Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Attention mourners: Michael Jackson will have public viewing!

This just in, the Michael Jackson show continues, even in death.

The family is reporting that there will soon be a public viewing at his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara. I’m sure it will be a tasteful affair. No one would be so crass as to sell t-shirts, jackets, posters, candles, CD’s, silver gloves, post cards, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, DVD’s, memorial baseball caps, webkinz, Captain EO masks, Michael Jackson action figures, Michael Jackson as California Raisin action figures, authorized biographies, Michael Jackson Mastercards, Wiz soundtracks, Jackson 5 lunch pails, underwear, trading cards, puppets, mug shots, records, clocks, bed sheets, clods of Neverland dirt, calendars, ticket books to Neverland rides, King of Pop dolls, Black and White singing dolls, pins, badges, Lisa Marie Presley wedding invitations, Jehovah’s Witness brochures, last photos, 911 recordings, Neverland ant farms, afro wigs, sunglasses, shot glasses, comic books, stuffed animal of Ben the rat, flashlights, karaoke tapes, chia pets, helium balloons (inhale them and talk like Michael), shampoo, bobbleheads (collect all 5), Joe Jackson pimp suits, socks, Butterfield 8 DVD’s, Lucite frames, blow ups of Janet’s wardrobe malfunction, courtroom artists’ renderings, foam fingers, tampons, beach towels, crying towels, deposition reprints, life size cardboards (size 8 years old – adult), pillows, and woochies.

The news media will certainly respect the family’s privacy and not trot out every news van, satellite dish, production truck, helicopter, klieg light, and microphone in America. There will be no photographers, no anchors, no field reporters, no TMZ stringers, no Jesse Jackson.

Opportunistic concessionaires won’t be just off site selling Moonwok stir fry, PYT (pink yam tamales), Billie Jean burgers, black and white cookies, Thriller chillers, Beet It borscht, Doggone hot dogs, Dangerous chili, King of lollipops, and King of soda Pop.

Ultimately the services will be private… whatever that means.

Monday, June 29, 2009

TEN Best Picture nominees. Really????















Hey, good news! There’s now a chance TRANSFORMERS II can be nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture of the Year! Same for LAND OF THE LOST. There will now be ten nominees for Best Picture instead of five. Hollywood is still reeling from this “bombshell” (as Academy President Sid Ganis put it).

Why the change?

Ratings for the Oscarcast suck. The all-important young people aren’t watching. So the Academy is changing their long-standing policy to be more like the MTV Movie Awards.

The argument of course, is moviegoers don’t care about the Oscars because the nominees are all art films, usually depressing, and co-star Judi Dench in at least four of them. Films like YEAR ONE get passed over whenever there’s a Holocaust entry. So to increase desired-demographic interest the Academy will now cast a wider net allowing summer popcorn fare to join the Oscar party.

The big question of course is – are there even ten good movies a year? Will GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST actually receive consideration?

The truth is these mainstream movies for the most part will just become schmuck bait. The SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRES and dreary Paul Thomas Anderson films will still be the main contenders. STAR TREK and G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA may now get nominations but who are we kidding?

You’d think Hollywood would be thrilled by this announcement but they're not. This just means they have to spend more money on Oscar campaigns, money they can now ill afford to waste. “For Your Consideration: DANCE FLICK”. Might as well make paper hats with that campaign allotment.

The studios have been scaling back their Oscar campaigns, not only because of the economy but because Oscar nominations don’t bring people into the Cineplex like they once did. And now they’re going to have to fend off the producers of IMAGINE THAT who feel they deserve some love?

This also may backfire for the Academy because it means the Oscarcast will be that much longer. We’ll have to see clips from CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE. The show’s too long by several hours as it is.

But members of the Academy must be thrilled. More nominees mean MORE SCREENER DVDS!! Why rent ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS for the kids when you can get a copy for free? The housekeepers of L.A. will be able to see all their favorite movies now, not just Sean Penn fare.

I’m just glad there weren’t ten nominees in 1985. I’d hate to think VOLUNTEERS would be shut out while PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE got a Best Picture nod.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sky Saxon

Okay, it’s been a lonnnnng weekend of non-stop Michael Jackson articles, tributes, debates, speculation, and those damn helicopters over my house. But it’s time we take a moment to remember the other rock notable who passed away last Thursday as well. Sky Saxon of the Seeds.

No, he wasn’t the King of Pop but he was the King of the L.A. Garage Band and a kingdom is a kingdom, right? The Seeds had one big national hit in the mid 60s, “Pushin’ Too Hard”. But in L.A. they had several more including “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” and “Mr. Farmer”.

I have to admit I loved this guy.

His music was a mix of hard rock, blues, peyote, and not sleeping for several weeks. The Seeds use of a keyboard is I’m sure what influenced the Doors to employ one on “Light My Fire”. (Listen to me, big rock historian using words like “influenced” and “employ”). From the Seeds beget The Doors, the Byrds, Love, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Electric Prunes, the Leaves, Count Five, the Grassroots – pretty much every group coming out of Los Angeles except Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

The Seeds were one of the first bands to experiment with psychedelic rock. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley we had a radio station in Burbank, KBLA (with a signal worse than your Wifi router) that would play album cuts. All the really cool kids listened to that. Any song longer than three minutes was considered “far out”. There were also “mind blowing” songs but those had to be over four minutes. One of the KBLA staples was “Up In Her Room” by the Seeds. It lasted a staggering 14:45! With lyrics like “Up in her room/I smell incense burn/Up in her room/I sure did learn” we impressionable teenagers got the crazy idea this song might be about drugs. With other lyrics like “Sha la la/Sha la la/Sha la la/Sha la la” that repeated for four minutes we pretty much confirmed it. Meanwhile, the mainstream stations were playing “Everybody Loves a Clown” by… Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

Sky and his group were a local hit just when every channel had a TV dance show. Once a week they’d show up on THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW, NINTH STREET WEST, SHIVAREE, SHEBANG, or HOLLYWOOD A-GO GO. Sky had a unique stage presence. He was the first performer I can remember who always appeared completely stoned. You’d swear he had no idea where he was. I’d watch in utter fascination. Other rock historians have compared him to Mick Jagger on stage. Huh? Maybe Mick Jagger after shock treatments. But Sky’s deadpan disinterested fog persona made him stand out. He was one of my favorites.

Like the other king, Sky’s life was shrouded in bizarreness and intrigue. Supposedly, the Seeds once guested on the sitcom THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW playing a band called The Warts. They did "Pushin' Too Hard" and "Some Enchanted Evening". Later, Sky dropped out and joined the Yohowha religious cult. The sect broke up when their divine leader Father Yod died in a hang gliding accident. Sky continued to make music, recently had moved to Austin, Texas and was planning a tour with other flower power refugees at the time of his death. Sky was in his mid 60s. Nobody really knows.

He was a character. An influence on many (there’s that word again). A terrific musician. And according to those who knew him, a wonderful person with a gentle soul.

Here’s a video of Sky and the Seeds on SHEBANG, hosted by Casey Kasem. I hadn’t seen him perform in years and happily, he did not disappoint. Pay particular attention to his guitar playing.

Sky Saxon, you will be missed. I only wish you were missed by more.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My favorite weekend

Yes, this is a rerun but it's one of my favorite posts. When I first posted it the LA TIMES called and asked my permission to re-print it. Enjoy again, or for all you newer readers, enjoy for the first time and check out my archives for other fun things you might discover. Don't wait for the TIMES to re-print anything else. They probably won't.

The Thursday Calendar section of the LA TIMES always has a feature called “My Favorite Weekend”. A celebrity is asked to describe his or her favorite southland weekend. It’s always bullshit, but now it seems they’re running out of real celebrities. At one time it was Sharon Stone. This week it was one of the models who holds briefcases on DEAL OR NO DEAL. Like anyone gives a crap that she likes to go to Catalina with friends on Sunday then have dinner at someone’s house and let his chef prepare the meal.

Anyway, just in case the TIMES ever asks, I thought I’d post my favorite weekend. Or at least, a typical weekend for me.

*******

Friday I like to get an early start and hit the cockfights in Tijuana. I enjoy the action and it’s fun to see all the young couples out on their first dates.

From there I’ll go to the Hotel Del Coronado for a swim to wash any blood off.

There’s a Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus restaurant in Oceanside right off Interstate 5. They have a three-course dinner for two that includes two sides. And on Friday you can get their signature clam chowder, just like the cowboys used to make.

Saturday morning I power walk from Westwood to Malibu, get the paper, then power walk home. Along the way I may stop at an artist friend’s house and pose for a bust.

For lunch I’ll meet some ex car thiefs at Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake. Their Big Boy hamburger is an LA classic, but I order their Super Big Boy hamburger because that one has meat in it.

After lunch and checking to see that one of my dining companions didn’t steal my XM radio, I amble over to the Twin Swallows Oriental Massage Parlor in nearby Inglewood for some pampering at negotiated rates.

Once that ends happily I head back home to work on my “project”. It’s been a ten year labor of love. I’m assembling a table I bought at Ikea in 1996.

For drinks at sunset, especially in the summer when the sky turns an awe inspiring crimson, I prefer the bar at the Shangri-La motel at the beach. Only wish it had a window so I could see outside.

If I went whale hunting the week before I’ll come home and grill it for dinner. I’ll invite some close friends I met on MySpace and we’ll eat, discuss the theater, sample fine wines, and toss water balloons at the useless neighborhood watch patrol car.

Early Sunday morning I reserve for calling back everyone who called me during the week. For some reason I usually wind up leaving messages on their voice mail. I’ve yet to reach my dentist.

For breakfast I’m cutting down on eggs so it’s back to the Shangri-La motel bar for a Ramos Gin Fizz. Those eggs can kill you.

Next I steal a horse and play polo at Will Rogers State Park. The guys love me because I usually bring the little orange juice boxes when we break for snacks.

I love star watching so for lunch I zip out to the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills. Last week I saw the remaining cast members of MCHALE’S NAVY.

Sunday afternoon is culture time. You can’t be well informed if you don’t read. Currently I’m poring through Helen Reddy’s autobiography.

Sunday evening is sushi so that means Angel Stadium in Anaheim. There’s nothing like watching the Halos duel the Rays and hearing that vendor come down the aisle yelling “Hey, sushi right here! Get yer yellowtail!”

I get home, use the neighbor’s Jacuzzi if he’s not home, watch the CELEBRITY FIT CLUB and then it’s time for bed. The great thing about LA is that it’s not just me – EVERYONE here has weekends like this.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Elvira and other horror hosts

Horror movies on TV used to be great fun. Slashers were essentially the station editors who hacked them to time allowing for commercial breaks. And the best part was the local hosts. In LA I grew up with Elvira and the hilarious Seymour but every city seemed to have its ghoulish counterpart, each with a great name like Gonorrhea , Mistress of the Dead. Here are a few. And to think, those timeslots are occupied by informercials today. It makes me want to KILL SOMEONE!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson wall to off-the-wall coverage

My heart goes out to the family and fans of Michael Jackson. His death was indeed tragic. But it was hard to watch the media coverage and not be struck by the absurdity of it all. Here are a few things I observed. (Friday questions will return next week.)

A police officer leaving Jackson’s Holmby Hills home was asked, “What’s the mood in there?”

A fan on camera said the news of Michael Jackson made her burst out hysterical at Gelsons.

Another was so upset she had to leave Popeye’s Chicken.

One local station showed this graphic:

-- Pronounced dead at 2:36P
-- Died at UCLA Medical Center
--Jackson Family heartbroken

Until I saw that graphic I had no idea the family was upset.

Fans flocked to the Michael Jackson star on the Hollywood Walk-of-Fame. But it was talkshow host’s star, not Jacko’s. His star was covered by a red carpet laid down for the premiere of BRUNO.

But here’s the great part: The fans were informed this was the wrong Michael Jackson but they remained and set up their shrine anyway.

Anytime a station went to their on-site reporter for a live look-in, everyone behind the reporter had a cellphone and was waving to whoever they were talking to. Not exactly folks in deep mourning.

We were told Elizabeth Taylor was too distraught to Tweet a statement.

And no Tweets from Oprah or Diana Ross either.

But M.C. Hammer was all a-Twitter. Fox News ran a banner that read: ‘MC Hammer tweets on Jackson death: `I have no words.' This they consider a headline???

One fan said the world’s going to unite, just like they did with Obama. She said his death was on a par with Martin Luther King and Gandhi. (The reporter added “and Sinatra”) And this fan went on to predict, “You’re going to see a paradigm shift in the consciousness of what one man did.” I’m not sure what that means but I’m using it my next eulogy.

Below is one grief stricken fan.

Corey Feldman issued this statement: “"I come to you today with great sadness, acknowledging the loss of the greatest entertainer in the history of mankind.”

Even so, I'm even more upset that Sky Saxon from the Seeds also passed away yesterday.

I wonder if ESPN NEWS still cut away to Albuquerque to show Manny Ramirez’s at bats in a minor league game.

More fan reactions: One said the best thing about Michael Jackson was how he could seduce women. And he said this with a straight face. An Asian girl at the wrong Michael Jackson star said she saw a small crowd milling about and “asked a couple of gay guys what was going on.” The reporter cited her as an example of the international popularity of MJ because she had come all the way from China. Yeah, but she was here already on vacation. She didn’t fly over just for this. She was probably just coming out of Popeye's Chicken.

Footage of the paramedics at Jackson’s house showed the ambulance took forever trying to back out of his narrow driveway. Footage supplied by one of the great news bureaus of the world -- Hollywood Starline Tours.

If there is anyone who thinks there's still not enough Michael Jackson coverage it's South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Maybe if the major networks still had news departments the announcement of Jackson’s death wouldn’t first be reported on TMZ.

Poor Farrah. Both ABC and NBC had tribute specials for her ready to go and they were either scrapped or folded into the Michael Jackson coverage.

And finally this: One local news outlet showed a few people gathering on the lawn of MJ’s modest boyhood home in Gary, Indiana. It’s this little matchbox. The news anchor said, “This will be the next Graceland”.
And this stuff is only from the first day.

Michael Jackson is dead...a mile from my house

My neighborhood is under siege. I happen to live in Westwood, maybe a mile from the UCLA Medical Center. Helicopters continue to whirr overhead. It sounds like the opening of MASH on a loop. The media has descended like a swarm of locusts. And Michael Jackson fans are arriving in droves. This is real annoying for the Iran protesters who are waving flags and marching in front of the Federal Building.

Streets in the area are a complete snarl. Not a good night to attend any of the movies showing in the L.A. Film Festival, also going on tonight in Westwood.

And try getting a table at the California Pizza Kitchen.

His house, which is even less than a mile from me, is now surrounded by fans. And tourist vans. Lots of tourist vans. Do not try to get to the valley by going through Bel Air tonight.

In death as in life, the world of Michael Jackson is a circus. Media outlets from around the globe are here. So are fans hoping to catch a glimpse of other Jackson family members. Cellphone cameras are at the ready. Nearby frat houses are blasting Michael Jackson hits (although that’s something they might be doing anyway). There must be a thousand Tweets a minute being sent from the scene.

I’ll report back if anything else happens. Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn! There’s nothing to see here!

P.S.
Fans are also gathering at his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But it's the wrong Michael Jackson. They're paying tribute to the radio talkshow host, Michael Jackson.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Misc-Takes

Jon & Kate are getting divorced. Yes, this will be very hard on the family, especially the eight kinder but forget all that, the ratings for JON & KATE PLUS EIGHT went through the roof! 10.6 million last Monday night!! Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes -- you want your careers to take off again??? TOM & KATE PLUS ONE. I'm just sayin'.

BIG LOVE could use this ploy three separate times.

Barbara Walters, the self-appointed guardian of the sanctity of marriage said, “"If you have more than five children, you shouldn't be allowed to get divorced." Ms. Walters has been divorced three times and has slept with married men.

Porno films love to use variations of popular titles. How soon till there’s a KATE PLUS EIGHT orgy flick in release?

Fans of Earl Pomerantz's blog: he's having technical difficulties and has been unable to post the last few days. Like me, he's computer, uh challenged and doesn't know how to fix it. If you're computer savvy drop him an email. He's depending on the kindness of strangers. Thanks.

No, I don’t get any royalties for creating (along with partner David) the name Isotopes for a SIMPSONS episode that now has been adopted by the Albuquerque minor league baseball team. But in lieu of money I’d like a statue in front of the ballpark. Me at a computer with maybe a thought-bubble over my head. Don't you think that's the least they could do?

First CBS NEWS broke into programming to report on the bombing of London. Now ESPN NEWS breaks into programming to show the Manny Ramirez at-bats for the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Pacific Coast League Western Division pennant race might well be hanging in the balance!

When Manny returns to the Dodgers (and ESPN NEWS breaks in every time he goes to the Gatorade bucket), do you think there might be one or two syringes thrown onto the field when he plays in New York? I will be there to let you know. I will be traveling with the Dodgers on Manny’s first trip.

Corporate naming rights continue. It’s bad enough there’s Minute Maid Park in Houston or Citibank Field in New York (which should be called “Taxpayers Field”), but now the New York MTA has sold naming rights to a subway stop. The nexus of subway stops at Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn will now be preceded by “Barclays”. Price: $4 million. Trust me, the day is coming when we’ll all be paying our respects at the “Wendy’s Arlington National Cemetery”.

Phil Spector is in “sensitive needs” prison. He can still become someone’s bitch but his feelings must be taken seriously.

Stephen Baldwin has quit I’M A CELEBRITY – GET ME OUT OF HERE. Reason: Too many insect bites. Jesus, when Janice Dickinson can stick it out, how big of a wuss are you?

But at least too many insect bites is an explanation I could buy. If he had said he was leaving because he had a movie offer that NO one would have believed.

I now have a date for my free teleseminar. July 25th. Details here.

The Bolivian News Channel (PAT) aired exclusive photos of that tragic Air France airplane crash. Dramatic shots right inside the cabin. Then they learned they actually aired shots from the pilot of LOST.

Phil Jackson wants to coach the Lakers again… but only at home. Either Kurt Rambis will coach on the road or Phil will do it through Twitter.

Should this become a sort of regular feature? It's kinda fun to do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

MONEYBALL


The MONEYBALL movie is not going forward – at least for now. Columbia Pictures President Amy Pascal didn’t like the last draft (that's what happens when you bring in someone else to rewrite a decent writer) and pulled the plug. The filmmakers are scrambling to set it up somehow and somewhere.

What puzzles me is how this project got on the fast track in the first place. First off, it’s a baseball movie. They usually tank overseas (as my international readers who are probably thinking of bailing just reading the word baseball can attest). And it’s from a non-fiction book. Here’s what I imagine was the pitch. You tell me if you’d buy this.

Okay, there’s this General Manager of a major league baseball team. And here’s the great thing – it’s not the Cubs or Yankees or Dodgers or any of those other over-used teams. It’s the Oakland A’s! No, that’s a real team. They play in Oakland. Anyway, this general manager has a great plan for turning them into a winner. STATISTICS!! He’s a number cruncher on the computer. Isn’t that COOL? Can’t you just picture the scene – he’s on his laptop and realizes that on base percentage is an important stat. I get chills just thinking about it.

So he institutes these really INSANE new methods based on research. When his players come up to the plate they’re not looking to hit home runs or triples or even singles. They’re looking to – hold onto your hats – they’re looking to DRAW WALKS! “Ball four! Take your base!” I mean, that just SCREAMS “trailer moment”, doesn’t it? They also never steal bases. It’s revolutionary!!

And for the third act, how’s this for a novel ending? They get to the playoffs and ... always LOSE. The strategy DOESN'T WORK! Tell me you didn’t see that one coming.

I picture someone like Brad Pitt playing the GM. Maybe we can get Steven Soderbergh to direct. Steven Zallian would be perfect to write it. He wrote SCHINDLER’S and the tone is very similar. So whattaya think? Christmas 2010? Summer 2011? “

Well, Columbia did buy it. Brad Pitt did agree to star. Steven Soderbergh is attached to direct. Steve Zallian did write the original screenplay. The only thing more baffling would be if Angelina Jolie had signed on to play first baseman, Scott Hatteberg.

But now it sits in limited turnaround – Hollywood-speak for “dead”.

Amy, if you have your heart set on doing a baseball movie, can I make a suggestion?

A TV comedy writer goes off and becomes a minor league baseball announcer. In the course of the film he finds love, discovers who he really is, rejuvenates an entire town, touching and improving thousands of lives. You could get Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Seth Rogin, Steve Carrell – any hot comedy leading man. It’s BULL DURHAM meets GOOD MORNING VIET NAM. Sound good? Here’s the best part, Amy: you already own it.

You have for years. It’s called PLAY-BY-PLAY, written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs. Go back through the files. There’s no sabermetrics but you might find there's something there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer travel notes from your cranky tourist

With summer on the horizon, here are a few thoughts on the nightmare and ordeal that has become air travel.

There are these new little locks you can put on your luggage that inspectors have the keys to open. When you get your luggage back there will be an indication that your bag has been opened. But mysteriously the locks all disappear. People I know have had as many as three stolen off their bags. So who handles your bag once you check it in? Inspectors. They’re the ones stealing the locks.

And now you have to pay to check in luggage to have it opened, rifled through, broken, ripped, and have your lock stolen.

It soon may be cheaper to let UPS ship your underwear across the country than letting United Airlines do it.

We’ve had TSA checkpoints in airports for almost nine years now. And yet, half the people in line are totally bewildered. Yes, you have to take your shoes off! You see everyone else taking their shoes off? Why would you think that you’re the one person in 200,000,000 that doesn’t?

There is not even a consistent inspection procedure among airports. At LAX you don’t have to show your boarding pass a second time when you pass through the metal detector. In Oakland you do. Some airports require you take out your drivers’ license. In others that’s not necessary.

You need a separate bin for your computer. But you don’t need a separate bin for your keys, another one for your jacket, another one for your change, and two for your shoes. And yes, even though they’re flip flops you have to take off your shoes!

Under-wire bras can set off the alarm. But good news, ladies: gel-filled bras are permitted… and even encouraged.

Keep lines moving!!!!

Don't use free airport Wifi. It is a hackers delight.

For all the aggravation you have to go through, do you even feel remotely safer with all the TSA inspections?

Incoming cars are stopped at security checkpoints (in some airports, not all). And yet cab drivers, who come from every country in the world but America and speak every language but English zip right in.

If you’ve arranged for a towncar the driver should be waiting for you in the terminal with a sign. You shouldn’t have to call him when you get in, then get detailed confusing instructions so that you’re wandering around holding areas in unfamiliar airports, wondering if this is the right exit and this is the right curb and trying to pick out a specific license plate number as fifty cars that all look alike go whizzing by.

If you’re bringing an infant or toddler on board, a) you must be on my flight, and b) bring hard candy for them to suck on during take-offs and landings. It relieves the pressure in their ears when the cabin pressure changes.

Bring your own headphones.

There is more room in exit rows. When they ask if you’ll assist in case of emergency say sure. What the hell?

For the smoothest ride, pick a seat over the wing.

Drink a lot of water during a flight. Stay hydrated.

Airlines routinely add a half hour or more to the flying time so it will appear they are more on-time.

Instead of jotting your parking location on a scrap of paper that you’ll surely lose, take a picture of with you camera phone. Same with your luggage so when it arrives destroyed you’ll have some record.

Have you ever been in a taxi that didn’t have at least one warning light on the dashboard?

Have you ever been in a taxi that had more than one gallon of gasoline in it? Not that the driver will ever stop for gas.

How much do you tip cab drivers? I never know.

It will be a larger distance between the terminal and the rental car lot than the rental car lot and your destination – even if you’re driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Book the smallest car you need and hope for a free upgrade.

Never buy gas from a station close to an airport. They jack up prices knowing people with rental cars need to get them refueled.

Not all rental car companies start you off with a full tank of gas anymore. Check before you leave.

When a shuttle says it will be by every ten minutes and you believe it you’re dumber than the guy who didn’t know he has to take off his shoes.

Become a major league ballplayer or the President of the United States so you won't have to deal with any of this crap.

Bag the trip entirely and just go to your nearby Indian casino.

Have a great summer, everybody!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Celebrity Sex Tapes

Guys, if you plan on dating actresses make sure you have a good video camera. Spend the extra money and get HD. It’s a good investment. Yes, she may make it and leave you for Brad Cooper or Al Pacino but you’ll still have the sex tape. Riches and notoriety will surely be yours!

And it’s easy because it seems every dumb actress of celebre-wannabe agrees to make a sex tape.

Two latest examples: Leighton Meester of GOSSIP GIRL and Danielle Staub, the “prostitution whore” (so named by a caring fellow cast mate) of REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY. In both cases their Exes are peddling their XXX’s to the highest bidder.

What a great deal! Not only can you brag that you slept with a hot actress you can now make money from it! Sure you might want to lose that spare tire and last longer than twelve seconds (you’re on camera too) and it’s a good idea not to be married at the time, but with the right ingĂ©nue and a zoom lens you could be in the chips!

You’d think the hard part was convincing them to do it. But it’s not. All you have to do is say, “Don’t worry. No one else will ever see this” and you’re in. And that makes sense really. Who WOULD be interested in seeing a future Miss Arkansas on her knees servicing a bartender from El Torito’s?

The only problem is this: There’s concern that the market may soon become flooded. You’ll need that extra something – the Olsen Twins, Carrie Underwood, Nancy Pelosi.

And you better market your tape fast. The nanosecond there’s real money in this CAA will start its own division. Sex tapes will become package deals. You can buy Tanya Harding but you have to also take this new girl from Bally’s Fitness Center we just signed.

So what are you waiting for? You could be the next internet star! Or, network star if the audience continues to dwindle. Who knows? The day may come when an actress will need to star in a sitcom in order to be popular enough for a sex tape.

God, I love this town!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!!

Especially to my own father, Cliff, who is both my hero and role model.

Note to those wives and kids planning to celebrate: no brunches. That’s Mother’s Day stuff. Let the old man sit in front of the TV and watch the U.S. Open or Arena football amateur draft in peace.

Or watch FIELD OF DREAMS.And now, as a public service, here are some movies NOT to watch on Father’s Day:

FEAR STRIKES OUT
CHINATOWN
SHINE
WALK THE LINE
OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN
DEAD POETS SOCIETY
STAR WARS

Some TV shows and telefilms NOT to watch:

THE MARVIN GAYE STORY
THE BEACH BOYS STORY
Any CBS family comedy

Some unfriendly father plays:

ALL MY SONS
DEATH OF A SALESMAN (any Arthur Miller, actually)
LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Some books to avoid:

Any Bing Crosby biography
Any Frank Sinatra biography
LOVE STORY (for so many reasons)

Records to skip:

PAPA WAS A ROLLING STONE by the Temptations
BOY NAMED SUE by Johnny Cash
MY DAD by Paul Peterson

Any other suggestions are welcome.

Again, happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Radio that you can see

Usually when my partner, Josh Suchon and I host Dodger Talk on 790 KABC we're locked away in a secluded studio. But Thursday night we took our show on the road, to the Baseline Club Box lounge at Dodger Stadium. It was great fun. We had a big turnout. Lots of real valuable Dodger chazerei to give away, and what's more exciting than watching two guys talking into microphones? Hopefully, these remotes will become a regular feature. Thanks to everyone for coming out. I pray you all had designated drivers. Here's a glimpse of what went on.

Listeners were invited to come up and ask their questions live on the air. Not sure the table was enough protection for us.
How insane was this? People asking for my autograph. I signed them Manny Ramirez.
I'm not sure. I think this is when the crowd turned ugly.
What picture collection would be complete without one where you look like an idiot. That's a wolf hat I'm wearing? Fans wear these when Randy Wolf pitches or they want to get out of jury duty. In the middle there is Linda Eav who provided the photos.
Hope to see you the next time we do this, assuming they ever let us NEAR the public again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No laughing in the operating room

OH BOY!! It’s Friday question day!!

gottacook has one.

What a wonderful thing that MASH DVDs allow viewers to choose to omit the laugh track. Did you ever imagine, when working on the show, (i) whether such a thing might be possible one day for home video, and (ii) whether there might eventually be comedies (such as the "single-camera" type) that were laugh track-free?

At the time we wrote MASH we had no clue the show would still be so popular thirty years later. We were just thrilled when THREE’S COMPANY stopped kicking our ass in the ratings. I also never thought someday you could own the shows for your own home library. By the way, they look better on DVD than they ever did on the air.

But I fully expected that at some point a single-camera show could escape the laugh track shackles. Hour dramas that had comedy sprinkled in like MOONLIGHTING helped the cause.

On MASH at least CBS allowed us to do O.R. scenes laugh track free. “Let it go, Hawkeye. He’s gone.” (ha ha ha ha ha ha).

willie b wants to know:

We're all familiar with how cheap networks and studios are (see: Jay at 10). So why are writing partners or rooms of writers the norm in TV? Seems to me the networks/studios would be happy paying just one writer instead of a whole roomful.

They would. The trouble is very few writers can write 22 episodes of television a year by themselves… and not wind up in the drooling academy. All the more reason why Larry Gelbart, Aaron Sorkin, and David E. Kelley are Gods.

From Brendan DuBois:

On Frasier, at what point were the title cards written, the ones that used puns and such to introduce different scenes? Were they part of the original script, or were they added on later?

Both. They were a stylistic choice from the get-go. In the pilot, Peter Casey, David Lee, and David Angell employed them to help introduce characters. E.G. -- Before Niles’ first scene a card appeared that read “the brother”. For the FRASIER scripts my partner and I wrote we included several card suggestions. Some they used, some they didn’t, some they did themselves that were better.

And finally, from Chris Ayers:

In the episode where BJ is making Charles think he's gaining & losing weight, were you the "Beanpole Levine" whose pants made Winchester think he'd gotten fat?

Even though I pronounce it “La-Vine”, yep. A little inside joke to amuse maybe three people at the time. Now four. Thanks for noticing.

What’s your question?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You won't believe this story

A lively discussion ensued from Saturday’s post about breaking the 4th wall. My big problem with it in the case of our movie VOLUNTEERS (available in remainder bins everywhere) is that it changed the tone of the movie two-thirds of the way in. One minute it looks so real it could be a National Geographic documentary and then the next it turns into ROAD TO UTOPIA.

You have to establish your world (whatever it is) and then just stick to it. Breaking the 4th wall is a fine convention if used correctly. I’ve seen it in movies, plays, musicals, and my favorite example is George Burns on the old BURNS & ALLEN television show. Not only did he address the audience, he also would turn on the TV in his office and watch along with us as the other characters played out the story. In a sense he was the only one of the cast who knew he was also in a TV show. I know it sounds confusing but it worked. And was hilarious. I’ve yet to see a more original bending of the sitcom form in the last fifty years.

But if Frasier suddenly turned on the TV and watched Niles having dinner with Daphne you’d go WHAT THE FUCK?!

Flashbacks and time travel are established in LOST. But on 24 if you interrupted a chase scene to show a flashback of Jack torturing a kitten as a kid, it would throw you right out of the show. A few years ago I would watch 24 then THE SHIELD. And whenever Vic would leave the station and they’d cut to him pulling up at his destination I thought, “Hey, how’d he get there so fast?” and then I’d remember, oh yeah, this isn’t in real time.

You can make your world as crazy as you want as long as you stick to your own rules. In the SEINFELD world and CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM world absurd coincidences are commonplace. If Diane Chambers was having trouble writing a paper on terrorism and Osama Bin Laden just happened to walk into Cheers at that exact moment you’d throw your shoe at the screen. But on Seinfeld that would be perfectly plausible. And Osama would be eating the same box of Junior Mints that Carla lost on the train two years ago.

It is because of that coincidental world that SEINFELD and CURB established that the following REAL LIFE story is so utterly astonishing.

In 2003 Juan Catalan was tried and convicted for murder. He had claimed he was at a Dodger game at the time of the crime. But he had no proof and the evidence was strong enough to convict him. His lawyer went back through the telecast of that game and tried to see if by some miracle he could spot Catalan in the stands. Of course he couldn’t.

Then the lawyer learned that the night in question CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM was shooting a few scenes of Larry David at the game. He obtained the outtakes and talk about finding a needle in a haystack, there was his client in one of the shots. The tape was time coded which proved conclusively he was not at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder. Catalan was released and sued the city for police misconduct and received $320,000.

Can you believe that? It’s absolutely true. What do you think the odds are? A billion-to-one? Twenty billion-to-one?

But what if the lawyer was Sam Waterston and this was a plot for LAW & ORDER? You get my point.

Houses can fly, ghosts can return, people can break into song, DeLoreans can take you back to the 50s. Just don’t do all these things in the same movie.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'M A CELEBRITY! GET ME OUT OF HERE!

As you know I’m always on the lookout for the next really terrible reality show. It’s my mission in life. Well, I’ve found it. NBC’s I’M A CELEBRITY! GET ME OUT OF HERE! It’s on every night this week. I have no idea what its regular time slot is or how long it’s slated to continue. But I watched the big two-hour show on Monday night and am happy to report it was jaw dropping.

Here’s the premise: F list celebrities play a form of SURVIVOR to ultimately become the king or queen of the jungle. They’re playing for charity, which is apparently a euphemism for “trying to desperately revive their careers”. There are challenges and immunity competitions that are supposed to be important for some reason but I have no idea why. They were just a confusing mess.

America gets to vote from time to time and some segments of the show are live and… I have no fucking clue what they’re trying to achieve here.

But none of that matters. When you’re watching a train wreck you don’t care what the menu in the dining car features.

By the time I had caught up with I’M A CELEBRITY! GET ME OUT OF HERE! mega-stars Heidi & Spencer from THE HILLS had already quit. Apparently someone stole her shampoo. In retaliation, Spencer hid former pro wrestler Torrie Wilson’s bag. Heidi explained away his behavior by saying “My husband is a very new Christian”. Heidi also spent a night vomiting and it turns out it wasn’t on purpose.

Daniel Baldwin (who replaced Spencer) has already been eliminated along with those titans of comedy, Frangela.

So here’s who’s left:

Torrie Wilson, former WWE wrestler, Playboy model, and now has her own clothing line.

Stephen Baldwin – the Fredo of the Baldwin brothers.

Sanjaya – former AMERICAN IDOL loser/national joke billed as “Pop Star”.

Holly Montag – (I know. “Who??”) Her claim to fame is that she’s Heidi’s sister. What a coup to get her on the show.

John Salley – former NBA sorta star.

Janice Dickinson – self appointed “World’s First Supermodel”. Total whack job. Already distinguished herself in the fifth season of THE SURREAL WORLD by being in a bowling tournament with kids with “special needs” and ripping them because they weren’t better bowlers.

Lou Diamond Philips – Once had a huge feature career, now reduced to eating a tarantula to win a food challenge.

And maybe the biggest brightest star in the entire galaxy: Patti Blagojevich – wife of former Illinois governor soon to be prison inmate Rod Blagojevich. Not exactly an Oscar winner but she is a licensed real estate broker. What I missed from those early episodes was Spencer telling Patti that Rod would have his vote for president.

The hosts are Damien somebody who just stands around and Myleene Klass, who of course needs no introduction.

Like SURVIVOR they live in a jungle camp. This one’s in Costa Rica. They sleep in what appears to be canvass cocoons. And if none of this was humiliating enough, they all wear T-shirts with the telephone number to call to vote for them on the back.

Some recent highlights:

Patti Blagojevich crying about how she’s probably going to jail.

Janice Dickinson unable to take a dump for nine days.

Sanjaya and Torrie competing in the “Tunnel of Terror”. They had to go through this sewer fighting rats and spiders and crayfish for plastic stars. Favorite part – swimming through this green gunk while baby alligators are literally shot into the water.

The gang commiserating with each other on how hard it is to be a celebrity. Stephen Baldwin said, “Me and Danny and Alec and Billy are just like four regular guys from Long Island… unless I have to get a restaurant reservation last minute and can’t. Then I’m all ‘do you know who my brother is?’”

A couple of snakes enter the campgrounds while they’re all sleeping. From out of nowhere three “On Site Security” ninjas burst in wearing camouflage fatigues. But they round up the snakes quietly. God forbid they wake up Holly Montag.

Janice and Sanjaya having a bit of a tiff over the amount of French fries Sanjaya was cooking. She insisted he throw in more but he feared the larger batch wouldn’t be crispy enough. Where was America to vote and settle this ugly dispute?

I’M A HAS-BEEN OR NEVER-WERE! GET ME OUT OF HERE! The only thing sadder than these participants are the people at home who vote for them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Misc.-takes

When Arnold Palmer orders an ice tea/lemonade at a restaurant does he say, “I’ll have a me”?

If you want to see THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 rent the 1974 version on Netflix. I love Denzel Washington but I’m sorry, he’s no Walter Mattau.

Eddie Murphy’s latest family film is another disaster. IMAGINE THAT.

Congratulations to the Lakers, winners of this year’s NBA Finals. The downtown parade is Wednesday. Opening night of the 2009-2010 season is Thursday.

Here’s how crazy they are in Great Britain: When one of their teams wins a national championship they don’t riot, set fires, overturn news vans, or go on looting sprees. And they have the nerve to call themselves sports fans.

The funniest woman in show business is a man. Dame Edna.

The latest reality show woman who is now a man: Chastity Bono.

Jeff Zucker’s continual quest to completely destroy NBC continues. Now he’s sacrificing the 50 year TONIGHT SHOW franchise. Conan O’Brien is already losing to David Letterman. That took long. Two weeks.

So who’s the new King of Late Night Television? Craig Ferguson. I loved his recent monologue. "That’s right,” he said, “I am the new King of Late Night TV. I can hear what you are saying, 'Craig many, many, people get more viewers than you, lots of people in late night, nearly everyone in late night, gets more viewers than you -- how can you be the King of Late Night?’ Cause I have a plan! I put out a press release saying I was the new King Of Late Night. What constitutes royalty in late night television? Saying you are! And as your king I demand you disrobe.”

I had to stop following Alyssa Milano on Twitter. I guess I just don't care what she'd doing... every single minute.

Recent headline in the HuffingtonPost: IOWA WOMAN DISCOVERS NEW CLOUD TYPE

Which network will be the first to blame their shitty ratings on the changeover from analog to digital?

I'm closing in on a date for my free teleseminar. Stay tuned. I just need to confirm when Mercury is in retrograde.

I hate interleague play. It really takes the luster out of that upcoming Cincinnati-Kansas City World Series now that they've met during the regular season.

How soon before dethroned Miss California Carrie Prejean is crowned Miss Texas?

At the new Yankee Stadium drivers pay $19 for parking AFTER the game, as they’re leaving. Yes, it makes getting out of there a three hour affair but the good news is if your car is stolen during the game you save the parking fee! God bless those Yankees. Always thinking of their fans first.

Oh boy! AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 open auditions are going on right now! It’s our national roundup of idiots. Register in Atlanta today and tomorrow.

Red Sox announcers are not thrilled the team drafted Seth Schwindenhammer.

Worst headline ever. Not surprisingly, it’s from the NY Post. This is how they reported David Carradine’s death: HUNG FU.

And finally, I’d like to say hi to all my readers in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. This blog is huge in India.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weird writers I have known

Writing rooms are often filled with, er…”interesting” personalities. Why comedy writing breeds quirky eccentric sometimes psychotic people is beyond my scope of understanding, but I frequently found myself in rooms populated by some colorful types. I should mention a couple of things at this point: Names have been changed to protect the guilty. I’m not looking to embarrass anyone or tarnish anyone’s reputation. And two, many of these individuals are also very funny, very helpful comedy writers.

So off we go:

Fred was an elderly gentleman from one of comedy’s golden ages (there have been so many) who used to draw pornographic flipbooks all day. We’d be trying to adjust some heartfelt speech and he’d interrupt to proudly show us “doggie style from the woman’s point of view looking back from between her legs”.

Gary read Variety all day and night. I don’t think I saw his face more than twice an entire season. How can it take a person twelve hours to read Daily Variety?

All you generally saw of Max was his ass because he was always getting phone calls and bolting the room to answer them. He’d be routinely gone for 45 minutes. Most of the time it was his agent. How much was there to talk about? This was his only job and he was lucky to have that!

Donna breast fed her baby. That was a little distracting but actually okay.

Robert had anger-management problems. One time his therapist suggested that when he got mad he take out a rubber band and play with it. This rubber band would come out and for two hours the rest of the staff would be freaked.

Paul had even worse anger issues. Something would set him off and he would just shut down. Completely. For weeks (not hours, not days, but weeks) Paul would sit in the corner, seething, never saying a word. We always figured he’d become the first Emmy winning serial killer.

Jeff was a P.A. killer. He had a large appetite. At 2:00 in the morning he’d have a taste for soul food and would send the 20 year-old coed who was interning for the summer from Oregon State out to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in the seediest part of Hollywood.

Jim paced with a yo yo all day. Okay, that was me.

Since comedy writers tend to be 8th grade geeks who never grew up, unattainable cheerleader crushes were replaced by unattainable actress crushes. Meg Ryan, Teri Hatcher, the Olsen twins, Jennifer Aniston, and Jamie Gertz were among the favorites. Interestingly, none of these writers had crushes on actresses from the shows they worked on. Maybe the fantasy is broken when the object of your heart's desire tells you your script is shit.

Anyway, these are just some of my encounters. I’m sure every room veteran has six or thirty of their own.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why I celebrate Flag Day

Sunday is Flag Day, which is such a big holiday you have to be reminded that Sunday is Flag Day (note: in the US only. For all I know in New Zealand Sunday is explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman Day. And Finland, your Flag Day is coming up so don’t put off shopping till the last moment.) But America’s Flag Day holds a real significance for me. It was on June 14th that I enlisted in the Army Reserves. (This was quite awhile ago but not so long that there were less than 50 stars.)

The Viet Nam War was raging and the country instituted a draft lottery based on your birthday. The first 150 chosen dates were certain to get drafted, the next 100 fell in the maybe category, and the remaining numbers beat the rap.

My number was 4.

I had barely lit the prayer candles before my birthday was announced.

The alternatives were Canada (too cold), stay in school forever, develop a clubbed foot, or get my ass into the Reserves. In the Reserves you only had to go to 16 hours of meetings a month and two weeks of summer camp. But… for SIX years. And you had to complete regular Army basic training and three months of advanced training. Did I mention… SIX years of this?

Plus, getting into the Reserves was not a snap. There was a waiting list for artillery units. But I was very fortunate. At the time I was an intern at KMPC radio in Los Angeles. One of the disc jockeys, Roger Carroll, recorded weekly shows for AFRTS. He told me about an Armed Forces Radio Reserve Unit that was based in Los Angeles.

“Gooood mornnninggg, Viet Nammmmmm!”


He put me in touch with the right person and sure enough I got in… on Flag Day.

I figured, at least I was safe. They weren’t calling up Reserve Units. Two weeks after I had joined there was some uprising in Jordan and sure enough, President Nixon called up some Reserve troops. Holy shit! So for the next 5 years and 50 weeks I pretty much lived in terror.

Ultimately, I was not called up, I met my partner, which launched my writing career, had the background to write MASH with some authority, and got to see the Ozarks in the winter.

Flag Day is a holiday that I really celebrate. I’m proud to be in this country (especially since the last election) and proud that I did my part (okay, very small part but still. I could be producing potash in Saskatoon right now).

Happy Flag Day everybody!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The scene that ruined VOLUNTEERS

Here's the scene that ruined the movie David and I wrote, VOLUNTEERS. Tom Hanks stars as a preppy who ducks a gambling debt by joining the Peace Corps in Thailand. We established a character (Lucille) whose English was so bad we needed subtitles. In this scene, played pretty much as written, the director made one change. He had the characters break the fourth wall and read the subtitles.

We argued that it destroyed the reality of the film. There was now no jeopardy. It became a Hope-Crosby Road Picture where the fish could talk. The director argued that it got a big laugh. Why would we want to remove a big laugh? The answer is that it destroys the movie.



Oh, and her make-up was pretty ridiculous. But that we could live with.

The lesson here is never sacrifice the integrity of your piece for the sake of a joke, no matter how funny the joke is.

Billy Wilder used to say, "Why do they remake good movies? They should remake okay movies and make them better." John Krasinski as Lawrence Bourne anyone???

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The M*A*S*H regular you never saw... until now

It’s Friday Question Day, Mousekateers. And remember, if you have questions for my free teleseminar here's where yo go. Thanks.

Cap'n Bob Napier starts us off:

When you and David write you always get top billing. Did you flip a coin for this? How was it decided?

We went in alphabetic order and neither one of us could spell. Actually, I got top billing originally because I called David and said I wanted to write a script and asked if he wanted to write it with me. Once we started actually selling I offered to alternate top billing, either script by script or year by year. David said it was easier this way. His relatives knew where to look for his name and the credit was on screen so briefly there was little time to search.

Anonymous (PLEASE leave a name) asks:

No one is always right and no one is always wrong. Do you have any examples of one of those evil network suits saying, why don't you try x instead of y, and x being the better idea.

CBS in the 90s had a GREAT Director of Comedy Development, Tim Flack. Sadly, he is no longer with us. When David and I did the pilot for BIG WAVE DAVE’S our initial concept was three middle-aged guys chuck it all and open a surf shop in Hawaii. Tim suggested one of them have a wife. It would provide an outside perspective and give the show a better dynamic – kind of like Wendy and the Lost Boys from PETER PAN. He could not have been more right. He also suggested we do a scene in the pilot where they have to convince her to go along with this hare brain scheme. It proved to be the best scene in the show. You can watch the pilot here.

Conversely do you have any examples of a suit saying, I prefer x instead of y, but I'll defer to your judgment and having y absolutely bomb?

On ALMOST PERFECT there was an actor we liked that the network did not. Begrudgingly, they let us have him. On the day of the table reading it was clear they were right. So we replaced him with another actor the network didn’t like. But when they saw the first runthrough they totally fell in love with him.

Today’s world of television pilot casting is very different. Networks make all the key decisions; there’s no such thing as them letting you go with someone they have reservations about. They have complete and final say. You hope they even ask for your opinion.

And finally, from Mike da Canuck:

Recently, we had a discussion at work about the P.A. announcements in M*A*S*H, and someone asked who the character was that made them as it seemed Radar wasn't the guy on the mic. We couldn't seem to find any info online, so I thought maybe you could fill us in?

The person who voiced all the announcements was actor Sal Viscuso. We used him three times on the show, all as different characters. Otherwise, you've seen him in hundreds of shows.

What’s your question?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My review of UP

When I heard the premise of UP – an irascible old codger befriends an eager neighborhood kid -- I thought, oh great, GRAN TORINO with balloons. But no movie I’ve seen in years is as original and touching as UP. Who knew the most heartfelt and heartbreaking sequence of any movie in years would be in a cartoon? But the montage of Ed Asner’s character, Carl, sharing a life with his wife Ellie is so beautiful, so powerful, so sweet, so emotional without ever once going over the top (not even for a single frame) that UP should win the Best Picture Oscar for that ten minutes alone.

Leave it to Pixar. Those lads know how to tell a story. The best screenwriting done in America right now features talking dogs and toys that come to life. The stories always track, they make sense, you’re invested in the characters (even if they’re robots or grumpy old men), and yet you’re constantly surprised and delighted by the sheer invention and imagination that greets you at every turn.

There is such attention to detail in behavior than any Pixar character (be it a car or a rat) is more three-dimensional than any character in any Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

I imagine the top paragraph makes UP seem maudlin and sad – an animated ABOUT SCHMIDT -- when in fact it’s a rollicking fun throwback to adventure movies and Saturday afternoon serials of the 30s. There are big laughs, thrills & spills, and here’s the best part: parents, you can take your kids to see this without wanting to put a bullet in your head! It’s your reward for sitting through HORTON HEARS A WHO.

Oh, and the animation is cool too. If Walt Disney were alive he’d be in awe of the craft, impressed by the storytelling, and probably the only note he’d give is in the scene where old Carl is sitting alone in his house after his wife has passed on, Walt would have birds and squirrels come in, clean the house, bake him a cake, and buoy his spirits by singing “This is not a morning for mourning”.

I unabashedly loved this movie. And judging by the trailers for the other animated features coming out this summer, see UP six times and skip the others.

I'm doing a FREE teleseminar!

Last year I conducted a free teleseminar answering your questions about comedy writing. It was very well received so I'm thinking of doing another one. (A teleseminar is a fancy word for big conference call. It makes me sound waaaay more important.) Not sure of the date or time yet but I've created a website (well, someone else created it for me) where I invite you to submit questions you'd like me to answer. Again, this is totally free. It'll be fun answering questions that are not Dodger related.

Here's where you go.


Thanks and I'll let you know when I have more details.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Jan Smithers went to my high school!

Glad to see that a lot of you enjoy my excerpts from the book I'm writing on growing up in LA in the 60s. Here's a little snippet from 1966.Our high school made national news!

The March 21st edition of Newsweek magazine did their big cover story on “The Teenagers – a Newsweek survey of what they’re really like” and a good portion of it focused on Taft High. The cover featured a pretty coed sitting on the back of a motorcycle glancing over her shoulder at the camera. That girl was Taft senior, Jan Smithers. Jan, of course, would go to play Bailey on WKRP IN CINCINNATI.

The survey determined that there was in fact this so-called “Generation Gap” (who knew???). And it’s widened because the older generation is resistant to listening to and understanding us. Whatever. Taft was mentioned! And our very own Jan was selected as the cover girl!

For five minutes she was the absolute star of the school, eclipsing even the football star, and the girl who played a rape victim on BEN CASEY.

The cover itself was very telling. Yes, we were rebellious, yes we rode motorcycles but they were cute little motorcycles with drivers who wore jean jackets and California golden girls on the back who wore sweaters and white slacks. Hardly Brando in THE WILD ONE.

Monday, June 08, 2009

DH in HD

Coincidental with the broadcast stations dropping their analog signals I finally got an HD-TV. What took me so long? It wasn’t the price, it was the weight. My previous TV was a huge Sony Trinitron that got as good a non-HD picture as you could get… and it weighed a fucking ton. Recently one of those big chain stores offered great prices, free delivery and installation, and here was the kicker – they would take away your old TV. I’d sell it or donate it but no one from the Jewish Council of Women was going to show up with a crane.

Buying one of these HD suckers introduced me to a whole new world of confusion. LCD vs. Plasma? Response time? 1081 or some other number? LCD vs. LED? Sony or Samsung or Fuzijurutakiaki? Number of pixels. Energy savers. How black are the blacks? Generic cables or Monster brand cables? 4’ or 6’ or 120’? Every time the sales person would explain something I’d nod and say, “but you’ll pick up the old TV, right?”

I finally settled on one, had to wait ten days for it to be promptly delivered. And they made the mistake of only sending two guys instead of ten. How heavy was that old Sony? The two installers looked like the burly delivery guys in the Miller Beer commercials. Just sliding the TV out of the cabinet and setting it on the ground almost gave both a hernia. But eventually they set up the new one and wheeled the old meteor out. There was nothing in the news about any freeway bridges collapsing so I guess they arrived at their final destination.

I was sooo thrilled to see it go.

Once I finally turned on the new one I couldn’t believe I lived this long without it. And for the last few days I’ve been watching anything that’s on as long it’s in HD. Give me a documentary on carbon dating with shots of the Muir Woods and I’m there! MLB-TV replayed game seven of the 2008 ALCS. I watched eight innings even though I knew who won. And was rooting for the other team.

It’s like when I was a kid and our family finally got a color TV. And by color I mean faces looked purple and everything else was bright green and red. But it was a revelation. For days we all just camped in front of that thing watching whatever was in color. I sat mesmerized at the Osmond family singing on the ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW. “Wow! Look at those blue sweaters they’re wearing! This is the greatest entertainment EVER!”

So it was with that mindset that I turned on HBO-HD a couple of nights ago to watch LIVE FREE: DIE HARD. I figured, this is going to be fun. I loved the original DIE HARD, it’s an action movie – okay Bruce Willis is too old for this by twenty years – but the visuals alone should be eye-popping enough to warrant my time.

WRONG!!

What an unbelievable piece of shit. Maybe the single stupidest action movie of all-time. Who knew you could hack into someone’s computer on-line and blow it up? And that’s just in the first ten minutes. The stunts were so off-the-charts absurd that a Road Runner cartoon was stark realism by comparison.

And then there’s Bruce. Superman in a suit of indestructible titanium armor couldn’t survive the falls and crashes and explosions that Bruce weathered with relative ease. Sure, he suffered a few minor bruises and his back stiffened the way it might if someone his age reached down to pick up a penny without flexing his knees first. Otherwise, he’s hitching a ride on a moving F-35, beating the shit out of a woman while in a truck suspended precariously in an elevator shaft, and flying a helicopter after maybe one lesson.

Television was an amazing invention; color television, a startling advance: and high-definition, an absolute wonder. But the technology has not been invented nor ever will that would make LIVE FREE: DIE HARD be worth sitting through. As I slogged through this mess I kept wondering, is there anything in the world that could kill Bruce in this movie? And then it hit me. Yes! My old TV could fall on him.

Suddenly I longed for that old Sony.