View My Stats

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.


Monday, March 8, 2010

One Discovery Leads To Another.

When it comes to Show Business, I've always trusted my guts.
And for the most part, they've never let me down.
Yes, "The Hurt Locker" just won the Academy Award.
I still feel totally justified in thinking it was shit.

I've mentioned before that on the sitcoms I ran, I did the casting.
And that I went kicking and screaming into the night trying and failing to get the network and the studio to allow me to cast Loni Anderson in a pilot because I thought she would be a break-out star. Which she became the very next year on the same network in "WKRP In Cincinnati".

And that I got Annie Potts her SAG card because I thought she'd be a breakout star.
She was, but, as Ira Gershwin first wrote, not for me.

I don't think I mentioned that before Amy Irving became Steven Spielberg's wife, she was
Ralph Malph's girlfriend on "Happy Days".
Because I cast her, thinking she'd be a breakout star.
She was great in that episode. Far better than that show had a right for her to be.

The one I "let slip through my fingers" was Debra Winger, who also read for me for "Happy Days", for the same part that Amy Irving got. The casting person misspelled her name on the sheet.
And to this day, I still think her name is spelled Wingar.
I just didn't get it with her. I couldn't get past that voice of hers. And that lack of a sense of humor.
I think that time has proven me right.
And I think I'm probably the only person in America who doesn't get "Terms of Endearment".
And I still think I'm right.

I've always trusted my guts.
Some time in the 90's, there was a show that I saw in Los Angeles called "Forever Plaid".
I'm sure many of you are familiar with it.
For the uninitiated, it's a spoof of 50's male musical groups like The Four Aces, The Four Lads and The Ames Brothers.
It had great exaggerated choreography, great humor, and four great performers doing many of the above mentioned groups' hits and others.
There was also a gay sensibility to it that added to it's charm.

I also mentioned in my article about a week ago about Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" that I am a heterosexual with very homosexual taste.
I am probably among the five most knowledgeable heterosexuals about Musical Theater.
I suppose that is the equivalent to being among the five smartest bears in the zoo.
But I know my stuff, and I ended up seeing "Forever Plaid" four times in three different cities.

That first time I saw it, the cast was made up of the original New York cast.
One of the cast members wore dark, horn-rimmed glasses.
I made sure I looked his name up in the program.
His name was David Engel.
I remember turning to my wife and saying "The one with the glasses is going to be a major star.
He's going to be Broadway's next big Musical Theater Leading Man."

Now, this is not to slight the other cast members. They were also great.
It's just that I don't make "Major Star" pronouncements that often.
I'll go to tons of shows and those thoughts and words just don't enter my head and come out of my mouth.
It's always been a rarity.

But they did that night. About David Engel.
In the other productions of "Plaid", there were different casts. And it didn't happen in any of them.
And there was always one of them wearing the horn-rimmed glasses.
So it wasn't the glasses.
It was him. It was David Engel.
He took funny to a whole other level.
They all sang great, but he seemed to have a four-octave range.
He sang "Sixteen Tons" and hit low notes that Tennessee Ernie Ford never dreamed of hitting.
He was something.

So it has always been a particular sore point with me that David Engel had for quite some time fallen off of my radar.
Is there really that little justice in the world?
Was I, dare I say it, wrong?

About three weeks ago, David Engel resurfaced on my radar and heightened my trust of my guts and my sense of righteous indignation.

More about this tomorrow.



Blog Archive

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."