While we're on the subject of Richard Simmons here's an appearance he did on The Late Show with David Letterman. There's no profanity in this clip but I have no doubt the curse words flew backstage after what happened during Richard's product demonstration.
My all time favorite has Casey Kasem losing it in the studio while recording his American Top 40. "Somebody use his f*cking brain!"
This has to be one of my all-time favorite bloopers, from a Concentration type show in England called Catchphrases.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - 9:13am
One of the idols from my youth, comic artist Al Williamson, died yesterday. He was one of maybe a half dozen comic artists that actually deserved to be called an artist rather than illustrator. Frank Frazetta, Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, Wally Wood come readily to mind as talents that may be matched in the future (as much as I doubt it) but they will never be bested. It's just not possible, they created the standard.
I need a few laughs. Paul Mooney is one of my faves, here he contrasts white criminals and black criminals. Mooney is the only comedian - black, white or other - that I can stand hear doing the 'difference between whites and us' routine. Normally it's irritating, unoriginal, an easy way to laughs, but Paul Mooney makes it fresh somehow.
Forty years ago this fall ABC had a Friday night line-up that was a monster magnet for kids - it included the first season for Nanny & The Professor and The Partridge Family; year two for Love, American Style; and the final year for That Girl and This Is Tom Jones. Poor Ann Marie, one more season and she'd have been married! Here's a fall preview for Friday night on ABC in 1970:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - 7:50am
Entourage - The Complete Sixth Season
It doesn't take much to make me happy, that's why tearing open a Fed Ex package and finding Season 6 of Entourage is a glorious thing on a Friday evening. It was my off day for Netflix!
I've reviewed this show before, at risk of being redundant I worked in the entertainment industry in LA from 1979-1994, much of that in the motion picture biz as a movie poster artist. The kind that was in the trenches every day, not the lucky guy that worked from home. I wasn't that good an artist. But I was the best at what I did, which was create fully realized comps that looked exactly like the printed posters you see in the theaters, only smaller, so the studios could decide what the final design would be (I also did graphics for trailers & main titles for films).
We were lucky as creatives, we got to witness the mad business of show at arm's length, for the most part. I was endlessly fascinated with the day-to-day aspects of the motion picture business. And why not, the characters one comes in contact with on a daily basis are as broad and potentially malevolent as you would find in an Ionesco play. I thrived on that severe environment, I was a stark raving mad asshole myself.
That's what I love so much about Entourage, it gets the day-to-day right. It hurts to watch sometimes, a pang of remorse may wash over me but then I think about how miserable I am right now and somehow it seems better. At least I'm not that jerk anymore.
Don't look for remorse in this mixed up world, you won't find much of it beyond the superficial. Finding depth in enforced superficiality is what Entourage does best and the writers wisely don't construct the drama in a phony way.
I have friends that despise Entourage, they find the characters thoroughly unlikable and I totally understand their point. That was the challenge dealing with people like Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Shauna (Debbie Mazar), and Andrew Klein (Gary Cole) in real life - finding that likeable aspect in someone you're tethered to in a daily duel to the death. Because at the end of the day you did your best or you were on the way out, baby. A few bad days and you're on the street. That kind of super-charged atmosphere, the kind Ari luxuriates in and gleefully perpetuates, will warp a personality in the most wonderful ways. Entourage captures and displays that dynamic to delightful effect.
Like Mad Men, this is a tightly insular world that draws in and spits out individuals like spoiled milk, a winner-take-all mentality permeates every moment. Entourage is as close to the business end of show business as I care to be anymore; but it's transportive, offering what we called 'civilians' a chance to see what Hollywood is like when the lights go down and the knives come out. I can't wait for season 7.
Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 6:36am
THIS 'N' THAT
Remember that movie I was filming a few months ago, Lake of Fire? Here's a still from the film that the director sent over. They'll be editing until fall, they actually have another film with Ed Asner to stitch together first.
Something interesting about that role - I was playing a character a few years older than myself with an unhealthy lifestyle so I purposely let a paunch grow around my waist and didn't wear any makeup in an attempt to look as bad as I could. Now I get to live with the embarrassment whenever someone sees me in it, especially the scene where I'm standing out beside the road wearing a wife beater, boxers and cowboy boots. Well, I couldn't have looked THAT bad, a creepy guy in a panel van kept circling the street while we were filming that scene.
In my desire to blog about anything BUT television lately - I was in the frozen foods aisle the other day and saw P. F. Chang's has a line of ice cold entrees. The food looks amazing on the bag (doesn't it always?) but I had to wonder if it was worth the hefty price tag. Wouldn't it be cool if there was someone who reviewed frozen foods? Well, of course, there is - actually there are loads of them.
Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 5:11am
Not like a card-carrying, fan club fanatic but I really enjoyed his television personality. It started when Sonny and Cher captured my imagination with their summer of '71 variety show, there was something electric about that first hour that was based heavily on their high energy nightclub act (that first episode hasn't been released on DVD but was on a two show video cassette). The musical and comedy style of producers Bearde & Blye (Laugh-In) was tailor made for this hyperactive teen.
Sonny Bono was this not so great looking person with a big nose - who made fun of others for their big noses - who couldn't sing very well and who blundered clumsily through the silly, simple skits on the show. But he had a certain charm; maybe it was the idea that if he could make it in TV anyone could.
My fascination continued after the divorce. I was rooting for his show even though it was clear even to me that his troubled production was a sad, pathetic, desperate attempt to recreate the Sonny & Cher program with all the same supporting players and skits. They even had a different sexy female guest star heaping insults on Sonny in the opening dialogue. Missing was that one key element that couldn't be replaced - Cher.
At the time I kept a Nielsen diary and when The Sonny Comedy Revue was on suddenly there were 11 people over watching it. At least on paper. It didn't help, obviously, his show only lasted three months.
After his program ended Sonny hit the road with a musical act with three fabulous back up singers from the Phil Spector days - Darlene Love was one I remember. Sonny previewed the act when he co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show in 1974 for a week. Of course, I was glued to the set that week, and tape recorded the songs on some now long, lost cassette. Then I heard from a classmate from New Jersey that the act had been booed off the stage at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill.
What's a Sonny fan to do? It's not like I expected an album release. He did release one solo 45 single in July of 1974, 'Our Last Show' about a singing duo breaking up. I'd only heard the last 30 seconds of it on the radio one time, if I recall correctly it barely cracked the top 100. It was thirty years before I heard the whole tune. Not bad. Not great, but... it's Sonny Bono.
Sonny Bono delivered perhaps his best vocal performance of all time on The Jacksons, a 1976 summer variety show starring you know who. On that show he joined the Jackson family for a medley of standards and he holds his own competing with soulful Michael Jackson's vocals.
I even watched his Six Million Dollar Man guest shot in 1974, airing against Cher's new show. Pitiful comedown for a guy who just a year earlier had the hottest show in the nation, a show that single-handedly saved the variety genre for another 6 years or so before it's near extinction.
When Cher saw the writing on the wall for her own show she re-teamed with Sonny in an attempt to squeeze a few more paychecks out of CBS. The ratings were boffo at first, the people wanted the old Sonny and Cher back as much as I did; but once viewers saw how bad the show was they defected in droves. I was deeply disappointed that Blye & Bearde, the show's original producers, weren't involved due to the fact that Sonny got them in the divorce. Bet they wished they'd sat the Sonny show out. (They had wanted to produce Cher's show instead of Sonny's but they weren't even considered, the star was going in a new direction and well she should have.)
The Sonny & Cher Show was cancelled in 1977 and it was on to Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. It wasn't long after that that Sonny decided the hell with television and moved in other directions - for a while.
When I was living in L.A. I made it a point in 1983 to go to Bono's, Sonny's authentic Italian restaurant. It was tasty and Chastity was working there that night but the place didn't last but a couple of years, bad location was one problem.
After he got into politics I lost interest in The Bones. I don't even think I saw the Letterman show Sonny & Cher reunion in 1987 until years later.
Ironically, when Sonny was killed in 1998, I got calls from newspaper and TV reporters from all over the country. They had turned to the internet for information, really for the first time, and they wanted to know if my article on Sonny Bono and the Sonny & Cher shows was accurate. They didn't know if they could trust something they'd read on the internet. How did I know all of this? What was my source? I told them I had been a huge fan, saved stuff, taped stuff - and none other that Paul Brownstein, who worked closely with Sonny and with Cher, had gone over the pages, made a few corrections and vetted the information a few years earlier. People called saying TVparty! was on their TV screens while CNN was talking about Sonny's death.
Like most celebrity tragic deaths, there's a conspiracy theory attached to it - evidence suggests to some people, including an FBI investigator, that Sonny was murdered over information he had about government officials raking in millions of dollars from illegal arms and drug deals, that the injuries that killed him could not have resulted from a skiing accident.
The Sonny Bono I'll remember was the Italian rapscallion who wrote fizzy pop songs with overwrought production values and histrionic vocals, the trip footed comic with the beaming smile that made me believe in the limitless possibilities television could offer the marginally talented. Whether that was a good thing, I don't know.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 8:40am
I DON'T KNOW WHAT BROUGHT THIS UP
A billion years ago, when punk dinosaurs roamed the earth, Michael & Spider were at the core of the LA punk and art rock scene, they were influences on everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea & Anthony still owe me 5 bucks) to Jane's Addiction. For a time I managed their last, great LA band, Red Wedding. Michael & Spider have been making music again for a few years now and they're starting to get some well-deserved recognition for their lushly stark musical landscapes.
I may have told you this before - but old people are like TV shows, always repeating themselves.
I got a call one afternoon in March of 1985 from Scott Harvey the manager of Odyssey 1, a notorious gay / straight teen disco on Beverly Boulevard near LaCienega in West Hollywood. This club had been massively popular since the late-1970s but neighbors had been complaining for years about urine, drugs and sex in their yards so the city finally yanked it's dance license. Since they didn't serve liquor, the club was screwed. Scott needed a band for that night, they were determined to stay open and thought a live venue might make a go of it. Or it was all a ruse (more likely). He asked me if Red Wedding could headline that night.
I told him there was no way they could draw a crowd in just a few hours, with no promotion, etc. Maybe if we had Facebook back then but I hadn't invented it yet. He said no problem, I'd get $100 for the gig no matter what, so I said sure. $100 for a band gig in 1984 was pretty good considering the venues were now moving to a pay for play model - bands pay the club a guarantee against the door; band gets the door, club gets the bar money.
They played the gig and only a few confused people showed up, including Boy George who was really hot then. Patrons would stop at the door with a perplexed look, where were all the pretty boys with no shirts sniffing poppers and dancing to DJ Chuck E. Starr? Then they'd turn around and leave, most of them. Who's going to pay $5.00 to go to a juice bar? You can't buy coke - well, not the kind you were looking for - if there are only 30 people in a club that holds 1,000.
At the end of the gig, a really amazing show I might add, I had to go up to the office to get the guys' money ($100 in 1984 money would be about $250 now).
Scott wasn't there but club owner Eddie Nash was in his office along with his enormous bodyguard. He had stacks and stacks of cash, tens of thousands of dollars, piled on the desk. Being a smartass I remarked, "Wow, you guys did better tonight than I thought." This was met with a hostile look from the guy behind the desk and his gorilla. "This is the revenue from Phases," Nash sneered. Phases was his new teen disco out in Reseda. I asked how that business was doing and he told me, "great." I could see that.
I asked for the agreed upon amount for the band and he told me, flat out, that he wouldn't pay me because not enough people showed up. Like that was our deal. I told him we were called in at 4:00 that afternoon, I did him a favor - besides, Boy George showed up. "He did?" Nash asked, as if he might still have a viable business when everyone, including himself as it turned out, knew it was over for the Odyssey. He offered to pay me later but I pointed out the absurdity of that proposition given his current liquidity.
I explained to this clearly soulless individual that I promised the band they were going to get paid and I always kept my word. I wasn't leaving without the $100. Of course, I got the money, that was never in doubt. No one can out bullshit me but, bless him, he tried his best. He was at a bit of a disadvantage with all of that cash piled between myself and himself.
I suppose he believed his narrow-eyed goon could intimidate me as he glared in my general direction from 5 feet away but how many times could he snap me in two, right? (A lesson I learned from Star Trek - when you're out manned, drop your shields.)
I might have thought twice if I'd known that Eddie Nash had already participated one the most horrific crimes in Hollywood history, The Wonderland Murders in 1981, a crime scene so horrific it made the Tate/LaBianca killing look tame in comparison.
What was I supposed to say? "Well, I can see you're a bit strapped for cash right now, I'll come back tomorrow night." In retrospect, that would have been an unwise business decision because the next day when I showed up for my money this is what I would have seen:
The place was mysteriously torched. I suspected Red Wedding's presence that night was a way to prove to any investigators that the business was still ongoing. Actually, I just occurred to me, perhaps he wanted to rip me off so he could tell the Fire Department (when they noticed the blaze was suspicious), "Maybe it was the promoter I stiffed last night, maybe he burned the place down." Ironically, that's exactly what I would have done had he not paid me.
Years later Nash was finally busted for his participation in the quadruple killings, see the movie Wonderland for more. Turns out Eddie Nash didn't have any hesitation laying out the cash when it came to bribing judges and jurors, which is why you might just run into him at the grocery store if you live in the LA area. Don't tell him I said hi.
By the way, express your perverse nature by buying Odyssey T-Shirts, I used to do their ads in 1981 and had one of their logos. Freak people out at the beach!
Sunday, June 6, 2010 - 12:40pm
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