I wish to acknowledge the recent sad passings of Dick Martin, 86, Sydney Pollack, 73, Earle Hagen, 88, and Harvey Korman, 81. Rare talents who will be sorely missed.
Dick Martin, along with Dan Rowan pioneered comedy television in the '60s with the inimitable Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, the trippy template from which many later shows would (IMHO) derive their inspiration, like, say, Saturday Night Live. (Of course, I'm not ignoring the fact that Groove Tube and Second City Television also had something to do with that!)
I confess that, at the time, I'd never heard of the comedy team of Rowan and Martin until the premiere of Laugh-In. I later learned they had been a stand-up act of some duration even making some low-budget comedies in the '50s.
Rowan played the straight man and the voice of reason to contrast Martin's non-sequitur, nonsensical and downright weird-but-hilarious view on life.
The 60 minutes of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In made Monday nights bearable during my school years and I was heartbroken when it was finally cancelled in the early '70s. (Hee-Haw, which played the timeslot after it, I was initially turned off by, but grew to like its looney view of country pop culture.)
Two notable pieces of Laugh-In lore I witnessed first-hand were, 1. the first TV appearance of Tiny Tim following weeks of announcements, and 2., the cameo of President Richard Nixon saying, "Sock it to me?" glibly parroting a popular running line on the show.
Dick Martin went on to become a successful television director, and frequently appeared on Bob Newhart's show, Newhart.
Sydney Pollack. The first time I remember Syndey Pollack to associate him with a movie was 1969's They Shoot Horses Don't They, about the Depression and marathon dancing, which starred Michael Sarrazin, who later became Frankenstein's monster in a TV movie (Frankenstein: The True Story). HAHA, what an association, eh?
Pollack was an amazing director, responsible for so many Oscar-nominated/winning films such as Tootsie (in which he also acted along with cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman), The Firm, The Way We Were, and Out of Africa (for which he won 2 Oscars).
He was diagnosed with cancer about 9 months ago and was taken from us way too early.
Earle Hagen may be unknown to most people, but older baby-boomers like myself might remember his music credit on the old Andy Griffith Show. Turns out he not only wrote the main theme song, but was himself the whistler!
As a young man he was a featured player with big bands like Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Ray Noble. On the road with Noble in 1939 he wrote "Harlem Nocturne", a tribute to Duke Ellignton and Johnny Hodges that later became the theme song for Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.
He is also responsible for scoring the original Make Room for Daddy and won an Emmy for his work on I Spy. Need more? How about The Dick Van Dyke Show, That Girl, Eight is Enough and The Mod Squad?
He was a man who definitely captured the ambience of an era (kind of like I think of Vince Guaraldi). I can't get The Andy Griffith Show theme out of my head now. I'm sure he loved to hear things like that.
Legendary for his contributions to The Carol Burnett Show and movies like Blazing Saddles, Korman was the ultimate second-banana. Attempts to star in his own series proved unsuccessful as he really was best at reacting. Like his legendary sketches with Tim Conway on the Burnett Show, so popular as to inspire a touring act featuring the two gentlemen, Korman will be best remembered as the husband, partner, ne'er-do-well, brother-in-law or store-owner, than the star performer, but in that he became as big and well-loved as any star could be.
Like so many of his contemporaries who saw Hollywood in its classic era, Harvey Korman consistently defined a quality style and he will be sorely missed.
We Say Goodbye To Paul Guzzo's Filmlook, For Now...
For well over a year, Paul Guzzo has been a valued member of the PCR writing staff, contributing in-depth stories for his column, Filmlook, which focused on Bay area filmmaking and on Tampa history in general. He also has been diligent in updating the Indie Film News every Thursday.
While we all know Paul is talented, his abilities have recently been noticed by someone outside our sphere who wants to employ him in another way. What follows is Paul's personal announcement. ---Nolan
I have good news and bad news for PCR readers ... well, for some it may be good news and good news, and for others it may be bad news and good news.
I have been commissioned to write former Mayor Dick Greco's memoirs. When you add this new job on top of my duties at La Gaceta Newspaper and my work as a filmmaker, I unfortunately will not be able to continue by column here at PCR. As most of you already notice, I currently only publish a column every three to four weeks. With this new writing job, I don't even see myself being able to publish a column that frequently. I have too much respect for this website and the other columnists to publish on an even less frequent basis. I will, however, continue to update my Indie Film News every week.
I thank Nolan for the opportunity to publish my work on his website for the past year and a half.
Paul, the pleasure has been mine, my friend, in providing a forum with which to share your stories and insight. I sincerely wish you the best of luck with this new endeavor, and am grateful you'll be continuing to update Indie Film News. I'll hold out hope for the possibility that someday you can return to these hallowed halls with Filmlook, or any other column idea, so know the door is always open for you here at PCR. We'll be ready when you are.
Scott McClellan's Tell-All Book Bashes Bush Best
I'm sure you've all heard this by now, but I'd love some reactions. Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan published a Bush-bashing tell-all book that has his former gov't cronies hopping mad. The book, lovingly titled, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception (officially on-sale June 1st, but advance copies have shown up all over) basically paints all of them as charlatans and liars who, among other things, manipulated data to rush us into a pointless war with Iraq. I first read the story on AOL, but all news agencies are climbing the walls with this. Unprepared for the firestorm(?), now McClellan's being a little defensive and seems poised to do some back-peddling.
To me, he's just one of many to come who'll be writing and publishing books and memoirs about their days in this administration, to say nothing of historians who'll be, you know, judging Bush in retrospect and such. The thing with McClellan is A.) I think he wanted to beat everybody to the punch with a Bush administration tell-all book, and B.) just in case everyone else mentions him in their tell-all books, McClellan wants his rather apologetic version to be accepted prima facia.
"Apologetic"? Well, kinda. He'll say something in the book to the effect of "those lying bastards manipulated us all into going to war," and follow it up with, "Yeah, I know I was one of 'em, and I was all for it, and I publicly supported going to war BUT THAT'S BECAUSE THEY TRICKED ME! THEY TRICKED ALL OF US!"
The book's full of references like these. He's harshest on Bush himself, yet weirdly affectionate in other respects. Painting Bush as a sincere and earnest politician who, unfortunately, has problems with getting the facts straight by learning new things (called "lack of inquisitiveness" in the book), and was himself the victim of misinformation (by the lying CIA, of course), yet proceeded into war throwing caution to the wind is not only slow-witted, but dangerously reckless and disheartening to confirm. (Apparently, Bush didn't know, nor particularly care that the Muslims were divided into Shiites and Sunnis. They were just "all them Muslims over there".) There are also case summaries of what happened during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and the Valerie Plame leak.
OK, OK, so we all knew Dubya was never the sharpest tool in the shed, but the question I have is what does McClellan have to gain with all this? I have only read extended excerpts from the book and perused a few of the gov't reactions, but to me, it doesn't look like so much a revelatory tome as it does the work of a possibly disgruntled former employee jockeying for his position in history.