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PCR #499 (Vol. 10, No. 42). This edition is for the week of October 12--18, 2009.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! Trip is over and I'm ready to write. Shall we begin?

"Where the Wild Things Are"  by Mike Smith
Spooky Empire 2009  by ED Tucker
The Night of the Living Dead Experience  by Chris Woods
FANGRRL Goes To Spooky Empire 2009  by Lisa Scherer Ciurro
2LDK  by Jason Fetters
Nfl Unbeatens .... Goodbye, Lou! .... Tyson On Oprah? .... Roger Goodell On Limbaugh .... .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
I Hope I'm Sick This Day .... You Mean He's Still Alive? .... You Mean They're Not Still Alive? .... Speaking Of Drive Ins .... It Was 40 Years Ago Today (give Or Take) .... They Write The Songs .... I (heart) New York .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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July 1, 2011. That is the date Michael Bay has announced as opening day for "Transformers 3: What More Shit Can We Destroy?"

Going to be a busy summer, what with proposed sequels featuring "Spider-man," "Kung Fu Panda," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Harry Potter" and "Cars," not to mention new franchises featuring "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Green Lantern."

Get in line now.

Sadly for the estate of Michael Jackson, one person was very familiar with the song "This Is It," which will be featured over the end credits of Jackson's upcoming concert film of the same name. That person was Paul Anka, who co-wrote the song (then titled "I Never Heard") with Jackson for Anka's duets album "Walk A Fine Line." Confronted by Anka's reps, Jackson's estate has announced that Anka will be credited as producer of the song, receive song credit and, of course, 50% of the profits. Of course.

With all of the talk the past few months about the 40th anniversary of the Manson family killings, someone neglected to release the news that one of the killers went to hell. Susan Atkins died of brain cancer on September 24. She was 61. The former topless dancer was one of Charles Manson's "deciples" dispatched to bring about Helter Skelter. While in prison she became a born again Christian and even renounced Manson, though she did say she still prayed for him.

"Captain" Lou Albano, one time professional wrestler best known for appearing in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" video, died this week at the age of 76. No cause of death has been given. Once voted one of the most hated men in wrestling for 15 years straight, Albano turned his video image into a new career, including acting stints on "Miami Vice" and as the voice of Mario in the "Super Mario Brothers" cartoon show.

Al Martino, popular singer of the 1950s also known for his portrayal of the Sinatra-like singer Johnny Fontaine in "The Godfather" films, died this week at the age of 82. No cause of death has been released. Born Alfred Cini in Philadelphia, Martino had such hits as "Spanish Eyes" and "Volare."

There has been much talk of drive ins on the Readers Comment board recently and I have occasionally mentioned one of my favorite places in the world, the Bengies Drive In in Baltimore. Recently the good people at CNN discovered this throwback to a better time. Enjoy: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/10/05/aif.bengies.drive.in/index.html

IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY (give or take)
On October 12, 1969 the first rumors of Paul McCartney's death hit the papers. Flush with clues from Beatle songs and their album covers this story gained so much strength that no less then Life magazine investigated, proving the story a hoax with its interview of McCartney in its November 7, 1969 issue. When the reporter first approached McCartney at his farm in Scottland the cute Beatle was not pleased, throwing a bucket of water at him. However, realizing the photo would portray him in a bad light, Macca tracked down the journalist and, in exchange for the incriminating film sat down for an interview for the cover story entitled "Paul Is Still With Us."

I had a friend in Baltimore who once gave me a 50 page single spaced typewritten package of all of the clues pointing to McCartney being dead, the most recent one (at the time - this was the early 80s) being that the reason McCartney was held in jail for so long when he was busted in Japan for marijuana possession was because the fingerprints they took of the Paul they had DID NOT match the prints on file taken back when the Beatles played Budokahn in 1964. Can you say "hmmmmmmm?"

If you were lucky to live in England on 10/12/69 you put away the news of McCartney's death and turned on the telly to catch the premiere of "Monty Python's Flying Circus." If you didn't...shame on you!

Congrats to this years inductees into the Songwriters Hall of Fame: Jon Bon Jovi And Richie Sambora; Felix Cavaliere And Eddie Brigati (The Young Rascals); Roger Cook And Roger Greenaway ("I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing," "My Baby Loves Lovin," "Talkin' In Your Sleep"); David Crosby, Stephen Stills & Graham Nash; Galt MacDermot, James Rado And Gerome Ragni (the creators of the musical "Hair") and Stephen Schwartz ("Godspell," "Pippin" and "Wicked"). Nominees for next years induction include, in the non-performing category, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (wrote lots of hits for the Monkees and DID have a hit of their own called "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight"), Jackie DeShannon, David Foster, Mark James ("Suspicious Minds") and Robert "Mutt" Lange. Performing songwriter nominees include Garth Brooks, Tommy James, Dion Demuci, Elvis Costello, David Gates, Leon Russell, Lou Reed, John Mellencamp, U2, Yusaf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Earth Wind and Fire. Good luck everyone, except Mutt Lange, who dumped Shania Twain. And who says research doesn't pay off? For years I always thought that Robert John ("Sad Eyes") and Robert John "Mutt" Lange were the same person. They are not. I also found out that "Mutt" produced both "Highway to Hell" and "Back In Black" for AC/DC, so now I wish him good luck also. Hell, I don't even know Shania Twain...maybe she deserved to be dumped!

As mentioned last week, I did indeed spend a fun filled weekend in the Big Apple, where I attended the New York City premiere of "The Shark Is Still Working." My adventures:

My flight out of Kansas City was delayed for about an hour due to a problem with air conditioning. My seat was a weird one, all by itself on one side of the aisle. I had never seen a plane configured like this, though I also flew back on a similar plane. One side of the plane held one seat with two more across the aisle. I had been given seat 1A so I had a clear look into the cockpit while the pilot, co-pilot and at least two airline techs took turns punching one of the buttons on the ceiling. Apparently one of them hit it just right as the air conditioning was cool and comfy on my flight to Newark Airport. MIKE'S TRAVEL TIP #1: Stay in New Jersey. It's much cheaper. Once again, due to my common name, I had to jump through hoops when I got my boarding pass. More on this when I get to my return flight. After I picked up my rental car I headed to my hotel. Feeling hungry I swung into a McDonalds and was surprised to find the prices fairly reasonable (the cheapest Value Meals in NYC START at $7.00). In fact, they even offered (4) Chicken McNuggets on the dollar menu. Strangely, they also offered (10) McNuggets for $3.70. Strange because logic tells me that I could order (3) of the $1.00 McNuggets and get (12) of them for three bucks. Thrifty, aren't I? Gas was also fairly reasonable but I was surprised to see that all of the stations, even the 7-Eleven, were full service. Driving around though, I noticed that there were at least 6 different highways and interstates off the main road so I'm sure that drive aways were pretty common, with many different get away routes available. Still, it was weird to pull up and have someone pump my gas.

After a quick nap I made plans to see my "kids" Mike and Patty Gencarelli. Juanita and I call them our kids because they are the same age as our son, Phillip. My trip to see them took me across some familiar landmarks. I should also point out that my rental car had sattelite radio and I spent the entire time grooving to songs of different eras. As I was listening to the 60s channel, I grooved to "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" by Spanky and Our Gang, thinking how much they sounded like the Mamas and the Papas. A couple of songs later I heard "Monday, Monday" by said Moms and Pops and, sadly, all I could think of was John Phillips sleeping with his daughter. Yikes. As I drove through the various towns I noticed that a popular dining experience seems to be Fried Chicken and Pizza places, similar to the Fried Chicken and Waffle establishments in California. My journey took me over the Verazanno Bridge, most famous for it's appearance in "Saturday Night Fever." In a cool moment, the 70s channel was playing "More Than A Women" by the Bee Gees as I drove over. Suddenly I was back in 1977. If the traffic wasn't so heavy I think I would have pulled over and did a little strut. I then passed a sign that read "Welcome To Brooklyn," which instantly put into my mind "Welcome Back Kotter." I was now listening to the 1940s station and was grooving to Nat King Cole's "Under an Orange Colored Sky." As if setting the mood, I looked to my right and was surprised to find myself passing Coney Island. As the song played on I imagined the boardwalk as it must have been 50 years ago. As I approached the ramp for the Long Island Expressway I saw another sign: Now Leaving Brooklyn: Fuggggedaboutit.

I met up with Mike and Patty and we went to a very nice restaurant for dinner - great food, not very busy. While eating we talked about what to do after dinner. Somehow the name Amityville worked it's way into the conversation and Mike suggested we go see the infamous Amityville Horror house, which surprisingly they had never gone to. A quick internet search (thank you Iphone) told us we were less then 10 miles away. After dinner we punched the address into Mike's GPS and were soon on our way to 108 Ocean Avenue (according to what we read on the net, the house's original address - 112 Ocean Avenue - had been changed to discourage visitors. Which really doesn't make sense because if I'm looking for 112 and can't find it, I'm probably going to knock on 108 to ask directions. We found the house and made a couple of passes, finally getting up the courage to stop for a quick photo. What surprised me the most was that the house is right on the street. The films give the impression that it's off the road a bit. But we were able to pull right up to the curb and get a quick snap:

This is the place. If the people who live here are reading this, sorry about the flash. But seriously, you bought the frickin' AMITYVILLE HORROR HOUSE! You had to expect this!

We then went to a small city festival and fair, where I enjoyed my first deep fried Oreo. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! The night still being fairly young we decided to check out a movie and chose "The Invention of Lying." Very funny. Three stars if I was rating it. Afterwards it was goodnight and another car trip, again rocking out to the songs of my youth. MIKE'S TRAVEL TIP #2: even if you stay in New Jersey, there are tolls EVERYWHERE. It was $8.00 to get there. $11.00 to get back. That's right, it costs more to get out of Brooklyn then to get in.

The next day I awoke around 1030 and decided to plan my day in the big city. After a series of text messages (I find it funny that I text more on my cell phone with friends then I do actually talk to them) it was decided to meet at the Port Authority building in Times Square. I again headed out but parked in Secaucus, where a bus would take me to Manhattan. MIKE'S TRAVEL TIP #3: Parking in Secaucus, including round trip bus service to Manhattan and back: $8.25. Cost to park a car in Manhattan, if you're lucky, approximately $13.00 an hour. For me this became a savings of $136.00. The busses are clean, comfortable and only take about 20 mins to get you where you're going.

At the Port Authority I met up with Becki and Bill, a handsome young couple that are also part of the JAWS family. The three of us headed to the USS Intrepid Aircraft Carrier on display in New York Harbor where we met Dana and Marge. Their son, Chris, was the creator of the short film I linked here (to some nice praise I hasten to mention) earlier this year. The five of us wandered Times Square for a few hours, doing some shopping and taking in the sites. As the most seasoned of the group (thanks to my years in Baltimore I made many a sojourn to New York) I led the way to some cool places to spend our hard earned money. We subwayed our way down to where the film was playing but, before we met with other friends for a pre-movie dinner, we made a quick stop at the Katz Deli, not for a sandwich (though they did look tasty) but to see where the infamous "I'll Have What She's Having" scene in "When Harry Met Sally" was filmed. In case you're curious, they have a sign hanging above the table. The place was packed (with sandwich eaters, not gawkers) so we just went in and out quickly. Next time though, corned beef on rye!

We worked our way to Dempsey's restaurant, where a pre movie buffet of finger foods (wings, sliders, etc) awaited us. There we met up with about 20 more of our JAWS family, including a group that came from Martha's Vineyard. Some of those attending I only knew through emails and postings on the JAWS websites so it was nice to finally meet them in person. The movie was scheduled for 9:45 so at about 9 we headed out. We had been told in advance that the theatre did not serve snacks (blasphemy!) so we stopped and picked up some sodas and snacks (ju ju bees.......mmmm). We were soon seated and, as we waited for the movie to start, began acting giddy. Only a few of the people at the screening (and I should mention that it was sold out) had seen the film previously, back when it ran more then 3 hours in length. Now we would be watching a version that only ran an hour and forty minutes. Questions rose. What did they cut out? What did they add? Am I still in it? Prior to our screening the young man who ran the festival addressed the audience and told us that writer James Gelete and director Erik Hollander would be addressing us, via Skype. I had been curious as to why the guys hadn't made the trip to New York but later learned that they are saving their kopeks to accompany the film to London next month. Good reason. After a very heartfelt greeting the movie began. Prior to "TSISW" we saw a short film entitled "Going Fishing." It was a very good film that, unfortunately, the audience of knuckleheads (myself included) kept adding their own commentary too. Some of the people in attendance had been waiting years to see "TSISW" so you have to forgive them. I actually own a copy of it so for me there was no excuse. Finally, showtime! Even in a shorter version, the film managed to capture what makes the film so special to many of us. A lot of the stuff edited out wasn't really missed (most of the missing footage dealt with the fans and JAWSFest) and the film felt much tighter. And, yes, I was still in it. No autographs, please.

Hey! I'm in this movie. Seriously!

Afterwards we all said our goodbyes and I once again headed back to the Garden State. Sunday I spent the day listening to the Bucs lose, again via sattelite radio, and then winged on home with a stack of stories to tell.


JFK / In Cold Blood
Starring: Kevin Costner / Scott Wilson, Robert Blake
Directed by: Oliver Stone / Richard Brooks


Rotunda Twin Cinema, Baltimore, Maryland
FAVORITE SCENE: Showing the Zapruder film in court
FAVORITE LINE: "It's a mystery! It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!"


1992 Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing

1992 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), Original Score and Adapted Screenplay.

1993 BAFTA Awards for Best Sound and Best Film Editing

1993 BAFTA Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Jones) and Best Adapted Screenplay

1992 Director's Guild of America nomination

1992 Golden Globe Award for Best Director

1992 Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture (Drama), Best Actor - Drama (Kevin Costner) and Best Screenplay

1992 Writers Guild of America nomination for Adapted Screenplay

"JFK." It's a movie that polarizes all who see it. Is it fact? Fiction? A little of both? That is what director Oliver Stone leaves up to the audience.

As someone who grew up a bonafide Kennedy conspiracy buff, this film sent me looking in many different directions for what was real and what was implied. Of course, over the years, various television specials (mostly on the underappreciated History channel) have helped with the myth. An example occurred just this past evening when I was watching a new special with a lot of archival footage I hadn't seen. They interviewed the housekeeper at the home where Oswald rented and, when asked if he had been home the day of the assassination she replies that "he came in for a jacket between 12 and 1230." Yet, Kennedy was shot at 1230. So how was Oswald home getting a jacket while he's shooting the president? And why am I the only person who picked up on this?

Of course the film holds your attention, mostly to the excellent cast. Kevin Costner is solid as district attorney Jim Garrison, still the only man to bring to trial any of the accused assassins. The supporting cast reads like a who's who of Hollywood. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ed Asner, Gary Oldman, John Candy, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon. In fact, for those of you who like to play the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, this is a prime film to pay attention to. This and "A Few Good Men." Stone's logic in presenting the case to the audience is straight forward. He may highlight some theories more then others, but he isn't heavy handed about it. The true story is we will NEVER know what happened on that November Friday, no matter how much we investigate. But every year we get closer.


CBS Late Night Movie, sometime in the 70s
FAVORITE SCENE: The killings - there is something to be said for black and white photography and the way lighting brings it to life.
FAVORITE LINE:: "I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman... I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat."
Kind of a brutal line, but the way it's delivered...despite his very unorthodox life, Robert Blake was one hell of an actor.


1968 Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography

1968 Director's Guild of America nomination for Best Director

1968 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture (Drama)

1968 Writer's Guild of America nomination for Best Written American Drama

I was in high school when I came across the book "In Cold Blood." Like "To Kill A Mockingbird" before it, the book held me in a trance...taking me back to November 1959 (what an odd coincidence that both films this week reflect actual events that took place in the eleventh month). And ironic that I mention "Mockingbird," as the character Dill was inspired by Truman Capote, the author of "In Cold Blood." It's a funny world.

The story of two career criminals who decide to rob the Clutter family, thinking (wrongly) that he has a safe full of cash in the house. Actually the killers (not only were Mr. Clutter and his wife killed, but also their children Nancy and Kenyon) got away with less then $50, a pair of binoculars and a cheap transistor radio. The story so intrigued me that when I joined the Army I chose Kansas as my first duty station, mainly so I could visit the town of Holcolmb.

Production on "In Cold Blood" began less then a year after Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were executed for the murders. The producers had hoped to cast Paul Newman and Steve McQueen as the killers but, thankfully, both actors took other roles. Nothing against them, but they would have been PAUL NEWMAN and STEVE McQUEEN to audiences, not Dick and Perry. Scott Wilson and Robert Blake not only bore a greater resemblance to the killers but were unknown enough to let the audience accept them in their roles.

Filmed entirely in Kansas, director Brooks was able to use the actual locations, including the Clutter house, for the film. He even got six members of the actual trial jury to appear in the jury during the film. The use of the real locations give the film an extra realism and I can only imagine how hard it must have been to recreate a brutal murder in the exact same place the real crime had taken place in. For people in Kansas, the film is a virtual tour of the state. Several years ago my son and I saw the film on the big screen and, even though it's 40 years later, we recognized some of the local places that hadn't changed much over the years. Dick and Perry were hung at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, KS. I coach American Legion baseball in Lansing and I can see the walls of the prison from our home field. Dick is buried in Olathe, KS while Perry is buried in Lansing. I never imagined when I made the decision to be sent to Kansas in 1979 that I would live less then five miles from where Perry Smith (no relation, incidentally) was buried.

Next week, in honor of the start of the World Series, I'll take a look at "The Natural."

Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. #500 is right around the corner. See ya!

"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 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 ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.