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PCR #105. (Vol. 3, No. 13) This edition is for the week of March 25--31, 2002.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! What a busy week. Oscars are over, Baseball and the Final Four are right around the corner and I officially proclaim March 27, 2002 as "The Day the Laughter Died." Shall we begin?

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SMILING THROUGH TEARS
No sooner had I been floored by the announcement of Dudley Moore's passing then I hear that Milton Berle followed him up to the Friar's Club in the Sky. Some thoughts on both of these comic giants:

Milton Berle, who passed away Wednesday at his home, was known to generations as "Mr. Television." Colon Cancer claimed one of the true kings of comedy. He was 93. Starting in 1948 on the "Texaco Star Theatre," Berle ruled the airwaves for 8 years. It has been reported that at the height of the show's popularity, 4 out of every 5 television sets IN THE NATION were tuned in to "Uncle Miltie." The show was so popular that many businesses would close early on Tuesday nights, with a sign reading, "Closed to Watch Uncle Miltie" hanging in their windows.

Born Mendel Berlizer in Harlem on July 12, 1908, Berle began his entertainment career as a $1.50 a day child extra in locally produced films. He moved on to bigger roles, and appeared on screen with both Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. In 1920, he made his Broadway debut in the show, "The Floradora Girl." At the age of 21, he was the youngest MC to ever host the show at the Palace Theatre. After his show ended in 1956, he pursued other venues, including Hollywood. He appeared in such films as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "The Muppet Movie" and, as himself, in Woody Allen's "Broadway Danny Rose." An Emmy winner for his Texaco show, he received another Emmy nomination for his acclaimed performance as an Alzheimer victim on "Beverly Hills 90210." In 1993, he was one of the original seven inductees into the TV Hall Of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Dudley Moore, the self-described "sex thimble" of the 1980's, also passed away Wednesday at the New Jersey home of his caretaker. He was 66. Cause of death was pneumonia, a complication brought on by the rare brain disorder he suffered from, Progressive Supranuclear Palsey (PSP), which is a Parkinsons-like disease that affects the brain.

Born and raised in England, the dimunitive star used his penchant for comedy to fight off those who picked on his small size and club foot. While at Oxford on a music scholarship, he joined with Alan Bennet, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook to form the comedy troupe, "Beyond the Fringe." He later starred with Cook in a series of classic film comedies, including "Bedazzled" in 1967. His first major American film role was as the orchestra conductor who tries to seduce Goldie Hawn in "Foul Play." A chance meeting with filmmaker Blake Edwards in a therapy group led him to be cast in the romantic comedy, "10." He followed up that film with the role of a lifetime, that of millionaire playboy/perpetual child Arthur Bach in "Arthur." His portrayal of the constantly drunk romantic earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1981 for Best Actor. He also received the Golden Globe Award that year as Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical. He won another Golden Globe in 1986 for his work in "Micki and Maude."

Excluding "Micki and Maude," Moore began making bad film choices, including a very unnecessary sequel to "Arthur." As his career waned, his personal life was played out in the tabloids. Often seen in public stumbling and slurring his words, it was reported that Moore was often drunk in public. He was even seen falling over during a Barbara Walters interview. Of course, it was the early signs of PSP that were causing this behavior.

A highly gifted pianist and composer, Oscar Petersen called Moore one of the greatest jazz pianists of his generation. Excepting of his fate until the end, Moore made the following statement when he disclosed his illness: "One person in 100,000 suffers from this disease and I am also aware that there are 100,000 members of my union, the Screen Actor's Guild. I think therefore it is somewhat considerate of me that I have taken on this disease for myself, thus protecting the remaining 99,999 SAG members from this fate."

On a brighter note, Wednesday also saw Rodney Dangerfield receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

THE OSCARS
Well, my reign as champ continues another year! Guess I'll just keep all those cool prizes I promised to the winners!

My thoughts: Congrats to all the winners! Halle Berry gave one of the most genuine and heartfelt acceptance speeches I have ever heard. And I was so happy for Ron Howard! I hadn't heard that his mom had passed away. Wish he had thanked Clint in his speech! Also enjoyed Howard Shore's speech when he won for Best Original Score. And what a good sport John Williams was. When Shore's speech went a little long, he didn't play him off with music. If it was me that just lost, I would have lifted my baton before the winner got a word out. In 1980, Randy Newman pissed off the Academy by proclaiming himself the winner of the Best Score Oscar for his work on "Ragtime" almost from the moment the nominations were announced. Whether by slight or just bad timing, it took him another 15 nominations to finally win! And what a thrill it was to finally see Woody Allen at the Oscars. Despite his many nominations and numerous wins, this is the first time Allen has attended the ceremony.

Now, as to the race card being played. While I honestly think Berry was deserving of her award ( as prefaced by my choice of her for Best Actress), I don't know how to read Denzel Washington's win. You can take nothing away from Denzel. He is certainly one of our finest actors. Some consider his win payback for NOT winning for "The Hurricane." Others think that Russell Crowe, who was most deserving this year, already won last year for a lesser performance in "Gladiator." (Of course, many regard his "Gladiator" win as payback for not winning the year before for "The Insider.") I have yet to figure out how the Academy works. I can name performances that I felt were Oscar nomination shoo ins that never materialized. Val Kilmer in "The Doors," Eric Roberts in "Star 80" and Victor Banerjee from "A Passage to India" are just three overlooked performances. And don't get me started on the music branch. Even though they were eligible, songs from the following films were not even nominated: "A Hard Days Night," "Saturday Night Fever," "Purple Rain," "The Jazz Singer." Even this year, I thought some of the songs from "Josie and the Pussycats," "Rock Star" and the song Neil Diamond wrote for "Saving Silverman" would have been chosen. I still am in awe that one of the songs from "South Park" snuck in a few years ago! Back to the race card: it's always a possibility that the powers that be decided to finally end the controversy. And it's true that Sidney Poitier's honorary award was announced long before the votes were tallied. What's sad is that something as enjoyable as the Oscars has to be put under the microscope each time some group or organization has a beef. However, now that you mention it.................WHY IN THE HELL DIDN'T "JAWS" WIN BEST PICTURE!?"

SPORTING NEWS
Surprised as hell to see my beloved Baltimore Orioles kicking much ass in Spring Training. Hope they carry it into the season beginning Monday. Much dissent in the Smith house as the Final Four begins in Atlanta this Saturday, with the University of Kansas taking on Maryland. Living in Kansas, I find myself surrounded by KU fans. Local Leavenworth resident Wayne Simien plays for them. My son, who used to play with Simien in a local league (Phillip swears he used to school Wayne, until he grew to be 6 foot 9!) is playing both ends against the other, wearing a KU sweatshirt and a Maryland Hat. However, as an alum of the University of Maryland, I must back my Terps. Thought it didn't work in the cotton bowl, let me again say, "Fear the Turtle!"

SCHLOCK, THE BRITTON AND A HATS REUNION
Let me just say right off that I understand the Schlock movies well. Having ushered during the hey day of American International Pictures, I can proudly remember such films as "The Island of Dr. Moreau" and the great Bill Shatner double feature, "The Devil's Rain" and "Kingdom of the Spiders." I wish the Britton well in their new incarnation. Actually, one of my employees in Kansas City moved to Tampa recently and applied at the Britton. I called the manager to give him a reference and was surprised (and pleased) to hear that he reads the PCR. Good luck! May your screens never go dark again.

My schedule is clear for the proposed HATS reunion, Matt. While I think it would make an excellent episode on the World of Nolan (where are they now........25 years later), I would gladly do it just for some of mom Castellano's fried chicken and potato salad. Time to dust off the axe!

Well, that's it for this week. See ya!


"Mike's Rant" is ©2002 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 ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.