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Now in our eleventh calendar year!

PCR #530 (Vol. 11, No. 21). This edition is for the week of May 17--23, 2010.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! A long drive home and an early baseball game make this an abreviated Rant week. Still, it was a great one. Shall we begin?

"Shrek Forever After"  by Mike Smith
DVD Review: "Greydon Clark Drive-In Double Feature: Hi-Riders & The Bad Bunch"  by ED Tucker
Samurai Princess  by Jason Fetters
My Dinner With Carl (with Apologies To Wallace Shawn) .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

MY DINNER WITH CARL (with apologies to Wallace Shawn)

There are moments that you know you will remember for the rest of your life. This past Friday I experienced one of them. My wife, Juanita, and I were in Omaha, Nebraska to attend a benefit screening of the film “Jaws,” which would feature a special appearance by Mr. Carl Gottlieb, who had not only appeared in the film but had co-written the script. I had been in contact for several weeks with the benefits’ promoter, Bruce Crawford, and had dropped a few hints about possibly doing lunch or dinner together. At around 130 Friday afternoon my cell phone rang. It was Bruce, checking to make sure I had made it up from Kansas City. Oh, and by the way, they’d be having dinner at 5:00…please feel free to join us. Woo hoo! Realizing that we would both be underdressed for dinner at the chosen venue (my wife and I had only packed casual clothes) Juanita insisted we head to the local mall so that we could look presentable. After selecting a few outfits, shoes and a pair of dress pants for me we headed back to the hotel, showered and changed and were in the lobby of Mr. Gottlieb’s hotel at 4:55. A few minutes later Bruce and his fiancee’, Judi Morelli, walked in along with Jim Foyt, who would be handling the projection chores later in the evening. A few moments later Mr. Gottlieb came down from his room and we proceeded to the restaurant. After placing our orders we spent the next 90 minutes peppering Mr. Gottlieb with questions about his quite impressive career. We talked about “Jaws,” of course, but also his early improvisational career, “M.A.S.H.,” and “The Jerk,” another film Mr. Gottlieb co-wrote and appeared in. Jim asked Mr. Gottlieb if he had ever heard of a short film entitled “The Absent Minded Waiter.” I turned and said, “Carl, are you familiar with that film?” (Yikes, I called him “Carl”…please don’t smack me) Thankfully he chuckled with me, excusing the over-familiarity of my comment. You see, Mr. Gottlieb directed “The Absent Minded Waiter.” During dinner Mr. Gottlieb asked about his flight back to California the next day and how he was getting to the airport. “I’d be happy to take you,” I heard myself say. Done deal! As we were waiting for the dinner check Bruce asked me where I had parked. I told him we were in the hotel garage. “Would you like to ride over to the event in the limo with us?” (“No thanks, we’ll take the rental car….NOT!”) To quote the late, great Curly Howard, “Soitantly!” I hadn’t been in a limo since my film promotion days when I had to escort Simon Callow around Washington D.C. They’ve obviously gotten much nicer. After a short drive we arrived at the beautiful Joslyn Art Museum and waited for the driver to open the door. As we pulled in I noticed a large group of people standing outside with their cameras at the ready. I have to think there are many people in Omaha wondering who the fat guy in the beard was that popped out of the limousine.

As we entered the museum we were met by actors dressed as various characters from the film. I had a quick chat with the gentleman playing Larry Vaughn, who is also the proprietor of Mystery Manor, Omaha’s Haunted Theatre. We made our way to the balcony and secured front row seats. Bruce came on stage and welcomed everyone. He then introduced a very special guest in the audience, Mr. Clarence Hupka. Mr. Hupka is a survivor from the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, an event that was really brought to the world’s attention because of its mention in “Jaws.” The audience rose to their feet when Mr. Hupka was introduced and gave him a thunderous ovation. Mr. Gottlieb then addressed the audience, ending his remarks by dedicating the screening to those who had helped create the film that were no longer with us, including Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and film editor Verna Fields. Then the curtains opened and the familiar Universal logo filled the screen. The print was beautiful, having been newly struck. From my perch above I looked down at the 700 people sitting below me. Many of them had either never seen the film before (children) or had only seen it on home video. I waited until Richard Dreyfuss headed down to check out the wreckage of Ben Gardner’s boat and then leaned over the railing again. As the dead fishermans’ head popped into view I smiled as I saw 700 bodies jolt back into their seats. After the screening Mr. Gottlieb signed autographs and was soon joined at the table by Mr. Hupka, who had been mobbed at his seat after the screening by appreciative audience members. After everyone had their book/poster/photo signed our group, and the volunteers that had helped with the benefit, next adjourned to Petrow’s Diner, where we snacked into the early morning while Mr. Gottlieb held court at the main table. Soon it was back to our hotel for a night filled with pleasant dreams. Saturday morning I was at Mr. Gottlieb’s hotel at the prescribed time, put his bag in the car and off we went. 15 minutes and a firm handshake later he was gone. But for me, the memories were just beginning.

Dinner With Carl: me, Juanita, Carl, Jim Foyt, Judi Morelli and Bruce Crawford

Standing proudly with U.S.S. Indianapolis survivor Clarence Hupka

Fact meets Fiction: Clarence Hupka and Carl Gottlieb

No, I didn't try this...but next time look out!

The Stranger - by Billy Joel

A Star is Born - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - featuring songs by Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson

1977 was a good year for many. It was a great year for two people. One is George Lucas. The other is Billy Joel, whose album "The Stranger" introduced him to fans who embrace his music to this day.

The first single off the album, "Just the Way You Are," would later go on to win Grammy awards as Record and Song of the Year. It would hit #3 on the Hot 100 charts. The album was released in September 1977, charting as high as #2 and spending almost three years on the chart. Other singles released from the album: "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "Only the Good Die Young" and "Always a Woman." However, my two favorites are the last songs one either side. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" ends side one with a tale of longing for the past while the side two closer, "Everybody Has A Dream" is an inspirational urging to follow your dreams to achieve your goals. The album has sold over 10 million copies since it's release.

In doing research for this piece I learned that Billy Joel played USF in Tampa in March 1977 and, after "The Stranger" was released, the Jai Alai Fronton in October 1977. I couldn't find any late 1977 early 1978 dates that showed him playing Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, which is odd because Matt and I saw him there. Back then concerts were still General Admission and we were at the front of the stage. I had thrown a young lady on my shoulders (she had kept jumping up and down behind me trying to get a better glimpse....don't hate me because I'm a gentleman) and as Joel worked the front of the stage she threw me off balance. I grabbed the front of the stage to center myself and Joel stepped on my hand. He quickly looked down, said, "Sorry man," and continued the show. Here's a look at Joel in concert, doing one of my faves:


In the 1970s no woman had more power in Hollywood then Barbra Streisand. So when she decided she wanted to do a third remake of "A Star Is Born," Warner Brothers jumped at the chance to work with her. Though Kris Kristofferson gives an excellent performance in the film, Streisand's first choice for the role of the aging John Norman Howard was Elvis Presley. Elvis was very interested but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, insisted that Presley receive top billing. As Elvis hadn't made a film since "Change of Habit" (an odd favorite film of mine) the studio passed. Streisand had also lobbied for Marlon Brando, whom she had adored since seeing him on screen in "Guys and Dolls." Brando also passed. Next up was Babs' old Erasmus High School chum Neil Diamond. However his concert schedule did not allow him the time off to make a film. Finally everyone involved settled on Kristofferson.

The songs in the film are first rate, including the Oscar winning "Evergreen," co written by Streisand and Paul Williams. Other notable songwriters on the album: Rupert Holmes, Kenny Loggins, Leon Russell and the husband and wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who would go on to write the songs for Streisands' "Yentl." Here is the final scene of "A Star Is Born":


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

"Mike's Rant" is ©2010 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 ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.