Saturday, November 26, 2005

First Post

For everyone who has said to me "you should start a blog" here it is. Now what?

So until I figure that out, I thought I'd post the kind of stuff I have been writing -- namely humorous travelogues and award show reviews that up until now have only gone to those unfortunate souls in my address book. As I learn how this works and come up with original thoughts I shall add to it. Or take requests. Or go on to podcasting.

Interests will include pop culture, show business, baseball, radio, the 60's, the theatre, baby boomers, bragging about my kids, hawking my various projects, and general bitching.

But for now, here are examples of what I've done should anyone care what I do in the future. And if you're reading this, congratulations, you're probably the first to ever log on to this blog site.


November 2005 -- Halloween in Frisco

I hope you’ll bear with me. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. That means more travelogues. The good news is more material for a possible book. The bad news is you’re hearing more from me than the prince of the Contonou-Benin republic and he at least has a fabulous business opportunity. So at the risk of becoming spam, here’s another travel report. This is actually a compilation of two recent trips up to the bay area to visit my son, Matt. Enjoy….or delete.

As part of Debby’s social work doctoral program at the Lilith Sternin Institute she had to attend a convocation the first weekend of October in beautiful Emeryville, nestled cozily between the hills of Berkeley and the gang wars of Oakland. We decided to fly up to San Jose, hook up with Matt, and continue on to the Baghdad of the East Bay.

First stop was the Apple campus for a tour from Matt. As opposed to the last time I was there I thought I actually saw a pretty girl. Probably 600 engineers have taken secret pictures of her with their cellphone cams and now use it as their screen saver.

Debby got her first look at Matt’s apartment – the New Dehli Arms. He is the only resident of the building not named Kumar and not living with eight people in a one-bedroom unit.

On to San Francisco but veering off to Emeryville. That’s like bypassing New York City to vacation in Yonkers.

Emeryville is merely a collection of airport hotels without the airport. Why anyone would stay there that doesn’t have a 5 a.m. flight is beyond me.

While Debby spent the weekend listening to lectures on dementia Matt and I went to Berkeley to see the effects of it. The 60’s are alive on Telegraph Avenue. It’s as if a retirement village put on a production of HAIR. Tie-dyed shirts, head shops, hat shops. What better father-son bonding experience than shopping for bongs together?

I hate to tell these people but the Janis Joplin look did not even look good on Janis Joplin.

A panhandler went up to Matt claiming to be Jerry Garcia. (True story) But when Matt didn’t give him enough change he proved to be a member of the Un-Grateful Dead, or at least the Not-Sufficiently-Grateful Dead.

Bumper stickers seen: “Clinton lied but nobody died”. “Impeach Bush”, “FUCK LBJ”.

The Krishnas have a copier service. Considering they chant the same thing over and over it only makes sense.

But Berkeley does have Amoeba Records, the mecca of music stores. Now in three California locations, the Telegraph Ave. Amoeba was the first. And it’s still the best place to replace your Moby Grape and Joanie Sommers albums. Only drawback: Everyone who works there is weird. And by that I mean Manson Family with a knowledge of showtunes and the entire “Biff Hitler and the Violent Mood Swings” catalogue. Dress code consists of mohawks, tattoos, turquoise hair, tongue studs, nose rings. What kind of sex life can they have when the only person who will ever touch their genitals is the one doing the piercing?

Telegraph Avenue was quite a contrast to University Avenue in Palo Alto, the Stanford equivalent, which Matt and I visited last weekend. Upscale, yuppified. The funkiest thing you can buy there is relaxed fit jeans at the Gap. Their sports bar has a wine list.

We were there to see the big Stanford-UCLA football game. Bad enough the UCLA marching band tried to do a salute to Queen, but the team itself played like crap. And the stadium with its backless aluminum benches could not be more uncomfortable if it was designed for Al Queda prisoners. So with Stanford humiliating UCLA 24-3 with less than seven minutes to go we did the smart thing and left. We beat the crowds, we beat the traffic…and we missed UCLA’s stunning 30-27 miracle comeback win in overtime – one of the most dramatic finishes in the school’s history. What a couple of SCHMUCKS!!!

For the rest of the weekend we did nothing but bang our heads into walls.

Meanwhile, Debby went into San Francisco. At Golden Gate Park she stumbled onto the “Wonder of Cannibis” festival. Everything you wanted to know about marijuana but had no more brain cells to ask. I’m sure a lot of former comedy writers had booths.

Stayed at the Galleria Park Hotel in the city. Charming or musty depending on whether you’ve been to the Cannibis festival. Our room was the inspiration for the Sam Spade pistol whipping scene in Maltese Falcon.

There’s not one radio station in town that will play Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. But six will play “Gangsta Sh**” by Lil’ Eazy-E.

And no longer will the bay area be blessed with the rich vocal tones of Bill King. The longtime voice of the Raiders, A’s, and Warriors passed away recently. You gotta love a sportscaster who was an aficionado on opera and ballet, a history buff, lived on a houseboat, never married the woman he was with for well over thirty years, turned down numerous lucrative network TV offers because he didn’t want to shave, never wore socks, and never paid more than $300 for a car. And was by far the best overall announcer in the country.

Hit the Original Pancake House in Cupertino. Try their famous German apple pancake. It’s the size of a manhole cover and one would give the entire Von Trapp Family diabetes. For something less sweet you could order (and this is true) clam pancakes.

How could we leave that game early? What were we thinkin’????

Halloween weekend in San Francisco. You can imagine the costumes. It reminds me of the time I was announcing for the San Diego Padres and we were in town to play the Giants. The team bus headed from the hotel to the ballpark but took a wrong turn and wound up in the Gay Pride Parade. The team couldn’t understand why everyone was cheering. What a good sports town San Francisco must be.

For Halloween Matt plans to hand out “Slim Jim” beef jerky sticks. The Kumar kids should love that.

Side note – Halloween: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in it. So the one night of the year when people would open their doors to them they stay home.

Must be sweeps. News4 at 11 on Monday night begins a five part series on gang members now in the army. Will they return home and use their military tactics on YOU? And by that do they mean you might catch them sleeping under your jeep?

Even though it was Halloween weekend I did not make it out to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Built by some insane woman in 1884, this Victorian mansion has staircases leading to walls, hallways that go nowhere, fireplaces every which where, dead ends left and right, windows in interior rooms, etc. The Haunted Mansion meets the United Airlines Terminal at O’Hare. If they held the Cannibis festival there no one would ever or could ever leave.

Happy Halloween. And once again, how could we leave that game??????

Next stop New York and that’ll be it for awhile. I promise.

Ken Levine
November 2005 -- New Yawk, New Yawk

Back from Gotham where I helped out on a musical going into workshop production called THE 60’s PROJECT. It’s a fun and poignant journey through the decade, complete with all the music and assassinations you remember. My main contribution was getting them to take “Who Put the Bomp?” out of the Tet Offensive section. But it’s a terrific show despite the fact that an audience member called it “important”.

Stayed again at the Shelburne Murray Hill. But no Diane Lane this time. They should tell you that when you make your reservation. Seven whole days I stayed in that dump!

The tree is back! The world’s largest Christmas tree was delivered to Rockefeller Center this week. It was their second attempt. The first time no one was there and they had to leave a note. Usually city workers decorate the 75 foot Norwegian Spruce, adorning it with 25,000 lights. This year the task goes to Martha Stewart’s APPRENTICES.

Big Broadway show in town is the revival of ODD COUPLE with Matthew Broderick, and inexplicably, Nathan Lane as the slovenly “guy’s guy” Oscar Madison. I know it’s stunt casting but Jesus. Why not just go the whole way and cast Carol Channing?

Best panhandler: the guy at Broadway and 42nd holding a sign that reads: “YOU CAN YELL AT ME FOR A DOLLAR”.

Close second: The Naked Cowboy. This skeesix has long blonde hair, wears nothing but a Speedo and a guitar. I would still believe him as Oscar Madison before Nathan Lane.

Had a meeting at NBC at 30 Rock. The security has gotten ridiculous. They now even take your picture for a visitor’s pass. If they were really worried about someone bringing down their network they should just keep the producers of FEAR FACTOR out

There is barbed wire around the Plaza Hotel. It is being converted to condos. But the Oak Room will remain. The city was able to get its upscale hookers at the bar registered as historical landmarks.

Had breakfast at “Friend of a Farmer”. New York has officially run out of restaurant names.

The best pizza in New York is no longer Ray’s. It’s now John’s. So expect “Original Johns”, “John’s Original”, “Jon’s”, “Original Jon’s”, and “Jon’s Original” to pop up all over the city.

There’s a Home Depot on Lexington Avenue in Midtown. How do people get anything home? They have to lug their new garage doors or Jacuzzis or lumber on the subway?

Went to Carnegie Hall for the first time to see singer Linda Eder. Both were quite spectacular . (Andrew Carnegie, for those who didn’t know, was one of those American robber barons who made his fortune in fatty corned beef.) Linda received a standing ovation the moment she appeared. Very different from her July performance at an outdoor venue in San Diego when the only person who stood was a guy in a Hawaiian shirt trying to flag down the vendor for his fifth pina colada.

There are five balconies. The top one is above the timber line. Scalpers could easily sell $35 top balcony seats for $2000 saying they were the only Barbra Streisand tickets still available.

The only weird moment of the concert was when Linda said “Judy Garland had a huge influence on my life” and I was the only man in the audience who didn’t say “me too”.

The after-show party was fun. And when people asked what I was working on now I was able to say Broadway musical instead of failed Fox pilot.

There is a strange woman who always makes and hands out commemorative Linda Eder refrigerator magnets. Mine will be proudly displayed next to the Clippers 2003 home schedule.

You are no longer allowed on Avenue of the Americas unless you have a Blackberry. There are checkpoints.

A hotel was bombed in Jordan so currently there is extra security and SWAT teams at certain NY hotels. (Nothing at the Shelburne. They don’t even provide valet service). So now for your $700 a night at the Parker-Meredian (actual charge this week) you are in the heart of the theatre and terrorist target district.

Debby flew in just in time for the best sidewalk food vendor announcement. A bratwurst hawker on Broadway who was presented his award and arrested for not having a permit.

Cathy Rigby is doing her final performances of PETER PAN at Radio City. Next year she segues right into ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.

Meanwhile, Nathan Lane is segueing from THE ODD COUPLE to PETER PAN.

With all the amazing Italian restaurants in New York there is an Olive Garden. And it was packed. This is why “three card monty” takes in more money annually than the Statue of Liberty.

Languages spoken by my cab drivers: Urdu, Russian, Czech, Farsi, Klingon.

Forgot to set my alarm (all five days) for 5 a.m. so I could stand in the window of the TODAY SHOW, wave my arms like an idiot, and hold up a sign that says “HI JANE! HI BRYANT!”.

Now that all hotels employ recorded wake up call messages, this should be the one they use: “Good morning. This is your wake up call….(beat) Hey, fuck you too. You asked to be called.”

A street vendor on 6th Avenue was selling one of our SIMPSONS scripts for $15. Linda Eder magnets were going for $20.

Went to my favorite museum – the Margo Feiden Gallery, home of the glorious Al Hirschfeld collection. I was there so long I counted 4,362 Nina’s.

Latest fashion trend: kids wearing Yankee baseball caps two sizes too big. They all look like Sluggo.

Actual radio station press release: Clear Channel Urban WWPR (Power 105) and PREMIERE syndicated morning duo Star & Buc Wild have replaced newsman “Crossover Negro” (Reese Hopkins) with “Chris the Queer” (aka Chris Hart).

Bring back Dan Ingram!!

The MET LIFE building will always be the PAN AM building.

Annie flew in from Chicago for the weekend. First stop was Long Island and a big gathering of Debby’s relatives. We all met at an Italian restaurant on Queens Boulevard (Friend of an Undertaker) and had lunch. Just like a Sunday dinner scene in the SOPRANOS except Tony and the family never said “No cheese, I just had meat”, “what comes with that?”, “are the capers fresh?”, “I can make the same thing at home for fifty cents,” and “the last time I had cannelloni I went into labor”.

Stephen Sondheim came to our show on Sunday. And wound up sitting next to Annie. She’ll be dining off that story for years. The performance went very well until one of the leads, in the middle of “Sugar Sugar” broke into “Being Alive”.

If you put a Linda Eder refrigerator magnet together with a Barbra Streisand refrigerator magnet would they attract or repel?

JFK has been remodeled and refurbished, now sporting humongous Tomorrowland-like terminals and a monorail system. Once Zagat rated the worst airport in America, now with all the improvements it’s rated even worse. Instead of building bigger terminals how about providing more than two ticket agents at 6 pm on a Sunday?

Spending a week as part of the New York theatre scene was very heady indeed. Everyone was so friendly, so gracious. All of that will end of course when they find out I write for TV. But at least I met Stephen Sondheim. And he and Annie are now exchanging recipes.

Thanks so much to Janet, Richard, cast & crew, Dave, Ronni, Linda, and the Naked Cowboy for everything. I feel very lucky.


Ken Levine
Oscars 2005

Welcome to my 7th annual bitchy Oscar review. Where has the time and my feature career gone?

Hiring Chris Rock to host provided the only buzz and suspense of the show. His piece at the Magic Johnson theater said it all. No one outside of LA or NY has SEEN these films. It’s the Tonys but for two cities instead of one. And we’re supposed to watch to see stars? The nominees were Imelda Staunton, Sophie Okonedo, and Catalina Sandino Moreno. It'll be 2016 before any one of them appears on INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO.

The pre-Oscar coverage is always amusing. Most inane (as always) was Hollywood tool/footstool/bootlicker Sam Rubin and his co-host this year, the brainless Toni Senecal (who I assume is Sam’s gushy sycophant counterpart in New York) on KTLA. Sam to Catalina Sandino Moreno: “Did you spend a lot of time getting ready?” Has he ever actually talked to a woman?? Toni then asked her: “It’s your first movie, you’re the first Columbian to ever be nominated – call me crazy – how do you feel?” Toni asked Sophie Okonedo what was the best gift she had received.

Nominees I never heard of or recognized were blowing them off. Maybe if they weren't trying to lure them with Tic Tacs.

The KTLA fashion expert said about Hilary Swank; “It’s a surprise to everyone. She looks fantastic.”

Sam to P. Diddy: “People watching at home, having an Oscar party, what can they learn from you?”

There should be a spam blocker on my TV to save me from ever seeing Joan and Melissa Rivers. This year they’ve been relegated to the TV Guide channel which answers the question “what could possibly be less entertaining than a 24 hour program guide crawl?”

Chris Rock was as funny as he could be under the circumstances. Certainly they didn’t need the five second “dull-ay”. But when he went into the Bush bashing you could hear a loud collective CLICK as 49% of the nation turned off the show and went bowling. Expect this to be the lowest rated Academy Awards show ever. ABC will wish it showed DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES instead.

Everytime they came back from commercials you saw a stagehand running for backstage. For about an hour that was the only amusement.

Paul Giamati was robbed. He should’ve been nominated.

Thomas Hayden Church was nominated for being himself. The rest of the WINGS cast has been on suicide watch since the announcements.

The set looked like THE WEAKEST LINK.

Halle Berry now has a rival for most beautiful – Beyonce. Wow! And such an amazing singer. I could almost sit through all three of the nominated songs she sang.

I hope Natalie Portman enjoyed her nomination. She’s sure not getting one next year for STAR WARS VI: ENOUGH ALREADY.

Kathryn Hepburn wins Academy Awards even when she’s dead.

Adam Duritz from Counting Crows looked like a bottle washer.

Thank God the Pope didn’t die. The “In Memoriam” tribute is always dicey. I’d hate to see his photo followed by Russ Meyer’s.

And by the way, they forgot Sandra Dee.

Scarlett Johanson’s dress was a work in progress.

Steven Spielberg was a no-show. Guess if he’s not nominated there’s no need to come and support “the community”. I’m sure he’d say “why sit through an excruciatingly boring three hour show?” and I would say “how do you feel the rest of us felt watching TERMINAL?”

Drew Barrymore came as Morticia.

Selma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are stunningly gorgeous. But presenters have to actually be able to pronounce names.

The three trophy models (now there’s a job that requires an advanced degree) were all 6’ because as director Louis Horvitz said “the stage has a lot of verticals. I wanted them to be very tall and thin so in the wide shots they blend in and become almost architecturally pleasing.” Mr. Horvitz, ‘Now’ on line three for you.

$20,000 goody bags were given away again this year…as if Thomas Hayden Church or Sophie Oronedo wouldn’t have come otherwise. And KTLA was offering Tic Tacs.

Just remember – Cher has won an Oscar.

This just in – the Red States have voted and CATWOMAN is the best picture of the year.

As long as Robert DeNiro continues to do movies like MEET THE FOCKERS Thomas Hayden Church will have a better chance at getting future nominations

Laura Linney looked like a raccoon.

I loved the Johnny Carson tribute. Were the Academy Awards ever better, ever classier than when he presided over them?

I’d like to thank the academy for honoring Sidney Lumet.

And for showing his Jessica Rabbit daughter. Or at least, I think that’s his daughter. She was very architecturally pleasing.

It’s bad enough to be nominated and lose but to be on stage when it happens? Yikes. Talk about pulling the rug out at the last second. I wonder if the losers then got to go to the backstage interview rooms and not be allowed to speak.

When the winners were announced from the audience I thought I was watching “Stump the Band”.

Mike Myers is never funny. Robin Williams used to be.

Where else can you see Mickey Rooney and Prince in the same audience?

For best song why not just use anything from RAY?

Johnny Depp came as Alfalfa this year.

What could the fun motif be for the HOTEL RWANDA after-party? Hopefully they consulted P. Diddy.

Boy, I bet Kevin Spacey was surprised when he wasn’t nominated for best actor, director, producer, writer, art director, hair stylist, and Gene Hersholt award for BEYOND THE SEA. Maybe if there was a category for largest ego, best mimic, and creepiest 50 year old playing 20.

Every academy member who received a screener tape of SPANGLISH gave it to their housekeeper.

Annette Bening should have been in the AVIATOR since she is married to Howard Hughes.

My vote for movie of the year: THE INCREDIBLES. But in all fairness, I haven’t seen WHITE CHICKS.

Of the 28 billion people who supposedly were watching I was the only one who appreciated just how good the off-screen announcer, Randy Thomas, was.

If you have Tivo I bet you zipped right through the Gene Hersholt award. And every non-actor acceptance speech. And the last twenty minutes of Jaimie Foxx’s.

Prince and Rene Zellwegger had the same hair style, used the same motor oil.

I don’t care what Sean Penn says. Jude Law was in every bad movie. And contributed to each of them.

Okay, now that Hilary Swank has thanked everyone in the world let’s give the award to someone else.

My son, Matt, is convinced that Hilary Swank is a man. So he was less impressed with her performance since it was a man portraying a woman acting like a man.

Leave it to a writer, Charlie Kaufman, to make the most refreshing speech.

If ever there was a lock it was Jaimie Foxx. No way he’d be singing “Cryin’ Time” tonight.

Julia Roberts looked pretty good for a new mom. Assuming she wasn’t wedged into that dress like a sausage.

Poor Martin Scorsese gets shut out again. And he talks fast. At least his speech would be quick even if he thanks a hundred people.

Clint Eastwood’s mom is still alive? I thought that was Warren Beatty.

Barbra Streisand is fast turning into Lainie Kazan. And seeing like Ray Charles.

The theme for the Best Picture nominees seemed to be “guy looking to cheat on his wife or girlfriend”. All except MILLION DOLLAR BABY. At Clint’s age all he can lust after now is pie.

I was happy MILLION DOLLAR BABY won….I guess. Oh hell, I didn’t care. And I’m sure at the Magic Johnson theater ticket sales for it won’t go up by one.

At least Jim Carrey wasn't on the show. See you at the DVD rental store.

Ken Levine

Okay, that's me and what you'll get.


Howard Hoffman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Howard Hoffman said...

And I'm honored to be your first comment-making person type guy. Welcome to blogging - your new addiction. Your friends and family will miss you immensely.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to comment--but then I saw where I could use some HTML tags if I wanted. Since I have NO idea what a HTML tag is, I thought it was worth a shot.

b>eaver Cleaver, i>s, a> , weirdo>

Anonymous said...

Can you get me tickets to see M*A*S*H* filmed? I'm 93 and would like to see an episode with that dreamy Colonel Potter before I die.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Hello..? Do you read replies to the really old posts? I guess it's the old philisophical question: if you post a reply on a blog and no one reads it, is it really there? Or is it in the box with a cat who's waiting for someone to open it so it can die already?

Anyway, what I wanted to ask before my fingers did the thinking... a failed Fox pilot? Please, do tell all.

Anonymous said...

hey,you have a nice site.if you get a chance take a look at mine at

Mike Barer said...

I thought that I would add a voice from the future--it's 2007 and the blog is still humming.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Another voice from the future, from June 2009: The goddamn blog from that goddamn funny comedy writer is still here. Goddammit that's a relief! ;)

Pete said...

Another voice from the future. It's almost 2013! I've only just found this blog and it's great that it's still here!

Wayne said...

I predict you'll be around for a long time. Heck, you might even outlast MySpace.

Best of luck to you, Ken.

LouOCNY said...

8 years running strong!!

Kirk said...

Also from the future. Leaving a comment on your very first post is my stab at immortality.

Old Hippy said...

From a (Ford) Galaxy far away in the future...Greetings from 2015.
I don't know if there's an award, but I've read your entire blog and even after all that I'm still recommending it to friends. Thanks for sharing your "thing" I got a lot of chuckles out of it and look forward to the next 10 years.

Daddy Background said...

I'll come back when it's later.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I've decided to - let's call it - take advantage of the new no-blogposts-on-weekends schedule to read the archives from before I began reading the blog regularly. One posting a day, as if they were new. If TV fans can do group rewatches, why not a Blog Reread?


Chris Thomson said...

That's it

Finished reading front to back about 2 posts a day!


Mike Barer said...

Man, you sure did a lot of writing in your first post. Just like me, I bet you didn't dream that you would still be doing this now. Unlike me, you have writing chops and this comes naturally.
Could you do a nostalgia post on starting this blog and what the blogging landscape was like at the time. Maybe in 15 years, you could do it for your podcast.