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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Courage? Candor?

I'm posting Thursday's post on Wednesday, because my thoughts are fresh, and the event just happened, and I want to express myself before 42 other blogs maybe say the same thing.

I watched it live.
Pretty compelling television.
Governor Mark Sanford pretty much spilling his guts all over the place.

Things I noted:

He was really well dressed for the occasion.
I'm guessing that this means that he ain't exactly giving up on his political career.

If you just got back from Argentina, a long flight, you'd probably be dressed a little more comfortably.
Unless you're still trying to maintain an image.

He got done dropping his bombshell, and everyone interviewed started talking about how courageous he was for being so forthcoming about it all.

I don't know. He never addressed who in his family knew exactly what.
Then it came out that they all knew everything for months.
So why the stupid lying about going hiking?

And he was praised for his candor, his honesty about it all.

Building up to the revelation, he started talking about the Bottom Line.

The Bottom Line is that the motherfucker got caught.

Where would the courage and the candor be if the motherfucker didn't get caught?

And why would you be so stupid as to abandon your job, a job that ain't so easy to abandon, and tell such an assinine lie to try to cover your tracks?
Perhaps because you're a shmuck and a putz?

I'm getting a little tired of politicians, of any political stripe, talking about how badly damaged their families are because of their infidelities.
They don't have to be. And his family apparently didn't abandon him.
If the sanctimony of marriage wasn't so relentlessly preached by the sanctimonious, infidelity would be a lot less bitter pill to swallow.

I know a lot of people who are thrilled that their parents got divorced, no matter why.

It requires a lot of ego to assume that one's family is going to be all that destroyed by one's infidelity.
But then, it requires a lot of ego to become a politician.

Folks, I've said it before.
I'll say it again.
It happens ALL THE TIME.
Let us all get over it.

At least he had the good taste not to shlep his wife up on stage to stand next to him, like Spitzer and McGreevey did.
Or maybe he didn't have the good taste, and his wife just told him to go fuck himself.

I don't quite understand why there isn't a law of diminishing returns here.

This stuff happens so often with politicians and other celebrities these days that it's more the norm than the exception.

Why is this still news?

Sanford spent much of his time apologizing to everyone whose path he ever crossed.

In retrospect, I think the only person who is owed an apology for all of this is the man who took more heat for this sort of thing unneccessarily, particularly from Sanford, and still holds the patent: Bill Clinton.

P.S.---I've since heard that Mrs. Sanford, when asked about her husbands whereabouts over the weekend, said "I don't know, and I don't care".
That should've been a clue.

It's a shame Sanford missed Father's Day. I hear the kids picked out a really nice tie for him.
Maybe that's the one he wore for the press conference.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bum's Rush

Okay. So Letterman made another feeble apology.
And whattya know?
People are now gathered around his theatre with picket signs calling for him to be fired.

Over a joke that hurt no one.

So it didn't even work.

The irony here is that there are people on the air who have said far worse, and the effects of what they have said are so much worse, that a good case can be made that they should be removed from the airwaves.

I've usually been amused by the notion of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, with their audiences becoming more and more fragmented, causing them to become more and more shrill, if such a thing is possible.

Watching them become a daily embarrassment to the Republican Party has provided even more fun.

But as much as I've enjoyed the Carnival, I'm afraid that it's time for something to be done.

Something that in many peoples eyes might infringe on the First Amendment.

But there's nothing in the First Amendment about the right to be on TV or the radio.

Both Limbaugh and O'Reilly have seriously gotten into what can very reasonably be called "inciting violence".

Limbaugh, with his daily hatespeak about how he hope Obama fails:

Limbaugh preaches to the people with the guns.

What better way for Obama to fail than by getting himself assassinated?

Does anyone really think that this is beyond the scope of Limbaugh's more passionate audience members?

O'Reilly providing information on how to find the surviving abortion doctors:

I can't imagine why. Can you?

These actions themselves bespeak treason.

I don't know if it goes that far legally, but I know they're walking the tightrope.

So let's give them the benefit of the doubt. It's not treason.

But it's definitely incitement to violence.

So we don't arrest them.

And yes, there's freedom of speech, which ends with the classical example of Shouting "Fire" in a crowded movie theater when there isn't one.

What Limbaugh and O'Reilly are doing, to me, goes over that line.

Therefore neither of them is owed a place on the public airwaves, no matter how popular they are.

There's such a thing as the FCC.

They issue the licenses.

The FCC, if it chose to, could revoke the licenses of any station that carried Limbaugh or O'Reilly on the basis that they are inciting violence.

The two of them could then concentrate their efforts on their websites.

This might cut down on their influence, because it would require their audiences to read.

And go try and build an audience on webcasts alone.

I, for one, do not want to see any more people get shot at Holocaust Museums, or any more abortion doctors get killed.

Limbaugh is offering up the propaganda that this was caused by the liberals, but if you don't think that Limbaugh and O'Reilly, however indirectly, had a hand in those events, I would like to offer up for sale to you my 51% interest in the Brooklyn Bridge.

It would be difficult, and certainly out-of -character for President Obama to commandeer any effort to influence the FCC.

But there are plenty of political types (Senator Schumer?) who can certainly carry this ball and run with it.

Limbaugh and O'Reilly have outlived their dubious entertainment value.

There's nothing "amusing" about them any more.
On any level.

They are no longer "entertainers".

They are rabble-rousers.

A responsible society must find a way to at least discourage the rabble from being roused.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Jokester Vs. The Political Animal.

Usually I don't use this space to mouthe off politcally.

Not that I don't have strong political opinions. I do.

It's just that I don't feel that I usually have much to add to the public forum that hasn't already been said by Keith Olbermann.

But this dust-up between Sarah Palin and David Letterman has left me with thoughts that I've found unexpressed anywhere else that I have found.

I received this mass e-mail from one of my readers. I didn't ask for permission to reprint it, because it wasn't sent only to me personally.

Here are excerpts:

"I enjoy most of David Letterman's humor. Fact is, I generally prefer Letterman over Leno . . .
I think Letterman was way out of bounds on his "jokes" regarding Sarah Palin and her daughter(s). It was poor taste, unnecessary, not at all classy.

Leno would occasionally border on jokes that were a little too risque, but I don't think he'd have ever done something like this.

Leno was, and is a world class performer. Letterman was, and is. Except Letterman really messed up on this imbroglio. Perhaps he'll learn.

.......Letterman goofed and should have made a simple apology instead of turning it into a seven minute desk spot."

Here's how I responded:

"Palin brought all this on by herself by shlepping her knocked-up daughter up onstage at the Convention.
If it were a Democrat with a knocked-up daughter, the Republicans would never let him or her hear the end of it.
Letterman has already apologized several times. What more do we want from him?
Palin implying that he is some kind of child predator is typically way out of line.
But I think Letterman is thriving on the attention.
Very few people like Palin.
One of these people is intelligent, and the other is not."

I now realize that there is more to be said.

I have since watched all the Letterman episodes from the past week, which I had Tivo'd.

Much as I admire and respect Letterman, and think he is totally right in this situation, I think he's acted like a complete wuss.

He has compounded this by issuing an even more humble, serious apology on the show that aired on Monday night. All about how the perception of the joke can sometimes be more important than the joke.
Is this network pressure that we are witnessing?
God, I'd hate to think he'd succumb to something like that.

This seems way off base to me.

If you're accused of making a joke about someone's child being a victim of a child predator, which Letterman did NOT intend to do, not even knowing that the 14 year old was at the ballgame with Palin and Giuliani, and which he said he did NOT do, and which, as he said, anyone who knows him or his show knows he did NOT do, you must be HIGHLY INSULTED.
You don't suck up to that , forgive me, bimbo.


Not like the phony umbrage that a political animal like Palin, who knows better, is taking.

Seven minutes of relatively light banter about it is letting her off way too easily.

He should have swatted her like the mosquito she is.

He should have put her in her place, which is somewhere under a rock.

He shouldn't be inviting her on his show so she can turn him down.

He should be issuing a public banning of her from his show.

That's what she deserves, and that's what will help his ratings more than anything else.

You just KNOW that this is how he really feels about it.

But to make yet another public apology?

He has been totally manipulated by someone vastly inferior to him.

I can't for the life of me figure out why.

Where are his cohones?

And why aren't they on display here?

Does he really think his audience is made up of Palin fans?

This one does not compute.

Letterman and Palin have totally different agendas.

Letterman's is to make highly edged sarcastic jokes about everyone in the public eye.

That's his job, and he does it really well.

If he had to apologize every time he offended anyone, he would be doing nothing BUT apologize.

Palin's is to keep herself in the public eye at all costs.

As a political animal, one knows that sincerity takes a back seat to everything.

She can't possibly be as offended as she's making out to be.

Letterman isn't and really can't be a political animal.
It doesn't seem to be part of his genetic makeup.

Bill Clinton and John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer had to do the political dance in public of how they disgraced their families by committing adultery.
You know they'd all like to have said "Yeah, I screwed around. Why is this your business?"

Letterman could have just as easily said "Yeah, I told an offensive joke at your expense, Governor, and your daughter will survive it. It comes with the territory. Get over it."


It has served both of them to keep this story alive.

But Letterman keeping it alive this way is causing me to lose some respect for him.

Dennis Miller (of all people) was once confronted by a member of someone's family.
That someone was treated quite tastelessly in a joke that Miller had told.
And the family member called him on it in a public situation.

Miller thought about it for a moment, and said "You know what? You shouldn't like me."

And that was the end of it.

This family member wasn't a political animal, so there was nothing left to be said.

And that's where it should sit here. Palin, if she was really offended, shouldn't like Letterman.

And that should be the end of it.

And Letterman, if he was really offended, which he should be, shouldn't like Palin, and should have blasted her on his show.

And that should have been the end of it.
If it wasn't, it would have fanned the flames, and be a really great story, instead of the nauseating one it has become.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fine And Danny

In yesterday's post, I referred to "Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical", which I saw last Wednesday in New York, thusly:

"Never have I had such thoroughly mixed feelings about any show I've ever seen.

It alternated between totally great and thoroughly awful, and kept shifting back and forth."

I'll now elaborate:

What was great about it----They found a guy who simply nailed Danny Kaye.
He channeled him. He captured all that was great about him.
It was as if you were seeing Danny Kaye in a great live performance.
Better, in fact.
Because it came without all of the negatives that have since been associated with Danny Kaye, the person.
From all accounts, Danny Kaye in real life was, as my friend Lenny Friefeld would describe him in his intentionally redundant way, as "a shmuck and a putz".
He would always go out of his way to snub autograph seekers.
He would go to nightclubs at dinner shows and sit with his back to the onstage performers.
In the show "Two By Two", he would intentionally wreak havoc on stage.
He would always be bragging about who he was flying around in his private plane.
He apparently treated his wife, Sylvia Fine, abusively, something not covered in the musical I saw.
But then who wanted to see that, anyway?
So watching him on clips on YouTube, or in his old movies, meant accepting his personal baggage along with him. I find this difficult to do.
It's not like Jerry Lewis, whose professional and personal persona is pretty much that of a shmuck and a putz. If you like his work, you know what you're getting going in.

But Danny Kaye's public persona was that of an erudite, charming, likeable humanitarian.
And this apparently was not him.
He was entirely a lie.

But seeing someone else in his skin, someone equally talented at being Danny Kaye, removed all that baggage, and made it really easy to watch him perform all those wonderful Sylvia Fine songs, and other material that he made famous. That's why much of this show was great.

What was godawful about it: They didn't use all those wonderful Sylvia Fine songs.
Odd, because that's what the show was ostensibly about---how her songs transformed Danny Kaye into a major star.
There were twenty-eight songs in this show.
You know how many of these they used were Sylvia Fine songs ?
You heard me. Three.
And what were the other twenty-five?
Pedestrian crappy songs, supposedly about their relationship.
One or two at least made the attempt to copy Sylvia Fine's witty style, and they sort of worked, but the rest were just pedestrian crappy songs that commented on scenes we'd just seen and didn't move the story along. I wanted to rise from my seat and say "Get on with it!!"

Has anyone ever heard of Lyn Duddy and Jerry Bresler?
Their main claim to fame, besides writing shows that never made it to Broadway, was to write the songs for "The Honeymooners" when they did a season of hour-long musical episodes.
They were the original purveyors of the Pedestrian Crappy Song.

In my early twenties, I once drove Totie Fields and her husband from New York to Philadelphia to appear on the Mike Douglas Show.
She was waxing ecstatically about having hired Lyn Duddy and Jerry Bresler to write special material for her.
I already had my attitude about them then, but didn't have the heart to tell her.

Then she started gushing about how they turn out a new musical every week for "The Honeymooners".
I did have the heart to tell her that the stuff currently on the Honeymooners was recycled from ten years previously, and simply reshot, this time in color.
She of course didn't believe me, but I still had the memory of my friend David Freitag singing those songs over and over ten years previously until I wanted to belt him in the mouth.
Those guys couldn't even turn out new pedestrian crappy songs for the occasion.
They were perfectly content recycling the old ones.

And the guys who wrote the new songs for the Danny Kaye musical were Duddy-Bresler clones.
And the ancient audience didn't notice or care.
They just wanted to see their Danny, in whatever form was offered.
It's a critic-proof show. Nothing was going to keep these people away.
And they had a wonderful time.
They just simply didn't know how good a show they could have seen.

In the dialogue, it was mentioned that Cole Porter was so impressed with Sylvia's songs that he interpolated two of them into one of his shows.
I would have loved to hear those songs.
But, of course, I didn't get to hear either one of them.
I got to hear more pedestrian crap.

The time frame for this show was the late thirties, when Danny and Sylvia first met, to 1948, when Sylvia tells Danny that he is about to become a father.
If they had extended it by a year, they could have bailed much of this show out by providing the perfect ending: Their daughter would have been born, and they could have both sung a song to the baby that Sylvia Fine wrote for "The Five Pennies" called "Lullaby in Ragtime", which has intricate two-part counterpoint melodies. In the movie, it was done by Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong. There is, in fact, a third part, but there are only two actors on stage.
There wouldn't have been a dry eye in the house, including mine.

So they kept going back from great Danny Kaye performances without the baggage, to pedestrian crap. The latter, needlessly.

Do I really have to fix everybody's shows?

My book, "Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store, You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
You might want to check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperback, "Mark Rothman's Essays" is still available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
The website "On Screen & Beyond" has two hours of an interview I did on it's podcast in their archives.
Just Google On Screen & Beyond to find them if you're interested.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New York, The Tony's, and Other Shows.

I know going in that this one is going to require two posts to cover it.

First, the Tony's: I assume that I'm that I'm the only one watching who cares equally about seeing the Tony's and the NBA Finals, which were on opposite each other.

If my bookie took action on the Tony's, I'd ignore the NBA Finals completely.

The opening number at the Tony's was great. Better than anything that followed.

Particularly when that rocker got bunked in the head by the scenery.

Broadway is pretty expensive these days, but we got to see that for free.

My usual attitude about watching the Tonys is that it acts as a stimulus for me to want to go to New York to see a lot of shows.
But if you've read me with any kind of regularity, you know that I've spent a lot of time in New York this year, and already seen most of these shows.

What it did prove to me this year is that my shit detector is still pretty accurate.
There wasn't any show that they showed a clip of that I hadn't seen that I suddenly felt compelled to see on a future trip.
And the clips that I did see only confirmed that I was right to want to see what I've seen in the first place.
With the glaring exception of "God of Carnage", which had the bad taste to win for Best Play.
That one fooled me with the ads, and would have fooled me with the Tony clip.
It just slipped under my radar.

There were two others I would have voted for over that one: "33 Variations", and "Impressionism", although the latter wasn't even nominated.

It was nice that they gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jerry Herman, composer and lyricist of my favorite musical of all time, "La Cage Aux Folles".
It was the answer to the musical question "What took them so long?"

I haven't wanted to see "Billy Eliot", which won for Best Musical.
It just looks so artsy-fartsy.
My shit detector has sounded a five-alarmer.

That "Next To Normal", which I saw last week, didn't win is something someone is going to have to answer for.
It is electrifying, stunning, a tour-de-force, impressive musically and lyrically, and is a musical about mental illness.
So, major points for ambition.

I also had dinner between shows last Wednesday with a couple of my readers. Janet and Lee. They are two of the primary Initials Game players on the weekend game, and we had a great time.
We have all become friends.
You can never have too many of them.

If you live in the New York area, or the Detroit area, or the Los Angeles area, and would like to share food with me, just e-mail me at and we can try to work it out.

The other show I saw last Wednesday was "Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical".

Never have I had such thoroughly mixed feelings about any show I've ever seen.

It alternated between totally great and thoroughly awful, and kept shifting back and forth.

Much more about this tomorrow.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Hobnobbin' With The Cee-lebs

This is something I hadn't done for quite a while, but I just spent the last three weeks in L.A., and I did my share of it.

I was out there trying to do some money and actor-wrangling for my movie.

Tonight, NBC is starting up again with "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here", that Godawful "Reality" show.

Three weeks ago, I had lunch with Alana Stewart, who has been quite visible lately because she produced the documentary about Farrah Fawcett, and she was on TV constantly, talking it up.

Alana had appeared on the original "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here".
She had appeared in one of my plays ten years ago, and we had gotten along famously, mainly because she was quite wonderful in it, and a dream to direct.
She channeled, of all people, Vivian Vance. And boy, did it work.

(For those of you who remember my "post-a-clef", she was none of those people. She replaced one who was.)
If you knew anything about Alana Stewart, you'd know that she liked her creature comforts, and you'd have bet any amount of money that she'd be the first one to extricate herself from that "Reality" show. And after they had her stick her hand into a jar of live worms, you would have won that bet.
She'd much rather be in a movie. That's what I was counting on.

She also knows everyone in Hollywood. When she was in my play, the audience was a regular Red Carpet. She'll probably be in my movie, and probably deliver me a prominent leading man.

We ARE talking about getting a movie made, which is still one of nature's imponderables.
Until the cameras start rolling, and even after that, we're always talking about "if" rather than when.
Unless you're Spielberg.

A few days later, I had lunch with Mai Britt, whom you might recall as the star of such movies as "The Young Lions", "Murder Inc.", and "The Blue Angel" (The one without Dietrich).

She's probably best known as having been Mrs. Sammy Davis Jr.

I became friends with Mai (pronounced "My". If you call her "May" once too often, she'd probably break your arm.) in the early 90's, when we were both living in Tahoe.

She is truly one of the great humans. A loyal, caring friend. How many of those can anyone find?
Great sense of humor.
Sharp as a tack.
Takes great pride in stealing the cover of Life Magazine away from Inger Stevens in 1957.

Two incidents worth noting: When we were in Tahoe, a childhood friend, of mine, Elliot Zisser, was coming up to visit with his family.
When we were kids, to make fun of him, we all called him "Cowboy Zisser", because, of course, it was so appropriate. It stuck for many years.

I invited Mai to join me and the Zissers for dinner at Caesars Tahoe's Italian restaurant.
I said to her beforehand, "Mai, if when I say 'This is Elliot Zisser', you say 'Cowboy Zisser?', you can name your own price."
Her price was dinner.
Still one of the highlights of my life.

The other incident was when she invited me to conduct the Passover Seder at her house for her and her 20 year old son Jeff.
Mai had converted to Judaism for Sammy, but never really had much of an opportunity to put it into practice.
Now you've got to understand. I am not exactly a paragon of religion.
I'm as Jewish as they come, but both of my wives were not Jewish, and as far as shul goes, I am at best a Once a Year Man.
So conducting a Seder was one particular dance that I'd never been invited to.

She got out Sammy's solid gold Passover dishes (what else?), and I conducted the Seder.
One of the highlights of my life.
She provided two highlights.

It had been fifteen years since we last saw each other.
But when we sat down for lunch three weeks ago, it was like we had never been out of touch (which we had). And we picked up right where we left off.
Just great.

This past Saturday, I was back in Michigan, and a friend of mine invited me to see Paula Prentiss appear in a local production of "The Glass Menagerie".
She looked great, and was great.
And I got to meet and chat with her husband, Richard Benjamin, who has been one of my heroes.

As I rattled off everything I knew about his career, which was everything, he seemed quite pleased, and was quite gracious.
I wish I had more to write about him, but the meeting was brief, and we had no prior history.
I hope I am fortunate enough to develop some with him.

I'm in Connecticut this week, planning to make a Wednesday jaunt into Manhattan to catch a couple of shows and meet up with several of my readers for dinner.

And Conan started up last night. I'll probably have something to say about that.

This is about as chatty a post as I've ever put up.
I promise you, I'll sharpen my knives again real soon.



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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."