Now in our eleventh calendar year!|
PCR #558 (Vol. 11, No. 49). This edition is for the week of November 29--December 5, 2010.
Hello gang! A sad week for me as a genuine hero of mine passes on. Shall we begin?
July 1972. I'm an 11 year old playing little league baseball outside Chicago. I come to the plate with the bases loaded and crush the ball to the outfield. Since there are no fences I have to leg it out around the bases. As I chug around third base the coach yells at me, "Jesus, you run like Santo!" I slide safely into home plate with a grand slam.
Of course I knew that "Santo" was Ron Santo, all star third baseman of the Cubs. Since I also played third, and wore the same number Santo wore, 10, I immediately adopted him as my favorite baseball player. Ronnie was a steady ball player, won a few gold gloves and hit the cover off of the ball. All this while battling Type 1 diabetes, a disease which would eventually claim both of his legs as well as hasten his death this week from bladder cancer at the age of 70. He played 14 years for the Cubs, one for the White Sox and retired in 1976. He never gained induction into the Hall of Fame while on the ballot, though on the most recent Veteran's Committee ballot he gained the highest amount of votes, though sadly not enough to earn induction. Several times over the years I have used this forum to urge readers to write to the Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee and demand they induct Ron Santo. He is eligible again in the 2012 season. Sadly, I'm sure he'll make it. But it will be too late for Ronnie. And the rest of us, who will now miss out on what I'm sure would have been one hell of an induction speech!
I'm proud to say that I've worn the #10 in every aspect of baseball that I've pursued. Little League, school, when I was in the service. The only reason I don't wear it in the men's league I play in is because my teammate, my son Phillip, wears it. And yes, he has worn it since Little League as well.
| I've carried this card in my wallet since I was a boy. Mr. Santo signed it for me in St. Louis in 1998.|
CLASS OF 2011
As for the Hall of Fame voting this year, the current list of inductees have been announced, including two players who are linked to the steroid era: Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmiero. Gonzalez is border line with or without the help of drugs. As an Oriole fan I would love for Palmiero to make it. With over 500 home runs and 3,000 hits he should be a lock. But he has a shadow hanging over him. Months after he wagged his finger at Congress while testifying about steroid use in baseball and claimed, "I have never used steroids. Period." Four months later he was suspended for 10 days for violating baseball's performance drug policy. Palmiero told reporters, "Why would I do that in a year when I went in front of Congress and I testified and I told the truth?" Palmeiro said. "Why would I do this in a season when I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It makes no sense. I would not put my career on the line. I would not put my reputation on the line and everything that I've accomplished throughout my career. . . . I'm not a crazy person. I'm not stupid. This is something that's an unfortunate thing. It was an accident. I'm paying the price."
I believe him. So does George W. Bush, who owned the Texas Rangers before he was president. Two things support my belief:
1. Palmiero's entire career was average. I mean, every year he had pretty much the same batting average, hits, home runs, RBIs, etc. There is no dramatic jump, like when another Oriole, Brady Anderson jumped from 16 home runs one year to 50 the next and back to 17 the year after. In 15 years Brady hit 210 homeruns, with almost a quarter of them coming in one season. Raffi never fluctuated that greatly, hitting between 36 and 47 homeruns for 10 straight seasons. And the reason that his HR totals were lower in some years was because of injuries that caused him to miss games. He played 20 years and averaged, in a 162 game season, 33 home runs. Which is what he consistantly hit. For 15 seasons, in a 162 game season, Brady averaged 19 homeruns. Quite a difference.
2. Palmiero told reporters after his suspension that he had been given what he thought was a shot of Vitamin B by teammate Miguel Tejada, who was later implicated in the steroid controversy and was later put on probation for lying to Congress about his steroid usage.
So I put Palmiero in this year. I'd also vote for the following: Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker. Election results will be announced in January 2011.
We lost a couple of important contributors to the fanboy world this week:
Leslie Nielsen, a dramatic actor whose career was reborn when he co-starred in 1980s comedy "Airplane," passed away today in his Florida home after a bout with pneumonia. He was 84.
Born Leslie William Nielsen on February 11, 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, His father, Ingvard, was a Constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He grew up in the Northwest Territories, where his father was stationed, and graduated from high school at the age of seventeen. Following graduation Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and received training as an aerial gunner. Because of his age he was deemed too young to be sent overseas. He worked part time as a disc jockey and then enrolled in the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto. While studying at the Academy he received a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. While learning to hone his craft he found work in summer stock productions and, in 1948, made his first television appearance in an episode of "Studio One" opposite another young actor named Charlton Heston. He later became a member of the distinguished Actor's Studio.
Nielsen spent the early half of the 1950s appearing in practically every live television program on the air, including roles on "Stage 13," "The Magnavox Theater," "CBS Television Workshop," "Kraft Theater" and "Suspense." In all he totaled more then 50 television appearances. In 1956 he made his film debut opposite Glenn Ford and Donna Reed in the kidnap drama "Ransom." The next year he starred as Commander J.J. Adams in the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" and also appeared opposite Debbie Reynolds in the romantic comedy "Tammy and the Bachelor."
As the 1960s began, Nielsen found himself in demand for dramatic parts in series like "The Untouchables," "Thriller," "Naked City," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Route 66." He portrayed Lt. Price Adams on the television show "The New Breed," a series that lasted two seasons. He also had a recurring role in "Peyton Place," "Dr. Kildare" and "The Bold Ones." He began the 1970s by starring as the title character in the television series "Bracken's World." When that show ended he continued to appear regularly on television, with memorable appearances on programs like "Medical Center," "M*A*S*H," "The F.B.I." and "Barnaby Jones." His most famous film appearance that decade was as the Captain of the doomed ocean liner in Irwin Allen's "The Poseidon Adventure."
At the age of 54 his career found a second life when he starred as Dr. Rumack in the comedy classic "Airplane." His dry, dramatic performance in what was obviously a mainstream comedy earned him raves and new generation of fans. It also made the phrase "and don't call me Shirley" into one of the most memorable movie lines of all time - charting as the 79th most popular of all time according to the American Film Institute. He followed "Airplane" up with the television series "Police Squad," from the same team that had created "Airplane." Despite only lasting six classic episodes, Neilsen's performance earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. The series also lead Nielsen to his greatest success, the trilogy of "Naked Gun" films that featured his "Police Squad" character, the well meaning but bumbling Lt. Frank Drebin. He went on to star in a variety of parody films, including "Spy Hard," "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" and "Wrongfully Accused.' He also appeared as the President in the last two "Scary Movie" films. Though he gained much fame and success from these comedy roles, Nielsen also shined in two very different performances. In the film "Nuts" he portrays the customer that Barbra Streisand's Claudia Draper kills, setting off the events of the film. A very unflattering portrayal. He also starred in a two-part episode of "The Golden Girls" as the husband to be of Bea Arthur's Dorothy.
In October 2008 my wife and I had the great opportunity to meet Mr. Nielsen at the Chiller Theater convention. With a little urging from my wife, Mr. Nielsen donned a Santa Claus hat and posed with she and I. That photo became our Christmas Card that year. The card read "Surely that's not Leslie Nielsen, the star of "Airplane," wearing a Santa Hat? Yes it is...and don't call us Shirley!"
| Our Christmas Card featuring Leslie Nielsen|
Irvin Kershner, director of what is considered the best film EVER in the "Star Wars" saga, died today at age 87. He had been ill for quite some time.
Born in Philadelphia in April 1923, Kershner always had an interest in all aspects of art. An accomplished musician he attended the Tyler School of Fine Arts at Temple University. He later moved to New York City to study painting before ending up in Los Angeles, where he studied photography at the Art Center College of Design. He later attended the film school at the University of Southern California, where, upon graduation, he was offered a job as a still photographer by the U.S. State Department in Iran. He moved on to direct and photograph documentaries in Iran, Turkey and Greece for the U.S. Information Service. When he returned to the U.S. he teamed up with television journalist Paul Coates and developed the documentary television series "Confidential File." Kershner later developed with actor Nick Adams the series "The Rebel."
In 1958 producer Roger Corman gave him his start in feature films with "Stakeout on Dope Street," a film that Kershner both wrote and directed. He continued to be one of television's most sought after directors, helming episodes of "Ben Casey," "Naked City" and the pilot episode of "Peyton Place." In between directing gigs he served as an instructor at the USC film school. Among his students: a young man named George Lucas. In 1964 he directed Robert Shaw and his wife, Mary Ure, in the drama "The Luck of Ginger Coffey." He followed that film up with "A Fine Madness," starring Sean Connery and "The Flim-Flam Man," starring George C. Scott. In 1972 he directed Barbra Streisand to one of her strongest performances in "Up the Sandbox." His next feature was "S*P*Y*S," a comedy that attempted to capture the popularity of "M*A*S*H" by re-teaming Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland.
In 1976 he garnered an amazing cast (Peter Finch, Charles Bronson and Yaphet Kotto, among others) for the television film "Raid on Entebbe," which told the story of an Israeli commando raid on the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The film earned 10 Emmy nominations, including Best Director for Kershner. His next theatrical feature was "The Eyes of Laura Mars," a thriller which featured Faye Dunaway as a blind model who has the ability to see through the eyes of a serial killer while he commits his crimes. After the release of "Laura Mars," Kershner received a phone call from his former student, Lucas, who was looking for a director for his follow up to "Star Wars." Lucas was a fan of Kershner's film "The Return of a Man Called Horse," feeling it was superior to the first film. Upon being offered the project, Kershner asked Lucas, "Of all the younger guys around, all the hot shots, why me?" Lucas replied, "Well, because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood." The resulting film, "The Empire Strikes Back," is hailed among fans and critics as the best film in the saga, superior even to the original "Star Wars."
He followed "Empire" with another sequel of sorts, when he brought Sean Connery back to the big screen as James Bond in "Never Say Never Again." To date he remains the only American director to helm a James Bond film (though Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino have both expressed interest in the past). He hit the sequel trifecta when he directed "RoboCop 2" in 1990. His last directing assignment was the pilot episode of "SeaQuest DSV," starring Roy Scheider.
A fun fact: He directed two of the three stars of "Jaws" (Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider) in different projects. There were two different television films made in 1976 about the raid at the Entebbe airport. The second one, "Victory at Entebbe," starred Richard Dreyfuss. Just thought I'd share.
As I was finishing the Rant word came thatcomic book artis John D'Agostino Sr., whose work spanned both the Incredible Hulk and Archie has died of bone cancer. He was 81.
Born in Italy in 1929, D'Agostino traveled to the United States and got his first job as a colorist at Timely Comics, the company that would later become Marvel.
While working at Timely, D'Agostino became friendly with artist Stan Goldberg, who went on to create the "Archie" characters and their friends at Riverdale High.
D'Agostino was hired by Archie Comics managing editor Richard Goldwater in 1965, and began a long career drawing numerous characters in the companies' catalog, among them: "My Little Margie," "G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and "Sonic the Hedgehog." D'Agostino Marvel claim to fame is that he was the letterer for the first three issues of "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Still drawing at the age of 81, D'Agostino's latest comics are scheduled to be published in December, and several of his covers will be featured through 2011.
John Lennon - Live in New York City
Beatlemania - Original Broadway Production
With this coming Wednesday marking the 30th Anniversary of the murder of John Lennon I thought I'd take a look at a couple of live recordings that dealt with his music.
Prepared and released by Yoko Ono in 1986, "Live in New York City" was a concert recorded on August 30, 1972 at Madison Square Garden. The benefit concert also included performances by Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder and Sha-Na-Na, but these groups are not included on the album. The album is historic in that it captures Lennon's last full length concert before his death.
The majority of songs are solo works, though Lennon does perform "Come Together" for the many Beatles fans in attendance.
Designed as a multi-media show, "Beatlemania" featured a crack band of musicans singing the Beatles' greatest hits while dressed in costumes that evoked the era. I thought it was appropriate this week since the man who portrayed John Lennon, Joe Pecorino, is a long time friend of mine. When he left the show he was replaced by Marshall Crenshaw. The show ran on Broadway for a total of 1006 performances before heading out on tour. In 1983 a threatened lawsuit from Apple Corps (the Beatles company) ended the tour but it still pops up occasionally.
Here's a rough television performance of the original cast, with Joe playing Lennon. Mitch Weissman, who plays Paul, was the only member of the original cast to appear in the "Beatlemania" film.
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "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.