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Friday, July 4, 2014

G'Bye Dere. Part Four.

There have been some really terrible comedy teams.
Olsen and Johnson, for instance.
At one time, in 1938, they had the longest running show ever on Broadway at that time.
I was too young to ever see it.
But it was supposedly a laff riot.
They made a movie out of it.
It was Godawful.
And I think it gave me a measure of what Olsen and Johnson were.
They were totally corny, laughed at their own jokes, and Abbott and Costello left them in the dust, skill-wise.
Ed Sullivan foisted Wayne and Shuster upon us way too often.
And gave them extended amounts of time when he booked them.
Like about 25 minutes a pop.
I think this might have been the result of  Ed losing an election bet.
Wayne and Shuster, "From Canader", were never ever funny.
There's nothing prejudicial from me about Canadians.
All of the SCTV talent were from Canada.
I love them.
But Wayne and Shuster were relentlessly dreary.

Those aside, there were also some wonderful comedy teams.
Another pair fostered by Ed Sullivan were Stiller and Meara.
They were essentially actors who found a good hook for doing sketches together in a standup format.
They were funny individually and together.
I don't know if an act like theirs would fly today.
It seemed to be very much of it's time.
Transcending them on all levels were Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
They did the most intelligent, intellectual, and gut-busting funny material of all time.
They were brilliant performers.
If they had never existed and just now showed up, show business would certainly make way for them in a big way.
It's no surprise that they both went on to become substantial film and stage directors.
You got to catch glimpses of Burns and Allen's vaudeville routines on their sitcom.
And you can understand why it was so successful.
Burns tried to replicate the formula after Gracie retired, with Carol Channing and Connie Stevens.
And the formula worked.
Burns and Schreiber worked in the Stiller and Meara/ Nichols and May tradition, and were very funny.
Avery Schreiber died way too young.
Don't know what would have become of them.
Bob and Ray came out of radio, and virtually all of their routines were in the form of radio or TV interviews among their fictional characters.
I was fortunate enough to see them live on Broadway, and experienced a most unusual audience reaction.
The laughs didn't come on punch-lines, but rather in waves based on the overall premise of the routine.
I found it astounding.
Probably the funniest comedy duo of all time were Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks doing "The 2000 year old man.
Primarily because it found a framework to unleash Mel Brooks upon the public at large.
That still works any time that they choose to do it.
The only ones that I'm aware of that actively still pursue the form are the Smothers Brothers, who are still great, and we will probably never see their likes again.
For whatever reasons, comedy duos have gone the way of shock-jocks like Opie and Anthony and their like.
This can't be good for anyone involved.
That's it.
I've mopped up this subject matter.
Next time, something else.


My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not
e-books. But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube, and my 4-hour interview at the Television Academy's Emmy TV Legends Website.
Here's the link:



  1. Sorry to be late chiming in on this, but I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed your comments about these comedy teams. And I think I agree with them.

    Although I think you're right about Rowan and Martin (and from what I've heard, Dan Rowan would never be a runner-up for the World's Nicest Man Award), I've always had a soft spot for Dick Martin. Partly because of his goofy persona, but also because when I'd see him on a talk-show panel, he always seemed secure enough to laugh sincerely if he liked another comic's bit.

    I also fondly remember a moment from Match Game when the question was something like: "Ninety-nine year-old Mr. Periwinkle just married a 28-year-old model. They spent their honeymoon blanking."

    Martin's response: "Shucking oysters."

    As for Wayne and Shuster, "relentless dreary" nails it for all time. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who, even as a kid, thought their sketches were way too long. Love the idea that Sullivan had lost a bet.

    About Burns & Allen: Burns always used to put himself down (at least in public), but if memory serves (and I admit it does so less often these days), I recall one moment from one of their end-of-show bits when he showed what a good straight man he was.

    Gracie began to talk about, say, Uncle Phil.

    Speaking very quickly, almost out of the side of his mouth, he said, "I don't want to hear about Uncle Phil. Tell me about Cousin Al."

    I'm guessing Burns knew how much time they had to fill and that the Uncle Phil story was too long. But he put the act on the right track -- and Gracie did her part by not missing a beat -- and you almost didn't notice it.

    Again, thanks for the insights.

  2. I waited until all four segments of this were up before commenting, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I should arrange this.

    I'm a '50s kid, and saw most of these performers first on TV, watching live shows done in front of audiences.
    This meant that the comics had to hold for the laughs.
    When Abbott & Costello and their contemporaries started making movies, the lack of live responses from the jaded union film crew threw them off; they would end up doing their stuff way too fast. A&C's first movie director, Arthur Lubin, made them put in the pauses ("slowing down" in your estimate) to accommodate theater audiences, so they wouldn't laugh over the next joke.
    Naturally, if you're watching these at home, and you don't happen to have 200-300 people in your living room to supply the laughter, those pauses are going to be that much more noticeable.
    This is what led to the invention of the laugh track; the idea was that people don't like to laugh alone.

    As a '50s kid, I saw many older films on TV (the '30s and '40s, not that much longer before): Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Marx Brothers, Wheeler & Woolsey et al.
    There was no such thing then as demographics; nobody was there to tell us that we weren't supposed to like older stuff simply because we were younger - indeed, our parents actually encouraged us to watch them.
    Thusly, I grew up with the above-mentioned comedians, as well as single acts like W.C. Fields, Joe E. Brown, Buster Keaton, and the like.
    They were all over early TV; the ones who were still living mainly embraced their late show fame by making new TV for prime time.
    This is how I grew up to have a sense of history, and in particularly a sense of continuity; it was all of a piece to me.
    Laurel & Hardy were among the first victims of "wrong demos", for many of the reasons you state.
    As it happens, some of the things you don't like about Hal Roach Comedies, are the very things I do like about them - especially that "deedley" music.
    There's a band in the Netherlands calling itself the Beau Hunks Orchestra. these doughty souls recorded a CD some years back in which they tried to replicate the old Roach music, using whatever charts that they could find.
    It's my favorite CD to listen to at home.

    I don't know what the situation is where you are; my observation is that the older the movie is, the less likely it is to be shown - and these days that includes Abbott & Costello.

  3. Mike, I have heard the CD you refer to, and I like it very much. It's not so much that it is diddly music, but rather how poorly and cheesily and generically Hal Roach ORIGINALLY recorded it that offends me..
    The CD was recorded with first rate production values. Something Hal Roach never ever considered doing with anything.
    And however seldomly it's shown, EVERYBODY knows "Who's On First?"

  4. My understanding has always been that Hal Roach ran a kind of "family store", as opposed to MGM, RKO, or Warner Bros (the majors), and even the "minor majors" like Universal or Columbia. It was Roach's own money that he used to make his movies, and he simply didn't have as much as the larger studio organizations. That's not really the same as "never considering". I make Roach as analogous to Bill Veeck in baseball: much creativity limited by not so much money.
    That's another argument for another time.

    I recently found another copy of a book I'd lost some years back.
    DOUBLE TAKE AND FADE AWAY, written by the late British film historian Leslie Halliwell in 1987, the year before he became "late".
    This is Halliwell's own history of British and American film comedy in the 20th century, personal and highly idiosyncratic.
    Halliwell was a devout believer in the British class system, which he also seemed to think applied in the USA (or should have, at any rate).
    I've been going back and forth between this book and your columns, and it's been quite a trip.
    I'm mentioning it here by way of recommending that you ought to take this trip yourself.
    At least you might get a few chuckles out of the many mistakes Halliwell makes in his accounts of American comedy history over the years, as well as reading about British comedy "legends" that you most likely have never heard of.
    DOUBLE TAKE AND FADE AWAY is long out of print, but you could probably find a copy at Amazon or Alibris or some other such site.
    Who knows - somewhere down the line you might even get a column out of it.

    Yours for synergy.

  5. Mike, I appreciate the analogy to Bill Veeck, but his presence only helped baseball. Even the midget. If there was no Hal Roach, Laurel and Hardy would have landed somewhere else, Like Goldwyn. Or Warners. Or Columbia. I think they spent their own money too. Only they had more of it. And then their movies would look relatively pristine today. Like the Three Stooges. With better music. At least better recorded music.

    1. If there were no Hal Roach, there would have been no Laurel & Hardy.
      It was at Roach that Stan and Babe were first teamed up, and Stan was given his head to create their style.
      When L&H left Roach in the '40s, they did land elsewhere, first at Fox, then at Metro.
      Once they landed at those places, they got better film stock, better facilities, better recorded music ...
      ... and Stan Laurel lost his creative control, and the pictures aren't as good as the Roach pictures were.

      Point #2:
      The major studios were under the control of New York-based management, who as time passed held the purse strings quite tightly.
      I've often read about how even moguls of the Mayer/Zanuck/Cohn level were always in pitched battles with "the money men on the East Coast".
      This was the situation when L&H left the Low-budget Roach for the higher-end Fox.
      If they'd gone to, say, Columbia, they would have been working for Jules White, whose style couldn't have been more incompatible with theirs.
      Same situation at any other place they could have gone.
      And if you're talking about their earliest days, back in the silents, who other than the Roach team would have had the foresight to put Stan and Babe together in the first place?

      In the past few days, I've been looking at the digitally restored DVDs of Laurel & Hardy.
      The companies involved have done as good a job of cleaning the old flicks up as imaginable.
      But I still recall seeing them on TV as a kid in the '50s - old scratchy, jumpy prints, often badly edited to boot.
      Just like all the other old movies they were showing back then.
      As a kid, I learned to make allowances for the age of the flix I was watching, to take them on their own terms.
      When I got older, I started reading up on them, learning more and more, becoming downright obnoxious at times.
      Nowadays, I look at DVDs on an HDMI screen, and even the cheapest and cheesiest ones look surprisingly good this way (OK, maybe not 'good', exactly, but still ...).
      What I'm trying (badly) to say here is that I've come a long way from the old family Muntz to my widescreen Haier, and I'd like to think I've learned a few things along the way - and now in my "retirement years", I'd also like to think that I'm still learning, and have the capacity to pass some of that along in places like this.
      End of sermonette.

  6. Mike, I'm enlightened by much of what you say. One final point: Bill Veeck brought Minnie Minoso to the major leagues. Without Bill Veeck, there probably wouldn't have been a Minnie Minoso. But when he knew he couldn't do him justice, he let him go. To paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew Bill Veeck. Bill Veeck was a friend of mine. Mr. Roach, you are no Bill Veeck."

    1. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I have to set you straight ...

      Bill Veeck was not the one who brought Minnie Minoso to the majors, specifically to the Chicago White Sox, in 1953.
      That would have been Frank 'Trader' Lane, then the White Sox GM.
      Veeck wanted to bring Minoso to the St. Louis Browns, the team he owned then, but he was being starved out of the American League at that time; he gave Lane, one of his few friends in the league, the heads-up on Minoso, who wound up with the Sox.

      True story: The Major Leagues were having their winter meetings in Havana on New Years Day of 1959 - the day Castro's rebels came out of the mountains and took the capital.
      The American diplomats were scurrying about trying to round up the baseball people in order to get them out safely.
      Frank Lane, then GM of the Cleveland Indians, was found marching the streets of Havana, shouting "Yo Papa Numero Dos de Orestes Minoso! (I am Orestes Minoso's Number Two Papa!)" - and right behind him, Cuban rebels were swinging their rifles like bats and shouting "Si! Fronko Lane! Fronko Lane!"
      When Veeck got the White Sox later that year, he determined to finally get Minoso for his own; he finally did a year after that.

      I'm still trying to figure out what the Lloyd Bentsen quote has to do with this.
      Oh well ...

  7. Mike, as a lifelong Chicagoan, you're going to have to set Wikipedia straight. According to them, Minnie Minoso made his first appearance in the major leagues in 1949.
    For the Cleveland Indians. When Bill Veeck owned them. This is confirmed by Baseball You might want to send them a note too.
    We agree that Veeck attempted to act in Minoso's interests rather than his own. This is what Hal Roach did NOT do for Laurel and Hardy. Who knows what would have happened to them?
    Maybe somebody else would have given Laurel creative control. Like maybe Chaplin. Or somebody. We'll never know.
    The Bentsen reference was from his debate with Dan Quayle. Substitute "Bill Veeck" for "Jack Kennedy".
    I guess if I want to get smarter, I'll have to move to Chicago.

    1. After my last one, I belatedly rechecked my Minoso history.
      So I had parts of it wrong.

      About the Bentsen quote:
      I'm well aware of its provenance, but I fail to see its applicability here.
      Where does altruism (or its lack) come into this?
      Hal Roach was obviously not going to just turn Laurel & Hardy loose - not when they were his biggest moneymakers, both here in the USA and all over the world.
      Were you aware that it was Roach's practice to keep Stan and Babe under separate contracts throughout their careers - contracts that expired at different times, so they couldn't leave together?
      It was only in 1940 or thereabouts that L&H were legally able to incorporate as a team, and that was when Hal Roach lost interest in keeping them.
      That was when they moved to Fox - and the quality of their films nosedived.

      Where could Laurel & Hardy have gone where Stan could have had his way in making the pictures - the way he had at Roach?
      Chaplin? Too much of an egomaniac to give anybody free rein other then himself.
      The other majors? Even back in the '30s, studio brass tended to exercise tight control, both in Hollywood (creative) and New York (financial)
      That's what happened to Stan Laurel at Fox in the '40s.
      It would have been the same if he'd gone there 10 years earlier.
      Same if he'd gone to Warner or Paramount or RKO or MGM (remember what happened to Buster Keaton).
      Even the "minor majors", Universal and Columbia -
      - well, Universal did give W.C. Fields some leeway, at first, anyway ... but that didn't last.
      And Columbia - well, I already mentioned Jules White, didn't I?
      The smaller "independents" like Republic or Monogram - they might have indulged Laurel somewhat, but we're back in low-budget land.
      We will never know - but ample evidence exists for educated guesses.
      What we do know:
      The Hollywood moguls regarded themselves as "father figures" - and their contractees were their sometimes recalcitrant "children".
      "We're only doing this for your own good!"
      For what he was doing, Stan Laurel's best possible boss was - with all his flaws and faults - Hal Roach.
      No other studio boss would have given him the same free rein.
      This is all documented in many books on the subject, many of which I have (and have read over the years).
      One last piece of friendly advice:
      Applying modern standards of thinking to events that happened many years before is usually always wildly wrong.
      In this particular case, to even expect the possibility of altruistic behavior would be about as likely as expecting them to sprout wings and fly.

  8. If L& H were such big money-makers, why didn't Roach spend more money on their films, if nothing more than to protect his investment? It wasn't even smart.
    Maybe, just maybe, nobody else gave Laurel the creative freedom he needed because they looked all those years of the Roach films, with their crappy production values, and blamed them on Laurel.
    Harry Cohn might have realized that unlike the Stooges, L&H were artists, and that Jules White would only hinder them.
    Chaplin, being an artist himself, might have understood that L&H were artists too, and give them their own unit.
    We'll never know, because Roach, as you say, held them to slave contracts.
    Keaton didn't transition well to talkies, and Fields abused his power.
    Maybe Universal would have given Laurel the same chance they gave Fields, if they had gotten there before Fields left a rotten taste in it's mouth.
    You yourself make the case quite well that Roach was a cruel bastard.
    And maybe it's as a result of his smallness, not his relative poverty, that the L&H Roach films looked crappy then, and look crappy now..
    And maybe that's why they are hardly ever seen today.
    Or maybe you're completely right about everything----except Minnie Minoso.
    The vines on the outfield walls of Wrigley Field are the most beautiful vines in the world.
    The are not grainy or chincy.
    Lush green.
    Bill Veeck did that.
    That's HIS legacy.
    To me, altruism means a lot.
    It's the main reason that Bill Veeck is in the Hall of Fame.
    That means something too.

    1. A history lesson (or two or three ...):

      - Harry Cohn, whose attitudes about things are well documented, couldn't have cared less about "art".
      Jules White was a crony of his - which is why he was still producing two-reelers 10-15 years after every other studio stopped.
      White outlasted almost everybody else at Columbia because he "always made money" (White's quote) for the studio and his pal Harry.
      Tell me how L&H's "art" would have fit in with that.
      (There are books and books that cover all of this; It might have helped to actually have read a couple of these ...)

      - At Chaplin's studio, he wasn't just the Big Dog - he was the ONLY Dog.
      Remember the famous scene in "Limelight" - the vaudeville turn with Buster Keaton?
      According to more than a few accounts, that scene was originally quite a bit longer.
      When Chaplin saw it in the editing room - and saw that Keaton was running away with it - out came the scissors.
      He couldn't get rid of it altogether - he'd already promoted Keaton's comeback (and his own largesse in providing it) - but ultimately Charles Chaplin (who was more of a Great Dictator in his dealings even with "friends" than the movie character was) had his own way.
      Tell me how much space he'd have given to L&H.

      - At Universal, the Big Dogs were Abbott & Costello, who were popular, made money, and caused endless problems on set for their co-workers.
      In the case of W.C.Fields, only the third factor was true; during his lifetime, he was never more than middlingly popular, and his films less so.
      Universal was content to let Fields drink himself into oblivion, and he died while reduced to "guest appearances" in other people's movies.

      _ Since this came up I've been looking at my DVD wall here at home, concentrating on L&H releases from the '30s, as well as many other movies from the same period, from big studios and small.
      I'm at a disadvantage in judging these, because digital restoration has (at least in the case of official studio releases) worked wonders with the watchability factor.
      I remember seeing many of these pictures when they first played on TV in the '50s, when I was a little kid.
      Even then, I noticed that so many of these pix looked like hell - grainy, splicey, jumpy, hummy, you know the drill - but that was just because they were "old movies". I took what was offered and (mostly) liked it.
      Nowadays, I can see many of those same pictures, now cleaned up, and viewable on a big HDMI screen.
      The big studio movies look great, of course - but the programmers look pretty good too (at least, many of the ones I've seen).
      Such is the case with the Laurel & Hardy DVDs.
      Why they don't get shown these days -
      - simply enough: THEY'RE OLD.
      Only place that shows Old is Turner Classic.
      Local stations - forget it.
      ... And lately, that includes Abbott & Costello.

      Some other time we can get into why so many people (and not just young ones) have no sense of history.
      Some other time ...
      ... right this minute, I think we may have worn ourselves (and each other) out just a bit.

  9. Yup. I'm pretty worn out. One last question, though. This Harry Cohn guy. The one who didn't give a crap about art. Wasn't he the one who had Jules White supervise all those artless Capra movies? You know. The ones that won all those Oscars?

    1. Hoo boy ...

      Jules White ran Harry Cohn's short subject department.
      The two-reelers with the Stooges, Andy Clyde, Shemp Howard, El Brendel, a bunch of others (most of whom had lost their positions at other studios).
      He did NOT supervise Frank Capra's movies.
      Capra was allowed to supervise his own pictures -
      - because THEY MADE MONEY for Columbia.
      Cohn expressed his "artistic" side this way (quote approximate):
      "If my ass doesn't wiggle, it's a good picture."
      No one knew this better than Frank Capra.
      And that's why he and Cohn worked together so well.

      So there's your answer.
      Anything else before they start throwing rocks at us?


  11. ....makes you wonder whether, when he made all those cheaply shot, shadowy, poorly lit shows in the fifties, he still couldn't afford to spend real money on them.
    A cheap bastard is a cheap bastard, young or old.
    I've talked to Harry Crane, who wrote one of L&H's last movies.
    According to Harry, THEY always referred to him as "That cheap bastard".

    1. Just to keep the record straight ...

      Those TV shows were produced by Hal Roach JUNIOR.
      The son of the cheap bastard.

      Yours for Hollywood history ...

  12. Mike, I know what Jules White's function was, Just as you knew what Lloyd Bentsen said. This was what was known as sarcasm. The point was that L&H also made FEATURES.
    Cohn might have had the foresight and opportunity to use them THERE. And if he could have seen through Roach's failures, he might have spared them from Jules White, and given Laurel as much free rein as he gave Capra.
    Like you said, they made lots of money for Roach. Why not for Cohn?
    You seem so positive about all of this.
    I've never claimed to have all the answers.
    Why should you?
    And you're so positive that Roach did not have extensive influence over what his son did?
    He lived to be 99, for God's sake.
    What do you think he did with himself all that time?
    And apples fall far from trees?
    Maybe Junior was just an errand boy.
    I'm sure you're positive that he wasn't.
    All I can do is question.
    What I'm sure of is that Roach and Roach Jr. produced the cheesiest looking movies and TV shows ever made.
    Comparing Roach to Bill Veeck was your doing, and bordered on sacrilege.
    This really should have ended with an untarnished apology about Minnie Minoso, but as usual, I have enjoyed all 15 rounds of this.
    I like you and respect your knowledge, and when I get smart enough to move to Chicago, I'd like to go to a Cubs game with you. Mainly so we can enjoy the scenery.

    1. How can I count up the ways you've misstated and mischaracterized what I've written here?

      Throughout your rebuttals to me, I keep getting one recurrent theme:


      Lots and lots of "might have".

      Much of it about Harry Cohn.
      Everything I've ever read or heard about Harry Cohn runs totally contrary to your "might haves".
      If the accounts of people who actually worked with him and for him are to be believed, Harry Cohn was the kind of boss that you've always complained about having for as long as you've been writing this blog.
      The kind who always said "no".
      Especially when it came to spending money.
      When Stan Laurel was at Fox, doing features, he wasn't working for Darryl Zanuck.
      He was in the B unit, working for Sol Wurtzel.
      "From bad to Wurtzel" as Harry Ritz said.
      And it showed in the pictures.
      If Stan Laurel couldn't command respect at a major like Fox, what could he have expected at a "minor major" like Columbia?
      "Might have" doesn't cut it as an answer.

      I have never claimed to have all the answers either.
      Everything I've written here and anywhere falls into the category of "educated guesses".
      The "educated" part comes from reading as extensively as I can, over a long span of years, from as many different sources (often conflicting) as I can find.
      There's lots of things I've found out about people I've admired that I wish I hadn't seen.
      It's one of the things that cured me of hero worship.
      It's why, when I'm looking at something that was done long before I was born, I try to make allowances for what I'm seeing.

      Now it's time to get personal.
      All I said about Hal Roach Jr is that he was Roach's son, and that he ran the TV side.
      All that other stuff that you said I said - I didn't say any of that.
      And you know that I didn't say those things (and if you don't, go back up and look again at what I did say).
      May I ask -why do you insist on attributing thoughts to me that I don't have, and have never expressed?
      Simply because I expressed an opinion contrary to yours?
      "Might have" won't cut it as an answer here either.

      About apologies:

      I admit I had Minnie Minoso's entry date in the majors wrong.
      My excuse is that I was always under the impression that he'd started out with the White Sox in 1951.
      That aside, I fail to see how anything I said requires an apology of any sort, to Minnie, to Bill Veeck, to anyone else.
      But your assertion that comparing the Roaches to Bill Veeck "borders on sacrilege..."
      Look, if you want to talk "cheesy", how about those godawful uniforms that Veeck put on the Sox in the '70s?
      Nobody liked those loose shirts and 1880s lettering and 'clam-digger' pants ... and forget about those shorts (all true Sox fans have been trying to for years).

      Peace in our time:
      I stopped following baseball along about the turn of the century (this last one).
      Reinsdorf was running the White Sox every which way, none of it was working, and without rooting interest, baseball is kind of boring.
      I never was a Cub fan (not allowed for South Side Irish).
      I knew I'd lost my faith when the Sox won everything in 2005 - and I didn't care at all.
      Closest I came was after the Series, when Tina and Amy got to do about five minutes of Chicago jokes that sailed right over the heads of SNL's "elite" New York audience.
      So anyway, Mark, you can pretty much forget about going to Wrigley with me.
      Even if I were still a fan, I still wouldn't be allowed to watch the Cubs (I still live on the South Side).
      (Truthfully, it's been so long since I've been in the neighborhood that I don't know if the little shop where I used to get old TV Guides is still there - and that's the only reason I'd go.)
      I hope I can stand down now.
      ( .. but that depends on how you answer this one ... )

  13. This is what you wrote....

    "Just to keep the record straight ...

    "Those TV shows were produced by Hal Roach JUNIOR.
    The son of the cheap bastard."
    Yes. That's all you said.
    But by putting JUNIOR in all capital letters, you are making a strong implication that the old man was nowhere to be seen.
    That's what opened that can of worms, and certainly left it open to conjecture on my part.
    I suppose that your dick is a lot bigger than mine when it comes to reading about the movies.
    But other knowledgeable counties have been heard from, and one is telling me that it was Leo McCarey who originally had the idea to put L&H together. And that he practically had to twist Roach's arm to sign them. Maybe there's no literature to back this up, but this is floating around.
    And the case can be made that Roach had trashed L&H's careers to the extent that when they went to Fox, all that they could get was Wurtzel.
    Yes, much of what I've written here has been conjecture. I don't deny that.
    But my dick is bigger than yours when it comes to baseball.
    Here, we're dealing with facts.
    I didn't have to look it up when I said that Veeck was the first to bring up Minoso to the majors.
    I knew it.
    And when you don't know the facts, and publically contradict someone who HAS the facts, THAT'S who you owe an apology to. And not grudgingly.
    Once you go to the trouble to look it up.
    Yeah, the uniforms with the short pants were pretty cheesy.
    And made it pretty difficult to dive for low-hit liners.
    Lot's of scraped knees.
    And I certainly never wanted to see Paul Richards' knobby knees.
    But when the pants weren't short, I thought it was an interesting aesthetic choice.
    Baseball isn't an art form.
    It's supposed to be a game.
    Veeck's main motivation was for it to be fun.
    Maybe (I know. There's that WORD again.) he was occasionally misguided, but he was an aesthete.
    Something Roach Sr. and Jr. never were.
    But when the pants weren't short, I thought the uniforms added to the fun.
    So I guess I'll be going it alone to Wrigley.
    But the offer is still open.

    1. The reason I capitalized "Junior":
      Your site doesn't have HTML, which means I can't do italics.

      What you call "conjecture" is more properly described as wishful thinking mixed with fantasy.
      I still find your determination to make Hal Roach the absolute villain in all this bewildering, to say the least.
      I'm well aware that Leo McCarey was the principal force behind teaming Stan Laurel and Babe Hardy.
      I didn't mention it because it was kind of beside the point of what we were talking about.
      Your whole argument seems to be that Hal Roach sabotaged L&H deliberately - even as they were his most successful property.
      That just doesn't make any sense.
      If all of this were so, them maybe you can explain why Laurel & Hardy made a deal to come back to Hal Roach - Senior and Junior - to make a new series of TV specials in 1954, just before catastrophic illness struck them both down.
      If your "conjecture" is correct, then that doesn't make any sense.
      But several of the books I have show all four of them posing for a publicity shot at the Roach studio, marking the event.
      But keep your conjecture if you wish.
      You have a real future at the Breitbart websites.

      One last point:
      This whole "my dick is bigger" business ...
      Schoolyard stuff.
      Scarcely worthy of a TV Legend.
      I don't read with my dick.
      I read with my eyes and my brain.
      And I don't do it solely to show other people up.
      As it happens , I used to have quite a number of books about baseball.
      I don't have them anymore, because I gave up being a fan.
      I read Bill Veeck's first two books when I was in high school.
      I reread them fairly frequently in the years since.
      I admit to not having memorized them.
      I've since come to realize that all the books I've read about how Major League Baseball is operated - starting with Veeck's books all those years before - are what led me to give up following baseball.
      It's really a lot more complicated than this , but it is late in the evening, and I'd say we both have gone overboard on this whole business.
      And for that I apologize.

      Tell you what, though:
      If you ever do get to Wrigley, you might want to check out that nostalgia shop I mentioned last - if it's still there.
      It's a few blocks west on Addison Street. It's really kind of a shack (which is why I fear it might not be there anymore), but the guy who ran it (and he might not be there anymore either) really knew his stuff about baseball, movies, TV, et al.

      Pax Vobiscum.

  14. How would italics have changed things? If it's something, then just what point were you trying to make?
    I think Roach was a blight on the industry in general. Not just in L&H's case.
    The L&H who posed with Roach in 1954 are the same ones who kept referring to him as that cheap bastard in 1943.
    Unless you think either Harry Crane or I am lying.
    I can't claim to know what's going on in your mind. And you don't know what's going on in mine. We can only GUESS (No italics intended.)
    My favorite writer is Philip Roth. And he made "dick" references all the time.
    I guess I'm influenced.
    Be well. .

    1. Once more into the breach ... (sigh):

      - The last story on what Harry Cohn "might have " treated Laurel & Hardy:
      In 1939 Buster Keaton went to work at Columbia - making two-reelers for Jules White.
      Keaton was on the ropes career-wise at this point; he'd just come from making two-reelers for a really low-end outfit called Educational Pictures (side-note: If you think Roach's pictures look cheap and cheesy, check out Educational's shorts some time).
      Any way, for Keaton Columbia was a money gig; he was there only a couple of years, and the shorts he made there are considered the worst ones he ever did.
      And Keaton did have the name and the reputation, and he had made features, and all the rest.
      In all that I've read, Harry Cohn's name never comes up. His friendship with Jules White gave the latter complete control over the shorts.
      At that time, White was specializing in collecting comedians who'd fallen out of favor elsewhere, such as Harry Langdon.
      During this period, something like this was happening to Laurel & Hardy; they weren't working as much as they'd have liked, and their personal lives were getting them the wrong kind of publicity.
      Add to that White's insistence on having everything done his own way - to the exclusion of anybody else's ideas.
      Would Harry Cohn have stood up for Stan Laurel?
      He didn't for Buster Keaton. That's documented historical fact.
      In a courtroom, it would be called "a pattern of behavior".

      Here's how dumb I am.
      I should have told you this at the start of this whole argument.
      It might have saved us both a lot of time.
      "Might have..." Hmmmm.

      Of course Harry Crane wasn't lying.
      He was telling what was said to him in 1943 by Stan Laurel, while they were at MGM, making a couple of pictures away from the "cheap bastards" at Fox (Laurel's on record expressing similar sentiments about "those Fox people" to his biographer John McCabe; at that same time , circa 1960, he said this : "I didn't always see eye to eye with Roach, but for the most part he left us alone, and I'll always be grateful for that ..."
      So was Laurel "lying" in 1943 to Harry Crane, or was he "lying" in 1960 to John McCabe?
      Neither time. Nor were he and Babe Hardy faking it in the publicity shots with Roach Sr. and Jr. They had a deal (NBC was going to puck up their new show), their popularity had been restored thanks to those crappy-looking old shorts (which '50s kids like me couldn't have cared less about), they were going to be making some real money for the first time in years ....
      As someone once said: "That's why they call it the past."

      "I can't claim to know what's going in your mind ..."
      ... which hasn't stopped you from "conjecturing" all over the place about it.
      I'm tempted to claim the same privilege, but I think I'll pass on that.
      I do really enjoy your blog (most of the time, anyway) and I'd hate to lose that.

      I would like to add this in passing:
      On other sites I comment on, I've found italics very useful as a way of emphasizing things without sounding like a fanatic.
      Italics make a point; ALL CAPS is just shouting.
      It's just a style point, I know, but in this cyber world we're in, it's really all I've got.
      This is why it still makes me crazy when you put that unnecessary apostrophe in the possessive 'its'.
      That's not style; that's a spelling error.
      Like you did above with the word 'publicly'.
      And a few lines down, when you turned 'lots' into a contraction for 'lot is' , which makes no sense at all.
      Which made it almost shocking when you spelled 'aesthete' correctly, further down.
      We all live and learn ...
      ... some more than others.

  15. I learned a lot from both of you. One thing I learned is how much we know and yet don't know about what went on behind-the-scenes of the lives and careers of artists we care for. This is one of the reasons I follow Mark's blog, to get an insider's insights. I think both of you were in the world of reasonable speculation, you just have different interpretations of what is known. Mark owned up to speculating more than Mike did, in my opinion, but who's counting? pax, indeed.

  16. Mike, I said "I can't claim to know what's going on in your mind." BECAUSE I can only conjecture about it. And I still don't know what point you were making. Were you just offhandedly saying that Roach Sr. wasn't at all involved with the TV end? What?
    What you began with was "Without Roach, there would have been no Laurel and Hardy."
    THAT'S why Leo McCarey was intrinsically pertinent to the discussion.
    That's where you should have started.
    Keaton MIGHT HAVE been a special case.
    For Columbia and for Chaplin.
    Keaton wasn't as good a fit for talkies.
    And Chaplin's treatment of Keaton MIGHT HAVE been because he envied him, and didn't like him personally, and had been a rival.
    I don't know if any such relationship was the case with Chaplin and Laurel.
    I have spell-check on my computer, and no red flags went off with "publically'
    I prefer punctuating my own way, and writing without paragraphs.
    Those are MY style points.
    And I prefer making personal insults by counterpunching, rather than your method: leading with them.
    If you keep insulting me by leading with your left, we'll be back in Philip Roth land.

  17. All my instincts say "Give up."
    Some people just can't -or won't - be reasonable.

    So far, I've made five false starts on this, and your insistence on being insulted by anything I write is frustrating as hell.

    I lack the time, patience, stamina, and agility to provlde a full, annotated bibliography on the numerous assertions I've made about matters here.
    All I can say is that everything I've written here has been looked up and checked out; nothing left to chance.
    Except for the Minnie Minoso stuff.
    There I relied solely on my own memory - and as it turned out, I was wrong.
    And I admitted it.

    I'd explain about the Roach-TV business (that was one of the false starts I referred to), but you've made it painfully obvious that you'll just take it as another of my "insults".
    Old Sisyphus is getting awfully tired of the same old boulder.

    There is one other matter:
    As it happens, I also have spell-check on my computer.
    My spell-check is inordinately diligent. It flags anything that even looks unusual or unfamiliar.
    This includes proper names that you don't normally encounter.
    Like 'Veeck'.
    And 'Minoso'.
    And 'Leszczak' (that's from one of the false starts I referred to above).
    And since I've been fighting off anger with most of these replies to you, the red flags have been getting quite a workout.
    I don't know what brand computer you use, but if your spell-check didn't catch 'publically' for 'publicly' ...
    ... Hell, if it didn't even catch 'lot's' (like mine just did) ...
    ... your spell-check doesn't work.
    Call your service provider ASAP.

    Have a nice weekend.

  18. So even your spell-check dick is bigger than mine. No. That shouldn't insult me. And you're s-o-o-o-o positive that the 1954 posed photo meant that all was forgiven.
    It couldn't possibly mean that L&H were tactful enough to know how to behave in public. Or even in private with Roach, whose ass they might have still needed to kiss in order to get what they deserved from him years previously.
    Damn right I'm insulted. Even if you're right about most of your opinions.
    I'm insulted by your tone, your boorishness, and your attempt to impose your lack of humor on this blog.
    I'm getting feedback that you are boring my readers.
    This is inexcusable.
    I am entitled to more respect than you have shown me.
    Therefore, if you post on this blog entry again, it will be deleted.
    You've got all these other blogs you can pester.
    Go at it.
    I leave you with one final message: The word "dick", a verb, and a possessive.

  19. P.S.----In the Merriam Webster Dictionary on line, "publically" is listed as an acceptable variant of "publicly".
    Did you "annotate" this too?
    To paraphrase Casey Stengel, "You should look it up."
    See also "Minoso, Minnie".....
    Two for two when it comes to facts, rather than interpretation.
    Your credibility is completely shot.
    Now, be on your way.

  20. This comment thread ought to be titled "G'bye Dere. Part Five." ;-)

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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."