Monday, June 10, 2013

Deanna and Ozymandias

Welcome to the annual blog post. J It’s slowly turning out that way, isn’t it?

We’ve lost several celebrities and stars so far this year, notably Esther Williams, Annette Funicello and George Beverly Shea, who at age 107 now holds the record for longest-lived celebrity that I know about. (The record was previously shared by Bob Hope and George Burns, who each died at 100.) A lesser-known Christian music artist named Buryl Red passed away earlier this year as well. As the leader of the Centurymen singing group, Red helped create some of their classic recordings, including the “People to People” album, which is one of my favorites. It’s around the top of my “preserve this one no matter what” list. Not to mention my “Re-release this one!” list.

But we also lost one of the most interesting celebrities of the past century – her career is a good example of how unusual fame can be. Deanna Durbin was one of the most popular movie and singing stars of her time. Like her contemporary Judy Garland, she enjoyed incredible success and is credited with helping “save” Universal Studios back in the day. She “had it all” – beauty, great talent and a successful career. But as the years went by, realizing that she wanted a different life, she eventually left Hollywood and lived out the rest of her days overseas with her family.

And when she passed away this year – hardly anyone knew who she was. She isn’t the “household name” that she used to be. Her music is rarely played on the radio, musical tastes having shifted so far downhill in many ways. (When was the last time you heard an operatic voice such as hers?) Her movies are rarely shown; even TCM has not yet done a movie tribute day for her. (Yes, I know they don’t own the rights to her films, but you see my point). I myself probably wouldn’t have heard of her had I not read about her in a movie star book that my family owned.

What does it say about society when someone as successful as Deanna was can pass away with (relatively speaking) few people taking notice? I know it was a long time ago, but one might think that such great success would be remembered. It reminds one of the famous poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley – which sadly is something else many don’t know about! It’s definitely worth reading, so here it is:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Fame is fading. I think Deanna knew that, and decided that she needed to do what was most important to her rather than try to keep her fame alive forever – as so many of us vainly try to do.
Cemented in history: Read about Deanna’s penny at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood here:

FAME ISN’T EVERYTHING, PART TWO: A few weeks ago I came upon this very interesting article about another favorite female celebrity (sigh, I can see a pattern forming here) of mine – Ally Sheedy. Please read the article, then come back and we’ll talk about it.

There are many good parts, but my favorite has to be this excerpt from an article by Josh Rottenberg from “Us” magazine in 1998.

As a turning point, Sheedy recalls a bike ride (with Demi Moore) in Sycamore Canyon, north of Malibu, in the spring of 1986. Moore had recently visited [Sean] Penn and Madonna, who had married the previous summer, at their home in Malibu. "Demi was talking about Madonna, and she said, 'That's what I want. I want that,"' says Sheedy "I said, `What do you mean? You want all that money?' Demi said, 'It's not just the money It's the power. She has power, and I want power.' It was an illuminating moment for me. I thought I knew her, and I realized I didn't at all. [...]

"The quickest route to power for an actress in Hollywood is to hook yourself up with someone who can put you in a good position and make yourself into a sex object," she says bitterly. The fact that many hold up Moore, like Madonna, as a feminist icon for the way she has pursued and consolidated her power seems to make little difference to Sheedy.

Also, please note, “a very fun punk club that is no more.” J


IN A RUT: Just what you wanted, yet another post about an actress that I like. This post is being written on Paulette Goddard’s birthday, and to celebrate, let’s take a look back at my blog post about “Modern Times”, one of my favorite films:

I’m afraid there won’t be too many more “TCM highlights” posts because (for the moment) I can’t watch TCM. Life has taken me to a new town with some new friends. But I will keep an eye on the schedule just in case something really cool comes on. I think “Mad Monster Party” will be on at one point this month. You don’t want to miss that one.

FORCE TO COME: Speaking of things you don’t want to miss, the Star Wars fan world (I can’t get off of their mailing list) is abuzz with the news of a new trilogy of movies being produced now and set to be released starting in 2015. I “sort of” predicted it. I always felt that the Star Wars franchise was so powerful and lucrative that the lure of money would eventually lead to more films, even without creator George Lucas’ consent. Thankfully, George is still with us and will therefore have a small role in the next few films to be produced. But the “lucrative” part was certainly accurate, with Lucas selling Lucasfilm to the Disney company for more than 4 billion dollars. Frankly, George could have probably held out for more! But like certain people mentioned above, George knows that there are more important things in life than fame and money. I understand that after many years, he is settling down with a new wife.

I admire the Disney company in many ways, but frankly I wish they would not feel the need to buy anything and everything that they think will make money. It makes Disney look greedy, and in a way it “cheapens” the product. There’s room for a lot of talented people in the world, and Disney shouldn’t feel threatened by that.

I look forward to the new Star Wars films, but with an adult’s heart. I only hope they’re pretty good & can do justice to the other two trilogies. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the old cast again, if only briefly. I’m trying very hard not to mention Carrie (whoops).

Read more of my thoughts on Star Wars here:

BY THE BOOK: Aside from all the moving, my current writing project is taking away just about all of my free blogging time. I’m proud of what I have so far & am actually looking forward to sharing it at some point, but a lot more work needs to be done. Like most beginning authors, I thought the first draft was perfect. But now it has to be written more “for the reader” than just for myself. In these days of Facebook, I think many “personal blogs” like this are kept up for old time’s sake. That’s perfectly fine. If nothing else, we can look back and say, “Did I really write that?”

Monday, October 01, 2012

Linda Bove on TCM

I was watching Turner Classic Movies this morning and happened to catch the last part of a promo for a series of films focusing on "A history of disability in film". Linda Bove was being interviewed in the clip! Who is Linda Bove? Sigh. I keep forgetting that not everyone has old-school Sesame Street clips running through their veins. Linda was Bob's girlfriend on Sesame Street for many years She may still be, I'm not sure! She's no longer a regular cast member, but that doesn't mean "Linda" doesn't live on the street any more. Perhaps she's now living in the same building as Roosevelt Franklin & all those other "used-to-be-on-Sesame-Street" characters. The list gets bigger every year.

Linda is also the official "owner" of Barkley, the big Muppet dog who used to be seen in Sesame Street's closing credits. Linda also had a role on "Happy Days" as one of Fonzie's many love interests. On video, she can be seen in "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" and the classic episode where Maria and Luis get married, which (I think) can be downloaded from iTunes.
Alas, I can't find any information about a full-length interview with Linda during the TCM film series (airing Tuesday nights in October), but I'm hoping that the promo will be re-shown a few more times during the month so that her fans can catch it.

Here's a YouTube clip of one of the TCM promos with Linda:

Here's the link to the website about the series:


TCM HIGHLIGHTS FOR OCTOBER: Sigh. I'm not TRYING to become the TCM guru, here. :) It just keeps happening naturally. I like to check the monthly schedule to see what will be playing on the channel. If something catches my eye, I list it here so that hopefully others can tune in and enjoy it. So while you're keeping an eye out for Linda, you may want to watch these films as well.

This is by no means a complete list of all the “good” TCM films this month. I haven’t necessarily seen all of these yet myself. These are just the ones that stood out for me. Please check your local listings for the exact time and day in your area, and keep in mind that the schedule is subject to change.

October 5: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger
October 6: The Front
October 7: The Heart is a lonely hunter
October 8: Queen Christina
October 11: Whatever happened to Baby Jane?
October 12: On Borrowed Time
October 17: The Mummy (Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing version)
October 21: Gulliver's Travels (animated)
October 23: A guy named Joe
October 25: It happened one night; North by Northwest
October 28: Phantom of the Opera (Silent version)
October 29: Inherit the Wind; It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The altered moon landing photo

First Sally Ride a few weeks ago, now legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong has left this planet for a much better place. His skills and bravery are an inspiration to everyone.

I grew up looking at the iconic photos that Neil took on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. But I clearly didn’t know the whole story, particularly the story about one of the most iconic photos of all time. Guess what? NASA altered it! (Not by much, but kind of interesting nonetheless). Please check out this link from Charles Apple, who fills us in on how a certain classic photo was partially filled in with black space by NASA. It also features some rare photos of Neil on the moon taken by Buzz Aldrin.

And here's the story from NASA:


THE FUTURE OF BOOKS: We live in a very exciting age for authors and book publishers. There are a lot of fun things that are possible today that were impossible just a few years ago. As I think about future plans, I've been looking into how publishing has been changing. For those who are interested in the new technologies out there, especially as they relate to ebooks, I wanted to share this link about “literal” self publishing.



This is by no means a complete list of all the “good” TCM films this month. I haven’t necessarily seen all of these yet myself. These are just the ones that stood out for me. Please check your local listings for the exact time and day in your area, and keep in mind that the schedule is subject to change.

September 1: 2010
September 2: The Black Stallion
September 3: Chuck Jones: Memories of childhood ;The Tramp and the Dictator
September 7: A Streetcar named Desire
September 13: It happened one night
September 15: The Fortune Cookie; Sunrise
September 18: Greta Garbo films
September 22: The Time Machine
September 23: Murder by Death
September 24: Diary of Anne Frank; Fiddler on the Roof
September 29: It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sammy the Snake speaks on Jerry Nelson

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following message has been translated from Sammyspeak into regular English. This has been done to avoid the constant hissing noise ("SSSSSSsay hey! It’s sssweet to sssee you. Ssssorry if I ssscared you. I’m Sssammy the Ssssnake.")

Say hey! It’s sweet to see you. Sorry if I scared you. I’m Sammy the Snake. It seems that a lot of people are scared of me. I can’t say that I blame them. I am kind of funky, you know. But the only reason I leave such an impact with people is the magic of puppetry, and a very talented person named Jerry Nelson.

Jerry Nelson passed away on  August 23, 2012. Yours truly, Sammy the Snake, was only one of the muppet characters he brought to life. A long list of his characters includes Count Von Count, Herry Monster, Herbert Birdsfoot, Sam the Robot, The Amazing Mumford, Simon the Soundman, Sgt. Floyd Pepper and Robin the Frog (Kermit’s nephew). He was the original performer and voice of Snuffleupagus before Martin Robinson took over the role. He also voiced a certain guy unfortunately named "fat blue." That’s really just a nickname for "Mr. Johnson," the customer that Grover the waiter waited on in so many skits. You know, the one who ordered the big hamburger. Poor guy.

As you can hear by my scintillating vocal abilities, Jerry had an awesome voice as well. Besides my theme song (it’s on the "Do the Alphabet" Sesame Street CD, for those of you who want to slither out and buy a copy),  he sang Robin’s classic "Halfway Down the Stairs", Floyd’s version of "New York State of Mind",  and "Something’s Missing," a favorite long-lost track from the Muppet Show.  As the Count, there were several awesome songs, such as "Song of the Count," "Count up to nine" and "Eight little notes."  You can see Jerry’s work on several classic Sesame Street clips. Some are on Youtube and Sesame, others are available on VHS and DVD. Notably, my immortal performance is on the "Alphabet Game" tape and DVD. In fact, Jerry was such a fine singer that he even got to sing as himself on an album called "Truro Daydreams."

My friend Jerry had been sick for some time. In the last few years, he was not physically performing the characters on Sesame Street, but through the magic of technology he was recording their voices. At this point, there’s some question as to if the Count will continue with another person’s voice. I hope so, but time will tell. Regardless of whether the Count’s days are numbered (sorry about that, folks), Jerry’s contributions to Sesame Street have been many and numerable. He certainly was part of the magic behind the early days of the show.

Now Jerry and I didn't work together very often, so I can't claim to be as close to him as some of the other characters around here. (You'll have to talk to the Count or Herry Monster if you want a scoop.) I'm one of the many muppets who spends most of his time curled up in the bottom of a file drawer while the others smile for stage and screen. I knew Elmo before he was a star. But these days, I usually hang out with Herbert Birdsfoot and the Beautiful Day monster at the bar down the street. We do karaoke together once in a while. But I digress.

So I can't tell you any deep secrets about Jerry Nelson. (You must understand that the muppet performers usually prefer not to be seen. Part of their job, you see.) The art needs to speak louder than the artist. The best I can do is say something like this. Jerry, Jim, Caroll, Fran, Richard and Frank (and today many others) set a standard for puppetry that is not easy to live up to. I think if they were re-doing my song today, I'd just be a computer graphic, like Jar Jar Binks or something. The art of puppetry shone in many of those early Sesame Street skits, including the one with yours truly. Jerry's puppetry stands with strong with the other guys' as some of the best in the history of television. And I like to think that my performance is a good example of that. Still freaking out kids after all these years.

So long, Jerry.

ON YOUTUBE: GROVER AND THE BIG HAMBURGER. Let's test out this new blogging technology here (well, new for me) and re-post the classic clip of Grover (performed by Frank Oz) trying to serve "fat blue" (performed by Jerry Nelson) a hamburger. It's a fun example of the silliness and fun of the show.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Loch Ness Monster photo

When I first heard that there was a new supposed picture of the Loch Ness Monster, I went online and tried to find it. And I thought I found it. The picture I found accompanied an article online. It was a picture of the famous Urquhart Castle and the choppy waters of the Loch behind it. There was just one thing missing - Nessie! I must have stared at that photo for five minutes trying to find wherever the heck Nessie was. Well, I realized later that Nessie was (apparently) not in the photo at all. The people who put up the article about the new photo didn’t bother to include the new photo. To be fair, it looks like a few other news sites haven’t put up the photo either. Maybe they’re just respecting Nessie’s privacy.

Looking at the real photo (assuming it is a real photo and not a manipulation), it does look like the classic “hump” sightings we’ve heard about. Just about every news site I’ve seen has dismissed the photo as likely a hoax, which (sorry about that again) it probably is. But the kid in me is always going to enjoy news like this, and it’s fun to add another picture to the growing collection of photos. The photo was taken by Nessie hunter George Edwards.

Here are some sites with more information:|main5|dl2|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D188060#photo=3


OUTSHINED: One final note (I hope) about that Google Earth photo that some believed was Nessie, but was actually a white boat with wakes along the sides. There was something about this story that bugged me, and I finally tracked it down. It has to do with a gentleman named Adrian Shine. Mr. Shine is an expert on Loch Ness who has appeared in many different documentaries. A John Muir lookalike, he is one of the people who took part in “Operation Deep Scan,” which mapped the bottom of the loch. He appeared in that Loch Ness Monster Toyota ad years ago, as well as the film “Incident at Loch Ness” (which is a lot of fun for Nessie fans who have a sense of humor).

Mr. Shine has been studying the loch for years. He’s very good at determining if something is a hoax. But apparently the boat picture fooled even him! Here’s a quote from an article:

"Researcher Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness Project, told the newspaper (the Sun): 'This is really intriguing. It needs further study.'"

Apparently Mr. Shine nearly fell for the trick! But to be fair, like me, I suppose he just doesn’t go flying too often. It’s comforting to know that even the experts can be mistaken sometimes.

Read my first post about Nessie here:

Friday, August 03, 2012

TCM highlights for August

Now for something kind of helpful (I hope). Here’s a list of some of the films that will be shown on the Turner Classic Movies network this month. I don’t work for them, I just like some old movies.

It’s interesting to note that when you watch TCM, you’re not only getting a look at what old movies are like, but you’re getting a look at what old TV was like. Back when it first began, older movies pretty much ruled on local television stations. Let’s face it, there wasn’t much else to show! That’s sort of why the old Popeye and Bugs Bunny cartoons were shown so much in the early days. Today, there is so much more television programming to choose from that showing old movies (and cartoons) has become old hat. As an old movie fan, I’m glad TCM is around, and I’m glad we live in an age where I can "peek ahead" to see what will be shown.

This is by no means a complete list of all the "good" TCM films this month. I haven’t necessarily seen all of these yet myself. These are just the ones that stood out for me. Please check your local listings for the exact time and day in your area, and keep in mind that the schedule is subject to change.

August 4- Some Like it Hot
August 8 - Lady from Shanghai
August 10- Mata Hari; Grand Hotel
August 11- Lolita
August 14- G-Men
August 15- The Scarlet Letter (silent version)
August 17- Live a little, Love a little
August 19- North by Northwest
August 22- The Great Race
August 24- Inherit the Wind; A Guy named Joe
August 27- The Fountainhead
August 29- Casablanca

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sally's greatest ride

I was saddened to hear of the death of astronaut Sally Ride. She certainly went far beyond the "glass ceiling," becoming the first U.S. woman in space. Here’s her Sesame Street appearance on YouTube, as posted on a friend’s site:

And now she’s on the greatest mission of all. We’ll miss you, Sally.


NOT SO "MISERABLES": I fulfilled a "theater bucket list" item recently and finally got to see the complete musical "Les Miserables." I know there are a few punctuation marks missing in that title, but it seems that the Google typeface for blogger is quite limited. You know the musical I mean.

And it was fabulous. As with "Phantom," it was easy to understand why "Miserables" is such a popular show. It’s a very moving story filled with equally moving music. I got to watch it with some dear friends from the theater, who filled me in on a few backstage notes - notably, the difficulty in staging a certain death scene. Thanks to strobe lighting and good acting, the effect came off quite well. The scene ended with applause, and my friend whispering to me, "Now it’s like we’re clapping because he’s dead!"  But it was a great show, and I certainly felt less miserable after seeing it. Definitely worth seeing.


AGING QUICKLY (or) THE SPIRIT OF 72: On Wednesday, I added the Mister Rogers “Garden of Your Mind” video to my favorites folder on my YouTube page. Later, I clicked on my YouTube page link on the blog, only to find that my YouTube page was not there. They had put up an empty page for me. There was a little space on my "blank" YouTube page that gave my age as 72 years old. Talk about adding insult to injury! I’m not quite 72 yet. That’s about 30 years away for me (I hope). I have no idea where they got 72 from. Now, 72 is a fine number. 72 is 12 multiplied by 6. I was actually alive in 1972. I’m not against 72. Lord willing, I’ll be 72 one day. It’s just not my age yet.

The bad link has been removed, and I’m debating whether or not to fix the link. It may just be easier to post the links to the videos here on the blog, rather than forcing you to scroll through my favorites folder to find the video you want. I can keep the YouTube account for my own sake (none of my personal videos are there yet, just links to other people’s videos) and as a way of keeping track of the videos I link to from the blog. That may be the way it rolls from now on. We’ll see.