Friday, October 30, 2009

Monster Mash!

YouTube - bobby 'boris' pickett & the cryptkickers - monster mash

This clip scares up the true spirit of Halloween.Thanks to Bobby "Boris" Pickett, a true "crypt kicker" and gentleman. R.I.P.

Just found out my nephew Josh has been serenading his family and friends for days with his own version of the classic tune, often waking up mommy at 6 a.m. Hey, Auntie A. used to play it on the radio early in the morning. Somehow I appreciate the crooked karma.

Now go scare up some gooey treats and spooky tricks of your own. And don't worry about all that nonsense the folks at CBN are cooking up. The demons--or maybe it was just a bunch of overzealous dentists--posted a warning that all Halloween candy is cursed by witches out to snatch "new souls."

Really... who's zoomin' who? They're out there alright.... they just don't know who they are.

Happy Halloween....

Drive safe. Play nice,. Think Reeses' Pieces.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Screen Screams

Getting ready to hunker down with all that leftover Halloween candy and crawl into your cave for a long weekend of home movies? I've scared up a small sampling of seasonal favorites.

I should say, I'm more partial to psychological thrills than bloody chills, so you won't find too many slasher flicks on my list.

When it comes to the cleverly crafted psychologically twisted tales of the macabre you simply can't beat Hitchcock. Some days I say Shadow of a Doubt (which was, btw, Hitch's personal fav), is my favorite. But I love Notorious, too. And Suspicion, Spellbound and Frenzy ( so much for avoiding gore). But if I'm truly honest, I'd have to concede that Psycho(1960) is my ultimate favorite of the master's masterpieces. And certainly the best for Halloween. Anthony Perkins' innocent-creepy performance is so spot-on it hampered the odd, talented actor's career, kept him virtually tied to the role of Norman Bates for the rest of his life. The cinematography, the setting, Hitchcock's choice of black and white film, the music, all the supporting players, everything down to the wry dialogue places Psycho in the annals of classic thrillers.

If I was pressed into picking a flick based on horror novel king Stephen King, I'd probably choose Stanley Kubrick's The Shining ( 1980). Though King reportedly hated it,and it does seem to go on forver, the film really does wear well. Jack Nicholson delivers an intense and scary performance as the unhinged caretaker of a sprawling and spooky off-season resort. And Kubrick's artistry creates a truly eerie setting. Shelly Duvall is at her best as the put-upon wife. Danny Lloyd is great as Nicholson's psychic son. Beware of all the redrum!

But I also love Dolores Claiborne, Taylor Hackford's 1995 adaptation of King's novel about a Maine woman, played with powerful pathos by Kathy Bates(though she won her Oscar for her role in the screen version of King's Misery, she outshines herself here) who is accused of killing her long-time employer. The charge brings back her estranged daughter ( Jennifer Jason Leigh in another captivating, nuanced performance). With deft flashbacks, the conflicts between the women--and murder of Dolores' lout of a husband years earlier-- emerge in intriguing and cryptic fashion. This is more of a psychological thriller, but very affecting.

Other favs:The Exorcist(1973) William Friedkin's intense take of William Peter Blatty's controversial best-seller. Creepy, gory, utterly captivating. I saw it for the first time at the local itch... sticky floors, stale popcorn... perfect. Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Jason Miller deliver pitch-perfect performances.

Village of the Damned( 1960); George Sanders copes with a crop of blue eyed zombies that could give The Children of the Corn a run for their money. Adapted from John Wyndham's novel, The Midwich Cuckoos.

The Haunting
(1963) Robert Wise's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's story "The Haunting of Hill House," is an old-fashioned haunted house chiller. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom , Richard Johnson & Russ Tamblyn all do their bit as members of a select group couped up in old New England mansion. This one could curl the stray hairs on a bald man's neck.

Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) Bette Davis stars in this Gothic tale of skeletons rattling in a Southern family's closet. Campy, sometimes convoluted, but truly a pleasure to watch Davis as a an aging belle gone mad by lies and trickery cooked up by cousin Olivia de havilland (in a role Joan Crawford literally "backed out of" with a fake back ache). Joseph Cotton and Agnes Moorehead co-star.Directed by Robert Aldrich.

Harold and Maude(1972) Hal Asby's quirky black comedy isn't a typical Halloween pick, but it's a delightful, and surprisingly life-affirming movie. Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort star as the geriatric lover of life who helps the death obsessed 20 year old learn to live. Great soundtrack by Cat Stevens, too.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think Reese's Pieces.


Bad Parent Trappings

Kate Gosselin wants to be a movie star. And her stunted soon-to-be-ex Jon yearns to return to the womb.The phony uber mom rattled off her aspirations on a special edition of the newly configured Kate Plus Eight last week. Sounding like she can't wait t ditch the kids, Kate said--despite frequent whining about the paparazzi--she's been on "TV so long, being in front of the camera is natural." So yeah, in case there was any doubt, she wants a solo gig. Oh, and while she's making a wish list, the former nurse with nary an acting credit would love a big screen career. Or at least she'd like to be a cartoon character. Done, my dear. Kate's probably blue with envy over the Playboy cover animated matriarch Marge Simpson recently scored. And you know the follicly odd Kate must be coveting Mrs. Simpson's high blue do, too.

Kate still says she's only doing it "for the kids," but if there's anyone still doing time on the planet who buys that, I haven't run into them. Like I said, she's not a very skilled actress. She can't conceal her craving for the spotlight and all the cash that comes with it. Jon, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma. He seems to love the limelight, but has an approach-avoidance thing going on, as he also seeks to retreat from it. Usually with young women. Frequently at nightclubs, the favored playgrounds of the dreaded paparazzi who snap those pesky(and often unflattering) tabloid photos.

In a recent tabloid story, Jon's "soul mate" du jour, Haley Glassman complains about his "mantrums," a cutesy term she coined top describe his "Jekyll and Hyde" snits. Looks like after years of abuse from the control-freak shrew, the thirty-something slob needs re-parenting himself. "He's so mean sometimes," Haley told People. "But I still love him." Maybe Haley--whose dad is the plastic surgeon who crafted Kate's post-pregnancy tummy tuck--needs a little counseling herself. Or maybe she likes the media attention and perks that come with hanging onto the discarded reality show star.

Jon who inexplicably divides his time between the big house in Pennsylvania(on weeks where he's got custody) and a swanky bachelor pad in Trump Tower in NYC, had an epiphany. He just woke up one morning--right after TLC axed him from the show--and realized "growing up in front of the cameras can't be good for the kids." So he slapped a cease and desist order on the network. Meanwhile, he's shopping himself around for all sorts of high-brow projects including something called Divorced Dads Club, a reality show with luminaries like Mike Lohan and Kevin Federline attached to it.

And now the Octomom wants in. The media hog nut job--who has had a well-televised "war of words" with Kate--says she's got a crush on Jon. Hmmm... can the new show Octo-Jon be far behind? If there are cameras and cash, these desperadoes will be there.

In fact,forget TLC; they should launch a new network, BPN--Bad Parents Network-- which would feature a roster of favs and newcomers. Look for shows like Kate Nixes the Eight & Starts to Date and Balloon Behind Bars, the infamous Henee family's long-awaited show. And there's room for shows featuring that crazy Craigslist mom who posted a sexy little ad to taunt her daughter's nine year old "rival". And a late night sleaze fest featuring the sicko dad who seduced his own teen daughter on facebook.

With so many parents behaving badly there's no end to BPN's future. With room to grow.

Drive safe. Play nice. think peace.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Classic TV Sign-Offs

"They're creepy & they're kooky... mysterious and spooky. they're altogether ooky... the Addams family..." R.I.P. Vic Mizzy. The genius behind classic catchy TV themes including those for The Addams Family; Green Acres, Petticoat Junction and F Troop passed away last Saturday at 93.

Besides adding an indelible reel to the boomer and post boomer soundtracks, the prolific Mizzy also composed movie soundtracks for the Addams Family Values movies, Spider Man and others; wrote a slew of songs for groups like the Andrews Sisters back in the thirties and forties, and even did an anti-jaywalking song as a public service announcement back in the '60's, "In the middle, in the middle, in the middle." features a font of info and some links to buy cool retro stuff. Alas, I didn't see a "Thing" music box to replace the one I had as a kid. Darn! Bet that little souvenir could fetch a bundle on e-bay. Or at least amuse the folks at Antiques Roadshow.

Just heard the news: Soupy Sales, the slapstick kiddie comic and game show staple died last night at 83. Soupy--who was born Mort Supman--became a household name on sixties TV with his pie-in-the-face and other silly, physical antics.He also landed in himself in a boiling hot pot of water when he asked kids to clean out their parents wallets and send him the cash. The stunt garnered a one week suspension and a brief FBI investigation. In later years, Soupy would be a regular on a slew of game shows including To Tell the Truth and What's my Line? as well as a frequent guest on variety and late night chat shows.

Some years ago I interviewed Soupy on WXPS radio in NY. To be honest the interview itself--part of a '60's retro week-- wasn't all that memorable. But the pre and post interview drama remains indelibly etched in my memory. It is my custom to "warm-up" guests--whether in the studio or on the phone-- before the actual interview. Just basic pleasantries; there's rarely time for much more, but it just seems nice. Soupy--who was coming in via phone--didn't want any of it. "Oh, we're not on yet? I'll wait." After the interview, which I thought was fine, I mentioned --off-air--to my co-host that I thought it had ran long, an allusion to my own inability to end the segment on time( I was hosting a rock morning show and had just received a lecture from the manager on keeping interviews short). Soupy's phone line was still open and he heard me and took offense saying, "I'm probably the best interview you'll have all week, all year, maybe of all time." Good thing he was on the phone; if he had been in the studio, I'm sure I'd have faced the pie!

I felt horrible, tried to apologize; he wouldn't accept, eventually yelling at the producer and refusing to take my call later. I still feel bad about hurting his feelings. And though I can't say his was the best interview I ever did (my skills have improved), the dramatics surrounding it will always stick with me. And it wasn't long after that I started hosting talk shows, where I could have more sprawling conversations with all sorts of people.

CBS had a memorial earlier in the week for Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes who passed away over the summer. Hewitt is the granddaddy of the TV news magazine. The biggest tribute--while so many copycats have come and gone--the original is still on. Forty plus years later. Not bad for a guy who summed up his life's work with four words: "Tell me a story."

This one's for Mom: yes, Joan Fontaine is very much alive. She just celebrated her 92birthday yesterday. The Oscar-winning Actress is still feuding with her Oscar-winning older sister, Olivia de Havilland. They never got along too well. Joan winning her Oscar first in 1942 for Suspicion (Olivia was up that year too for Hold Back the Dawn; and won later for The Heiress)surely added to the strain. They finally stopped talking altogether in 1975 after an argument over their mother's memorial. So while they've both long since retired from the movies, the off-screen drama lives on. And on.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Late Night Shakedown

So why is everyone talking about the sex-ploits of late night Lothario David Letterman and not his sleazy would-be extortionist Joe Halderman, who to borrow a word from Dave's lexicon bears a "creepy" resemblance to the infamous BTK killer? I'm guessing it's about celebrity and the fact that a lot of folks have--or wish they could--engage in an office romance. On the other hand, very few of us are in the lofty position to fend off potential blackmailers.

As a note of disclosure: I count myself among the the women that comprise 58% of Letterman's audience. Recently, I've been more of a casual than avid viewer (though my viewership, along with everyone else's, has gone up since last Thursday.) I've been a fan since I was a kid and my sister and I would send in letters replete with shocking Polaroids of a Paul Schaeffer look-alike teddy bear we were sure would garner us a spot on the old "Viewer Mail" segment. Never happened. But Ive long since transferred all that bitterness and resentment to a succession of disappointing old boyfriends and bosses.

Ah, the "B" word. It's Dave's status as a boss that has him in hot water with the women who are mad at him(my unscientific survey of radio callers and e-mailers finds about a 50-50 split between Dave dumpers and supporters)and media scolds. A snarky New York Post columnist has demanded CBS immediately axe him. And Facebook friends of Sarah Palin are chirping similar sentiments.

Of course, the cable TV pundits are weighing in nightly on his motivations and fate. National scold Jane Velez Mitchell offered her arm chair diagnosis:"I see a pattern here," the inexplicably loud(hey, don't need to shout,Jane, they've got this nifty invention called the microphone)self-promoter said on her HLN show."Here's a man who has the most glamorous and beautiful women in the world come on his show, and still he goes after young women on his staff... I have a theory... he has low self esteem." Maybe. Or maybe he just connected with these women, many of whom are average-looking plain Janes. Makes sense, as I've always found Dave's sex appeal to fall somewhere between that of Pee Wee Herman's and Michael Moore's (just which side of that spectrum is sexier is in the eye of the beholder).

His old girlfriend Merrill Markoe--the former head writer of his old NBC show--said on her blog:"I'm mad because Dave always promised I'd be the only woman he'd cheat on." A funny quip from a funny woman. Say what you will about Letterman and this whole sordid mess, but there are far more female producers and writers on his show than on most other late night and comedy shows. And many of them stay on for years. Insiders have said Letterman actually fosters a positive working environment for women.

Be that as it may, the National Organization of Women has chimed in. While NOW falls short of calling for Dave's dismissal, it does want CBS to take "some immediate action." Don't hold your breath. For one thing, Letterman isn't a CBS employee. He works for his own company--the aptly named Worldwide Pants--and according to a statement he hasn't violated any of their policies. And CBS President Les Moonves had a very public affair with Julie Chen while he was married, eventually divorcing his wife and marrying the much younger anchor. So unless some truly creepy developments emerge, don't expect any action from the Tiffany network.

Here's the thing to keep in mind: Letterman admitted to engaging in multiple relationships with employees. Okay, but they were all consensual and all between consenting adults. No need to compare Dave to Roman Polanksi or Woody Allen. That the women were all subordinates and many twenty plus years younger(his wife Regina Lasko--a former Late Show assistant--is twelve years younger)may offend some sensibilities, but there's nothing illegal about such hanky-panky.

But Joe Halderman--the desperado 48 Hours producer--did allegedly commit a crime. For its part, CBS has suspended him. Without(so far) making any comment or announcing any internal investigation. His high-profile attorney Gerald Shargel has already made the rounds of the morning shows, hurling veiled threats towards Letterman. We don't have the whole truth, he contends. He can't wait to cross-examine Letterman. More to come.

I wonder if Dave's sorry he didn't pay the thug off. TV legal eagles have offered a melange of advice. Some say Dave was right to nab the guy in the Manhattan D.A.'s sting operation( I agree; no one should give in to intimidation and thuggery). Others like celeb attorney Mark Geragos thinks it would have been wiser to "make the thing go away." Not pay the slime off, but "educate him," he offered on Larry King Live. "I've handled over a dozen such cases. And you make it clear to these people and their lawyers that they don't want to commit a crime. You don't pay them a cent and they do go away."

Too late for that now. Still, every scandal has an upside. For Dave it's ratings gold. His ratings--already higher than they've been in years thanks to that Palin joke and NBC's misguided late night switcharoo that left Conan O'Brien at the helm of The Tonight Show--have continued to spike. In fact, Letterman's ratings over the last week are higher than NBC's prime time lineup! So keep apologizing, Dave. Don't know if it's working at home, but it's certainly working with the home audience.

Drive safe. play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Sorry Truth

The Democrats--who've been wishing and hoping for their own hero in the health scare debate--may have finally found their guy. Not that he's perfect, But hey, who is? Freshman Florida Congressman Alan Grayson laid out the Republican health reform plan with succinct sarcasm late Tuesday night. It's his Wednesday follow-up that has folks on both sides of the aisle raising eyebrows.

On Tuesday, the brash reformer--who ran on an anti-corruption platform and is apparently making good on his campaign promises( so much so his seat is said to be among the most vulnerable for the Dems in 2010), stated the Republican plan: "Don't get sick! And if you do get sick, die quickly." The grade school visual aids: marker on poster board underscored the Republican effort.

This scathing, sound-bitable description threw House repubs into a a fast frenzy.These characters--who've spent months stonewalling and spewing fear with the regularity of Old Faithful--demanded an immediate apology for the "breach of decorum." It was, after all, the most " mean-spirited statement" Rep. Duncan from Tennessee ever heard on the House floor.

Really? The worst, Congressman? What about your Republican colleagues cutting and capricious comments? Rep. Ginny Brown-Wade's characterization of the Democratic plan as " essentially saying to America's seniors: 'Drop Dead," doesn't seem particularly generous. How about Rep. Virginia Fox calling for a Republican plan that will be pro-life because it won't kill seniors?" Or Rep. Paul Braun: "I'm tellin' you, their plan's gonna kill people?" And on an on for months from the stop and set the reset button repubs. Would you call those genteel? Are they brimming with decorum? Or facts?

I know liberals and conservatives hear things differently; I'm pretty sure they've done a study at Harvard or somewhere( if not, a scholar's got a grant application in the mail). But I don't think Congressman Grayson's terse comments violated the rules of decorum of that esteemed ( and conveniently dainty) body. But GOP ears were bleeding red, white and blue indignation. So on Wednesday morning, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia took to the House floor and demanded an apology from Grayson. Or else. The or else, of course, was a rebuke similar to the one received by Rep. Joe Wilson following his infamous "You lie" outburst at Obama.

Again, anyone can see the substantial differences between Wilson's rude blurt hurled at a President during a speech to a joint session of Congress and the daily rhetoric reps toss at each other during the course of political gamesmanship. But like I said, liberals and conservatives hear things differently.

So on Wednesday Grayson apologized. Sort of. "I apologize to the 45,000 people who die each year because they don't have health insurance. I apologize to the dead and their families." So far, so good. The guy's getting fitted for his cape, right? Well, not exactly. I guess Grayson couldn't resist going for the hyperbolic flourish. He ended with, "I apologize that we didn't vote to end this Holocaust in America sooner."

Uh oh. As the word left his lips, it started to run in cinematic slo-mo. I just knew he regretted it as it slipped out wrapped tightly in righteous indignation. He must have started sweating as visions of himself being lambasted on the Fox News spit ran through his mind.

Maybe not. Wednesday night, Grayson appeared on The Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC and barely bristled at his faux pas. To her credit Maddow--indisputably the most even-tempered of all cable TV hosts--gave him three chances to rescind the Holocaust reference. Grayson bobbed and weaved like a polished pol, until the third time when Maddow cornered him, practically spoon-feeding him the right answer. "Do you regret using the word 'Holocaust?'" she asked. Grayson finally conceded, "It probably wasn't the best choice of words."

And it wasn't for obvious reasons. The Holocaust is such a loaded term for so many people. Using it in this context offends many and only serves as a distraction from Grayson's solid facts, his stats, his sentiment. It allows the Republicans to dodge culpability by making Grayson and his perceived insensitivity the new non-issue.

But Grayson seems undaunted. After his meek concession to Maddow, he launched into a diatribe about the kind of politicians Americans want and need. "People want Democrats with guts. they want Congress to solve their problems. Or at least work on them," he said. And somewhere along the line he managed to call Republicans " foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." Okay, so we're back to fitting Grayson for his cape.

The thing is: as one who has called for folks on both sides to ratchet down the rancor, I can't pull a double standard ( I don't, after all, work for Fox News). So if it's not helpful for the Republicans to use rabid rhetoric, the same must apply to Democrats. Still, I can't help but root for Grayson. He's like a chunkier, brazen 21st Century Mr. Smith taking on Washington. And I wish there were more like him.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.