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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Mystery Of The Gaylords.

I had this show, "That's Amore!---Italian American Favorites", sitting on my Tivo for the longest time.
Never getting around to watching it.
It was on my local PBS station, and consumed two and a half hours of Tivo time, which meant it was probably about ninety minutes including pledge breaks.
It took me all that time to get around to watch it because it was hosted by Danny Aiello.
Never my idea of a good time.
Danny Aiello tends to go over the top in just about everything he does.
Maybe this is somebody's idea of a good time.
But not mine.
This show contained clips of just about everybody who had anything to do with singing Italian songs.
I liked all of those singers.
So I knew that at some point, the day of reckoning would come, and I'd sit down and watch this show, which would most-likely have wonderful clips, and most likely have Danny Aiello's over-the top effusiveness.
Or, to be more specific, Danny Aiello's nauseatingly over-the top effusiveness.
And a ton of pledge breaks that I would have to skip through.
But eventually, I braved the elements.
The clips were for the most part, great.
Great Italian singers like Perry Como, Julius La Rosa, Bobby Darin, Doninico Modugno ("Volare"), Vic Damone, Connie Francis, mostly in old black-and white archival footage.
The rest in fairly recent concert footage.
There, we got to see 93 year old Frankie Laine, literally at death's door, singing "That's My Desire".
And 94 year old Jew Tony Martin, singing "There's No Tomorrow".
In his case, it seemed fitting.
Although he's still around.
And other singers who weren't Italian, but made some of their bones by singing Italian songs.
That famous Italian singer Eddie Fisher, that famous Italian singer Rosemary Clooney, who was Irish and came from Kentucky.....
Okay. She did sing "Come on-a My House", which was actually Armenian, but there WAS "Mambo Italiano", which was featured prominently.
So I guess it fit.
What never fit was Danny Aiello's nauseating effusiveness.
It made me start praying for pledge breaks.
Then, about two thirds into the show, something startling happened.
At least to me.
Danny Aiello nauseatingly effusively introducing a singing group called "The Gaylords".
I wasn't expecting any surprises.
I didn't expect to see anyone I wasn't thoroughly familiar with.
But this trio comes on, in what was obviously fairly recent conert footage, singing a song called "From the Vine Came The Grape".
And it was terrific.
The lead singer had one of the worst toupees you could imagine.
But it was the kind of thing you could overlook.
That's how good they were.
My immediate thought was "Why have I, who knows everything about show business, particularly from that era, the pre rock and roll era,
never heard of the Gaylords?"
I was baffled.
I looked them up on Wikipedia, where I learned that they had the only record that made the charts on the extremely successful "Isle Of Capri".
How could I not know that?
Was I losing it?
I feared for my mental capacity.
My next thought was to go to Amazon, and see what I could find on The Gaylords.
They had one 2 CD set, that I immediately ordered.
I put it in my CD player in my car. It's terrific.

I'm traveling with my wife in the car. I have the Gaylords CD on.
My wife has always had a rather spotty history in terms of what celebrities she knows and what ones she doesn't.
Expecting nothing but ignorance on her part, I asked "Do you happen to know who's singing?"
Without missing a beat, she responds "Sounds like the Gaylords".
I was floored.
It's one thing for her to have a spotty history about celebrities.
But I DON'T have a spotty history.
I know everybody.
Or at least I thought I did.
But for HER to have knowledge that I didn't have?
About a week later, I'm driving in my car with my brother-in-law.
Someone with absolutely no show-business background.
He fixes windows for a living.
Our conversations are usually dominated by talk about sports.
We're listening to the Gaylords.
I just casually ask him if he knows who's singing.
He immediately shoots back "The Gaylords".
I was now officially in the Twilight Zone.
This does not compute.
Shortly thereafter, I sit my wife and my brother in a room and say "Okay. Are you Gaslighting me?
How come the Gaylords come trippingly off your tongues, and I never heard of them before a few weeks ago?"
One of them offers up "Well, we used to hear them on the radio all the time when we were growing up here in Detroit.
It turns out that the Gaylords were from Detroit. It was their base of operations.
They were much bigger in Detroit than anywhere else.
That's why my wife and my brother-in-law knew of them, and I didn't.

What it boiled down to was location, location, location.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

How To Watch MSNBC. 3.

Coming down the homestretch, some words about Ed Schultz, who hosts "The Ed Show" at 10pm on MSNBC.
You'd think there'd be room for his entire name.
Seems rather too informal, don't you think?
Actually not.
Ed is not a particularly formal guy.
Being from the Midwest. he is rather homespun and folksy.
It is reflected in his sense of humor.
But Will Rogers, he's not.
He is very outgoing.
The kind of guy you'd meet at a party and expect him to slap you on the back.
He is definitely the kind of guy who pats himself on the back.
But I like Ed, and I like his show.
Despite the excesses.
His heart is definitely in the right place, and he is perhaps more of an overt crusader than anyone else they have.
He'll mix it up with the folks on location much more than the others.
More backs to slap.
And more people to slap his.
He does a lot of ranting in the first few minutes of his show.
Get the point of the rant, then hit the fast forward on the Tivo until the first guest.
He is less effective with a guest who agrees with him.
It becomes a bit of a love fest.
When that happens, move on.
He's much better when there is one-on-one conflict.

One really annoying and stupid thing he does:
He rallies his audience nightly to get out their cell phones to respond to a poll question.
Whatever the issue is, the question is always along the lines of "Who's right? The Democrats, or the Republicans?
And he wants people to spend their good money to text their responses.
And the results are always the same.
They always overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats.
Since the demographic for his show and everything else on MSNBC Primetime is overwhelmingly Left Wing, what does this prove?
This is an utterly pointless exercise.
But we go through it every show.

Ed seems to find the real dregs of Conservative spokespeople to get into shouting matches with his Liberal opponents.
He has this one woman, Heidi Harris, who is just oh so slightly to the left of Ann Coulter in her politics and her ability to frighten children.

But he has the good taste to usually devote the last five or six minutes to a professional Left Wing comedienne, such as Lizz Winstead or
Stephanie Miller.
And they are usually pretty funny.
So Ed does defer to the pros here and there, and doesn't try to compete with them.
As I said, I like Ed and his show.
It would be nicer if he wasn't such a cornball.

Okay, some overall things to be aware of as you navigate through an evening of MSNBC:

Any time that they come back from a commercial and you hear rhythmic music, they are just about to head into another commercial.
So keep moving.
If there is no music, they are in fact beginning another extended segment.

Any time there is a young substitute wonky-looking, glasses wearing host, such as Chris Hayes, go right on to the next show.

Any time that there is a clip of President Obama, and you've already seen a clip of him that day, it will be the same clip.
So keep moving.

Any time there is a clip of John McCain, whether you've seen it or not, keep moving.

Any time there is an announcement that they will be interviewing victims, whether of 9/11, Katrina, flooding, racism, or just about anything designed to evoke your sympathy, keep moving.

Another approach is to always be multi-tasking when you have MSNBC on.

Keith Olbermann will be back in about a month or so, on the Current Network.
I can't wait.
It sounds like he'll have the opportunity to hire anyone else he wants for the other shows on it.

Comcast has purchased MSNBC.
I don't know how this will effect the political stance that MSNBC will continue to have.

If all these people are let go, we might have the opportunity to see how Keith really feels about them.


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How To Watch MSNBC. 2.

To continue from yesterday,

MSNBC filled Olbermann's vacated 8pm slot with Lawrence O'Donnell.
This was probably the best thing they could do.
Lawrence O'Donnell is a class act.
Easily the classiest act they have.
If you have to watch only one hour a night of MSNBC, it should be his.
Lawrence O'Donnell does not delude himself that he is funny.
Many politicians, particularly Republicans, have that particular delusion.
Remember John McCain and "Bomb. bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran"?
Many Democrat politicians are genuinely funny.
Barney Frank, Anthony Weiner...JFK was pretty funny.
President Obama is pretty deft with the jokes.
I think it has something to do with an overall humanity that Republicans lack.
O'Donnell, clearly a Democrat, is also clearly not funny, and seems to know it, and makes no attempt at it.
He is, however, quite ironic, and displays that admirably.
He is also quite passionate about the issues he covers.
Seemingly more genuinely passionate than all the others at MSNBC.
Certainly more genuine than Chris Mathews.
He is a more compelling personality than the others, and has much more gravitas.
The only Tivoing I do there is if he's covering a non-political topic, such as Libya.

As long as I'm on Libya, let me say a few words about a great reporter, Richard Engel.
Richard Engel is a genuine war correspondent.
Always out there where the action is.
Until yesterday, when he was reporting on a very clear feed from Pakistan, I was under the assumption that he had a speech impediment.
It turns out that it was simply the lousy feeds they were getting from Libya that seemed to give him a sibilant "S".
Just like Pinky Lee's.
But yesterday, with a good feed, he sounded fine.
They should look into that.

Okay. Onward. As Mort Sahl used to say.

Rachel Maddow.
Her heart is definitely in the right place.
Most of the time.
But she really thinks she's a hoot.
And she will belabor a point into the ground.

One of her ongoing themes is to call out people who won't appear on her show, or even return her phone calls or e-mails.
I know someone who attempted to get her to read a movie script so she could appear as herself in a Cameo role.
That someone would be me.
One of her staff people agreed to receive the script.
It was sent.
Months went by.
No response.
I e-mailed to find out why.
It had gotten lost somewhere and was never read.
Would I send it again?
I would and did.
That was many months ago.
And it was a part that could have been done by anyone.
No response.
Pots and Kettles.

With Rachel, hear her out for the subject matter, give her no more than a minute, then move on.
And stop whenever there is a good guest.
That's it.

I'll wrap this up tomorrow, with Ed Schultz, and some general rules that I haven't yet covered.

MaƱana (It's good enough for me.)


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How To Watch MSNBC.

Okay. Yesterday didn't count.
How can you count a day when you have the biggest story in the
All you really needed to do yesterday was ignore MSNBC completely.
Yesterday, it was no different than any other Cable News outlet.
Except for a few moments when Lawrence O'Donnell called out George W. for announcing in 2005 that going after Bin Laden was no longer his top priority.
Then he showed a campaign clip of Obama saying how it's still his.

I ordinarily regard MSNBC as being as valuable as Radio Free Europe was to the Soviet satellite nations.
Sometimes, it is the only bastion of sanity.
But ever since Keith Olbermann left, it has been far more difficult to make an entire evening of viewing out of watching MSNBC.
And that's what it used to be.

So I will offer up instructions on how to get the most out of MSNBC's evening programming.:

First, you absolutely have to have Tivo, and watch it on at least an hour's delay.
Second, you must understand that when he was there, and since, Keith Olbermann was and is their only on-the-air personality to have a legitimate sense of humor.
Virtually all of the others, with the glaring and applaudable exception of Lawrence O'Donnell, THINK they have a sense of humor.
Some, in fact, think that they are hilarious.
None, in fact, are.
So there is much slogging and Tivoing to be done to navigate your way through an evening of MSNBC.

Let's begin with Chris Mathews.
Extremely confrontational with people he disagrees with, and with people he agrees with.
A lot of it seems to be for show.
A general rule is that after about a minute of him talking to the camera, you get it, and can Tivo on to his first segment with guests.
If he has two guests, they usually both are on the same side of an issue, so after the initial points are made, you can Tivo on to the next
topic and guests.
If he has guests with opposing views, like a Democratic strategist and a Republican strategist, Mathews will generally agree with the Democrat, and it generally becomes a shouting fest very quickly.
When that happens, move on.
A couple of things bother me about him:
He goes out of his way to constantly remind you that Dick Cheney's name is pronounced "Cheeny".
Although I've never heard anyone pronounce it that way.
I hit the Tivo when he does that just out of annoyance.
You might want to do the same.

The other thing is that he lumps the JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theories in with all the other extreme lunatic fringe conspiracies.
It has been clearly established by many mainstream people that the Warren Commission Report is full of holes.
Congressional Hearings have backed this up.
The Single Bullet Theory hasn't gained any more credence than it had originally.
So his attitude is rather an affront to many Americans who are reasonably using their minds.
Also, Chris Mathews repeats himself constantly.

Okay, one more before we continue this tomorrow:
A fellow named Cenk Uygur hosts the 6pm slot.
No, I don't have any idea how to pronounce it either.
Cenk thinks he's a riot.
He's not. In a rather smarmy way.
The best way to deal with Cenk, is to hit the Tivo when he talks to the camera, and keep moving until we land on a good guest.
Stay with it until the guest is done. Then keep moving.
One thing about MSNBC.
The good guests will appear on just about any of their shows.
So if there is one that turns up with Cenk, it's usually worth stopping for.

My idea of a good guest who shows up regularly there would include Barney Frank, Anthony Weiner, Bernie Sanders, E.J. Dionne, Michael Moore, Howard Feinman, Richard Wolfe, Ed Rendel, Sherrod Brown, Alan Grayson, and Katrina Van Den Heuvel, who unlike the others, is very easy on the eyes.
My idea of one who isn't a good guest is Al Sharpton, whom they shlep on whenever there is a race issue for him to decry.

Let me again make this clear. I like MSNBC. I find it necessary.
But it's getting so that you really have to pick your spots.

More tomorrow.

Manana (It's good enough for me).


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
Please e-mail me at for more info.



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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."