Monday, August 14, 2017

More "Short Shorts"

1. Joseph Bologna, 1934-2017, R.I.P.

Sad to hear that writer/director/actor Joseph Bologna, perhaps best known for his portrayal of "King Kaiser," a character based on Sid Caesar, in 1982's terrific My Favorite Year, has died at the age of eighty-two from pancreatic cancer.

In My Favorite Year, with John Welsh and Peter O'Toole.

With Valerie Harper, Michelle Johnson, Demi Moore, and Michael Caine in Blame It on Rio, 1984.

With wife Renee Taylor in 1974. Love his hair!

In Transylvania 6-5000 with John Byner and Carol Kane, 1985.

Another shot of Joe as King Kaiser in My Favorite Year, with villain Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell
played gangster Karl Rojeck, whom Kaiser was spoofing as "Boss Hijack" on his variety show.

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2. More on Glen Campbell

I wanted to post a few YouTube videos showcasing the late Glen Campbell's talent as a guitarist! The songs below are some of my all-time favorite tunes.

Let's start off subtly. Carl Jackson is really the "star" of this rendition of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," while Glen accompanies him.

Next, from a 1977 episode of the Donny & Marie show, here's Glen doing the "William Tell Overture," which makes the inevitable connection to its use as the theme for The Lone Ranger on movies, television, and radio. I don't know whose idea it was to include the idiotic clips making fun of TLR, but they only distract from Glen's incredible guitar work!

Finally: One of my most beloved songs -- I own at least seven or eight different versions, and I'm always open to buy more -- is "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Here's Glen doing it with living legend Roy Clark, and yes, I do mean "living!" Thankfully, Roy is still with us.

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Thanks for your time!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell, 1936-2017, R.I.P.

Singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and television host Glen Campbell has died at the age of eighty-one from Alzheimer's disease.

I was not quite twelve when I first became aware of Glen Campbell, several years into his career, via his hosting 1968's The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In 1969, his show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour debuted, and ran until 1972.

Campbell had a long string of hits during the 1960s and 1970s. The first lines of several of those songs stick in my memory.

"It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk..." ("Gentle on my Mind," written by John Hartford.)

"I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road..." ("Wichita Lineman.")

"By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be rising..." (It shouldn't surprise you to learn that that was the first line of a song called -- what else? -- "By the Time I Get to Phoenix.")

"Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin'..." ("Galveston," of course.)

"One day, little girl, the sadness will leave your face, as soon as you've won your fight to get justice done..." ("True Grit," the title song from the [original] movie of the same name.)

"I've been walking these streets so long, singing the same old song..." ("Rhinestone Cowboy.")

Of course, he had many other hits, including "Where's the Playground Susie," "Southern Nights," "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife," "Honey Come Back," and numerous others. Dearer to my own heart are three lesser-known songs which found their way into my record collection, "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star),"* "Try a Little Kindness," and his medley of two pop standards "Don't Pull Your Love / Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye."

(*I never understood why "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star)" wasn't called "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)," since that's the actual line in the song, as repeated several times, and it was a reference to the whole "Jesus Christ Superstar" phenomenon of the  early 1970s!)

Glen's music and comedy variety show was usually pretty light-hearted. As I remember it (and I'm going totally on memory here), it used to begin with Glen and some other musicians -- I believe John Hartford was one of them -- standing up at various places in the audience, with Glen himself saying "Hi! I'm Glen Campbell!" In occasional later episodes, other performers or guest stars would stand and claim to be Campbell, for humorous effect.

I remember a lot of jokes about Campbell's hair during his TV show. His hairdo looked somewhat indestructible back then, perhaps due to an excessive amount of hairspray. In fact, I recall one episode in particular where guest Paul Lynde accused Glen of being in a bad mood, and said "What's the matter, did you fall down and crack your hair?"

Campbell is also credited with helping to launch the careers of performers such as Jerry Reed and Anne Murray. (I suppose I can forgive him for that second one...! I also suppose I can forgive the song "Rhinestone Cowboy" for purportedly inspiring the god-awful 1984 movie Rhinestone!)

A sad as it is, Campbell's passing is not really a shock. He'd announced that he had Alzheimer's, that insidious s.o.b. of a disease, in 2011. But it's still quite unfortunate to lose someone whose music and television presence was so much a part of my life during my early adolescence. In fact, I hadn't realized quite how much that show meant to my Sunday night viewing habits until news of his death was released and I started recalling all his hits.

With John Wayne and Kim Darby in 1969's True Grit.

With Tom and Dick Smothers. Love that outfit, Glen!

Another Smothers Brothers photo, obviously from the same scene as
the previous image, where Tom musses the famous Campbell hair!

With Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

With the Beach Boys. Glen toured with them and played on their innovative "Pet Sounds" album.

With Tanya Tucker. The two were a couple for a few years in the '80s,
and their somewhat rocky relationship occasionally made tabloid headlines.

A more recent photo of Glen.

With Dean Martin.

With Merle Haggard.

With David Cassidy.

With Cher.

With Joe Namath in 1970's Norwood, in which Campbell was reunited with his True Grit co-star Kim Darby.

With The Summer Brothers Smothers Show regulars Pat Paulsen and iconic hippie Leigh French.

Yep, the line is "I knew Jesus before He was a superstar," but the song's title is...

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Don't MS. the Point...

Before I get into this post, let me say this: Somewhere in your travels, you've probably heard that Wonder Woman graced the cover of the first (standalone) issue of Ms.

Well, she didn't. She was on the cover of the second issue (pictured above).

The illustration below shows the cover of the actual first issue.

Anyway, other than the above bit of trivia and an unrelated photo at the bottom of this post, today's post isn't really about Wonder Woman at all. (Yeah, me, writing a non-comic-book-related post. Who'da thunk it?) And today's post isn't really about Ms. (the magazine), either. Not exactly.

A month ago, more or less, I read an obituary for a woman named Sheila Michaels. (Today's post isn't quite a "tribute" post because I didn't know of the woman until then.) Ms. Michaels was the woman who took an old, relatively-forgotten honorific -- "Ms." -- and brought it into wider use. Click on her name if you want to read the whole interesting story.

Now I want to share a related story, an anecdote about an argument I had with my then-fiancée, back in the late 1980s or early 1990s. (I won't use her name for reasons of privacy, not that she herself would ever encounter my blog.)

When I met and began dating my ex -- we'll call her "Faith Salami" due to a private joke I won't get into here -- she was a divorcée who'd been married once before. She'd kept her husband's surname when she'd divorced him, mainly to eliminate confusion where her two children were concerned.

Every so often, she'd receive a mailing from the church she and her two kids belonged to, and the letter was always addressed to "Mrs. Faith Salami." She often commented that it wasn't supposed to be "Mrs." since she was divorced. It should be "Ms.," because "Ms." was the proper term for a divorced woman.

I explained to her that technically, it was proper for the church to write "Mrs." because she'd kept her husband's last name, but naturally, "Ms." was also correct from Faith's standpoint because the whole idea of the term "Ms." was that a woman could use it regardless of her marital status. In fact, that's the whole raison d'être of the word.

I also explained that the use of "Ms." did not automatically signify that she was divorced. Again, "Ms." purposely did not inform anyone of the woman's marital status.

Faith replied with those words I often heard from her during a disagreement: "Well, that's your opinion."

I swear, to this day, some twenty-five to thirty years later, the woman still doesn't comprehend the difference between "fact" and "opinion." (Her granddaughter recently confirmed that to me, in an out-of-the-blue comment, with no prompting from me!) I used to tell Faith, "If I say that two and two is four, that's a fact, not an opinion."

She never understood that.

And, since the internet was a long way away in what was then the future, I couldn't look up the word "Ms." online to prove my point. So, I had to go to the public library instead, find the definition of the word "Ms." in a dictionary, and make a photocopy of the page that contained the entry in question. I brought the photocopied page to Faith and showed it to her.

Guess what she said.

"That's just the opinion of the guy who wrote the dictionary." (Emphasis mine.)

This was the kind of situation that was common enough to insure that our engagement didn't last long enough to become marriage!

Anyway, since I used a pseudonym for "Faith's" real name, I suppose that telling that story doesn't exactly ridicule her.

So, today's post wasn't really about Wonder Woman, wasn't really about Ms. magazine, wasn't really a tribute to Sheila Michaels, and wasn't really designed to embarrass my former fiancée.

I guess it "wasn't really" a post, then, right? And for this I "bumped" my tribute post to June Foray?

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Oh, lest I forget: Last but not least, speaking of Wonder Woman, this is just... wrong.

What the hell were they trying to say?!?

Thanks for your time.

Friday, July 28, 2017

June Foray, 1917-2017, R.I.P.

I'm absolutely sick at the news that the amazing and iconic voice-over actress June Foray died on Wednesday. She was ninety-nine years old and would have turned one hundred if she'd only lived until September 18th.

I'm going to keep this tribute relatively brief and aim it at those who really care about and perhaps know the history of animation (although her work included one hell of a lot more than just cartoon voices). That way I won't fill this page with tons and tons of information.

My first exposure to her work was probably when she was portraying characters on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show like Rocket J. Squirrel, Natasha Fatale, and Nell Fenwick (as well as others). She also did multiple voices on Jay Ward's syndicated silent movie spoof program, Fractured Flickers, and voiced Ursula on another Ward production, George of the Jungle.

It wasn't until years later, as I learned more and more about showbiz history in general, that I became aware that she'd worked for many, many employers in her time, and had done the voices of characters like Cindy Lou Who (in How the Grinch stole Christmas) Granny (owner of Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird), Witch Hazel, Woody Woodpecker's nephew and niece Knothead and Splinter, Jokey Smurf, and talking doll Chatty Cathy. (She even did a take-off on Chatty Cathy called "Talky Tina" on a Twilight Zone episode.)

Among hundreds (thousands?) of others, Ms. Foray, whose autobiography was oh-so-appropriately entitled Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? -- The Autobiography of June Foray, had so many credits that it is literally impossible to list more than a small percentage of them... although people have tried. Her Wikipedia entry, for example, lists dozens of credits, but it's only a partial list.

An obituary with some great photos may be found here, and a tribute post by her friend (and one of the two co-authors of her autobiography), Mark Evanier, may be found here.

I was actually surprised that when I did an image search for photos of Ms. Foray, there were so many of the woman herself. I'd really expected more images of the characters she voiced during her career, which began in her adolescence.

With famed cartoon director Chuck Jones -- lousy shot of him -- and the prolific Mel Blanc.

This is obviously not June Foray. It's Talky Tina from the Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll."

With two more industry legends, Daws Butler and Stan Freberg.

June rarely appeared on-camera, but here's one of the few times she did, from 1955's Sabaka!

Animation director Chuck Jones said it best: "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray." As much as I respect Mel Blanc and his huge body of work, I can't help but agree.

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A New "Short Shorts" Post

1. In my tribute post to the late John Heard, I forgot to mention that he had attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in the late 1960s. "Who cares?" you may be thinking. Well, I do, mainly because Clark University is only about a twenty-minute drive from my home.

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2. Sorry to hear about the passing of Barbara Sinatra, widow of Frank Sinatra. Frank was Barbara's third husband. Her second husband, pictured above, was Herbert Marx, better known as "Zeppo." Isn't it amazing how much the Marx Brothers resembled each other when they weren't wearing their famous outfits? Zeppo could almost pass for Groucho if you added a mustache.

Okay, fellow babies, which Marx brother is which?

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3. Several of you readers are die-hard movie buffs, so I'm asking for your help! I have been trying to recall the name of an E.T. ripoff movie I saw several years ago. The film in question is emphatically NOT the notorious 1988 Mac and Me. The one I'm looking for the name of featured an alien (as I recall it, although it could have been Bigfoot, or a stray dog, or...!) and a young girl named Amy. Or perhaps that's "Amie," because the song "Amie" by Pure Prairie League appeared on the soundtrack in a scene where Amy/Amie was shown playing in the snow with the creature.

Nope, NOT this one!

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Th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Thanks for your time.

Monday, July 24, 2017

John Heard, 1945(?)-2017, R.I.P.

Prolific actor John Heard has died from as-yet-unknown causes at the age of either seventy-one or seventy-two, depending on which source you believe. I've seen dozens of articles listing one age or the other. Even Wikipedia lists his birth year as 1946 here, and as 1945 here!

Sometime during the 1980s or 1990s, well after his career had taken off, I saw Mr. Heard in a then-new TV commercial. (I can't remember the product he was advertising, and a half-hour search on the internet, YouTube in particular, didn't tell me. Sorry.) In that commercial, Heard introduced himself in the name of the character he was portraying, a storekeeper, IIRC. But in response to his "I'm [so-and-so]," I sat there thinking "No, you're not! You're John Heard!" To me, he was far too well-known to endorse a product on television as anyone but himself.

Every so often, I would think that it would be nice if I someday met the man, so I could remind him about that commercial, and my amused reaction to it.

(And would it surprise any of my regular readers if I told you that I was thinking that just the other day? And would it surprise you if I told you that only three or four weeks ago, I watched him in 1982's Cat People, in which he played a rare romantic lead? You know what I mean, right?)

Heard was never a huge star, instead being one of those actors who kinda blends into a movie to the point where you see information about the film and say "Oh, that's right, I forgot he was in that!" I had to refer to his IMDb entry just to remind myself about movies I've seen in which he appeared, as I was compiling photos for this post. For example, I had forgotten that he was in 1991's Rambling Rose with Robert Duvall and Laura Dern (the latter of which he had no actual scenes with), in which he played the character of "Buddy" as an adult. I also forgot that he had a small role as Tom the Bartender in 1985's quirky After Hours.

Usually, when a celebrity is discussed in print, mention is made of his or her best-known role, movie, TV show, or other project.  Unfortunately, I keep seeing that John Heard was Peter McAllister in 1990's Home Alone and its 1992 sequel. Out of his entire damned career, he has to be remembered mainly for that?

Well, let me state a few things right here and now. I never saw Home Alone. I never wanted to see Home Alone. I never plan to see Home Alone. I will not include any photos from Home Alone in today's post. And if you leave a comment on this post telling me how much you loved Home Alone, I may leave a nasty reply for you. (Okay, okay, I wouldn't really do that last one...)

Now that that's out of my system...

I will, however, include several photos from just a few of his many, many other movies and television appearances.

Before I throw a bunch of images at you, I just want to add that I don't think I ever saw a John Heard film in the theater! I always got to see them on VHS or DVD, months or even years after their release. But I always enjoyed his work.

With his Cat People co-star, the lovely Natassja Kinski, as well as
David Bowie (who sang the film's theme song), and director Paul Scrader.

With James Gandolfini in The Sopranos. Heard received an Emmy
nomination for his five-episode role as Detective Vin Makazian.

With Geraldine Page in 1985's The Trip to Bountiful, in which Heard played Ludie Watts.
Not pictured is actress Carlin Glynn, who played Ludie's all-out bitch of a wife!

With Mary Beth Hurt and Peter (Animal House) Riegert in Head Over Heels,
re-released a few years later with a different ending as Chilly Scenes of Winter!

Heard had a small but hilarious (and important!) part as Dan Quayle-ish
Vice President Ted Matthews in My Fellow Americans, 1996.

As Jack Kerouac in 1980's Heart Beat, with Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte. I've yet to see this film,
and definitely want to, but have never come across it nor had the presence of mind to look for it online!

As John Pierce in 1988's Beaches, with Bette Midler -- Nice ears, Ms. Midler! -- and Barbara Hershey.

As Tom the Bartender in Martin Scorsese's After Hours.

Oh, and just for the record? I never saw him in 1988's Big, either! But not because I've avoided that film. Just never saw it!

He was married and divorced three times, including his first marriage to actress Margot Kidder. Their marriage lasted six days!

Heard was somewhat self-deprecating in a 2008 interview in which he stated "I guess I went from being a young leading man to being just kind of a hack actor," and "I think I could have done more with my career than I did, and I sort of got sidetracked. But that's OK, that's all right, that's the way it is. No sour grapes. I mean, I don't have any regrets. Except that I could have played some bigger parts."

Maybe he could have played some bigger parts if he had done some things differently, but as far as being a "hack actor?" Sorry, I don't buy it.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

A rather long one today...

First of all, don't panic, fellow babies! I realize that when a celebrity's face appears at the top of one of my posts, it usually means that the guy or gal has passed away. But thankfully, not this time!

As I have occasionally (rarely?) done in the past (for example, back in 2011, for Graham Nash), I'm posting to wish a Happy Birthday to one of my long-time favorite entertainers, none other than comedian/actor/director/author Albert Brooks, who turns seventy years old today!

First of all, contrary to what's believed by a very close friend of mine, Albert Brooks is not the son of Mel Brooks! They're not even related. For that matter, Albert Brooks wasn't even born Albert Brooks. (Mel Brooks wasn't born "Brooks" either, for that matter. His birth name was Melvin Kaminsky.)


Albert Brooks' birth name was -- wait for it -- Albert Einstein. Yes, really. Brooks' father was a successful and well-known "dialect comedian" named Harry Einstein, better known as Parkyakarkus ("park your carcass"). Harry had three sons before finally giving into temptation and naming his fourth son Albert.

Harry "Parkyakarkus" Einstein, 1904-1958

In 1958, Harry Einstein delivered a well-received comedy routine at a Friars Roast honoring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Einstein returned to his seat (next to Milton Berle) and soon fell over into Berle's lap. Despite attempts to save him, he died two hours later, victim of a heart attack.

Back to Albert...

Appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the mid-1960s, the one-and-only Carl Reiner once stated that the two funniest people he knew were Mel Brooks and a high school kid he knew, Albert Einstein.

I first became aware of Brooks through his unique stand-up appearances on The Tonight Show. In one, he played a truly awful ventriloquist. In another, he portrayed a writer of children's songs, doing such insipid numbers as "Brush Your Teeth" and "Eat Those Beans... Please!" (I can still sing both songs from memory. Not that I'm necessarily bragging about that...) He did a skit called "Rewriting the National Anthem" where he showcased several applicants from around the USA who'd written songs that could hopefully replace "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The "Rewriting the National Anthem" routine and several others appeared on Brooks' first album, "Comedy Minus One."

The front cover of "Comedy Minus One."

The back cover of "Comedy Minus One."

A few years later on The Tonight Show, he again did a ventriloquist act of sorts where he used a "dummy" made from a children's toy which played single letters aloud when you pressed the appropriate key on its keyboard. ("I" substituted for "hi," and so forth.) It was (purposely) pretty lame.

I even caught his 1972 appearance on an episode of the short-lived sitcom, The New Dick Van Dyke Show. I saw several of the short films he did for Saturday Night Live in the mid-1970s, and caught him in Taxi Driver (which I admittedly didn't see until a few years after it came out in 1976).

In Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro and (with her back to the camera) Cybill Shepherd.

Although I missed his initial effort at directing, 1979's Real Life -- an eerily prophetic look at what we now call "reality TV" -- I did manage to procure it years later. (It's part of the sizable videotape collection I'm planning on keeping.)

In Real Life, Brooks (playing himself, more or less), decides to "spice up"
his subjects' lives, because he doesn't think his movie is exciting enough!

I have to admit that to this day, I still haven't seen 1980's Private Benjamin, in spite of all the good things that I've heard about it... and in spite of the fact that I've been a fan of Goldie Hawn's since Good Morning, World, a sitcom she appeared in even before she showed up on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

With the lovely Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin.

In 1981, Brooks directed, co-wrote, and starred in my own personal favorite out of all his films, Modern Romance. He played a successful but neurotic and insanely jealous Hollywood film editor, Robert Cole, who breaks up with his girlfriend Mary (excellently played by Kathryn Harrold) and immediately regrets it. Their ups and downs as a couple, as well as Cole's personal quirks (explored both on and off the job), make this film an incredible treat for those who like something different.

In Modern Romance with Kathryn Harrold.

In Modern Romance with real-life director James L. Brooks (again,
no relation), who later cast Albert in Broadcast News, and Bruno Kirby.

A terrific Modern Romance scene, set in a sporting goods store. Brooks is shown
here with Bob Einstein, who IS Albert's brother in real life. Bob Einstein is
better known today as "Super Dave Osborne." He also played policeman
"Officer Judy" on the controversial 1960s Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

And now I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves, except where I felt it necessary to supply a detail or two.

With Julie Hagerty in 1985's Lost in America.

With Holly Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News, 1987.

With Meryl Streep in 1991's Defending Your Life.

With the incomparable Debbie Reynolds in 1996's Mother.

With Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell in The Muse, 1999.

Brooks appeared as Randall Harris in the vastly underrated
My First Mister (2001). He's pictured here with co-star Leelee Sobieski.

Brooks also supplied the voice of Marlin in 2003's
Finding Nemo, as well as its sequel, Finding Dory (2016).

In 2005's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim WorldAGAIN doing a ventriloquist's act!

And I've still left out a lot of things that he's done in a career of over fifty years.

So, there you have it: A tribute to someone who's still very much with us! Happy Birthday, Albert Brooks!

And thanks for your time.


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