PCR's past banners
Now in our ninth calendar year!

PCR #450 (Vol. 9, No. 45) This edition is for the week of November 3--9, 2008.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! News and notes a plenty. Shall we begin?

"Soul Men"  by Mike Smith
Halloween Horror Nights 2008  by ED Tucker
An Attitude of Gratitude  by Lisa Ciurro
President 'o' .... .... ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
How 'bout Them Bucs? .... Chiller Theatre .... See Ya! .... Hail To The Chief .... Passing On .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1974 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2008
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

Not wanting to jinx my team, I didn't mention last week that I was going to be attending the Bucs/Chiefs game here in Kansas City last Sunday. At halftime my plan seemed moot, with the Chiefs putting a whooping on the boys from Tampa. Luckily they must have had one hell of a pep talk in the locker room because they put together THE GREATEST COMEBACK IN BUCCANEERS HISTORY! Not only did I enjoy watching my team win (especially liked watching the smug faces of Chief fans turn crestfallen as the Bucs won) but I had the honor of sitting among the player's family members. Had a very nice conversation with Gaines Adams' mother and exchanged some small talk with Alex Smith's mom as well. How many people can say they high fived a player's mom after he scored a touchdown?

Had a great time at the Chiller Theatre Show in New Jersey, especially since our attending was last minute. When we met our friends Mike and Patty in Vegas over the summer they told us of two events they were attending. One was the Chiller Theatre show and the other was a "Christmas Story" celebration in Cleveland over Thanksgiving weekend. Juanita and I had made plans to do the "Christmas Story" event but her idiot (my words) boss wouldn't work with our travel plans. She told Juanita that she could have the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday and Tuesday after off but not the Friday. She knew we were going out of town and apparently expected her to fly back to work one day. I know, I know...it's amazing this woman is in a position of authority. But I digress.

Photos by Mike and Juanita Smith
Me, left, meeting the great William Forsythe.
Sara Karloff, Boris' daughter.
Former Sweathogs Ron Palillo (Horshack,left) and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs (Washington, center)
Looking 26, not 46, "Karate Kid" Ralph Machio.
The clear convention favorite, "Terminator" star Linda Hamilton.
Juanita and Ed Asner.
Kansas City, Missouri meets Kansas City, Kansas. L-to-R, me, Juanita, Amy, Phillip, Patty and Mike.
One of the entries in the costume contest.
With Cleveland out of the picture I mentioned that Burt Reynolds was due to appear at Chiller and got the ok to plan for Jersey. Yes, Burt was the drawing card. 2nd on the list was Richard Dreyfuss. Though I had helped run Richard's fan club for two years I had only met him once, on the set of "Tin Men" in Baltimore. And I realized that I don't have anything "JAWS" related signed by him. So, going through the library in the basement I pulled out items to be signed by the various guests. Of course, as the event got closer, some guests cancelled (they do let you know ahead of time that appearances aren't guaranteed)

About 10 days before the show Dreyfuss cancelled (I had assumed he would, with the film "W." being released). At least there was still the Bandit. But it was not to be. A few days before the show Burt Reynolds cancelled, due to a medical emergency. His many years as a stuntman have taken a toll on Reynolds' back and he gets the occasional shot to help with the pain. Apparently when he received his last injection the needle hit his spine which you can imagine had to be quite painful. However, when word came that Ralph Machio would be there all was right with the world again!

We arrived on Friday night and met up with the aforementioned Mike and Patty, as well as two other friends, Phillip and Amy. After a quick look around we had a nice dinner together and caught up on all of the news from back east. We then headed for our assigned rooms with plans to start out early the next morning. When we hit the hotel Saturday morning we were greeted by chaos. The line to meet the "main" stars snaked through the entire hotel, out the door and around the back. Added to the confusion was that many of the people in line were not aware that Reynolds had cancelled. Luckily I checked the web site each day to see who had been added/cancelled or I would have been among the disappointed. I will say this: normally when a show announces their guests they put in the caveat that says they may have to cancell, which Chiller did. However, after Reynolds cancelled they did the unthinkable: they offered refunds on advance tickets purchased. Pretty classy I thought.

As I said, the main area was a mess...I later learned that some people stood in line for over three hours to get in. Lucky for our group, Amy saw that Leslie Nielsen was in one corner of the main room, but with a seperate line, which was quite short. So we spent about 45 mins chatting on line, met Leslie Nielsen and then found ourselves in the main area, free to approach whomever we wanted to. I immediately headed for Ralph Machio and had him sign a still from "The Outsiders" for my son, Phillip (not to be confused with Amy's Phillip). "Stay Gold," he wrote on it, then very graciously posed for a photo. Which brings me to a major gripe with some of these "celebrities" that attend these shows. Some of them, like Ralph Machio, charged very reasonable prices for their items. Others charged like they were Tom Cruise. Not only for their autographs but to take pictures with them. And not buy one get the other. Autograph: Money please. AND take a photo: Money please. Dude, you're Corey Haim....here's ten bucks....get it while you can. I recall meeting Paul LeMat (from "American Graffiti") a few years ago at a show. He was selling his photos/autographs for $10 each. I bought two photos and also asked him to sign my "Graffiti" DVD (it was a good show for "Graffiti" fans as Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins were also there). When he was done signing his assistant told me "that will be $30.00." As I was paying Mr. LeMat corrected him, saying it would only be $20.00. When his assistant pointed out that I had gotten three signatures Mr. LeMat told him that he wasn't going to charge anyone for asking him to sign something that was theirs. A very rare quality. After getting Phillip's photo I beelined over to one of my all time favorite character actors, William Forsythe. And what a great person he was to meet. Very humble. Very friendly. Among others in the main room: George Kennedy, John Schneider and Linda Hamilton. Other major guests at the show included Angie Dickinson (looking good), Morgan Fairchild (looking incredible) and Linda Evans (looking not as good or incredible as the other two ladies). Older television fans had Ed Asner (very gracious) and Robert Culp, plus Sean Kenney (Captain Pike, the original Captain of the Enterprise, from "Star Trek" - I wanted to get his autograph but he was never at his table), and the Sweathogs from "Welcome Back Kotter" who weren't John Travolta - Robert Hedges, Ron Palillo and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs. I was going to make a "I guess Stephen Shortridge was busy" joke when I learned that, after quitting acting, Shortridge went on to "become acclaimed as one of the finest American impressionist painters of the past twenty years, with presentations in galleries across the United States." Thank you Wilkipedia. Said hello to Barry Williams from "The Brady Bunch" as well as "Clerks" star Brian O'Halloran. Music was well represented by Kip Winger, Ace Frehley and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, now playing guitar for the latest incarnation of "Guns and Roses." As the first song from "Chinese Democracy" hit the airwaves that same weekend, it was pretty cool to have him participate in the live concert with the others on Saturday night.

Another highlight for me was meeting Mr. Roger Kastell, who is the artist that designed the movie posters for such films as "Jaws" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

Between signings I spent most of my time in the dealers room, picking up the occasional goody to add to my collection.

Our fun over we spent Sunday in New York City before heading home on Monday. Overall rating: ***1/2. Had I been one of the unfortunates in the line to nowhere I'd have dropped a star. The next show is in April 2009. For information: http://chillertheatre.com

If stories are to be believed, two time Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix is giving up on acting. At the recent premiere of his latest film, "Two Lovers," Phoenix brandished his knuckles to photographers on which was written GOOD and BYE. Phoneix told reporters that he has decided to pursue a career in music. Good luck!

Needless to say, I was very sad when I DIDN'T discover Patrick Duffy in my shower on Wednesday morning!

The world lost two literary greats this week:

Michael Crichton, physician, author and film maker, died after a short battle with cancer. He was 66. He was the author of such novels as "The Andromeda Strain," "Coma," "Jurassic Park" and "Airframe. Many of his books were made into films. Among his original screenplays: "West World," "The Great Train Robbery" and "Twister." He also won an Emmy award for the television show, "E.R." which he helped create.

Studs Terkel, long time author and radio host, passed away last weekend at the age of 96. Born Louis Terkel in 1912, he took his first name from the "Studs Lonegan" series of short stories. In 1953, after a couple of years of acting on radio soap operas, he began hosting his own radio show, which ran for 45 years. He also turned his writing career into a shot on the big screen, appearing as baseball writer Hugh Fullerton in John Sayles' "Eight Men Out."


Once again it's Coppola vs Fosse - but this time the Corleone's leader triumphs!

April 8, 1975. Oscar night. The big buzz this year is director Francis Ford Coppola, who, with his films "The Conversation" and "The Godfather Part II," has been nominated for a total of (5) awards. Add in nominations for his father, Carmine (Original Score) and his sister, Talia Shire (Supporting Actress) and it could turn out to be a good night for the Coppola family. The presumed winner of the evening is "The Godfather Part II," which has become the first sequel to ever be nominated for Best Picture. In 1990 the series would go one better when "The Godfather Part III" is also nominated for Best Picture. Only the three "Lord of the Rings" films share this honor.

Speaking of Best Picture, the nominees were: Chinatown, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, Lenny, The Towering Inferno. Four of these films are still regarded as classics three decades later, while "The Towering Inferno" continued disaster master Irwin Allen's popular formula of huge stars in peril. Taking the story of the early days of Vito Corleone from "The Godfather" novel and paralleling it with Michael Corleone's work in the 1950s, "The Godfather Part II" was an epic, like its predecessor. Comparitively, Coppola's other film that year, "The Conversation," was a small film about a security surveilance expert who may or may not have overheard plans to murder an innocent couple. What should also be noted is that the film co-starred John Cazale, who played Fredo in the "Godfather" films. Cazale had major roles in only seven films in his lifetime, all seven of them going on to be nominated for Best Picture. Quite an achievement. "Chinatown" was the perfect combination of script, director and star. Under the direction of Roman Polanski, Robert Towne's script came alive, thanks to Jack Nicholson, who gave life to private investigator J.J. Gittes. Add in great work by Faye Dunaway and John Huston and it's easy to see why the film remains a classic to this day. "Lenny" was Bob Fosse's intimate portrait of the late comedian, Lenny Bruce. A very bleak story, shot in black and white, it featured a bravaura performance by Dustin Hoffman as the late comedian. Where else could you see Paul Newman, Steve McQueen AND O.J. Simpson in the same movie? No where but in the skyscraper that becomes "The Towering Inferno." An enjoyable film that keeps moving, the film set box office records when it was released. I will admit here that if I had been voting I would have ended up having to flip a coin between "Chinatown" and "The Godfather Part II." Not sure how the academy figured it out but the winner this night: "The Godfather Part II."

Best Actor was a toss up between young Hollywood newcomers and old veterans. The nominees: Jack Nicholson (Chinatown), Al Pacino (The Godfather Part II), Art Carney (Harry and Tonto), Dustin Hoffman (Lenny) and Albert Finney (Murder on the Orient Express). The youngsters (Nicholson, Pacino and Hoffman) had ammassed an incredible 10 nominations between them since 1968. Finney hadn't been nominated since 1964s "Tom Jones" while Carney was best remembered as Ed Norton on "The Honeymooners." This was Pacino's second nomination for playing Michael Corleone (and trust me, he got robbed of a third one for "The Godfather Part III"). My vote here goes to Nicholson. The surprise winner, Art Carney, who during his speech recalled an argument with his agent when he was offered the part, complaining that the character of Harry Coombs was old. "Face it," his agent told him, "you ARE old!"

Best Actress was a race between Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), Faye Dunaway (Chinatown), Diahann Carroll (Claudine), Valerie Perrine (Lenny) and Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence). A true representation of the young actress talents working in Hollywood. Only Burstyn and Dunaway had previous Oscar nominations. Carroll had become the first black woman to star in a network television show, playing the title character in "Julia." Since debuting as a Bond girl in "Diamonds Are Forever," Perrine had a few television roles to her credit, including her nude appearance during a broadcast of the play, "Steambath." Directed by her husband, John Cassavetes, Rowland earned her first nomination as Best Actress. Burstyn, who felt she should have won the year before for "The Exorcist," and Dunaway were the two favorites. I would have gone with Dunaway but the academy chose Burstyn, whose character was later spun off into the popular television show "Alice."

Best Supporting Actor was a showdown between the very young and the VERY old. The nominees: Robert DeNiro, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg (The Godfather Part II), Jeff Bridges (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) and Fred Astaire (The Towering Inferno). Like "The Godfather" before it, "Part II" took the distinction of having three supporting actor nominees. DeNiro had famously auditioned for the role of Sonny in the first film and, though he was excellent, he was deemed too young for the role. However, director Coppola kept him in mind and when the time came to cast a young Vito Corleone, DeNiro got the part. Gazzo was a well known theater actor while Strasberg was the head instructor and founder of The Actor's Studio where one of his students had been Al Pacino. Bridges was enjoying his second nomination while, despite over 40 years in show business, Astaire was receiving his first and only one (he did receive an honorary award in 1950). I'm taking DeNiro here, as did the academy, who was expected to reward Astaire for his long career. However, in his loss, Astaire created an Oscar tradition that still continues. Sitting next to him that evening was fellow nominee Jack Nicholson. After losing the award, Astaire pulled out a pair of sunglasses and wore them through the duration of the program. Struck by how cool the gesture was, the next year Nicholson began wearing sunglasses to the Oscars, which he still does to this day.

Best Supporting Actress followed the actors with a combination of young, old and REAL old. The nominees included Diane Ladd (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles), Valentina Cortese (Day for Night), Talia Shire (The Godfather Part II) and Ingrid Bergman (Murder on the Orient Express). Ladd was recognized for her role as Flo, the sarcastic waitress pal of the title character, though I will say that never in the film does she tell anyone to "kiss her grits." A veteran of foreign films, Cortese was nominated for her role in Francois Truffaut's homage to movie making. Building onto her role from the first film, Shire scored her first nomination as the widowed and out of control Connie Corleone in "The Godfather Part II," while Kahn sang and danced her way, while channeling Marlene Dietrict, through "Blazing Saddles." This left Bergman, who, after a falling out with Hollywood over her affair with married film maker Roberto Rosselini, was enjoying a mini comeback, scoring her sixth Oscar nomination. As someone who appreciates great comedy, I'm going with Kahn this night. However, the academy awarded Oscar number three to Bergman.

Best Director this year may be the greatest assemblage of behind the camera talent ever honored together. The nominees: Roman Polanski (Chinatown), Francois Truffaut (Day for Night), Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather Part II), Bob Fosse (Lenny) and John Cassavetes (A Woman Under the Influence). Great filmmakers honored with great films. This was Polanski's first success after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, and a signal to his return to form. Critical darling Truffaut was enjoying his third nomination and his first for directing. Coppola and Fosse had battled each other two years earlier, with Fosse taking home the trophy for "Cabaret." And Cassavetes, long thought of as the godfather of independent film, had previous acting and writing nominations on his resume when he was recognized here. Again, a coin toss. Again, between Polanski and Coppola. Heads or tails, I'm a winner. However, since ties hardly ever happen at the Oscars, the trophy went home with Coppola, who ended up winning three awards that night (Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay).

Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. 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.