Crane's store myself.

Oddly enough, in my now bi-coastal existence, the laser disc player never made the move with me.  Neither did the 400 or so "record albums."  They are all still in my apartment there.  I don't even think the player is hooked up.  I think I switched out the cord for the 75 dollar Blu Ray machine.

Back west, I've got an elaborate TV system that centers around the LA Blu Ray player.  Everything has been converted to that format over the past 15 years.   And, I went through it all again as movies came out on DVD and Blu Ray.

Some Like It Hot.  I have to have.

The Apartment.   I have to have.

Singing in the Rain.  I have to have.

North by Northwest.  I have to have.

I'm pretty caught up now.  Everything I had on Laser Disc is now duplicated with a DVD.  Yes, the money was spent.  I wonder how I would have managed it all if I had to send a kid through college.  Wasted expense?

Even now, I love to relax on a quiet night with some old friends from MGM or Paramount or Universal.  Hmmm, where in my alphabetized collection of movies do I want to go tonight?  It still makes my problems go away for an hour or two.  And, wow, you don't have to wait for the film to flip over in the middle.

The laser disc player in NY greets me every time I am there.  I may not turn it on.  But it's there for me.  And I realize just how vital it was when my parents departed this world.  

Yep, I collected quite a debt over the years.  But, in reality, it's nothing in comparison to what I owe to my old laser disc player.

Dinner last night:  Beef lo mein at Wokcano.