Now in our ninth calendar year!|
PCR #426 (Vol. 9, No. 21) This edition is for the week of May 19--25, 2008.
Hello, gang! Really beginning to hate computers. Shall we begin?
THE WEEK THAT WAS
|My beautiful bride and I.|
|My son, Phillip, and Juanita. Phillip was my best man.|
|My mother, Rose, Phillip and I.|
|Matt provided the music.|
For those of you still awaiting our fun adventures in New York City, here you go:
Our adventure began bright and early on Tuesday morning at 3:30 am. OK, maybe not so bright but definitely early. With our plane scheduled to leave for Newark at 6 am we needed to get to the airport by 5 am, which we accomplished with no problems. Once at the ticket counter we tried to use the automatic boarding system only to be denied. Before an attendant could help us I knew the reason. Yes, I admit it. I’m a suspected terrorist. Well, not ME personally, but someone with my name. It doesn’t help to have the most common first and last name in the English language. I’ve had this problem since high school and in the past have not only had my car surrounded by police when my name matched that of an escaped murderer in Texas (luckily I was able to remove my shirt and show them I didn’t have any tattoos) but been called on the phone and threatened with death. Luckily I was able to persuade the caller that he got the wrong guy and later thanked God that he hadn’t just gone the “Terminator” route and killed every Michael Smith in the phone book. Still, it’s nice to be in the same company as Sen. Edward Kennedy, Georgia Congressman John Lewis and Alaska Congressman Don Young, who are also on the list. After successfully passing their tests I was given my boarding pass as well as some information on how to get off of the list. Basically I have to provide my personal information to all of the airlines I plan to fly, which is not that big a deal if it saves time.
Anyway, after a few very comfortable hours on Midwest Express (plug number one – great service and rows with only two seats each.) we arrive in Newark, New Jersey right before noon. In an effort to save money we have decided to stay in Secaucus, New Jersey at the beautiful Crowne Plaza Hotel (plug number two) and ride a bus into New York City. The cost of our room was very reasonable and a room for the same price in NYC would have been half the size and certainly not in as pleasant of a location. When we approach the counter we are told that our room is not yet ready. We were a little chagrined because we had until 3:00 to pick up our tickets to that evening’s taping of “Late Night with David Letterman.” However, once the manager learned we were on our honeymoon (and also spied my Orioles jacket, telling me she was also a fan) she quickly located a room and we were off to rest and relax a little before our first journey into the Big Apple. As it was about a 20 minute bus ride to the Port Authority Terminal in Times Square, we left the hotel at one and caught the bus. If you are planning a trip to NYC, keep in mind that most of the time you are there is spent walking or taking a cab. With gas prices the way they are, it seemed ridiculous to rent a car, considering that on top of gas and parking there is also an $8.00 toll through the Lincoln Tunnel. The bus picked us up in front of the hotel. Total cost, $10 round trip for both of us.
After we got out into the street Juanita took a photo of the New York Times building, which looms over Times Square. We then decided to take a cab to the Ed Sullivan Theatre (52nd and Broadway if you’re interested) and arrived in plenty of time to pick up our tickets. After securing them and being told to return at 3:45 we went next door to the famous Hello Deli where we were greeted by the equally famous proprietor, Rupert Gee. Juanita asked Rupert if he would take a photo with her and he happily agreed. We were both surprised at how small it was inside. I think the whole shop could fit easily into my living room. While we were there we decided to have lunch, since we hadn’t eaten since a roll at the airport in KC. We both had ham sandwiches, chips and a drink. Very tasty but a little pricy. But then everything is in NYC, or at least anywhere between 6th and 8th Avenue and 39th and 54th street. After lunch we returned to the theatre and lined up. At exactly 4:00 we were ushered into the building. Our seats where in the front of the balcony and as I looked around I tried to imagine the place rocking when the Beatles appeared there in February 1964. Our seats were right next to the sound board and Juanita pulled out a sign a friend of hers had made that read “Honeymooning in the Big Apple.” As I mentioned in an earlier Rant, she was determined to get us on television. Unfortunately the sound guy told her that if she held it up we would probably be ejected so she tucked it away. At 4:15 a very unfunny comedian came out to warm us up. Tonight’s guests were Robert Downey, Jr. and Alicia Keys. Good show. At 4:20 the band came out and went into a grooving version of “Iron Man.” Five minutes later, Letterman came out and started a conversation with a lady in the audience about having fallen off a horse and cracking a rib. Then it was showtime! It’s amazing how loose the show seems to be when watching on television because behind the scenes it’s run like the military. During each break no less than ten people swarmed the small stage and made whatever changes needed to be made. Exactly one hour after the show started we were heading out the door.
|Juanita with long time David Letterman neighbor and Hello Deli proprietor Rupert Gee.|
|The Beatles matching suits from their first Ed Sullivan television appearance now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe.|
|Me with the original lyrics of Harry Chapin's "W O L D." The song in its original version is much more depressing. FYI: Harry Chapin is one of my few true heroes!|
|The "IMAGINE" circle in the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park.|
|Juanita and I with some of New York's finest. When we saw this photo Juanita commented, and I agreed, that this picture pretty much sums up the ethnic diversity of New York City.|
We spent the rest of the day exploring the sights of Times Square, stopping off at Colony Records (a favorite place of mine to visit for years). I then took Juanita to the Brill Building, where such artists as Carole King, Neil Diamond and others would write songs for $15.00 each early in their career, only making more when one of them was recorded. Of course, a trip to NYC by two chocoholics would not be complete without stops at both the Hershey’s store and M & M World. Touristy? Yes. But fun places to roam around in. After a few hours we decided to head back to the hotel, where we had a nice dinner and then crashed.
Wednesday morning came and we went down to breakfast. Ah, sweet paradise. Buffet style with plenty of bacon. Mmmmmmmmm....bacon! Afterwards we again bussed into the city, planning to see the sights and a show. One of the first things we put on our list was to see the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Phantom of the Opera.” I had seen it three times previously on Broadway in the past 20 years but Juanita hadn’t and wanted to. As the show is one of my favorites I certainly had no complaints. We took our seats, the lights dimmed and the next two hours were spent taking in a true Broadway spectacle. The audience was very appreciative, with polite applause for the cast and the much deserved standing ovation for Howard McGillin, who has played the Phantom longer than anyone else. After the show we ventured to a place I had seen many times in the past but had never visited, Smith’s Bar. Since they served lunch and we were hungry we sat down and had two very delicious sandwiches with the fixings. Plus they had the Oriole game on, which was a fine tune up for our evenings plans, a night at Yankee Stadium. We met Becki and Bill, two of our friends from the JAWS community who lived on Long Island, at the Port Authority and subwayed ourselves to the Bronx. This is the last year the Yankees will play at old Yankee Stadium. In fact, NEW Yankee Stadium is pretty much completed across the parking lot. A beautiful structure that resembles the old House That Ruth Built but with modern amenities. As the weather forecast called for a chilly evening, both our friends and us had brought along extra sweatshirts and a blanket in our backpacks. When we reached the gate we were told that backpacks were not allowed in Yankee Stadium (later on I checked the back of our tickets and found this information printed on the ticket.). As we had not car to stow our gear in I asked what we could do with it. And that is when I was given reason number 1, 712 why I hate the Yankees. We were told that Stan’s across the street would hold our bags for us. We looked across the street and learned that Stan has his fingers in a lot of pies. Stan has his own bar, bowling alley and more then one sporting goods store. We found the right location and asked to check our bags. The cost? $20.00. Each! “What,” I said? Twenty bucks! Do we get a hat or anything with that?” “Nope.” I guess I should be grateful that he allowed us to stick one bag into the other so we only got hosed for twenty. I asked for a receipt and was told, “we only give receipts if you buy something.” Nice racket. After the game I counted no less then 50 bags being “held” by Stans, both inside the shop and outside. Assuming that’s a rough estimate, that means that for 81 home games a year “Stan” is clearing at least $1,000 each game. $81,000. And I’m sure he’s reporting this income on his taxes. I’m so sure that I’ve sent a complaint to the Office of the New York State Attorney General. I’ll keep you informed. A subway ride back to the Port Authority later we were saying goodbye to Bill and Becki and soon bussing our way back to Jersey. Of course, the evening wasn’t all bad news. The Yankees did lose!
Thursday found us planning to explore uptown NYC. As I mentioned earlier, a trip to NYC includes lots of walking. Today we would head 30 blocks uptown to see Central Park. Times Square is really nothing more than small stores, pizza shops, Starbucks and McDonalds, with the occasional theater thrown into the mix. However, a few blocks either way and you discover the various neighborhoods of the city. Grocery stores, hardware stores, book shops. Each neighborhood is it’s own little city. We walked up through Columbus Circle and past the Trump Tower, finally entering Central Park. I noticed that the softball diamonds were busy and correctly guessed that the Broadway Show League was in full swing. This is a league made up of teams from the various shows and theater guilds on Broadway. Many years ago, while on a trip to NYC, I had the great opportunity to fill in and play for the “Man of LaMancha” team, a memory I still cherish. We sat down and watched the team representing ‘RENT’ blow a sizeable lead to a bunch of electrical workers. I had been hoping the RENT team would win, imagining them gathering in a circle and exclaiming “Viva La Vie Boheme!” After the game we ventured to the end of the park and found ourselves outside the famous Dakota apartment building. Movie fans will recognize it as the setting for “Rosemary’s Baby.” Former residents include Judy Garland, Boris Karloff and Gilda Radner. Current residents include Lauren Bacall, Neil Sedaka and Yoko Ono. Among the famous who sought residence and were denied by the tenant board: Gene Simmons and Billy Joel. And yes, sadly, this is where John Lennon was murdered. We stood silently as we looked down the walkway into the courtyard where Lennon was shot. Located across the street in the park is a small section known as Strawberry Fields, which includes a ground mural reading simply IMAGINE.” It is said that Yoko Ono can look out her apartment window and see the fans below as they leave flowers or say a silent prayer. Very quiet and moving. We then took a subway further uptown until we hit the financial district, former home of the World Trade Center, now referred to as Ground Zero. Phillip and I had visited Ground Zero in 2004. It was on a very quiet Sunday morning with not too many people around. We arrived around 5 pm, when everyone was getting out of work. It was surreal to watch the hustle and bustle of people rushing here and there while not more than 10 yards from them a huge pit full of workmen remained. We had also hoped to see the Statue of Liberty today, but when we asked a policeman the best way to get there he told us that at that time of day the statue would be obscured by fog and we wouldn’t be able to see it from the Staten Island ferry. That left us with nothing planned for the evening, or at least until Juanita suggested we try to get tickets to see the Monty Python musical, “Spamalot.” We headed back to Times Square and picked up tickets to see the 8 pm show. As we walked through Shubert’s Alley we had our first celebrity sighting: Tony Roberts. Impression: PRICK. As he walked off I wanted to yell after him, “Hey Tony…YOU’RE IN XANADU! XANADU!!!” For those of you not familiar with the current state of Broadway, Tony Roberts currently stars in the stage version of the Olivia Newton John film from 1980 – “Xanadu.” Yes, that one. With about an hour before showtime we decided to grab some dinner. While walking around we were handed a flier advertising a small French restaurant right down the street. The prices were very reasonable and we were promised a free glass of wine with the flier. Say no more. We stopped in and had the best dinner on our trip. Total cost, including drinks: less than $40.00. I asked the manager if I could take a menu because this is one place I wanted to mention and he said yes. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find it but I promise I’ll get the name out there.
The first thing that greeted us as we entered the Shubert Theatre (the original venue for “A Chorus Line” and where I saw “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”) was a sign that read “Now starring Clay Aiken.” Great. Monty Python meets American Idol. I couldn’t wait. Actually, I needn’t have worried. The show was outstanding, featuring most of the scenes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and mixing in other bits including “Finland,” references to the “Lumberjack Song” and the main song from “Life of Brian,” “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.” The show was quite funny and Aiken more then held his own as the cowardly Sir Robin If you are a Python fan and always wanted to see the Black Knight dismembered on stage or perhaps observe the Knights Who Say Nee, then this is the show for you. Catch the tour when it comes to your city. Again, a late evening found us bussing back to the hotel to prepare for our last full day in the city.
Friday found us heading down town, to 34th Street and Macys as well as 14th Street and Greenwich Village. Macy’s was HUGE. I mean, when your department store devotes 2 floors just to make up counters you know you’re doing some major business. Sadly, no sight of Santa Claus. Maybe we were early. In the Village we stopped at a collectable store or two but sadly I came away empty handed. And yes, Matt, I did look for issue number 3 of Famous Monsters. We had made plans that night to meet with Mike and Patty Gencarelli, two other JAWS friends that also lived on Long Island. We arranged to have dinner at an Italian restaurant which, if the news articles pasted on the window are to be believed, is the favorite place of Al Pacino and Rudy Guliani. That sold me. The dinner was delicious, the company excellent and we left with a promise to meet up again this year at either the 30th Anniversary of “Halloween’ Celebration in California or the 25th Anniversary Celebration of “A Christmas Story” in Cleveland, where the film was shot. Right now we’re looking at Cleveland, so hope to see you guys then. After hugs all around, we took the bus one last time to our hotel and hit the sack. Just like the beginning of the trip, our flight left early.
Saturday found us waiting for a cab driver that arrived 15 minutes late and then proceeded to try to kill us during his weaving maneuvers. It was apparent he had either overslept from his supposed 5 am pick up call or had just been called at home because he still had on his pajamas when he finally showed up. After a speedy trip in which he almost rear ended a semi and cut off another truck, muttering “Fucking Maniacs” under his breath, our driver happily took his $47.00 and went on back to sleep. Hopefully not while he was driving.
Sometimes things happen in sports that defy explanation. With the 1988 major league baseball draft winding down, the Los Angeles Dodgers found themselves with one last pick, # 1390, as the 62nd round rolled around. With really no one on their radar, team manager Tommy Lasorda asked if the team would draft the son of a friend of his just so the kid could one day say he’d been drafted by the Dodgers. That kid was Mike Piazza. This week, Piazza closed his sure hall of fame career by announcing his retirement. Piazza leaves the game with 427 home runs, with 396 of them coming as a catcher, the most by anyone at that position. He was a favorite player of both my son and I and his style of play will be sadly missed. See you in Cooperstown, Mike.
BOBBY KENNEDY WAS SHOT IN JUNE
Hillary Clinton wants you to know!
John Phillip Law, whose acting career encompassed everything from sci-fi films to television soap operas, died this week at the age of 70. No cause of death was listed. Probably best known to PCR readers for his work in “Barbarella” and the title role in “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” Law worked steadily up until his death. Among his other credits: “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming,” “The Cassandra Crossing,” and televisions “The Young and the Restless.”
Will Elder, early cartoonist for MAD magazine who went on to a long career at PLAYBOY, died this week from Parkinson’s disease at his New Jersey home. He was 86. In the early '50s Elder and Harvey Kurtzman were introduced to William Gaines, publisher of EC Comics. After working on various horror, war and adventure comics, the duo persuaded Gaines to underwrite MAD. Kurtzman left the magazine in 1956 after a financial dispute and was soon followed by Elder. The two ended up at TRUMP magazine, published by Hugh Hefner and the forebear of PLAYBOY. In 1962 the duo created the very popular “Little Annie Fanny” character.
AND THE OSCAR FOR 1977 SHOULD HAVE GONE TO...
April 3, 1978 was a night of many memorable moments in Oscar history. It marked the last time Bob Hope hosted the ceremony, to be replaced for several years by Johnny Carson. It was also one of the few nights where comedy reigned.
Nominated for Best Picture: Annie Hall, The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars and The Turning Point. If JAWS made Hollywood sit up and notice the possibility of summer being a boon to the business, then Star Wars made them jump to their feet. A film that barely made it's way into theatres (theatre chains had to promise to play Star Wars if they also wanted to play what was supposed to be one of the years biggest films, "The Other Side of Midnight.") Hollywood didn't know what to make of the Star Wars phenomena, and other films were put off as theatres held the film over for months at a time. In fact, some theatres played the film for more then one year straight, which was commemorated with a special one sheet poster (one of which rests in my collection) which featured a birthday cake dotted with Star Wars action figures and reading "One year old today!" The film was so popular that, when Graumans Chinese Theatre pulled it after one week to play "Sorcerer," which they were contractually obligated to run, the theatre's owners paid off it's contract on "Sorcerer" and reopened with Star Wars again the following Friday.
"Julia" and "The Turning Point" were good, solid dramas which would be a rarity today as both films were driven by women as the main characters, a little used premise these days. "Annie Hall" and "The Goodbye Girl" were classic comedies written by two of Hollywood's greatest, Woody Allen and Neil Simon, respectively. If any film got slighted here from 1977 it would have to be "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." In my opinion, Hollywood still looked skeptically at the new blood coming up and I think the old guard feared a backlash if both "Star War"s George Lucas and "CE3K"s Steven Spielberg were given too many accolades. With "CE3K" out of the picture, I would have voted for the film that took home the prize, "Annie Hall."
Best Director saw all of the Best Picture nominees covered as well as one more. How you ask? The nominees were: Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Steven Spielberg (CE3K), Fred Zinneman (Julia), George Lucas (Star Wars) and Herbert Ross (The Turning Point). Before you send me a nasty email saying I made a mistake, let me inform you that Mr. Ross also directed "The Goodbye Girl." Though it doesn't happen often, it's not that much of a rarity to have (2) Best Picture nominees directed by the same director. In the last 35 years it's been done twice more: in 1974 Francis Ford Coppola directed both "The Conversation" and "The Godfather Part II" while in 2000 Steven Soderbergh directed "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic." What makes Soderbergh so special is that he received directing nominations for BOTH films, actually competing against himself. He won for "Traffic." Of course, my vote would have gone to Spielberg but the academy went funny this yerk honoring Woody Allen with the trophy.
Best Actor nominees included Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Richard Burton (Equus), Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl), Marcello Mastroioni (A Special Day) and John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever). Tough choices here, especially when you realize that the following actors were overlooked: Paul Newman (Slap Shot), Henry Winkler (Heroes) and Roy Scheider (Sorcerer). It was thought that Burton would walk away with this award, having been nominated 6 times previously without a win. And his performance in "Equus" is powerful. Sylvester Stallone announced the winner and, for some reason, decided to pause mid-name. The winner was Richard......................Dreyfuss! The actor became the youngest ever to win the Best Actor award, a record held until Adrien Brody won for "The Pianist."
For the ladies, the nominees consisted of screen veterans: Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Marsha Mason (The Goodbye Girl), Jane Fonda (Julia) and Anne Bancroft and Shirley Maclaine, both for "The Turning Point." No complaints here. Each actress turned in outstanding work. Though I would have voted for Mason the academy made Keaton the winner. And there is something else to mention with this years Actor and Actress winners. Both had great roles in another film that year that they weren't recognized for. Keaton in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" and Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters." While both winners were deserving of their trophys, it doesn't hurt to have a backup performance to fall back on!
In the Best Supporting Actor category, the nominees were: Peter Firth (Equus), Jason Robards and Maximillian Schell (Julia), Alec Guiness (Star Wars) and Mikhail Baryshnikov (The Turning Point). Missing in my mind: John Denver, who more then held his own against George Burns in "Oh God!" My choice among the nominees would have gone to Firth, though the academy rewarded Robards, who won his second Supporting Actor award in a row (He won the year before for "All The President's Men")
Best Supporting Actress hopefuls included: Melinda Dillon (CE3K), Quinn Cummings (The Goodbye Girl), Vanessa Redgrave (Julia), Tuesday Weld (Looking for Mr. Goodbar) and Leslie Browne (The Turning Point). Likr Baryshnikov's performance, Browne's nod was mostly for her dancing, though it obviously warranted the academy's attention. Here I would have gone with either Dillon or Cummings, who both helped the main characters cope with life in their roles. The talk in Hollywood was that Redgrave was the front runner but that, because of her personal politics, would be denied the prize. However, Redgrave did win the award and shocked the academy, and television audience, when she made the following speech:
"My dear colleagues, I thank you very, very much for this tribute to my work. I think that Jane Fonda and I have done the best work of our lives, and I salute you and I pay tribute to you, and I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you have stood firm and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression. And I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and fascism. Thank you."
This speech was met with many boos and hisses. And it wasn't over. In one of the bravest on camera spankings given since Frank Sinatra took down Dustin Hoffman, screenwriter Paddy Cheyefsky to take a moment before he presented an award and deliver the following rebuke:
"I am sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda." He later noted that Redgrave's winning was not a pivitol moment in history and that a simple thank you would have sufficed! His applause was as loud as the boos that showered down on Redgrave.
Among the other controversies this night, Debbie Boone and 12 "deaf" children performing the Oscar winning song, "You Light Up My Life." The controversy was that,a. none of the children were deaf and, b. that the kids weren't even "sigining" the song, just flapping their hands in a badly choreographed display. Speaking of songs, this is also one of the years where the song branch was taken to task when NONE of the Original songs from "Saturday Night Fever" brought home a nomination. Sad.
My favorite films from 1977: The Late Show, Slap Shot, Black Sunday, Eraserhead, Between the Lines, Smokey and the Bandit, Fire Sale, Grand Theft Auto, The Deep, Sorcerer, One on One, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Kentucky Friend Movie, Suspira, Oh God!, Heroes, Which Way Is Up?, The World's Greatest Lover and High Anxiety.
Well, that's all for this week. Have a safe and happy holiday. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.