Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis (1925-2010)

The news came over the wires this morning that actor Tony Curtis had passed away at 85.

Curtis served in the Navy in World War II, then transitioned to Hollywood, where he earned an Oscar nomination for his role in "The Defiant Ones", and demonstrated his versatility by excelling in both dramatic & comic roles in films as diverse as "The Black Shield of Falworth", "Six Bridges to Cross", "Houdini", "The Boston Strangler", and, of course, "Some Like It Hot", in which he co-starred with Jack Lemmon & Marilyn Monroe.

Curtis also tried his hand in television, first with the 1971 British series, The Persuaders, with Roger Moore, and later in the short-lived NBC Mystery Movie entry, McCoy, and a brief stint acting opposite Robert Urich on Vega$. Ironically, Urich would co-star in a made-for-TV remake of "The Defiant Ones", playing Curtis' character.

Now, we'll see how long it takes before Turner Classic Movies or one of its competitors clears its schedule for a Curtis tribute marathon.

Rest in peace, Tony. You'll be missed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's wrong with being a male cheerleader----in middle school?

Sports fans are accustomed to seeing co-ed cheerleading teams in college football, and my high school alma mater actually had 1 male cheerleader for at least 1 season in the 80's.

Tyler Wilson is just 11, in the 6th grade. He tried out for and made a youth cheerleading team in his hometown in Ohio last month, but presently has his arm in a sling thanks to a couple of bullies who taunted and teased him repeatedly. Based on the description Tyler gave of the incident, as shown earlier today on Good Morning America, it sounds like one of the punks employed a wrestling move known as the Electric Chair, slamming Tyler into the curb. Initially, Tyler had lied to his mom about the fight, but the truth eventually came out when they discovered his arm was broken. Kristy Wilson, Tyler's mom, pressed charges against the bullies, but the harassment hasn't stopped.

As Tyler explained to George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, he's gotten additional threats just because he turned in the bullies. Well, what else was this kid supposed to do? If you say nothing, then the punks win. By taking a pro-active stand, and affirming that he'll continue his cheerleading career despite this setback, Tyler is proving that there is a way to counter the hassles created by bullies, whose artificial sense of entitlement and empowerment has for once backfired. And who knows? Maybe we'll see Tyler on a college sideline someday.

"Elvic" gets a new job

"Elvic", of course, is former Tri City Valleycats assistant GM Vic Christopher, who on Tuesday was hired by Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian as his new Economic Development Coordinator, just a week after Christopher was let go by the Valleycats after 7 seasons. The new job will have Christopher involved in efforts to bring businesses into the city, and improve Troy's overall profile. He has the energy and the charisma, and we wish him the best of luck.

Hmmm, y'think maybe he'll dust off that "Elvic" jumpsuit and guitar and appear at the Victorian Stroll in December?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

George Blanda (1927-2010)

He will be remembered as the oldest player to ever appear in an NFL game, a feat likely to be eclipsed by Brett Favre by the end of the decade (though that's another story), but the entire sports world was mourning on Monday afternoon with news of the passing of George Blanda at 83.

Blanda, who played for the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) and the Oakland Raiders for much of his stint in the AFL & NFL in the 60's & 70's, was both a star quarterback and placekicker, something else rarely seen in the pros these days. Blanda was one of the last of the straight-ahead kickers, as the position now is dominated by soccer-style players. He retired prior to the start of the 1976 season, a month short of his 49th birthday. We see baseball players continue in the major leagues deep into their 40's. Julio Franco, for example, retired just shy of his 50th birthday after finishing his career with Atlanta and the Mets. Indeed, unless the next generation of players includes a few with the versatility and toughness of Blanda, we won't see anyone with his talent again.

Rest in peace, George. You'll be missed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eddie Fisher (1928-2010)

The news has just come over the wires of the passing of singer Eddie Fisher at the age of 82. Fisher scored a number of pop hits in the 50's, including "Any Time", "On the Street Where You Live", and "Oh My Papa", the latter of which we'll present here.

Fisher's also as well known for his marriages to actresses Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, & Connie Stevens. His youngest daughter, Tricia Leigh Fisher, even had a brief career as a pop singer in the late 80's-early 90's, but to today's generation, Fisher is probably better known as the father of "Princess Leia" (actress-author Carrie Fisher, "Star Wars").

Rest in peace, Eddie. You'll be missed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On the Air: Zevo-3 (2010)

While it doesn't officially debut on Nicktoons until October 11, the controversial new cartoon, Zevo-3, is being previewed on Time Warner's Kids on Demand channel. Just choose "Nicktoons Action", then find Zevo-3, and you're all set. The episode, "Beneath the City", the 5th episode of the series, is being previewed. Of course, The Zevo3 uploaded it to YouTube:

While I'd have preferred they'd started at the beginning, I've seen enough to tell me, quite honestly, that this show can survive on its own merits, and, as the folks at Skechers had claimed, there are no in-show plugs for their products. Regrettably, Kids on Demand is the only way Time Warner subscribers in most areas can view the show, as Nicktoons is not yet available on most Time Warner Cable systems (depends on where you live).

Rating: B.

"American Idol" is on its stretch run

American Idol's ratings tumbled this past season, and critics decried the competition as the weakest in years. Not only did the series lose another of its original judges in Simon Cowell, but the two they hired the last two years, songwriter Kara DioGuardi and actress-comic-talk show hostess Ellen DeGeneres, followed Cowell out the door. I wrote about the latter a while back, when it was more rumor than fact, and was widely reported more as the latter. Since then, the rumors have been clarified as facts, and on Tuesday, it was made official that the judges' panel is back to a trio for 2011.

As had also been reported elsewhere, Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler and actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, who has previously served as a guest mentor on Idol, will join Randy Jackson on the panel next season. Tyler's hire appeared to have created a rift between the singer and bandmate Joe Perry, based on comments attributed to the latter over the summer. As for J-Lo, her presence all but ensures that husband Marc Anthony may be brought on as a mentor down the road. I believe they're still in the midst of the audition phase for the 2011 season, which begins in January.

But, as the Bard, William Shakespeare, wrote several centuries past, all good things must come to an end, and the coming season is a pivotal one for Idol. Can it regain the viewers it lost? Will the new judges be able to forge their own Idol identities, instead of trying to replace Cowell and Paula Abdul (who left after the 2009 season)? It will make for good television, to be sure, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Elvic" has left the building

Just one week after capturing the New York-Penn League championship, and a day after renewing their player development agreement with the Houston Astros, the Tri-City Valleycats announced on Tuesday that Matt Callahan would be their new assistant general manager, succeeding Vic Christopher, who is not being retained after 7 seasons of being the public face of the team's high energy promotions department.

The move does have 'Cats fans scratching their heads and wondering why Christopher, a people-friendly guy if there ever was one, was being let go so suddenly. The team is preferring to keep most of the details private, which is only going to lead to more speculation. Did Christopher get a better offer elsewhere? No one knows, and, right now, no one's talking. The man had just gotten married nearly three weeks ago, while the team was in Brooklyn (where Christopher previously worked for the Cyclones) for their final regular season series.

Christopher was very involved in the team's on-field promotions, and engaged in a pro-wrestling-inspired "feud" with one of the team's bat boys a few years back as part of the entertainment. He also would don a Elvis Presley jumpsuit to become "Elvic", slapping an acoustic guitar to pump up the crowd late in games, especially when the 'Cats were trailing and trying to rally. His presence at Joe Bruno Stadium, and his energetic personality, are going to be missed next season. Callahan has a tough act to follow.

Verily, "Elvic" has left the building.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's always stupid at a Phillies game

If there was a downer to Philadelphia's win over Atlanta on Monday night, it might be because the game was stopped for a couple of minutes when a fan, dressed in a red zentai bodysuit and brown shoes, ran onto the field. He treated the security like it was the Eagles' 3rd string defense, but didn't count on Atlanta's Matt Diaz interceding.

A fan in a zentai suit at a game is nothing new, but they usually restrict themselves to the bleachers where they know the cameras will eventually pan to them anyway. Apparently, this particular clown didn't learn thing one from previous incidents at Citizens Bank Park earlier this year. It's one thing to take a dare and run onto the field when you're out with your buds, but you're spoiling everyone else's fun, including the players.

This sort of stuff never happens at Valleycats games, thankfully.

Updated, 9:34 PM (ET): I had the video up earlier, but when I logged on an hour ago, I found that MLB Advanced Media had put a claim on the clip, and so it was taken off YouTube, and thus, I've pulled it down as well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Should a new cartoon be booted before it gets started?

Nickelodeon's sister network, Nicktoons, is not available in as many homes as Nick itself, but just the same it has picked up licensed properties like a revival of Speed Racer, and a pair of Marvel Comics series, none of which lasted very long. Their latest licensed property, however, is putting them in the eye of a storm of controversy, at least in the eyes of a small activist group out of Boston.

At issue is a forthcoming series, Zevo-3, which is being produced by an animation subsidiary of sneaker manufacturer Skechers. The activists in Boston want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block the show from ever airing, but the last I knew, the FCC didn't regulate broadcast cable programming. What bothers them is that one of the masked heroes in the show is named after one of Skechers' new shoes, the Z-Strap. Well, post-production editing can do something about that to appease these whiny get-a-lifes. They're better served trying to convince Skechers and other shoe makers to lower the prices on their expensive shoes to make them more affordable for Joe Consumer.

Given Nicktoons' recent track record, all the whining will be moot, since Zevo-3 probably will only last one season anyway, unless it gets repurposed on Nickelodeon to take advantage of the publicity, and that's sure to happen.

The FCC has rules that guard against using a program as a glorified infomercial, a rule that was reinforced after the toy-tie-in blitz of syndicated cartoons in the 80's. Skechers' representatives are adamant in stating that there are no promos for the shoes in the show itself, save for the one character I noted earlier. We'll soon see who's right.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Farewell to four more

Trying to get caught up with all the celebrity obits from recent days.

Character actor Harold Gould passed away over the weekend. Gould, whose television resume includes roles on Rhoda, The Feather & Father Gang, & The Golden Girls, was 86. Gould also was the original choice to play Howard Cunningham on Happy Days, having played the part in a backdoor pilot that was aired on Love, American Style. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict led Gould to step away, and that enabled Tom Bosley to take over as Howard. Of course, the rest is Happy Days history.

Canadian-born voice actress Billie Richards is best known for one singular part, the title role in 1964's Christmas classic, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Ms. Richards worked on other specials for Rankin-Bass during her career. She was 88.

David Dortort might not be as big a household name, but he was attached, as a producer, to a pair of Westerns in the 60's, Bonanza and High Chaparral. He was 93. Dortort stepped away from Hollywood after Bonanza ended its run, as there don't seem to be too many other series with his name attached since.

Edwin Newman may be one of the last of the old guard journalists from NBC. Newman produced and narrated a series of specials for NBC News in the 60's that earned him a Peabody award in 1966, and anchored the network's 5 minute mid-day news in the 70's. He also read the news on David Letterman's ill-fated morning show, and authored a series of best-selling books. Newman was 91.

Rest in peace, all.

A vicious irony

Lemrick Nelson had done his time for stabbing Yankel Rosenbaum to death nearly 20 years ago, and had dropped out of the public eye, settling down with his girlfriend in New Jersey. Today, he's in a Harlem hospital after being stabbed himself by an unknown assailant in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The police, according to an account in Tuesday's New York Daily News, speculate that Nelson had had a road rage encounter with his attacker. Nelson wasn't robbed, but his car appeared to have been sideswiped, and the police found the weapon, an ice pick, at the scene.

There don't appear to have been any witnesses to give police anything to go on in terms of suspects, so it may be left up to Nelson to cooperate with the police to find his attacker. Nelson had to go through two trials, one ending in aquittal, the other a hung jury, before being found guilty of civil rights violations and serving 10 years in prison. He did his time, and hoped the past would remain just that. As for the motivation behind the ice pick attack? No one knows, but it would be the cruelest irony if it came down to a hate crime. Blind hatred fueled Nelson's attack of Yankel Rosenbaum in 1991. What if someone else felt the same way, seeing Nelson after all these years?

They say fate can be cruel and harsh, but does the same apply to karma?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upstate NY gets another championship

2010 has been a momentus, unprecedented year in minor league professional sports for New York's Capital Region.

First, in early July, the Albany Legends completed a historic first season in the International Basketball League (IBL) by winning the league title in dominating fashion. The public and the news media, who'd been by and large indifferent towards the Legends all season, turned out in droves.

Tonight, the Tri-City Valleycats wrapped up a worst-to-first run to the NY-Penn League championship, overcoming two nights of rain to defeat the Brooklyn Cyclones, 5-1, to win their first NYPL title. After being the dregs of the NYPL's Stedler Division the last three years, the 'Cats won their 3rd division title in the last 7 years, and advanced to their 3rd championship series in that same span. When it comes to the post-season, it seems the 'Cats have had the Cyclones' number, as they also eliminated Brooklyn 4 years ago, only to lose to the Staten Island Yankees in the championship round. Even though the top story on the local news will be about the political primaries not only in-state, but across the country, the Valleycats will most certainly be up there in priority as well.

The high player turnover in minor league baseball means that a new set of players will defend the NYPL title next year, and the process will start all over again. That's just the way it is, but for the 'Cats' organization and their devoted fan base, this was well worth the wait. Congratulations on a job well done!

The Grim Reaper's been busy

Busy as I've been with other matters of late, I've been remiss with some recent obits.

Pro wrestling has had to say goodbye to two former stars in recent weeks. First, Gertrude "Luna" Vachon, daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, passed away a couple of weeks back at 48. Ms. Vachon, who was divorced from fellow grappler David Heath (Gangrel to WWE fans), had become a truck driver after leaving WWE in 2000. Over the weekend, Mike Shaw, 53, who played Norman the Lunatic in WCW and Friar Ferguson & Bastion Booger in the then-World Wrestling Federation in the 90's, succumbed to a heart attack. WWE has not acknowledged either one on the air, only on their website.

And Hollywood has said goodbye to character actor Kevin McCarthy, 96, who passed away on Saturday. McCarthy will always be remembered for the sci-fi classic, "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers", as the frantic physician who tried to warn everyone of an alien invasion.

Rest in peace, all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A method to a preacher's madness

Yahoo! is reporting that Rev. Terry Jones has asked for a meeting with the Muslim Imam in charge of the "Ground Zero" mosque in New York in exchange for not burning the Quran. K-Love radio reported this morning that Jones had flip-flopped on the issue, saying that plans for the book burning had been "suspended" instead of cancelled. I had a feeling that this was, in a roundabout way, a means for Jones to involve himself in the "Ground Zero" controversy. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, and Westboro Baptist's more deranged pastor, Fred Phelps, to announce he too is headed to New York. I know a good place where he can stay. Comfortable room, padded walls. You know what I mean. Bellevue's calling for Phelps. Not so sure about Jones. Yet......

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This should surprise absolutely no one

Rev. Terry Jones may have called off his intentions to burn the Muslim Quran, but that isn't stopping the wackjobs at Westboro Baptist Church. The following article came from

Westboro Baptist Church, the small Topeka, Kan., church that pickets funerals of American soldiers to spread its message that God is punishing the country for being tolerant of homosexuals, has vowed to hold a Quran burning if Gainesville's Dove World Outreach Center calls its off.

"WBC burned the Koran once – and if you sissy brats of Doomed america bully Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center until they change their plans to burn that blasphemous tripe called the Koran, then WBC will burn it (again), to clearly show you some things," the church announced in a news release this week.

And Jones in the last day has indicated some reluctance to burn the Muslim holy book.

The Canadian Press reported Thursday that in an interview with a Canadian radio station, Jones said the church was considering calling it off.

"We are very much in prayer about it. There is the possibility, of course, that we will not do it," Jones was quoted as saying.

He told a group of reporters Wednesday that he planned to burn at least one copy of the Quran.

Dove World is one of the few groups to join forces with Westboro members, who have protested at funerals across the country.

In April, a handful of Westboro members picketed outside of the University of Florida Hillel, the Jewish student center, and Trinity United Methodist Church, and Jones and about 30 members of his congregation joined the WBC members outside of Trinity United.

While officials from President Barack Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have condemned Jones' plan, Fox News reported Thursday that a White House spokesman said the administration is considering contacting Jones to urge him to call it off.

Wait. "Sissy brats of doomed America"? Fred Phelps and his crew are in dire need of deliverance. That line alone sounds like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 70's or 80's. Phelps has already got one set of the dreaded weasel ears, does he want to try for 2?

In America, we have the right to practice any religion, be it Islam, Buddhist, Christian, or, at worst, Scientology. Apparently, those rights are lost in the minds of people like Fred Phelps. If Terry Jones can find it within himself to change his mind, I'd say Phelps could, too. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that shows Phelps has an actual conscience.

Weasel of the Week: Rev. Terry Jones

Rev. Jones, a Florida pastor, has made headlines with his intention to burn copies of the Muslim Quran (Koran) to mark the anniversary of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. He hasn't obtained the necessary permits required, but Rev. Jones has vowed that he'll go through with the burning nonetheless, regardless of the consequences that other Americans will face here and abroad.

General David Petraeus, President Obama, & Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all denounced Rev. Jones' actions, and there are reports today of similar warnings coming from Afghanistan. I've said before that the Quran, like the Christian Bible, teaches peace, and that "radical" Muslims, such as Osama bin Laden, have subverted the Quran's teachings to further a personal vendetta against the US. None of this matters to Rev. Jones, and while he may well be protected under the First Amendment right to free speech, he is putting an untold number of innocent people at risk, such that 9/11 could happen all over again. Rev. Jones has said that the only way he'll cancel the bonfire is if he gets a message from God telling him not to go through with it.

Rev. Jones has admitted that he has been in prayer all along, and firmly believes he's doing the right thing. As a Christian, I'm not so sure he is. What I do know is that if Rev. Jones goes through with this, and innocent lives are lost as a result, the media will place the blame at his doorstep. It's enough that for years the Muslims have waged their war with us over perceived slights against them. Burning the Quran will give them an all too real reason to continue.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In theatres: The Other Guys (2010)

The way Hollywood sees it, there are two kinds of police officers. There are the "glamour" types, the ones who solve the biggest cases and get the most attention from the media. And, then, there are the "Other Guys", the white collar officers who file the reports if/when their "superstar" comrades choose not to.

In this case, the "Other Guys" are detectives Alan Gamble (Will Ferrell, "Land of the Lost") and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg, "Planet of the Apes"). Hoitz was demoted to desk duty after making a critical error in judgment and knee-capped Yankees star Derek Jeter (who appears in a cameo flashback). Gamble was promoted from-----wait for it----forensic accounting. What? CSI has beancounters? What? Their boss, Capt. Mock (Michael Keaton), works a second job to pay his son's tuition. Both Gamble & Hoitz are waiting for the chance to prove they can be first-string sleuths themselves, and a case just happens to fall right into their laps when Gamble discovers that an investment banker (Steve Coogan) has had buildings developed but no contracts for scaffolding. That problem's solved rather quickly, but it turns out the guy is a regular Bernie Madoff, and has created a Ponzi scheme to steal the NYPD's pension fund. Here's the trailer, courtesy of Funnyordie and YouTube. Funnyordie, by the way, is a website run, if I remember right, by Ferrell and director Adam McKay.

Here's the trailer:

Savor the presence of Samuel L. Jackson ("Iron Man 2") and Dwayne Johnson, whom we'll see next in "Faster", as they only appear during the first half-hour of the movie. Ray Stevenson ("Punisher War Zone") provides appropriate menace as a security agent who's looking to make sure the scheme goes through.

One running gag involves Gamble being a bit of a chick magnet, much to Hoitz's consternation. Gamble is married to a hottie (Eva Mendes), while Hoitz is trying to reconnect with an ex (Lindsay Sloane), but embarrasses them both when he crashes her dance class. What helps move the story along is the narration of an uncredited Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). I kept expecting Ice to show up somewhere along the way, but no go.

It seemed appropriate, too that one of the trailers was for "Green Hornet", due in January, because Hoitz does his best impersonation of Kato in a pair of fight scenes that were some of the best parts of the film. As Gamble, Ferrell is unusually restrained for much of the film, save for the "Bad Cop/Bad Cop" sequence with Coogan. Wahlberg flashed back to his Marky Mark days by doing a few moves during a sequence in which Hoitz is busted down to traffic cop. 20 years later, he's still got it.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Joey Pedevill

Tennis, like golf, is to be treated with the utmost respect. Its audience knows when it's appropriate to stand up & cheer. That being said, you'd never see a fight break out on the court. In the bleachers, though, is another story.

According to today's New York Daily News, Joey Pedevill, a drunken fan, picked a fight with a woman nearly twice his age, Tracy Falco, who was attending the tournament with her father, Lawrence Burnett, 75. Pedevill egged Falco on with a steady stream of f-bombs, but when the Police finally arrived, Pedevill did a 180 and began crying like a baby. Go figure!

Pedevill, Burnett, & Falco have all been banned from attending the tournament until 2013, but in Pedevill's case, inasmuch as he wants to put this sordid incident behind him, it's out there for everyone to see at the moment, posted to YouTube. It was reported that Pedevill was hiding out at his girlfriend's apartment in Manhattan yesterday. He doesn't want the publicity, and wants this incident to just go away. Apologizing to Falco & Burnett, as well as everyone else at Arthur Ashe Stadium, would be a good place to start. Until then, he's got a pair of weasel ears for his fool's folly.

The Dunce Cap Award: Tony Blair

Blair, the former British Prime Minister, has become an apologist for former President Bill Clinton, at least according to a wire service report that appeared in today's New York Daily News.

In his memoir, A Journey, Blair writes that he believes Clinton has "an inordinate interest in and curiosity about people". And that excuses the former President from cheating on his wife? Oh, no, I don't think so! While Hillary, as Secretary of State, has worked to try to erase the images cultivated during her husband's administration, Bill remains tabloid bait, and I wouldn't be the least bit shocked to see Blair's comments splashed on the front pages of supermarket tabs in both the US & the UK. Blair will in Philadelphia on Sept. 13 to receive a Liberty Medal. Bill Clinton will be presenting the medal, so it'll be interesting to see what happens in light of this report.

To be fair, Blair made his remark in reference to Clinton's overall ability to connect with people, but under no circumstances should it include infidelity.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Carl Paladino: The clock is ticking on his 15 minutes

Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino is stating his case for Governor. Personally, I don't think he really has much chance against Andrew Cuomo, but this ad, uploaded by PaladinoforthePeople to YouTube, offers some insight:


Sam Wilson, over at the Think 3 Institute, questions why Paladino feels he's getting some heat from the Tea Party, when he supposedly embraced them mere weeks earlier. Chalk it up to a first-time politician feeling the heat, period. Paladino knows he's fighting a losing battle, and exactly two months from now, reality is going to set in. Despite the scandals that have derailed Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, some New Yorkers aren't quite ready to put a Republican in the Governor's Mansion just yet. Seems George Pataki did a little too much for his downstate brethren for the upstaters' liking. At least, that's the view from where I sit. Enjoy your 15:00 of fame, Carl Paladino. After November 2, they're going to ask you about another Buffalo native who ran for Governor and failed. You might know him. Fella named Tom Golisano.