Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder R.I.P.

Here we go with 2016's Celebrity Death March again. Sigh. Wilder was a favorite of mine ever since BLAZING SADDLES which I actually saw before WILLY WONKA. The clip here is from a 1979 MERV GRIFFIN SHOW interview. I wrote to Gene in care of Merv's show. They forwarded it on to him but I didn't receive an answer to my letter, only a small pre-signed photo. Still! R.I.P.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Top 20 Thor Covers by Kirby

Jack Kirby would have been 99 years old today. His FF was a majorly important part of my youth but so was his THOR. I used to trade and/or buy THOR comics from a guy in my 4th grade class as well as lucking out to finding a number of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY issues in second hand stores. There were too many great covers in Jack's run to make a Top 10 but herewith my THOR Top 20!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ezra! Ezra Stone!

Above you see myself in 1992 going over a script of THE ALDRICH FAMILY with actor/director/humanitarian Ezra Stone, the original Henry Aldrich on stage and radio. THE ALDRICH FAMILY was one of the very first sitcoms as we know them today, although it was based on a stage play called WHAT A LIFE! and premiered over the air as a "serial skit" on THE KATE SMITH HOUR. Its success there earned it a run as Jack Benny's summer replacement and the show ran for more than a decade. Ezra left it a couple of times, once for military duty where he and Irving Berlin famously clashed while staging the legendary musical THIS IS THE ARMY, which young Stone--a protégé of Broadway legend George Abbott, directed. Ezra would go on to spend his later years directing sitcoms (THE MUNSTERS, DIANA) and hour long TV shows (LOST IN SPACE) before retiring to run his historical and charitable foundations and revisit his old friend Henry on the nostalgia circuit. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Edgar Kennedy Article

Here's an early 1930s article on Edgar "Slow Burn" Kennedy, one of THE great character actors.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Crestview Hills Waldenbooks Ad

Found this ad the other day from 1980. I had put in for a position there but didn't get it. In 1982, though, I was hired for the downtown location and, in 1983, promoted to this one! Stayed until 1987, then returned in 1995 where I stayed until 2000. During that stint, I ran across my original 1980 application as I was cleaning out ancient files! With all the time I spent there, I have always considered it MY store.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Booksteve Reviews--Catching Up

Just a few quick words on three books I've recently read--PRESTO!, THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, and AMERICAN HEIRESS.

PRESTO! is subtitled "How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales" and is by the talking half of Penn and Teller, Penn Jillette.

Let me say right up front that I don't much care for Penn Jillette. I have a number of mutual friends with him on Facebook and I have seen him over and over act like a major jerk in recent years. That said, I admire a lot of what he says and I certain;y have always enjoyed Penn and Teller. Thus I didn't really know how to approach this book.

Overall, I liked it. With plenty of asides, mostly funny, it's essentially the story of how he lost weight under the sway of a kind of guru figure and a diet that would certainly seem to be unhealthy at best.Penn even says he's not recommending it for others, just telling how it worked for him.

I got a bit of a Brian Wilson/Eugene Landy vibe at times which gave the whole story a weird feeling as we know how that eventually turned out. That said, there were enough enjoyable bits that if you like Penn and/or Penn and Teller, I'd recommend it!

I'm not sure I can say the same for award-winning songwriter Carole Bayer Sager's autobiography. I always thought she was absolutely beautiful but knew virtually nothing about her life going in to this book.

There are the usual celebrity anecdotes, in some of which I believe she outs other celebs for drug use. Those stories about her friends and lovers are the most interesting parts. Carole herself comes across to me as a somewhat vacuous woman with feelings of entitlement and a history of bad choices and depression. While the book definitely humanizes its subject, it fails to make her particularly likable.

The best of these three would be AMERICAN HEIRESS, veteran crime reporter Jeffrey Toobin's detailed examination of the mid-seventies kidnapping and crimes of Patty Hearst. The story itself is fascinating. Young heiress is kidnapped, then ends up joining her revolutionary, terrorist kidnappers--or did she? The author gathers all available evidence and makes some extrapolations on the various people involved based on context and we end up with the whole story with emphasis on her later trial. The best part of the book, in my opinion, is how well Toobin manages to capture on paper the feel of the times, successfully placing the entire complex incident as part of the bigger picture. It's a riveting read.

Booksteve Recommends!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Stranger Things

We've had Netflix for several years now but we don't really use it a lot. Enough to get our eight bucks a month worth but that's about it, really. For the past couple of weeks, though, all I've heard about is STRANGER THINGS. Too much hype for a show is usually a turn-off to me but last night, as Rene was watching the Olympics opening ceremonies, I decided to at least take a look. I'm glad I did.

Imagine having a stew that you really enjoyed and then the next time, someone tried to top it by adding more things you liked into the mixed. It isn't the same...but sometimes it's tasty and filling on its own. That's the case here. There is so clearly NOTHING original about STRANGER THINGS that the folks behind it purposely decided to play up that fact as a positive thing!

And it works. The plot is basically the kids from STAND BY ME and ET teaming up with the title girl from FIRESTARTER to take on John Carpenter's version of THE THING.  It's all stirred together by twin writer/producers Ross and Matt Duffer, neither of whose names I had never even heard before last night. As I understand it, they weren't even born until 1984 but there show is set in 1983. Risky but they succeed.

The photography is excellent with some gorgeous autumn shots throughout. The music, while appropriately matched to many scenes, is mostly modern and thus anachronistic.

The pacing seems a bit off at times and might have been better served as six episodes but the characters are mostly compelling so you don't ever really regret the chance to spend more time with them.

The roles are brought to life by a strong collection of well-cast actors including '80s icons Winona Ryder and an almost too-aged looking Matthew Modine. Standouts among the impressive cast include David Harbour, whom I only knew from THE NEWSROOM, Gaten Materazzo, Natalia Dryer, and Millie Bobby Brown. Harbour is the de facto hero here, although he starts out as an unsympathetic character whom we get to know better as puzzle pieces fall into place in the story about a vanished boy and a mysterious laboratory on the edge of town.

At the end of the day, though, young Ms. Brown steals the show as the telekinetic Eleven aka 'El." Kids tend to be natural actors and the other kids in this cast prove that well. But there's more going on with Brown, who brings to her mystery girl role a series of underlying layers that help...but probably weren't even needed! She's intense and vulnerable at the same time, all-knowing and naive. Visually striking with her buzzcut for most of the show, she is someone to watch, for sure.

The missing boy himself is essentially a maguffin, leading to alliances, friendships, estrangements and adventures amongst the others throughout in several ongoing plotlines.

By its climax, STRANGER THINGS has become all too familiar and yet somehow satisfactorily new. If you're a fan of '80s movies, horror movies, or just plain good old fashioned storytelling, make sure you catch it.

Booksteve Recommends!