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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

West Side Stories.

The intent here is to emulate the style of column that Larry King used to turn out for USA Today:
run-on thoughts, random thoughts, thoughts seemingly coming out of nowhere,,,,,,,
maybe he still does turn out these columns. It's been a while since I've seen USA Today.........

But there will be a unifying theme, unlike what Larry did, or does.
That theme is the play and movie "West Side Story"..........

There is a strong common thread between "West Side Story" and "A Chorus Line".
Both were primarily dancers shows.
All the prominent performers in both shows were dancers.
Most of the prominent performers in both shows and movies went on to have less than stellar performing careers subsequent to their appearances in these shows and/or movies.
Certainly nowhere as stellar as their work in those shows and/or movies.............

Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera were as close as anyone came to sustaining successful careers.
But even both of them peaked career-wise with "West Side Story"........

The Kennedy Center Honor that has made the least sense so far in its history is the one they handed out to Chita Rivera.
I mean, who, below Exit 9 on the Jersey Turnpike, ever heard of Chita Rivera?
I have a sneaking suspicion that Rita Moreno agrees with me.............

I mentioned that I'd done a pilot with Rita Moreno.
During the time we spent together, she shared anecdotes about the "West Side Story" shoot.
Since the play had been around for a few years by the time they started shooting the film, the cast knew the songs backwards and forwards.
One day on the set, one of the cast members started singing "A boy like that, he'd kill your brother" in the style of Billy Eckstine.
For the unindoctrinated, Billy Eckstine was a very popular black singer who had a deep baritone and a very syrupy style to his voice.
The Billy Eckstine impression caught on, and pretty soon, in their free time, EVERY cast member was singing EVERY song in the score like Billy Eckstine.

If you're not familiar with what Billy Eckstine sounds like, make a trip over to YouTube.
It's a lot funnier if you're familiar with what Billy Eckstine sounds like..............

Most of the performers in "West Side Story" either completely vanished from show business, or died young, or both.
Natalie Wood was only 42 when she fell off the boat.
Larry Kert, the original Tony in the play, died from the AIDS at age 60.
Russ Tamblyn pretty much vanished.
I don't think Richard Beymer was ever heard from again.
Actually, he pretty much wasn't heard from to begin with.
All of his songs were dubbed by someone else.
One of the featured Jets, in both the play and the movie, Tucker Smith, showed up as an extra on a location shoot I was involved with on "Laverne and Shirley".
A lot of us recognized him. We all felt terrible.
He died shortly after that. In his forties.........

"Romeo and Juliet", by William Shakespeare, which "West Side Story" is based on, is a great read...........

Tony Mordente, who played "Action", and was once married to Chita Rivera, became a successful sitcom director.
He worked for me many times.
And I believe that he was a fashion trend setter.
Before him, I had never seen a sitcom director who worked with a sweater draped on his back, with the sleeves tied in front of him.
Pretty soon, EVERY sitcom director comported himself like that.
I don't quite know what message was being sent by it, but the style sure became popular.........

I once had dinner with Carol Lawrence, the original Maria.
She was almost going to do one of my plays.
She was quite gracious and sweet.
Particularly when I told her that I went out of my way to wait until she replaced Chita Rivera in "The Kiss of the Spider Woman" so I could see her in it.
I guess you can tell by now that I'm not a big fan of Chita's...........

Ned Glass, who played Doc, the owner of the candy store in the movie, and was quite good, and was quite good in other things I'd seen him in, was in a pilot I'd written, but let others produce.
So I didn't cast him.
He was unbelievably awful, as was just about everything else about this pilot.
I learned a very good lesson about delegating authority.
The lesson is: Don't delegate authority...............

When I was doing "She's The Sheriff", there was a guest star part that needed to be cast.
They brought in George Chakiris to read for me.
George Chakiris.
The Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor in "West Side Story"
The George Chakiris who apparently had a recent very bad eye job.
The George Chakiris who had much difficulty recognizing a punchline when he saw it.
Maybe it was because of the eye job.
Who can say?
But still, I was reading an Oscar Winner!
I ended up casting someone who was not George Chakiris.............

Anyway, these are my West Side Stories, and I'm sticking to them.............


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving "Thenks".

I may have mentioned it before, but my sister Leslie has always been a prime mover when it comes to adding color to the language.
I'm not talking about the kind of accidental drivel that comes out of Sarah Palin's mouth when she invents words like "refudiate".
No, I mean deliberate, intelligent attempts to improve upon and colloquialize the language.
As Readers Digest described it, "Towards More Picturesque Speech".

She has not been without influence.
At some point, in the early 70's, she took it upon herself, at least in private, with me, to eliminate the word "thanks" from the English language.
And replace it with "thenks".
For purely comedic effect.
In public situations, she remains a civilian.
But we essentially have our own code language between us.
So since the 70's, "thanks" has never been uttered between us.
It's always, and often, been "thenks".

Yesterday was my sister's birthday, and I've mentioned before that every year I call her on her birthday as some celebrity imitating our Yiddish grandmother singing "Heppy Boiseday to You".
Continuing with that tradition, this year it was Bob Hope's turn.
In an unusual left turn for me, I decided to write a completely new set of lyrics to "Thanks For The Memories", interspersed with "Heppy Boiseday To You".
And every "thanks" was turned into "thenks".
It did not go unappreciated.

So I've now opened up "thenks" to the general public.
Maybe it's a propos, since today is Thenksgiving.
Feel free to adopt it for your own use if you care to.

It's also gotten me to think about how much thenks I feel I owe my readers.
You've all been very generous to me with your compliments, and your loyalty.
My Stat Counter gives me a pretty good idea of where my readers are, how many of you there are, how often the same ones keep coming back, and how much time they devote to reading me.
I'm flattered, and very pleased that I've apparently given so many of you so much pleasure.

So this is my Thenksgiving shoutout to my most regular readers.

I don't necessarily know whether continual hits from one location means that it is one person reading.
Maybe it's more than one member of the same family.

Anyway, I'd like to single out regular readers from Syracuse New York, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Anniston Alabama, Hawthorne, Calabasas, Lake Elsinore, and Oxnard Calfornia, Roswell New Mexico, Midlothian Virginia, Ocoee Florida, Brevard North Carolina, Cleveland Ohio, North Las Vegas, Nevada, Saugus Massachusetts, and Herrin, Illinois.
You all know who you are, and I, for the most part, don't.
I'd like to.

Anyone of you who would like to make yourselves known to me can e-mail me at

There is also a large Los Angeles and New York contingent whom I would also like to hear from, particularly if you are in show business.
I seem to have a regular reader from the YES Network (The New York Yankees network).
As I am in New York quite frequently, maybe there are press passes or seats for Yankee games to be scored.
Just a thought.

I'd like to once again say thenks to Mark Evanier, Ken Levine, and Leonard Maltin for steering so many of you here in the first place.

And finally, I'd like to say thenks to my beloved Game Players.
The stalwarts who show up every weekend to play the Name Game that I've invented.
The fact that they keep coming back means that there must be something right with the game.
And that I can go four days a week without having to write essays.
I derive huge laughs from observing the game, as I imagine you have too.
And I take some pride at helping to develop their comedy writing skills.
Not that they need much help.

This blog has become quite meaningful to me.
I've already made some lasting friendships from it.
Not necessarily the kind you have on Facebook.
Real friends.
So please communicate with me if you feel the urge.

I know that there are many people who feel that they already have enough friends.
I'm not one of them.

Heppy Thenksgiving, all.


Monday, November 22, 2010

And Then I Wrote....(2)

Please open your hymnals to last Thursday's post, "And Then I Wrote" if you need a refresher course on the setup for "Welcome To Fleckmans", the title song I wrote for a TV pilot I wrote for a show that starred Rita Moreno.

Here are the lyrics, with commentary to follow, explaining the visuals that accompanied it:

Wel-come to Fleck-mans
We want you to have some fun
Wel-come to Fleck-mans
The checkout time is at one.

Stay here at Fleck-mans
If you left, you'd be a fool
Welcome to Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool

We've got a BAR,
We've got some volleyball courts
And we've got GOLF
For all you outdoor sports
Have we got FOOD (yum, yum)
It's tasty and it's fancy
And all of this for thirty dollars a night
Double occu-pancy!

Wel-come to Fleck-mans,
We're awfully glad you can stay
Have fun at Fleck-mans
But please remember to pay

Wel-come to Fleck-mans
Where "Whoopee" is the rule
Welcome to Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered POOL

I love America!
And Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool

Okay. There's the brilliance.
The titles consisted of fast cutting of sequences, mostly shot on location at a resort, actually much nicer
than Fleckmans was depicted as.
The intent was to portay chaos and cheesiness.

Whenever we got to the line "Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool", we cut to a sign that said just that.
The original line was "We've got some handball courts", but this resort didn't have any.
But they had volleyball courts, hence the change.

On "We've got a BAR, we used an overhead shot of a table with a mans legs sticking out from under it.
On "And we've got GOLF" we depicted an old duffer trying to hit out of a sand trap, missing the ball and trying to break his club.
On "Have we got FOOD", we cut to a sign that said in large letters "CHOPPED STEAK, and 'SALISBURY STEAK'
Then we cut to the worlds dirtiest, and hoariest kitchen commandeered by an unshaven Victor Buono as the chef.

"Thirty dollars a night" would certainly have to be adjusted for inflation, even for cheesiness.
Yes, I actually rhymed fancy with Double Occu-pancy.
To my knowledge, no one has ever done it before or since.
For good or ill.

On "but please remember to pay", we see guests checking out, a suitcase opening by accident, revealing stolen silverware and hotel towels.
"Where 'Whoopee' is the rule'"----a fistfight breaking out at the ping pong table.

"I love America"------originally, it was "God Bless America", sung with the same notes as Mr. Berlin intended just before "my home sweet home".
When the legal department at CBS spotted it, they nixed it, on the grounds of potential plagiarism, and/or treason.
I just thought it was homage. I altered the notes, just enough to stay out of trouble.
Anyway, on the line, we briefly cut to the American flag on a flagpole waving in the breeze.
The last visual that matched the lyric was Rita attempting to rescue someone drowning in the pool, only to be pulled into the water herself.
I thought it was all quite effective.


I know that as I write, it is still the anniversary of the JFK assassination, and I wanted to write about that today, but I did have unfinished business to take care of.
It's been 47 years.
I guess it can wait one more day.

Manana (It's good enough for me).


Thursday, November 18, 2010

And Then I Wrote......

For my next and last number, I'd like to introduce you to a little ditty entitled "Welcome To Fleckmans".

A little background: Shortly after "Laverne and Shirley hit the airwaves and became this humongous hit, CBS wanted to get, as they say, "into bed" with Lowell Ganz and myself.
See, we, or at least me, were so young, and so dumb, that we actually thought that the industry finally figured out how talented we were.
They didn't figure out anything.
We were in the aura of an humongous hit.
Somebody figured out that we might have had something to do with it, since we shared "Created by" credit, and produced it.
Little did they know how right they were.
So even when they knew something, they didn't know anything.

CBS treated us like royalty.
We did two unsuccessful series for them, and two other unsold pilots.
After that, they treated us like commoners.

But over lunch in the CBS Executive Dining Room during our Royalty Period, the attitude was essentially "Whatever you want to do, we want to do it with you".
And the question was put to us "What star in the wide world would you guys like to work with?

After only a few moments of hesitation, one of us, I forget who, piped up with "Rita Moreno".
And the other quickly agreed.
Rita Moreno had appeared in one of Garry Marshall's failed pilots, which we helped out on.
Onstage, she simply oozed talent and professionalism.
Offstage, she simply oozed humor and charm.

Then they asked us "What kind of show would you like to do with her?
We, of course, had nothing.
We were not prepared for this line of questioning.
We tapdanced a little until one of us, I forget who, recalled that we had wanted to do a series that took place at a Catskill-type Mountain Resort Hotel.
We ad libbed a pitch where Rita was the social director of the place, a rather run-down version of a Catskill resort hotel.
She inherits it when the owner dies, and is faced with being the boss after spending her whole life as an employee
Was she up to the challenge?

CBS lapped up everything we were saying, and gave the go ahead for a pilot.

We had done a series called "Busting Loose" for CBS, which lasted a year, and along the way, did an episode where the five young guys who comprised the "gang" in "Busting Loose" go on a Singles Weekend at the Hotel Fleckman.
This episode was mentioned in my post "The Kid In The Papoose"

So what we basically wanted to do was spin off the set.
We still had the set, so it was easy to do.
We surrounded Rita with very funny people like Louis Nye and Victor Buono.
And creatively, I thought it was quite successful.

We were going to base the stories on Lowell's actual experiences at his grandparents' Mountain Resort, which was called "Mountain View Hotel and Day Camp".
The sign at the entrance read "Mountain View.Hotel and Day Camp. Filtered Pool."
So of course, that's how everyone referred to the place:
"Mountain View Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool".

This gave me a natural hook to the title song.
We changed the name of the hotel to Fleckmans, were going to call the show "Welcome To Fleckmans", and in the song, I was going to repeatedly refer to it as
"Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool."
Because Rita was a Latin from Manhattan, and a Forty-Second Streeter, I decided to give the song a calypso beat.
With soft guitars in the background.
Because of time constraints, a calypso beat proved to be too slow.
We had to speed it up, to the point where it sounded like a TV or radio jingle.
It worked that way, too.
It wasn't until this point that Rita had actually glommed on to what I was trying to do with it.
But, trouper that she was, she put it over in grand style.

I said that today, I was going to introduce you to "Welcome To Fleckmans".
I believe I have fulfilled my duty in that regard.
But after what might seem to be a rather long-winded but necessary setup, I'm going to postpone putting up the actual lyrics until Tuesday, because I still have too much to say about how the song was put together, and how the visuals matched the lyrics.
So if you're still with me on Tuesday, you might want to harken back to today's article as a refresher course.

I hope to see you then.

Next Tuesday (It's Good Enough For Me).


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let's Hear The Brilliance.

I've mentioned before that I have worked with the writer Sheldon Keller.
Sheldon was on Sid Caesars writing staff in the 50's.
The show aired live on Saturday night, and on Monday morning preparations began for next Saturday's show.
And on those Monday mornings, the writers were supposed to be prepared.
To at least have ideas to be tossed out.
And a lot of the times, that's what they were.
Tossed out. By Sid.

According to Sheldon, those meetings would always begin with the writers being assembled in the writers room, Sid then making his grand entrance, sitting down in his throne-like chair, and announcing to one and all:
"Okay, let's hear the brilliance." "Come on, let's shovel out some of that brilliance".
And he expected to be accomodated.
And he usually was.

Recently, I wrote a couple of posts about Stephen Sondheim's new book of his lyrics, in which I patted myself on the back because he agreed with me about several things.
I also mentioned that I myself had dabbled in songwriting for the title songs of some of my TV shows.
This elicited a couple of e-mails, both making the same request, although differing in tone.
One went "I'm very curious about your songwriting. I think it would be nice if you printed the lyrics to the songs you wrote for your TV shows".
The other essentially went "Okay, smarty-pants, if you're such a hotshot, let's see the lyrics that you turned out."
It was a version of "Okay, let's hear the brilliance".

These are two approaches to the same reasonable request.
Quite a while back, I printed the lyrics to a song I wrote that led to winning a college competition when I was 19.
It was called "Horseradish", and can probably be easily found with some Googling.
But by the time I was writing title songs for my TV shows, I had matured.
I'd already reached the ripe old age of 31.

I am going to honor these two requests today and tomorrow by presenting two of my TV title songs for your possible enjoyment.
Presenting lyrics without the music is certainly not the easiest way to accomplish this.
Sondheim had the same problem in his book.
But I will try to be as descriptive as I can to recreate the sense of these songs.

The first is the title song from a pilot I did called "Lovebirds", which was basically an attempt to do an updated version of "The Honeymooners". It involved a blue-collar couple who lived downstairs from a white-collar couple.
It had the tone and the rhythms of "The Honeymooners", and its world famous hostility.
If you do your job conscientiously, you try to match the song to the titles, or the titles to the song.
They are not separate entities.
Unlike "Taxi", for instance, where you saw a taxicab driving over a bridge and heard a piccolo.
That certainly portended what you were going to see.

In the case of "Lovebirds", the song was written first, and the titles were created to match it.

The song has a leisurely up-tempo pace, and was sung by Bobby Van, who is probably best remembered as the host of "Make Me Laugh".
More's the pity. Bobby Van was a great song-and dance man
I thought it was good casting.
I'll try to present the song to approximate its rhythm as accurately as possible, and capitalize words that required particular stress and high notes.
Here goes:

They call us the lovebirds.....
No one's
More in love than us lovebirds......

When you
See us billin' and cooin'
You won't say "What are they doin'?"
You'll know because
We're the never lonely, the two and only
We'll always be lovebirds.....
We're gonna be lovebirds,
Forever more........

Para-keet, Ca-nary, or Dove,
You won't find no bird that's in love
Like us lovebirds, lovebirds,
We adore.......
EACH other we're the lovebirds,
Lovebirds, how sublime......
IT is 'cause we are lovebirds, lovebirds all the time....."

The titles that we matched to the song began with the blue collar couple's wedding, where the bride tossed the bouquet to her friend, the female in the white-collar couple.
Cut to: the White collar couples wedding,
Cut to; much bickering among the four of them, which served as a nice counterpoint for the song.

It wasn't until weeks later that I realized that I had miscast Bobby Van.
He brought a natural sophistication to the lyric.
A lyric that was very colloquial.
It should have been performed by someone who had a sense of relaxed funkiness that would have matched the lyric better.
Someone like Jack Sheldon.
You know, Jack Sheldon. the trumpet player-vocalist who has turned out some wonderful vocal CD's and is probably best remembered vocally as the voice of the Bill on Capitol Hill on "Schoolhouse Rock"
He would have been spectacular.
I don't know if that would have made the difference in the pilot being sold, but it certainly would have improved the packaging.
When I demonstrated the song to the powers that be, I subconsciously was doing Jack Sheldon.
I wish it had reached the conscious level.

Tomorrow, I'll offer up another song and shovel out more of that brilliance.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Dick Cavett Should Speak Up Sooner, Then Shut Up Altogether.

I should warn you up front that in todays post, the rant level will be ramped up significantly.
I will be capitalizing words for loud emphasis.
That's the kind of mood I'm in.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from, inviting me to pre-order Dick Cavett's new book, "Talk Show".
Whenever you order a book from Amazon, they e-mail you to inform you that there are books that you might like based on previous books you've ordered from them.
I like when they do this.

I have read Dick Cavett's blog on the New York Times website since it began.
He writes very well, even though a lot of what he writes there are things he has written in his other books.

Amazon was offering a very good discount on "Talk Show".
So good that it required me to order something else to get the order over $25 to qualify for free shipping.
There was another book that also offered a good discount that sent the order over $25.
So I took a flyer and placed the order, hoping that Cavett wouldn't be repeating himself too often.

The blurb for Cavett's book was:
"Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets."

Now I like confrontations as well as the next guy.
More, even.
And who doesn't like pointed commentary?
Off-Screen Secrets?
I live for them.

I received the e-mail informing me that the order was on its way.
In the interim, I read Cavett's current entry on his N.Y. Times blog.
It's an entire blog devoted to bellyaching about having to go out to the hinterlands to promote this book.
As someone working on turning my blog into a book, I would kill for the opportunity to go wherever necessary to hawk the shit out of my book.
If I wouldn't, I simply wouldn't make the effort to turn it into a book.
In this current entry, he mentions, virtually in passing, that this book is a compilation of his blog articles.
You know.
The ones that I have already read.
And that I'm now paying more than twenty bucks to have in my possession.
A word to Cavett: an off-screen secret can not still be a secret IF IT HAS ALREADY BEEN PUBLISHED!!

So he's complaining about having to promote a book he didn't even have to WRITE.
From the Motion Picture "Boy, He's Got It Tough".

There was no indication on the Amazon page about the book being a compilation of the blog articles.
Nor is there one now.
Now I must make it clear that I don't blame Amazon for any of this.
For two simple reasons: If I get my book published, I don't want to piss them off.
And I don't want any problems with my customer account.

No, I place the blame purely on the little shoulders of Dick Cavett.
I don't care if I piss him off like crazy.
It behooved him early in the process to place the information on the Amazon Page, and on the Borders Page, and on the Barnes and Noble Page that THIS IS A COMPILATION OF ARTICLES I HAVE READ ALREADY!
That MANY people have read already!

I can't believe that I am alone in this dilemma.
I imagine that many of his potential pre-order readers were culled from the people who read his blog regularly.
His blog appears on the N.Y. Times website, where there are many, many readers.

I have now had to deal with Amazon to try to get a refund. They don't provide a customer service number on the website, and you can't access it from Toll Free Information.
It'd been like trying to follow a buried treasure map to find them.
Finally after several jousts, where conflicting information was offered, I was able to return the package.
And of course, I couldn't open the package to retrieve the other book that was in the same box, so I had to return that too, and have to re-order it.
Somewhat of an inconvenience.

If and when I get my book published, I feel that it behooves me to relate to the potential readership that these articles were once published in my blog.
Right on the Amazon page.
Anything less than that smells of chicanery.

I undersand that my complaining about what Cavett did might seem as insignificant as Cavett complaining about having to hawk his book in the hinterlands.
The difference being that if I don't get my refund from Amazon, Dick Cavett owes me twenty four bucks.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sometimes I Don't Affect History.

It's the late 70's.
I'm sitting in my office at Paramount, during my tenure working on one of my one-season wonders, and I receive a letter.
It's from a woman I knew in college named Sue Hyatt.
We hung out in the theater department there.
We weren't close.
But we were close enough that she felt comfortable enough to write to me years later, and I was receptive enough to read her letter.
It contained a request not untypical of the kind of requests I was receiving in those days.
She had a younger brother who was trying to make it as an actor.
Would I be willing to meet with him, and offer him whatever advice I deemed appropriate?
Would I perhaps even give him an audition?
Is it okay if he called you?

I thought to myself that all of this was okay with me.
But for whatever reason that I can no longer recall, I didn't feel the need to respond to Sue.
I guess I thought that if her brother called me, I'd talk to him, advise him, and even audition him.
He never called me, and I guess I'd just completely forgotten about it.
Maybe Sue thought I was just blowing her off.
That wasn't my intention.
I guess I just thought that by my not saying "No", that it was all okay with me.
Maybe I just wasn't thinking.
In any case, I never heard from Sue's brother, so I never talked to him, advised him, or auditioned him.

Cut to: about ten years later.

I'm at the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.
A place I'd been to a lot.
I'd just arrived from L.A.
I'm at baggage claim, waiting for my bags.
I see someone I know, waiting for his bags.
Airports are the easiest places in the world to run into someone you know.
It's a guy I knew in college.
Also from the theater department.
Turns out he does a lot of Audio Video work at concerts and shows in Vegas.
He lives there full time.
We cut up old touches, and chat for a while.
We share a cab to my hotel.
We agree to have dinner that night.
He continues on home in the cab.
Over dinner, he tells me that he currently has a houseguest.
Ron Jeremy.
The pornstar.
Now, everyone who does porn is considered or considers him or herself a pornstar.
Nobody considers him or herself a porn actor.
Certainly not a porn supporting actor, or a porn character actor.
But few of them are genuine pornstars in the traditional sense of the word "star".
Ron Jeremy was a genuine Pornstar.
He was and is legendary.
At least parts of him were and are.
I asked my college chum how he happened to know Ron Jeremy well enough that he was hosting him in his house.
He said "Remember Sue Hyatt?'
I said "Sure."
He said "Ron Jeremy is her younger brother."

Now here's an instance where if I had contacted Sue, and said I'd be delighted to meet with her brother, and advise him, and even audition him, it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference to history.
Because Ron Jeremy was and is one of the worst actors who ever lived.
I would have discovered this if I had auditioned him, and probably would have advised him, as tactfully as I could muster up, to pursue other career paths.
He basically found that solution without my help.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding Gold When You're Not Looking For It.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the relative of a friend, telling me that he had a few of my old rare shows on DVD.
"Rare" in this instance, translates to "flop".
"Flop" doesn't necessarily translate to "bad".
He sent them to me, and they were quite good.
At least I thought so.
He asked me if I had any other "rare" shows of mine on DVD.
I told him that all I had were on Betamax tapes, which I probably don't have anymore, because I didn't have a working Betamax Machine.
But if he finds them, I'd love to get my hands on them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was rummaging upstairs in various rooms, looking for early drafts of scripts I had later drafts of, so I could use the clean backs of them to write my bets on.
That's about all they're good for.
I open a cabinet, and a couple of drawers in it, and find the Mother Lode.
All my old Betamax tapes.
With most of my "rare" shows on them.
And two Betamax machines.

These tapes were now over thirty years old, as were the machines.
And the machines didn't work too well thirty years ago.
But something possessed me to shlep all of it downstairs, hook a machine up to one of my new TVs, and hope for the best.
By the way, these Betamax machines each weighed a ton.
We've made some progress in that regard.

The first machine I tried had the same problem it had thirty years ago.
You couldn't extract a tape from it without using the equivalent of forceps.
And there was a tracking problem.
My hopes were getting dim.
I hooked up the other Beta machine.
The problem on that one used to be that it stopped intermittently.
During recording or playback.
Other than that, it worked fine.
This would preclude my being able to use it successfully.
I put in a tape.
The more than thirty year old tape played fine.
And the machine didn't stop intermittently.
It was working fine, although I didn't know for how long.

I hooked it all up to my two year old DVD recorder, got some blank DVDs, and of course, the two year old DVD recorder kept spitting out the blank DVDs.
We've made no progress in this regard.
The thirty year old Betamax worked fine, the two year old DVD recorder, which I used maybe twice before, was a washout.

This problem was solved when I made a trip to Best Buy, where the first salesman tried to sell me another $300 DVD recorder.
Another salesman sized up the problem and cost the first salesman his commission by suggesting that I buy a $50 DVD recording device that hooks right up to my computer.

As my mother would have said, "$50 is a whole lot better than $300".

And it was.
And it worked fine.
All the Beta tapes worked fine.
I never had the stopping problem with the Betamax machine.
How it cured itself over thirty years, I'll never know.

And I now have about 20 episodes of a series I did called "Busting Loose" on DVD, where I can watch them any time I want to, without any shlepping, and without my heart in my mouth.
I have a handful of episodes of other series: One I did with Ted Knight, and one called
"Makin 'It".
We actually only did a handful of those.
Four episodes of "The New Odd Couple".
I also have a couple of wonderful unsold pilots, and a couple of not-so-wonderful unsold pilots.
All on DVD.
I never thought I'd see any of this stuff again.
When I got done, I laughed like a loon, just the way Walter Huston did as he did his crazy dance when he informed his colleagues that they were standing on gold, and too stupid to realize it, in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

If any of my regular readers are interested in seeing any of this stuff, e-mail me at, and we'll figure out if there's a way to make this happen.

Also, if the actress Barrie Youngfellow, or anyone else connected with a 1979 unsold NBC pilot called "Single Life" wants to get their hands on it, I have that too.
It aired after one of my unsold pilots, and I left the tape rolling.
I Googled it, and there is absolutely no information on it anywhere on the entire Internet.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Bud Selig Is Still An Idiot.

There used to be a thing in baseball called real pennant races.
There is no reason why we can't still have them.
Except for the fact that Bud Selig is an unimaginative idiot.
It's not that I'm anti-Wild Card teams.
Au contraire.
Wild Card Teams are good financially for baseball, and for the fans.
But the way they're determined and not proportionally disadvantaged correctly virtually eliminates what could be great pennant races and playoff showdowns.
And only because Bud Selig is an unimaginative idiot.
The Yankees and Tampa Bay could have ended Sunday's play tied.
Because of a stupid rule instituted by Selig, Tampa Bay was awarded the division, based on the head-to-head competition between the two teams during the season before Tampa Bay's game with Kansas City had ended.
The Tampa Bay-KC Royals game on Sunday was rendered meaningless IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME as soon as the Yankees lost to Boston.
All of this is a LOT more exciting than a one-game tiebreaker that could have taken place yesterday.
Isn't it?
Tampa Bay went on to win the game, giving them the division by one game .
What's that you say? It wouldn't have made much difference because they're both easily in the playoffs anyway?
That's the other problem.
It shouldn't be that easy for the Wild Card team to coast into the playoffs. That's what kills the pennant races.
All that's really at stake is home field advantage.
And there are actually situations where the Wild Card team has at least a temporary home field advantage.
The solution, that would actually provide more money for baseball, and be SO much better for the fans, is SO simple that even an idiot like Selig can understand it.

It's this simple: Add another Wild Card team in each league.
The two Wild Card teams play each other in a one-game playoff at the home field of the team with the better record.
The winner advances to the real playoffs.
If there is a tie between Division leaders at the end of the season, there should be a one-game tie breaker at the home field of the team with the better record between the two teams.
If this system was in place Sunday, a WHOLE LOT would be at stake between the Yankees and Tampa Bay.
There could have been a one-game tie breaker yesterday, and the loser would play the RED SOX in a one game playoff to get in the real playoffs.
The Red Sox and the White Sox were only one game apart at the end, so that would have been a battle too.
So those two teams would still have been in the hunt.
That would have been even better for the fans.
If necessary, that could have been a one game tie breaker.
How great would all THAT have been?
Okay, so the playoffs might start a few days later, at worst.
A small price to pay for genuine fan hysteria.

If this system was in place in the National League, Atlanta and San Diego would have both lived on to play at least one more game.
Without it being in place, the Philadelphia Phillies actually had a rooting interest for themselves to lose on Sunday.
They played Atlanta.
If Atlanta won and San Diego won Sunday, there would be a one game playoff between those two teams.
This would possibly have led to San Diego or the Giants (I'm not sure which) being the Wild Card Team, with one day's less rest, with their pitchers more depleted, having to face the Phillies in the first round of the playoffs.
San Diego lost, so it wasn't an issue. But their game took place after the Phillies-Atlanta game.
And the Phillies had absolutely no need to win that game.
They could have rested almost everybody, and used their September callups from the minor leagues to pitch that game.
This situation should never exist, and wouldn't, if each league had another Wild Card team.

Let's have pennant races again. It's so easy to accomplish.

Bud, imagination is funny.
It makes a cloudy day sunny.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Generation's Mr. Whipple.

Anybody here not old enough to remember Mr. Whipple?
In this case, I envy you your youth.

Mr. Whipple was the guy who ran the supermarket in the 1960's TV commercials where this really annoying woman, to us, and to him, would squeeze the Charmin toilet paper.
Mr. Whipple would admonish her and say "Please don't squeeze the Charmin!"
The woman was actually far more annoying than Mr. Whipple.
These commercials sold more toilet paper than you would at a Diarrhea Convention.
One of the most successful ad campaigns in history.
And easily the most annoying.
It blatantly tried to be funny, and, as the kids say today, was so not.

"Please don't squeeze the Charmin" became a national catchphrase.
It was a turning point of sorts, where advertisers first realized that the more stupid the commercial, the more successful it would be.
Because it appealed to the lowest common denominator.
Never was there a better example of it's mesmerizing powers than when my mother came home from the supermarket with the cart she wheeled, and sitting on top of it were two eight-packs of Charmin.
Now, you've got to understand, my mother virtually never bought ANYTHING if it wasn't on sale. It's part of our heritage.
And the conversation between me and she went as follows:

Me: Ma, Charmin?

She: Uh huh.

Me: It was on sale, right?

She: No.

Me: No?

She: No.

Me: Was any other toilet paper on sale?

She: I think so.

Me: You THINK so?

She: Uh huh.

Me: Ma, why did you buy this?!

She: (Imitating the commercial perfectly) "Please don't squeeze the Charmin".

I thought, "God, imagine the effect this is having on Gentiles!"

We have a new Mr. Whipple in our midst.
Even though there seems to be far more than the seven channels I had when I was growing up,
she seems to be on all of them.
And even though I watch everything on Tivo now, I can't seem to get rid of her.

I'm speaking of Flo, the Progressive Car Insurance Lady.
In the white smock.
Wearing too much lipstick.
Dealing with people with a mixture of concern and mild contempt.
She's everywhere.
She's even showing up on print ads on the Internet.

The Flo commercials aren't really as bad as the Mr. Whipple commercials.
They aren't completely unfunny.
That makes them even worse.
Because they keep being repeated.
And hearing a fairly lame joke that you've heard more than once gets worse with each re-hearing.
My only hope is that some genius at some network decides that it would be a brilliant idea to give the actress who plays Flo a series.
That would isolate her, and I wouldn't have to look at her any more.

The Geico gecko and his dim-witted boss ARE completely unfunny, and give Mr. Whipple a run for his money with regards to annoying.

But these commercials are both for car insurance.
The audience they are being targeted for has to
A- Know how to drive a car, and
B- Know that they have to have car insurance.
So they can't be going for as low a common denominator as the Charmin people.
All their audience has to know is that they have to wipe their asses.

It's kind of like the Republicans going after the Independent vote.
Why the Independent voters aren't coming out in droves for the Democrats is beyond me.
At least Obama and Nancy Pelosi are trying to get things done.
And they are succeeding, as much as the Republicans will let them.
The Republicans don't want to do ANYTHING.
The only thing they are good at is marketing.
They know what idiots their base is made up of.
And they are catered to with great care.
And the Republicans are apparently doing a great job on the Independent voters.
Maybe these voters are, and are perceived as being, just one measly cut above the Republican base.
So they have to be played to as if they at least know how to drive, and know that they need to have car insurance.

Whereas the Republican base needs only to be played to as if they only know how to wipe their asses.

.......and we're walkin! .........and we're walkin'!


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Post That Would Not Die.

A year ago June, I posted an article called "Fine And Danny".
It was essentially a Report Card of "Danny and Sylvia, the Musical".
It is easily the most Googled article I get.
There are apparently a lot of Danny Kaye fans out there.

My review was thoroughly mixed, and fairly long.
But it contained these relatively brief paragraphs:

"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."

What I wrote here was pretty much accepted within show business circles as common knowledge, and was hardly the main thrust of the article.
You can check it out in it's entirety if you care to.

But it engendered a brouhaha in the Comments section that lingers to this day.
It is apparently still ongoing.

I'm going to reprint the Comments section of that article to save you the trouble of hunting for it.
Please note that I removed four exchanges that I deemed too personal and/or ugly for public consumption.

Stef said...
"He was entirely a lie."For me, this sort of thing always begs the question: if what I want out of a performer is a good performance, why should I care about how much of a sonovabitch he is? I usually avoid tabloids and such that will take delight in telling me of celebrity pecadillos and foibles. Wouldn't knowing stuff like that undermine my enjoyment of their performance? Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine are now both dead, but his performances of her songs live on, and can still be enjoyed, and maybe discovered by new audiences yet unborn. Unless some spoilsport comes along and says, "See that guy up on the screen? He was shmuck and a putz!" [Not you, dear Mark. Some spoilsport sitting in a movie house revival, I mean.]
June 12, 2009 11:31 PM

Stef said...
[And kicking the seats.]
June 12, 2009 11:32 PM

mark rothman said...
In this case, I am simply cursed with too much knowledge to enjoy him anymore.
Some performers survive this kind of exposure better than others.
To me, he doesn't.
And I'm not the first one to stand up and say that the King is naked.
He did it himself in "The Emperor's New Clothes", in Hans Christian Andersen".
June 13, 2009 3:18 PM

Kirk Jusko said...
In a similar vein, I'm going to have a difficult time listening to any song--no matter how good--that Phil Spector had something to do with.
June 13, 2009 4:26 PM

Joe said...
As much as I'd like to be above-it-all, once someone is revealed to me to be a schmuck and a putz I can't enjoy the performance. Not that it's my particularly noble nature at play, I simply can't rise above how much of a lowlife Person X is.[shrug]I never knew that Danny Kaye was an awful guy, but now I won't be able to see him in any other light.
June 16, 2009 8:49 PM

Anonymous said...
Sad it is to see how years and decades of somebody's life and work turn into rubbish as easy as that, only because of somebody's "wise" remark that they are a schmuck and putz. I wonder how you would react if ever the same sort of thing should be said about you and you find yourselves in a hell of a lot of mess ?
March 5, 2010 10:06 AM

mark rothman said...
This wasn't just somebody's "wise" remark.
This is a consensus of many "wise" remarks from many different sources.
March 5, 2010 1:35 PM

Anonymous said...
OK, but no matter how many - don't you think that much more numerous will be the ones who do not share this opinion (unfortunately the bulk of these - his contemporaries I mean - are dead by now, so that the "wise" remarks somehow keep coming from the much younger smart alecks who hardly knew Danny as a person) ? Don't get me wrong, I respect everybody's freedom of speech, but it seems all the negative arguments featured here totally lack substantiation, and Danny Kaye in fact deserves better treatment and more respect...
March 6, 2010 2:46 PM

mark rothman said...
Specific sources: Martin Gottfried's biography of Danny Kaye, Paul Mazursky's autobiography.
Paul Mazursky worked as a writer on Danny Kaye'sTV variety show, and witnessed shmuck and putz events first hand.
I knew Alan King, who talked about how he was performing in a nightclub and Danny Kaye sat with his back to him as he ate his dinner.
King eventually called him on it, and Kaye had no memory of it.
There is smoke and fire.
I know of no one who knew him who thought he was a doll.
How much more substantiation do you need?
I know you live in Russia, and Kaye made hay singing about Russian composers.
So maybe you hold him in unnecessarily higher regard (He said, jokingly.).
I'm not trying to convert you, but the case I'm making is a legitimate one.
I have no axe to grind about him personally, only about the show about him.
March 8, 2010 9:32 AM

Barbara said...
I have to comment here as one who can see his performances and not be affected by his personal life. One, because his personal life does not affect me. Two, many, many performers are charmers on camera and assholes off camera. I can name MANY.But lastly, I understand that this affected you profoundly, but by repeating the stories, you ruin the performances for many who see them, or have yet to see them. Even if 200 people proved that he was an asshole in real life, that DOES NOT diminish the remarkable talent he PROVED over and over, nor does it diminish his ample humanitarian efforts.To continue to drag a fantastic career in the mud after the man has been dead 24 years does service to no one.Yes, I hold Danny Kaye in higher regard BECAUSE of his talent, not his personal life. I cried when he died, and I cry for no celebrity.As for the show, I saw it and thought it was awful. The actor playing Danny had no personality at all, he just mugged, sang flatly and moved stiffly; they cut the Sylvia part to almost nothing, making her a one-dimensional character. It's a pared down show from the "full length" show he did four years ago, and it got horrible reviews as well. Should you fix it? Hell yes. Get new actors and rewrite the whole damned thing. It was terrible.
March 16, 2010 10:36 PM

mark rothman said...
Well, we half agree about the show.
Maybe most people are like you, and won't have his performances ruined by what I say.
There are far more people who have access to his performances than read my blog.
He was enormously talented, but his public persona simply didn't jive with his private one, and in this case, it got in my way.
It doesn't have to get in anyone else's way.
Al Jolson was, by all reports, a major egotist and asshole, and his radio and movie persona merely enforced this, and it did him no harm.
Yet, "The Jolson Story", a work of complete fiction, portrays him as being completely charming in private.
And I'm a complete sucker for it whenever it's on.
So who knows how people will be affected by anything?
Particularly about what I write.
March 17, 2010 2:59 AM

Barbara said...
The whole point of my post was this: Why does it matter? We pay to see a performance, not a personal life. Your opinion, whether you regard it as far-reaching or not, affected a couple of people in your comments section alone. I found your blog on a random search of Danny Kaye. The internet is endless. Your words are there forever, affecting the judgment of a mans performance based on his personal life.All I require from a performer is a performance. That should be all that is required.
March 17, 2010 1:28 PM

mark rothman said...
I think it depends on what the performer is selling.
But that's only my opinion.
And as you see, it is shared by others.
April 8, 2010 12:38 PM

Barbara said...
Yeah, two people you told this to. Three supported my opinion.
April 26, 2010 4:06 PM

mark rothman said...
Yup. It's a landslide.
April 26, 2010 7:22 PM

Anonymous said...
I am a Danny Kaye fan. I have been for 30 years. I had a bad crash on him and I used to think him a cross between a saint and a hero. Then I read his biography and I went completely off him ... for a while. Soon, I had to admit that, whatever else he was, he was a person who has marked me and will always mean a lot to me. He was not a saint but he was not a monster either. He was complex and difficult and troubled but he was still a genius in many fields and in the course of his stormy life he has offered a lot to his fellow human beings. Something that people with less emotional baggage haven't done. No one has matched, for example, his contribution to UNICEF. I still love Danny Kaye. Not as a hero, but as a human being who has lived his life as fully and as best he could. Someone who struggled with his demons like we all do. And I miss him enormously.
April 30, 2010 2:41 PM

mark rothman said...
You know, I'm not as anti-Danny Kaye as you seem to make me out to be.
And you seem to only know me from this article.
There are more than 200 others on this blog to be read, and I'm getting a little tired of arguing about this one.
Why don't you read some of the others and we can argue about them.
I like arguing in general.
I'm just worn out with this one.
May 10, 2010 7:40 AM

Barbara said...
So basically, you're saying that you're not willing to stand behind your statements? That you're tired of defending your position? Figures.
June 2, 2010 6:24 PM

mark rothman said...
Barbara, you just can't seem to let this go, can you.
There is no reason to be what you accuse me of being, which is judgemental.
And in your case, in a rather snotty way.
There is nothing inconsistent about what I have said.
Danny Kaye was enormously talented.
I never said he wasn't.
Apparently I don't adore him like you do.
The reports on his personal life have affected MY enjoyment of those talents.
Some personas can handle it easier than others.
Some agree with me about this. Some don't.
That was my ONLY point.
I'm not prostheletizing, and yes, I'm tired of defending my position, because I'm not really that adamant about it.
I considered this a very minor point in the article when I first posted it.
Ask yourself honestly which one of us is more objective about this matter.

August 1, 2010 2:28 PM


I don't know when or if this will ever end.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Observing My First Turf War.

Most people my age observed their first turf war up close in the movie "The Godfather".
But that was fiction.

The first turf war I witnessed close up took place years before "The Godfather", and in reality.

I was in my early teens, and lived in a garden apartment in Bellerose, Queens.
This was the early sixties.

We were a good mile away from the nearest shopping area.
Too far to walk.
Not too far to take a bicycle, as when my mother made me ride my bike to the Cracker Barrel Supermarket in my notorious trek to purchase her boxes of Kotex tampons.when I was 14 and had no idea what they were.

We were mostly one-car families, and the men took the cars to go to work.
The women stayed home.
And the less-creative-women-than-my-mother rightly considered themselves stranded when it came to food shopping. They usually had to wait until the weekend to take the car and go to the supermarket.

Some enterprising companies took advantage of this situation by providing trucks that would come to these neighborhoods offering up baked goods.

In these instances, there were invariably the quality trucks, offered by a company called Dugans. Great cupcakes.
And it's considerably inferior knockoff, Krugs. Great nothing.

The Krugs drivers usually made it their business to get to our street before the Dugans drivers, knowing that they had an inferior product, but looking to satisfy the uncontrollable baked goods Jones of women who couldn't wait for the Dugans truck.
Krugs barely made a dent in Dugans business, and gradually folded it's tent, leaving the field exclusively to Dugans.
So, no turf war there.

Just the other day, passing in front of my house in Michigan, was an ice cream truck.
An old-fashioned ice cream truck.
Where all the ice cream was pulled out of the freezer by the proprietor and sold to kids.

Just like the old Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks when I was a kid.
I didn't know that any ice cream trucks were still in existence.
I don't know if Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks are still in existence.

But again, for kids who had no other access to ice cream during the week, the daily appearance of Hank, our local Good Humor Man, and a man of extremely good humor, ringing them bells, sent kids begging for dimes from their mothers to go get Hank's variety of treats that he pulled from the freezer.
I tended to think of Good Humor as rather ersatz ice cream, preferring to wait for my mother's weekend sojourns so she could bring home the real deal like Breyer's Premium Ice Cream to sit in the freezer.
My sister, having been previously established as having no taste, was somewhat of a slave to Hank.
She adored Hank.
My sister had been in a minor auto accident where she bumped her head on the windshield, due of course by my mother's incompetence behind the wheel.
Hank knew about this and regularly asked my sister how she was doing with her head.
My sister was touched by Hank's attention.

Hank did have some minor competition from a company called Bungalow Bar, which was a cheesy and even more ersatz version of Good Humor.
And the Bungalow Bar driver, much like the Krug's driver, made sure he got there before Hank, to get those kids who just couldn't wait.
Bungalow Bar was not even the slightest threat to Hank.
So no turf war there.

Then one day, in about 1962, it all changed.

Out of the blue, a truck showed up on our street, ringing a large, loud electric bell.
A much bigger truck.
And the driver, aside from driving it, was also inside of it, providing things that you couldn't just pull out of the freezer.
Soft ice cream cones that you actually saw him make, Sundaes, Shakes, Malts, Floats.....
It was a veritable Dairy Queen on wheels.
It was called Mister Softee.
There was nothing ersatz about Mister Softee.
It was the real deal.
It was great.
I onced asked the Mister Softee proprietor what his name was.
He told me it was Irving.
From that moment on, he was known to me, and called by every other kid, "Irving Softee".
A rather unpleasant man, he did not take well to this.

Irving essentially left Hank in the dust.
Hank's business suffered a severe setback, no matter how much good will he had generated.
As much as my sister loved Hank, she also left him in the dust and made the irreversable crossover to Mister Softee.
She had at least enough taste to realize that Mister Softee was a far superior product.
Sometimes food takes precedence over caring.

It all culminated one afternoon when Hank and Irving showed up simultaneously on our street.
Hank, a burly, large gentile, looked at Irving, a short, shrimpy Jew, thought he had the measure of him, and I guess out of frustration, challenged him to a fistfight.
In front of all of the kids.
This certainly upset the kids.
It was kind of like watching two clowns beating each other up at the circus.

The fight began, and Irving, quickly, and with dispatch, summarily beat the crap, the living daylights, out of Hank.
I would have taken odds that it would have gone the other way, and I would have lost my shirt.

Apparently Hank was losing his shirt trying to compete with Irving, and pretty soon, Hank was just a memory.
Poor Hank.
Even if he would have won the battle, he was going to lose the war.

This, perhaps more than anything else I've experienced, prepared me for adulthood.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Helen Thomas And Her Mouth.

I think I'm going to be as alone on this one as I probably am about yesterday's post about Garralaga's perfect game.
What I say might even alienate people.
Even my loyal readers.
But it's what I believe.
Here goes:

I think Helen Thomas had no right to say what she said about how the Jews should leave Israel, and that it was inexcusable for her to say it.

I said it, and I'm glad.
It's now out in the open.

What? This isn't so shocking?
How about this?
I think what she said was right.
Not the part about them moving back to Germany, but the rest of it.
I just think that she had no right to say it.

I have the right to say it.

Why me, and not she?

Because I am a Jew, and she is not.

She is of Lebanese extraction, and that colors what she says.

It's very much akin to the fact that it's okay for black people to use the "N" word with each other, but not okay for white people to use it under any circumstances.
I get that.
So from now on I'll simply refer to my people as the "J" word.
Or Doctor "J".
A lot of us are doctors anyway.

Why do I think that what she said was right?
Because I, myself, have been saying it for years and years.
To anyone who would listen.
And I've been very specific about it.
I've said "You know what would solve the Middle East Problems? If we moved Israel.
We've always been very supportive of Israel, but with all our support, we haven't been able to help them very much.
As long as we're in a continual Helping Mode, why don't we do something that will really help them?
Why don't we offer all Israelis the opportunity to establish their homeland on the West Coast of Florida, to form their own country on land approximately the same size as Israel?
Who's going to bother them there?
Besides, there are already a whole lot of "J"s there already.
They won't even have to assimilate.
Give them each a First Class ticket to come here, which they could cash in for a coach ticket.
We'd all be way ahead of the game."

The plan still looks good to me, except I'd probably change the location, what with the oil spilling and all down there.
All right then, maybe Jersey.
How about Jersey?
There's lots of "J"s there too.
So the ocean will be on the other side.
A lot of "J"s who moved from New York to L.A. had the same problem about the ocean.
And they were able to deal with it.
To get to the beach in Jersey, you just make a right instead of a left .
How about just below Route 9 on the Jersey Turnpike?
Lovely farmland.
We can even let them collect the tolls.
That ought to seal the deal.

See? I think I can do these ethnic slur jokes because I am Doctor "J".
Not like Helen Thomas.

I know that there's a problem with this scenario.
You think I don't know?
I know.
Israel, where it is, is considered the Holy Land.
It's where the Wailing Wall is.

You know what?
You build a new one.
Where you can wail in peace.

How do we really know if it is, in fact, the Holy Land?
Just because it says so in the Old Testament?
To quote Mr. Mercer, to illustrate my last remark----
Jonah in the whale.
Noah and the Ark.
It says that too.
Who believes it?
Who's to say we're not just cherry-picking about what to believe from the Old Testament?
This is worth risking life and limb over?
Excuse me. I just lapsed into my Jackie Mason impression.

To me, there was only one place that I know was Holy.
I didn't have to look it up.
The old Yankee Stadium.
Now THAT was hallowed ground.
After having it for about twenty five years more than the Jews had Israel, they tore it down.
And you know what?
After about six months, I got over it.
This new Yankee Stadium is just as Holy to me now as the old one was.

You just have to be willing to adjust.
You just have to not be a slave to your religion.

It's the classic example of how Religion leads to nothing but War.
And how more wars are started more by Religion, and Oil, than anything else.

And that's what all the entire Middle East wars have been about.
And will always be about.
It's those two things.
Religion and Oil.
And it's been unsolvable.
This solves both problems in one fell swoop.
That's why you give them the land below Route 9.
Away from the refineries around Route 13.
See? I've applied a lot of serious thought to this.
I'm just offering what I consider a reasonable way towards peace in our time.
At least in the Middle East.

Now, obviously, I'm not your hardcore orthodox regular synagogue attendee.
Maybe if I was, what I'm saying might hit me as sacrilege.
I'm sure it hits some of you as sacrilege.
But I'm the kind of "J" who is very proud of my heritage, and have absolutely no use for any of it's religious rules.
I attribute this, as I do most things, to my upbringing.

I had a mother who preached abstinence from bread during Passover, leaving us no choice but matzoh, yet she kept a fresh loaf of Wonder Bread stashed in the breadbox.
There used to be a thing called a breadbox.
And that loaf of Wonder Bread kept dwindling throughout Passover, without my sister or I touching it.
I had a mother who forced my sister and I to sing Chanukah songs every year when we lit the Menorah.
And she'd want them sung "Out loud, and with expression!"
She actually had the lyrics to all of them mimeographed.
One year, knowing where they were stashed, we hid them.
She found them.
She had radar, or something.
And we ended up singing, as usual.

This tradition ended the year my sister's hair caught on fire from the lit Menorah candles.
As we were singing "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel".

My mother made me start Hebrew School a year earlier than all of my contemporaries.
Just to please my grandmother.
Not to please me.
The Hebrew School was ill-prepared to deal with this.
They didn't know what to do with me the second year.
So I took the first year over again.
That was the best they were able to come up with.
Perhaps that was the beginning of my ongoing low-boredom threshold.
So, as you can see, it was forced down our throats.
My sister and I have had a grand total of three marriages.
All to non-"J"s.

So those are my thoughts, and I think I'm free to express them, as foul as you might think they are..
Because I'm still Doctor "J".
And Helen Thomas is not.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Thanks For The Memories.

I don't usually like to indulge in piling on, and I'm not really enjoying it now, but I feel I must join in the chorus of people who have stated out loud that Jay Leno really tanked at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday Night.
It's not so much THAT he tanked.
It's the WAY he tanked.

I've noticed over the last few years that Jay has slowly morphed into Bob Hope.

Now, is becoming Bob Hope necessarily the worst thing in the world?
Not if you are talking about the pre-1960's Bob Hope, when Hope was quite wonderful.
But some time beginning around 1963, when he made "Call Me Bwana" and I'll Take Sweden", and those movies with Phyllis Diller, all bets were off.
His periodic TV specials were the height of laziness.
You could see him reading the cue cards in his monologues.
And he did topical humor that was squeaky safe.
I plan to write more about Bob Hope in general in the near future.

But this latter-day Bob Hope is the one that Jay Leno has completely morphed into.
The White House Correspondents' Dinner was the icing on the cake.
The material was the lamest I'd ever seen him attempt.
Very much in the latter-day Hope tradition.
He was blatantly reading from index cards.
Even on the Tonight Show, he did a much better job of not making you think he was reading the cue cards.
Although I don't know if that's still true.
I haven't seen the Tonight Show since he returned to it.
Not because I have an attitude.
Just because I have a lack of interest.
Instilled upon me by his excursion into Primetime.

Boy, when Leno first started out, he was brilliant.
I used to see him regularly in the 70's at the Comedy Store and the Improv, in his typical motorcycle jackets.
He was always devastating and totally cutting edge.

The beginning of the end was when they made him start wearing suits that actually looked good on him.

I'd never really seen Leno bomb before Saturday Night.
And you knew he knew he was bombing.
And he wasn't gracious about it.
It's the first time I'd seen him not be gracious.
He blamed the audience.
There seemed to be mutual hostility.
It must have been really embarrassing for him to be upstaged by that highly seasoned, much better prepared comedian, President Obama.

The older Hope got, the more rigid he seemed to be about his work habits.
He'd always surrounded himself by a plethora of writers, commandeering the writing table, being a very good editor of material, and gradually accepting weaker and weaker jokes.
He also was never home.
If there was a gig anywhere, he was there.

This is now the total definitive description of Leno.
The morphing is now complete.

I've mentioned before that in personal encounters with me, he was nothing but charming and personable.
But maybe I've only seen one side of him.

I saw Conan's interview Sunday on "60 Minutes".
There was a strong implication that Conan thinks Jay campaigned to get the Tonight Show back,
which is contrary to what Jay implied to Oprah.
I don't know who to believe.
But I DO know that Jay was found hiding in a closet, eavesdropping on the meetings determining whether he or Letterman was going to get the Tonight Show originally.

With very little to go on, I suspect that this is something that Bob Hope would do.
At least the latter-day Bob Hope.

But I'm only guessing.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Funny Divorces.

Who'd a thunk it?

Who'd a thunk that an actress with her own share of tattoos, who went on TV many years ago to enthusiastically promote a godawful movie that she starred in that she must have known was godawful, "Two If By Sea", making her a complete whore, who later on in life marries a guy covered with tattoos, including those of the Swastika variety, and surprise, surprise, he gets caught cheating on her, who'd a thunk she'd be considered "America's Sweetheart"?

Who'd a thunk it?

Because she won an Oscar?

Lots o' women have won Oscars.

Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar.

I don't recall anyone calling her "America's Sweetheart".

And again, people are asking the wrong question: "Why on earth did he marry her?"

Yeah. Right. Nobody ever marries up.
And yes, Jesse James marrying Sandra Bullock IS marrying up.
It's a close call, but it's still marrying up.

And again, I don't hear anyone asking "Why on earth did she marry him"?

Two reasons: 1) She is the aforementioned tattooed whore herself. And......
2) To quote a Playboy Cartoon I remember from the 60's, where a young man brings his prospective bride home to meet his parents, and the "bride" is the ultimate floozy hooker, wearing a sandwich-board that reads, in big, bold letters: " $5!!!! Come and get it!!!!!",
the boy's father, seated on the couch next to the boy's mother, says, in the caption, quite understatedly, "You're blinded by love, son".

So "America's Sweetheart" was blinded by love.

It could happen to anybody.

You can still legitimately ask "What the hell was she thinking?"

But to feel sorry for her?

I can't.
I'm a Jew.
She married someone with Swastika tattoos.
It wasn't "I'll marry you if you get rid of the Swastika tattoos."
She took him as he was.
And he turned out to be someone who cheated on her with someone with even more Swastika tattoos than he.

But at least he'll be "Cured" by going to rehab. Right.
I hear no apologies to my Tribe from her.

Forgive me, but my sympathies lie elsewhere.
They both deserve whatever they get.
Including each other.

This divorce is much more Funny Peculiar than Funny Ha Ha.

I'm just sayin'.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Funny Divorces.

Who'd a thunk it?

A 65 year old wealthy major TV star, not known for his looks, having been married six previous times, mostly if not totally to trophy wives, marries for a seventh time, to a 38 year old trophy wife.

And it lasts TWELVE YEARS!

Who'd a thunk it?

People are actually asking how they could possibly be getting divorced.

This, I won't even consider.

How it lasted more than six months is the shocking thing.

People are also asking how he could even consider marrying her in the first place.

Those people who are asking that, come closer to the screen...........

Okay. Good. Here's the answer:


People are what they are. Larry King is a serial marrier.
Does anybody think this will actually be his last marriage?

Larry King knows what he is.
He knows why he is attractive to women.
It's not his dimples.
How well would this man do with women if he was an accountant?

He knows his options. Marry gold-diggers, or spend lots o' time with hookers.
Or both.
Maybe they're one and the same.

I never hear anyone question why his wife Shawn married him.
We all seem to know.
Of course there was no pre-nup.
Ya think she'd marry him with a pre-nup?
Don't ya think he knows she knows she wouldn't marry him with a pre-nup?
And of course, Shawn now wants everything that isn't nailed down.
You know the old joke: " We know what you are, now we're just haggling over price."

They both filed for divorce claiming infidelity on the other's part.
There's a shock.
Yeah. He's enough to satisfy her.
Yeah. She can probably still stomach him.
Yeah. He's never had a roving eye.

I listened to the audiobook of Larry King's latest autobiography.
It is filled with interjected testimonials from family, friends, and particularly, his soon to be ex-wife.
They all couldn't be more lauditory. Particularly from Shawn.
So I'm thinking, "Maybe this one is different"
Now, I'm just giggling.

Why she's hassling him over child custody is the only real question here.
From all reports, he's a wonderful father. you suppose? Do you think maybe, just maybe, she might be using the kids as a bargaining chit?

So where's Gloria Allred during all this?
Isn't there a women's rights issue that she can find? That must have a role somewhere in all of this, don't ya think?.
You'd think this would be right up her alley. I mean, she's already been representing hookers in the Tiger Woods case.

Where is she? In hiding. That's where she is.
That's all she needs. To piss off Larry King.
And give her one less major outlet for her to mouthe off on National Television.

Maybe these are just two crazy kids having a rough patch.
Maybe they can smoothe things out.
I certainly hope so.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Second Sign Of Spring.

The first sign of spring is when you move the clocks ahead an hour.
At least around here.
You'd think it would be when there are little buds on the trees.
But here in Michigan, that hasn't happened yet.
It's just been too friggin' cold.

So it's the clocks.

The second sign of spring starts today, with the opening round of "March Madness".
64 college basketball teams play each other over the next two days.

Actually, technically, that second sign of spring started on Tuesday, when two teams you never heard of played each other for the privilege of becoming the 64th team.
You know. The one that's going to lose to Duke.
Duke is the number one seed in their division, of which there are four.
And this other team, the 16th seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff will be losing to them.

I say this with relative certainty because no 16th seeded team has EVER beaten a number one seeded team.
In the history of the NCAA tournament.
Which has had a pretty long history.
Longer than I have.
And for me, that second sign really didn't begin on Tuesday because even though I had a bet down on it, I forgot it was on, and forgot to watch it.

So as far as I'm concerned, today is the official second sign of spring.

I always get totally immersed in the March Madness.
And I haven't watched one college basketball game all year.
Because the entire season is all about who's going to get into this tournament.
I don't need the preliminaries.
I guess this makes me not a purist.

I haven't been totally immersed in any sport since the Super Bowl.
I haven't watched any Pro Basketball either.
Except for the NBA All-Star Game.
For the same reason.
The NBA's entire season is about who's going to be in the playoffs.
And far too many teams do.
I'll catch up to the NBA when the playoffs start.

I don't watch hockey.
I think there are too many rules.
I mean, who really gives a crap whether or not your teammate has crossed the blue line before you do when you have the puck?
When that happens, it stops the action.
People who support this rule say that abolishing it would lead to too much scoring.
Too much scoring?
Most hockey games end in scores like two to one.
Hockey cries out for more scoring.

So what all this basically means is that I've just about been completely out of action betting-wise for about a good month and a half.
This is the longest stretch I go through all year.
It's what Shakespeare meant by the "Winter of our discontent".
Mine, anyway.

With my short term memory failing me rapidly anyway, I've had to go back and recover my account numbers and passwords from my Internet Sportsbetting Websites.
A whole friggin' month and a half.

The NCAA tournament is quite perfect.
Unlike college football, where they play all these bowl games and half the time you still have to guess at who the real champion is.
The NCAA tournament starts out with all these teams, and they play each other, eliminate each other, and one of them emerges the winner.
On neutral courts.
Fair and square.
And CBS's coverage is usually quite excellent.
No, you don't get to see all of the games in their entirety.
But would you really want to see 32 complete games over two days?
And 16 more over the next two?
The way CBS does it, unless you are a real fanatic, you don't really miss anything.

So March Madness has put a spring in my step, and turned a middle-aged man's fancy into wagering.

And it means that baseball, where I WOULD want to see 32 complete games over any two days, is just around the corner.

Go, Arkansas -Pine Bluff and 23 points!!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You Asked for It, I Got It, Toyota.

Okay. I think I've got all the fixes for Toyota's problems.

This was a concept originally offered by my friend Larry Miller.
But not applying to Toyota, and without several embellishments that I am about to add.
I don't think he'd mind if I appropriate some of what he said.

First, fix the Goddamn Brake System, and any other problems you might know about.

Second, go to GM and offer to buy the rights to the name "Bel-Air", and the blueprints for the
1957 Chevy Bel-Air Body by Fisher.
Easily the coolest looking car that's ever literally come down the pike.
I would never underestimate cool.
GM needs every dollar it can get it's hands on.
You can probably get the rights for a couple of choruses of anything.

Third, sell Toyota to yourself and change it's name to "Bel-Air"

I mentioned in a recent post about what an extraordinary age we live in.
What's not so extraordinary about this age is how every car on the road looks like every other car.
Without that little thing on your keyring that you push to make your car make noise and light up, it's very difficult to find your car in a parking lot.

When I was three years old, my parents used to put me through this little parlor trick on the street where a car would pass by and I would shout out the year, make, and model of said car.
My parents' friends thought I was some sort of car prodigy.
I really wasn't.
I think any three year old could do it.
Because in 1951, every car had it's own distinctive look.
All you needed to perform the parlor trick was eyes.
And at three, I was quite nearsighted and wore glasses.

Nowadays, my corrected vision is 20/20 and I can't tell one car from another.
And it's not just me.
Nobody can.
These cars may be a whole lot safer (except these days, Toyotas) but they sure are undistinguished.
And they all look like compact cars, whether they are or not.
And none of them look as cool (at least to Americans) as the '57 Bel-Air.

Fourth, start mass-producing, using today's safety standards, cars that all look like 1957 Chevy Bel-Airs.

Fifth, Make a lot of convertibles. I miss them. I think everybody does.

Sixth, make them all electric cars.
Enough of this hybrid stuff.
The technology is already here.
Price them as reasonably as possible, and emphasize the savings from not having to lay out a penny for gasoline.

I think they'd sell like the proverbial hotcakes.

Sixth, as you're ready to start selling them, take out a lot of ads on Fox News.
It's been proven that the people who watch that will buy anything.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Discovery Leads To Another. Part Three.

Current background noise as I am writing: "Charles Nelson Reilly and Carol Channing singing "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from "Hello Dolly!"

So seeing David Engel performing "What Causes That", from "Crazy For You" on YouTube caused me to seek out other pieces of YouTube on David Engel.

And it turns out that there is a vast menu.
There is a performance reel, broken down into three parts: Songs, Dance, and Scenes.

I already knew, from seeing him in "Forever Plaid", that he could sing and act great.
But it was that " Dance" reel that absolutely stunned me.
There was no real dancing in "Forever Plaid".
That he was also one of the best dancers I had ever seen was a complete surprise.
This makes him an absolute Triple Threat.
The kind of reputation that Sammy Davis had, but didn't deserve as much as David.

I'm talking "best dancers" in the Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly tradition.
Jazz, Ballroom, and, especially, Tap.
This is not just a hoofer.
This is an artist.

To prove his dancing chops and his creativity, he does this thing in concert where in the background you see Gene Kelly performing "Singing In The Rain" in the movie, and in the foreground, you see and hear David singing the number and matching Kelly move for move.
It is absolutely incredible.
He does the same thing and is equally adept matching Fred Astaire in "Shoes With Wings On", from the movie "The Barkeleys of Broadway".
I don't think there is another living soul who could pull this off.

That slapping sound you might be hearing now is me patting myself on the back for my being so right about him to begin with.

Then, I found clips of a 2009 Los Angeles Benefit Concert in tribute to George and Ira Gershwin (my third Ira Gershwin reference in three days).
It was David re-teaming with the "Forever Plaid" cast, doing some very funny, outrageous versions of Gershwin classics.
There were others performing as well.
Mostly people who were actually linked romantically in life as couples.
The finale was the entire cast singing "Our Love Is Here To Stay", with each couple taking turns talking about their love for each other.
When it was David's turn, he and Larry Raben, one of the other original cast members of "Forever Plaid", spoke about how they were recently married to each other, apparently just getting in under the wire before gay marriage was legally banned in California.
It was quite touching.
And I was quite pleased that they had beaten the system.

I have since communicated with David, and have learned that making a life for himself in Los Angeles, where he is very happy and works constantly, is far more important to him than being the biggest star on Broadway.
Finally, somebody who has his priorities in order.

For those of you lucky enough to be in the Los Angeles area this weekend, David will be appearing in concert with a young lady named Tami Tappan in a two person show entitled
"A Fine Romance", at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, in Long Beach, on Sunday evening, March 14th. Dinner at 5pm. The show at 7pm.
You can phone 562-856-1999, X4, for reservations.

If I was in L.A. this weekend, I know where I'd be.

....oh, now they're playing "I Love A Cop", from "Fiorello".

Gee, that's nice.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Discovery Leads To Another, Part Two.

This is really quite an extraordinary age we live in.
What with satellites, computers, and IPhones, we can essentially take a shortcut through life.

Everything that used to require at least a trip to the library, where you usually couldn't find what you were looking for anyway, is now at your fingertips on the Internet.
It has caused me to get reacquainted with people I knew forty years ago just by one of us making a mere pass at it.
This blog has enabled me to reach people I never thought I'd reach, and enabled them to find me.
Whenever I actually sit down and write the entries for the blog, the background noise of choice for me is Sirius Radio's Broadway Channel, which I get from my Satellite TV.
That's another thing we have now. Radio on TV.
I've got it on now.
The Original Cast of "West Side Story" singing "Gee, Officer Krupke".

Yesterday, I mentioned that I believe I'm one of the five most knowledgeable heterosexuals about Musical Theatre.
The Broadway Channel certainly helps me keep current.
It has also pointed out to me that there are gaps in my knowledge.

There are a couple of shows that I deliberately kept off my radar, and never attempted to see.
They both have music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. (My second Ira Gershwin reference in two days)
Don't get me wrong. I love a Gershwin tune (How about you?).
But I guess I had a prejudice about the two shows that each took a slew of Gershwin songs used in other shows and fashioned new books around them: "My One And Only", and "Crazy For You".
I was put off by the concept. I've been a purist, I guess.
I like the songs to emanate from the book.
This seemed backwards to me.
Looking back on it, I think I blew it.
The bookwriters for those two shows were Peter Stone for one, and Ken Ludwig for the other.
Both experts in their field.
Both shows were probably great.

So I'm sitting writing the blog one night a few weeks ago with the Broadway Channel on, and I hear a song that I never heard before:
A duet between what sounds like two Chassidic Jews called "What Causes That".
An up-tempo, bouncy, clever song that is charming my pants off as I'm writing.
The only show I know that has Chassidic Jews is "Fiddler".
I know it ain't from that.
So I look up at the screen, and it says "What Causes That, Crazy For You".
The satellite gives you a lot of help.
So I know that it's Gershwin, and I thought that I knew all of Gershwin.
Turns out that I didn't.
So I do an Internet search to find out where this song was originally done.
Within minutes I learn that it came from a 1928 flop called "Treasure Girl".
Michael Feinstein was Ira Gershwin's archivist, and discovered it in a trunk.
It wasn't published or recorded until they did "Crazy For You".
In 1928, it was performed by Clifton Webb.
Probably without a Yiddish accent.
This was a big week for Clifton Webb entering my head.
After seeing "Present Laughter", I went to the IBDB website to see who starred in the original Broadway production in 1946. It was Clifton Webb.
Prior to that week, probably the last time Clifton Webb entered my head was when I saw
"Mr. Belvedere Rings The Bell" on TV about 25 years ago.

So now I go to YouTube to see if there are any performances of "What Causes That".
And there, smaller than life, was David Engel.
Those YouTube screens aren't very big.
You pretty much have to squint to see people's faces on it.

You know. David Engel. From yesterday.
There was a three minute scene leading up to the song, between David and another actor.
They looked exactly alike.
It approximated the "Mirror Scene" in the Marx Brothers comedy, "Duck Soup", and was very funny.
David and the other actor LOOKED exactly alike, but it was easy to determine which one was David.
Because he oozed personality.
The other actor didn't ooze.
David completely blew the other actor off that little screen.
And he completely blew me away.
This led me to seek out other YouTube entries for David.
And what I found made the scene from "Crazy For You" just the appetizer.
.......oh, now they're playing "Poor Jud is Dead" from "Oklahoma".
Gee, I love that song.

More about David Engel tomorrow.



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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."