Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Charlie Sheen

Yeah, he's back.

Just when you thought it was safe, the self-professed "warlock" is back in the news. This time, Sheen was interviewed by Sports Illustrated, which was doing a "Where are they now?" piece on the cast of the movie, "Major League". You may recall that Sheen played bespectacled, often erratic relief pitcher Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn, part of an ensemble cast that also included Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Corbin Bernsen (then on LA Law, most recently on Psych), current Allstate insurance pitchman Dennis Haysbert, and the late James Gammon (who'd later turn up playing Don Johnson's dad on Nash Bridges).

What gets Sheen a fresh pair of weasel ears is the fact that the actor is claiming he was taking steroids to prepare for his role in the movie. He's saying he was emulating a lot of the real ballplayers of the period. Oh, please! Give me a break! The next thing you know, he'll claim Nickelodeon's cartoon series, Planet Sheen, was inspired by him. It's bad enough the man is living in his personal Twilight Zone 24/7/365, but between this and his persistent claims that he's on the verge of a new TV series that could go into production soon without the need for a pilot, the man needs to spend the next year and change in a detoxification unit.

Stop and think for a second. Has Charlie Sheen ever looked like he was on steroids? Now, I've never seen the "Hot Shots" movies, so I wouldn't know for certain. Based on what I've seen, and this amounts to "Major League" and passing glances at his work in Spin City (where he had the distinction of trying to follow Michael J. Fox) and Two and a Half Men, I don't think he'd been on the juice for too long. He's taken so many drugs----and gotten headlines for the misadventures that go with it---that he's lost sight of what his real life is really like. Sorry, Charlie, that ain't winning. That's flushing your career down the toilet. One toke at a time.

Does WWE really need writers anymore?

Before I go further, I offer exhibit A of why WWE needs to actually stop having failed Hollywood writers (not including actor Freddie Prinze, Jr.) write their television programs. On Monday Night Raw on June 27, CM Punk (real name: Phil Brooks) took us back to the good old days, when wrestlers actually cut their promos on the spot, and didn't need some shlep who knew nothing about the business putting words in their mouths......

In modern parlance, Punk went "off the grid" when he started ripping on the McMahon family. Triple H, trained by the late Hall of Famer Walter "Killer" Kowalski, might actually appreciate Punk's promo better than anyone realizes. WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon, often blasted in this space for being out of touch with reality as we know it, needed this as evidence that he no longer needs to micro-manage every aspect of his television programming. Unfortunately, knowing McMahon, he'll use this to put himself back on television for an extended period, taking time away from other, more deserving talents that are already starving for air space.

After the broadcast ended, Punk showed he could still have fun, and generated more heel heat by doing an a capella rendition of----wait for it---"Chicago", a tune about his hometown made famous by one Frank Sinatra. If he's leaving after the July 17 Money in the Bank PPV, he's going out in a blaze of glory, but to be honest with you, I don't think he's going anywhere.

The whole scenario recalls the infamous 1997 Survivor Series screwjob between Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels. Michaels was a guest Monday, promoting his new Outdoor Channel reality show. The way I'm picturing it now, this could be the catalyst for the much-rumored heel turn for champion John Cena, who would be rebooted as the corporate champ that most of his detractors already perceive him to be. He would be Michaels to Punk's Hart, not the other way around.

15 years ago, Hulk Hogan turned his back on his legions of fans to freshen his career. He's still trading on that angle today in TNA. John Cena, and, for that matter, CM Punk, have infinitely more talent than Hogan ever did (Cena could rap Hogan under the table, that much is obvious), and can make this work to the point where the debate over match or angle of the year would end right then and there in Chicago.

The last thing anyone needs is Vince McMahon screwing this up, and you know, he may just do that, because he can, and he shouldn't.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Retro shuffles the deck!

My good friend Ivan Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear first tipped this a few weeks back when he linked to another blog, Cultureshark, with hints that Retro would be changing its lineup, something that only happens every so often, and not often enough to suit, at least in this writer's opinion.

Retro has cleared out the Universal library that had dominated their schedule for the better part of the last couple of years, and added some new shows, some of which I've never had the privelege of seeing, and some I have.

They now start their broadcast day around 8 in my district, but I haven't the programming committed to memory just yet. However, this is what is on the docket from 9 am (ET) forward (Albany NY market; your area may vary):

9-10: Daytime
10-11: Celebrity Kitchens (new--2 back-to-back episodes)
11-12: The Rifleman (2 back-to-back episodes)
12 noon: The Adventures of Robin Hood
12:30: Peter Gunn (new time)
1: The Bill Cosby Show (new time; previously has aired on weekends in this market).
1:30: Zorro (Originally aired on the Family Channel (now ABC Family) in the 1990's)
2-3: Movin' On. Claude Akins & Frank Converse starred in this 1974 NBC offering, better known for its theme song, sung by country legend Merle Haggard.

3-4: Naked City
4-5: Route 66
5-6: I Spy (new time)
6-8: Daniel Boone (new time; 2 back-to-back episodes)
8-9: Starsky & Hutch
9-10: Police Story

10-11: The Saint. One of my personal favorites. I spent a few Thursday nights during my senior year in high school falling asleep watching the repeats on The CBS Late Movie. Just for fun, here's a sample of the kick-ass open, uploaded by fabriciojiminez:

11-12: DaVinci's Inquest. Recent vintage, aired in syndication not too long ago to cash in on the movie, "The DaVinci Code".

12 midnight-1: Cold Case Files. Originally aired on A & E, then was released to general syndication this past year.

By the end of the week, I'll know what the weekend schedules should look like, aside from the Saturday cartoon lineup (assuming that remains). All I know now, though, is that I'll be watching The Saint pretty regularly. You'll notice that the schedule now has a decided Sony Pictures flavor, what with the former Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures Television entries and some series (i.e. Starsky & Hutch) in the control of Sony. Tell yer friends!

Musical Interlude: Maria (1999)

Nearly 20 years after their last top 40 hit, Blondie made a bit of a comeback in 1999, but "Maria" was the only single to come out. I remember hearing this on the radio, but never saw the video until now. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In Theatres: Green Lantern (2011)

While rival Marvel has been steadily laying the groundwork for next year's "Avengers" movie, DC has been lagging behind, unable to create another movie franchise aside from "Batman" that can be sustained at the box office.

"Green Lantern" is the latest attempt at establishing that secondary franchise. While there is an opening for a sequel at the end of the movie, the less-than-spectacular opening weekend creates doubts about whether or not that sequel will even be made.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") has been presented as a reckless, but not entirely fearless pilot. This is contrary to the comics, where Jordan was established as being fearless in his debut more than 50 years ago. The movie tells us that Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, Gossip Girl), before becoming Jordan's boss, was a fellow pilot as well as Jordan's girlfriend. Well, they only got it half-right, didn't they? I don't recall Carol being a pilot in the books, but that's creative license for you.

As we all know, Jordan is summoned by Abin Sur, and given the alien's power ring. Jordan doesn't initially accept his responsibilities, which leaves room for Reynolds to play Jordan as a complete tool (watch for the reference to the 80's hero He-Man). Summoned in turn to Oa, the home base of the Green Lantern Corps, Jordan is put through a quick course in basic training by Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), who was added to the GL mythos in the 80's, if memory serves me correctly. In turn, Sinestro, who was Abin Sur's protege, completes Jordan's training. The mission? To stop Parallax, formerly a rogue guardian who tried to harness the power of fear as a force for good. Comics fans know Parallax would possess Jordan in the 90's, which began a radical reboot of Jordan as we knew him.

Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) feeds on the fears of others, and for a time, finds a human host of sorts in college professor Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who is given telepathic powers as a result. However, anyone thinking Hammond, a long-time nemesis of GL's, might return in a future sequel, may be in for a rude surprise. That's all I'm going to say about that. Needless to say, Jordan gains acceptance within the Corps, and begins to forge his own legend. As I mentioned earlier, there is a scene before the final credits roll that suggests a sequel, and it involves Sinestro. For those keeping score at home, Geoffrey Rush, who voices Tomar Re, also serves as narrator.

Is it as bad as people think it is? No, not entirely. There are those moments worthy of facepalms out of sheer absurdity, but first and foremost, this was not meant to be a comedy in the same vein as Seth Rogen's take on "Green Hornet" earlier this year. The fact that the writers' perception of Jordan in this film is so distorted from how he's been presented since his debut more than 50 years ago may be what has turned a lot of fans off. The detractors are probably tired of Hollywood writers not even bothering to do enough research and simply utilizing their own vision without respect to what was previously established.

Edit, 6/11/19: Here is the trailer:

Trailers include "Cowboys & Aliens", "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, part 2", and "Horrible Bosses". Only "Cowboys" seems to interest me.

Rating: C.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Conquest of Downtown Troy (wrestling at the Boys & Girls Club)

If you're a wrestling fan, what would you prefer?

A packed, big box arena for a television show that would be lucky to cram 5-7 matches over 2 hours, or a small, intimate setting where fledgling performers are honing their craft before small, appreciative crowds, with more action and little talk?

A case for the latter would be made with the Troy debut of Conquest Pro Wrestling, presented under the auspices of Skull Wrestling Federation, at the Troy Boys & Girls Club on Saturday night. Approximately 100-115 fans attended the show, which kicked off promptly at 7 and ended just before 9:30, or, roughly, about the same length as the Tri City Valleycats game at Bruno Stadium.

A battle royale was hyped at the start of the evening, but cancelled at the last possible moment when the doctor appointed by the NYS Athletic Commission left the building early. Hey, nobody's perfect.

Here's the quick results of the show:

1. Viper, the American Ninja def. "Redneck" Randy Walker.
2. Grassroots champ "Bombshell" Bert Williams def. Sgt. Fury.
3. Kyller Jones def. Ash Vaingard. Bear with me on the latter name, as the crowd noise almost drowned it out completely.

4. NWA Capital women's title: "Sweetest Sin" Jenna Mya def. Dee Licious.
5. #1 contender's match for the NWA Capital tag titles: The Redneck Express def. the Easy Riders.
6. Timmy Aiight def. Schoolboy C. Schuyler.
7. Sidusky def. "Retro" Reed James due to interference from Shane Arlen and a distraction from manager Mister Mann.

8. #1 contender's match for the NWA Capital title: Ron Falco def. "Every Woman's Dream" Mark Krieger.
9. Capital Punishment def. the Savage Wolves.
10. J. P. Black def. Shane Arlen. Sidusky tried to interfere, but James came back for a receipt.

During a 15 minute intermission, the wrestlers mingled with the fans, most of whom were family and friends, as a large chunk of the talent are based here in upstate NY, some of whom normally work for In Your Face Wrestling out of Ballston Spa.

Clearly, the stage is set for a return visit, hopefully later this year, but as someone told me earlier tonight, the folks at IYF are not happy about a potential rival entering what they feel is their domain. Well, I'd agree except for one thing. IYF only runs in its hometown of Ballston Spa, and to my knowledge has not yet expanded outside those borders. Competition is good for business, unless your name is Vince McMahon, and you've forgotten what it's like to have someone competing with you for the fan dollar.

From a fan perspective, Elton John was right. "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting".

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk (1927-2011)

To millions, he will always be the rumpled detective, Columbo, but Peter Falk was much more than that.

Falk had also appeared in films such as "Pocketful of Miracles", "All the Marbles", and "Robin & the 7 Hoods", the latter with Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis, Jr., among others. Falk passed away earlier today at the age of 83, having long since retired from acting.

To show that he could play his iconic alter-ego for laughs, Falk would appear as Columbo on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, especially when the guest of honor was his good friend, Sinatra, as shown in this clip:

Columbo became enough of an icon such that when Telly Savalas was the honoree on the Celebrity Roast, radio & cartoon legend Casey Kasem, dressed up as Columbo, did a skit portraying Savalas' #1 fan. I have that clip over at my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives. Now, I'm not entirely certain if this was because Falk was unavailable, or it was something else altogether. Regrettably, that mystery may never be solved.

Rest in peace, Peter.

Gene Colan (1926-2011)

News came across the wires earlier today of the passing of comic book artist Gene Colan at 84 after an illness.

If you're a long-time comics fan, you've probably read at least one book that Colan worked on. His resume includes a long list of classic characters. From Sub-Mariner and Daredevil to Howard the Duck & Dracula at Marvel to Batman & the Spectre at DC and finally, a stint drawing Archie and his friends at Archie Comics. If that isn't a Hall of Fame caliber resume, I don't know what is.

Colan drew a great deal of praise from peers and fans alike for his run on Marvel's Tomb of Dracula during the 70's, and reunited with writer Marv Wolfman to create The Night Force for DC in 1982. His dark, atmospheric layouts and pencils fit the mood of those books like a pair of gloves.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

VIdeos of Summer: Summer Nights (1978)

Now, I know "Grease" has been shown ad nauseum on cable over the last few years, but it also has a rockin' soundtrack that was all over the radio in 1978.

"Summer Nights" was one of two duets by stars John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John on the soundtrack, this one augumented by several of the cast forming the chorus.

Just a few years later, the two stars would team one more time, in "Two of a Kind", and if memory serves, there would be one more duet, which would also mark the end of Travolta's singing career, although I think he might've contributed to the "Hairspray" soundtrack a couple of years back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rockin' Funnies: I Wanna Be A Lifeguard (1981)

Summer is officially here, and so it's time to start thinking about sun, sand, surf, know, the beach!

To help you get started, here's a slice of musical history from my home district. Blotto, the pride of Albany, NY, released "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard" in 1981, which landed them airplay on Dr. Demento's radio show and, of course, on the then-fledgling MTV. The video was shot in and around Albany, including a sequence shot in a section of Central Avenue that may be familiar to some of you.

Today, Blotto regroups every year to play some local music festivals---in fact, they were in my hometown over the weekend---and "Lifeguard" is always a crowd favorite. The band members are all in other vocations nowadays. Lee Harvey is a lawyer, Sarge is a freelance music critic, and so on. The video for "Lifeguard", uploaded by---wait for it---BlottodotNet, was produced by the band with the aid of some University of Albany students.

Now, admit it. Some of you had those dreams before Baywatch came along.....!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Janet Chiauzzi

As we all know, when Major League Baseball holds its All-Star Game in July, there will be the usual complaints about certain players who didn't make the team. The fans, going by name recognition & reputation rather than current stats, seemingly tend to pick the same players every year, showing no aptitude for current events.

Little League All-Star teams are chosen by each individual league's coaches based strictly on performance. Try telling that to this week's Weasel, Janet Chiauzzi, a 44 year old Long Island parent who's facing charges of stalking and, I think, harassment, simply because her son didn't make his Little League "travel team" (I'm not sure if that's current parlance for the All-Stars). Mrs. Chiauzzi sent a series of threatening letters to the coach of the travel team, claiming she'd attack the coach's wife and teenage daughter in retaliation for the perceived slight. Oh, please, give me a freakin' break!

Let's say that her son was on the bubble to make the team. The coach simply picked another player who had better stats, be it on offense or defense. End of story. Happens all the time. I grew up near one of my home city's Little Leagues, and I'd never heard of any case like this in my area. What Mrs. Chiauzzi has done, whether she realizes this or not---and I doubt it very seriously at this point---is that she has made it nearly impossible for her son to get a fair shake if he moves up to the next level of amateur play, be it the Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken or Mickey Mantle leagues, or even in high school. What if the youth decides to switch sports, to, say, football? The same thing could happen. The kid, no matter how talented he may be, may be unfairly judged because of his mother's mindless actions. That will make him work 2-10 times as hard to make the grade, if you will, and erase this stigma.

Janet Chiauzzi needs to accept the fact that it isn't just one coach that decided her son wasn't good enough to make the team. It's a team effort, ironically enough.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

The music world is mourning the loss of saxophonist Clarence Clemons, long the anchor of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, who passed away earlier today due to complications after suffering a stroke a week ago. Clemons was 69.

"The Big Man" even branched out and recorded with other artists, including Aretha Franklin and, most recently, Lady GaGa. Clemons also recorded 5 solo albums, the most successful of which was 1985's "Hero", which produced Clemons' only top 40 solo hit, "You're a Friend of Mine", a duet with Jackson Browne, which illustrated the relationship between Clemons and Springsteen.

Stevenarada uploaded the video for "You're a Friend of Mine", which also features Browne's then-girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah, and producer Narada Michael Walden, the latter sitting in on drums, which he also did for Aretha Franklin on her hit that year, "Freeway of Love":

Now, you'd think that the passing of an artist such as Clemons, given his contributions to the music business, would've gotten the attention of MTV and its sister channels, or even Fuse, and had them break from their schedules. Nope, not happening. Talk about disrespect!

Rest in peace, Clarence, and rock on!

Even champions have growing pains

The Tri-City Valleycats opened defense of their New York-Penn League baseball championship Friday at soggy Joe Bruno Stadium. The inclement weather prior to the game kept some fans away as it was not the complete sellout I suspected it might be.

The gates opened at 5:55 p.m., but the box office had been open all day. Surprisingly, there was no line when I arrived, so I had no problem getting a ticket. To borrow a line from Tom Petty, dating back 30 years, the waiting was the hardest part, standing in the rain, waiting for those gates to open.

The traditional opening night festivities were punctuated this year with the official presentation of the league championship trophy, along with the banner, which now hangs beneath the press box, as there's no other place to hang the banners. First pitch was at 7:24, and by the time it was over, some three hours later, the 'Cats suffered another opening night defeat at the hands of the Vermont Lake Monsters, 9-3.

It was promising early, even though Vermont drew first blood with a run scored on a wild pitch. Tri-City would score their first run the same way an inning later, but shoddy defense proved to be the champs' ultimate undoing, as Tri-City committed 5 errors. There were three wild pitches in all, plus a hit batsman, and the Lake Monsters capitalized on seemingly every mistake.

The Lake Monsters changed major league affiliations this year, switching from Washington to Oakland. In turn, the Auburn Doubledays are affiliated with Washington, after previously being linked with Toronto, which has no representation in the NY-P league this year.

With less than two weeks after the Major League Baseball entry draft, NY-P teams aren't really expected to jell right away, and, thus, mistakes are to be expected. Tri-City only returned 5 players from last year's championship team, which illustrates the high turnover rate in the league as players move up the ladder toward the bigs. While the 'Cats suffered on defense in the second half of the game, the Lake Monsters, with only one error, were much more disciplined on the field.

The fans were kept entertained with the on-field promotions between innings, though it seemed a little strange that the 'Cats apparently cut loose one of their mascots, as "Sammy Baseball" was missing on opening night. The "Mayors Race" might be more entertaining if the real mayors were asked to sub for their "mascot" counterparts for a night, just for kicks, especially considering that Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian will be leaving office at the end of the year. Just my opinion.

With World Team Tennis' NY Buzz having merged with the downstate Sportimes, and the team only making 2 appearances in Albany this season, plus the uncertainty of the NY Giants being able to hold training camp at the University at Albany due to the NFL lockout, the Valleycats may have the sports fan's attention all to themselves this summer, at least until Saratoga begins its annual horse racing meet at the end of July. It says a lot about fan loyalty that the 'Cats, in their 10th season, are a steady draw despite having no television contract, and having discontinued radio broadcasts a while back. The fans have seen the team go through growing pains every year, so they know what to look for. 3 division titles and a league championship in the first 9 seasons is pretty good. Will the 'Cats recover and make the postseason for a 2nd straight year? It's too early to tell, so all I can say is, stay tuned.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A good idea at a bad time

On the June 10 episode of WWE Friday Night Smackdown, Christian, having turned heel by striking down World champ Randy Orton with the title belt at the end of the previous week's show, turned his back on his long-time supporters, the "Peeps", claiming they "didn't get it".

In reality, they do get it, but the one who really doesn't get it is the one who signs Orton's & Christian's paychecks, Vince McMahon.

Turn the clock back to mid-April, and the sudden announcement by Edge that he had to retire due to some injury issues that had cropped up. Rather than risk being paralyzed, Edge chose to hang up the tights and go out a winner, his last official match having come 8 days earlier at Wrestlemania 27. Christian won a battle royal to earn the right to face Alberto Del Rio, who had already been given a rematch for the title at Extreme Rules on May 1.

Then, it gets rather dicey. Christian defeated Del Rio, but dropped the title to Orton two days later at a taping for the May 6 episode of Smackdown. Some websites wasted little time dropping an additional bombshell by reporting that the organizational plan all along, at least following the April draft, was to eventually put the title on Orton, regardless of who won at Extreme Rules. It was a panic move that left fans up in arms, but as long as McMahon continues to pull the puppet strings and manipulate his audience, you're going to have a scenario come up as it did over the last two Fridays.

Some say that Christian performs better as a heel. Fine, I won't dispute the point, but the fact of the matter is that McMahon and his over-maligned creative staff had a feel-good story that could've lasted through the summer sitting right in front of them, allowing them to relax a tad and allow Orton to wait until, say, Summerslam in August, to win the title. But, no. McMahon, as he has in the past, has become too dependent on Orton and, over on Monday Night Raw, John Cena, to be the standard bearers for the company. He continues to ignore one simple, salient detail about his audience. They're not all marks.

In truth, Christian, if you count his 2 NWA titles won while with TNA (2005-08), is now a 3-time World champion. WWE doesn't want to acknowledge anything accomplished outside their myopic pocket universe, and for that reason Christian has been forced to earn penance, if you will, and work his way back up the corporate ladder. A case could be made that he would eventually turn heel, but this was the wrong time.

On the flip side of the coin is R-Truth, who, like Christian, is a 2-time NWA champ (under his given name, Ron Killings). He turned heel while WWE was on their spring tour of England, and the results have been spectacular. His new persona as a paranoid, nearly deranged lunatic who thinks he's the victim of a conspiracy has won him some respect, but there is a subtext.

In a way, the conspiracy rants are a veiled reference to racism within the WWE. McMahon and his creative staff have pushed the race card in the past without success, usually because the writers have botched the execution of such angles. Rather than come right out and say he's been held back because of race, R-Truth is being portrayed as being delusional and deranged. Whether or not that wins him a WWE title at Capitol Punishment on June 19 in Washington remains to be seen. So far, he's gotten the better of John Cena, but come the PPV, either he gets the brass ring or ends up like, say for example, LeBron James, who came away empty handed when Miami lost the NBA title to Dallas in 6 games.

You can give credit to the creative staff for being clever, though the faux Presidential press conferences leading up to the PPV are over-the-top silly and are a rip-off of Coors Light's lame ad campaign that has run during football season the last 3 years. While R-Truth's heel turn freshened his character, and perhaps saved his job, turning Christian less than 2 months later was a mistake borne out of corporate complacency. Now, the onus is on McMahon. Either we get two new champions at the PPV, or one, or, at worst, none. If McMahon stays the course with his golden boys, Cena & Orton, he's likely to lose viewers rather than gain them. If he has Truth and/or Christian win, it gets people talking. Either way, they won't give him any credit. He doesn't deserve it anymore.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Musical Interlude: Desert Moon (1984)

Dennis DeYoung is better known as the voice behind some of Styx's biggest hits, including "The Best of Times", "Renegade", & "Mr. Roboto". After 1983's "Kilroy Was Here", DeYoung decided he wanted to try a solo record. "Desert Moon", the title tune from his solo debut, is also his only solo top 40 hit to date. In the years since, DeYoung has been on Broadway, and continues to play his Styx classics with his own band, while Styx carries on with Tommy Shaw doing most of the singing.

As with a lot of artists these days, DeYoung has a VEVO channel devoted to him, from whence we present, "Desert Moon".

While the video doesn't illustrate the entire story, it does show that Dennis could act, leading to his transition to Broadway and appearing as Pilate in a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar". I saw him live on a solo tour in Albany a few years ago, and he's still got the skills.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Anthony Weiner

It was less than a year ago that it came out in the press that Brett Favre, having overextended his career by another few months by playing his annual shell game with the press and football fans alike, had made some rather lewd passes via text messages to a woman who, like Favre at the time of the incident, was employed by the New York Jets. The scandal, coupled with an injury late in the season, may have been what finally convinced Favre to hang up the cleats once and for all and concentrate on just collecting endorsement paychecks from Wrangler.

Congressman Anthony Weiner won't be getting any endorsements any time soon, not even from Oscar Mayer, but the same sordid story is playing out again in New York. Weiner was cheating on his wife via lewd text messages to some young hottie, and the resulting scandal has virtually torpedoed Weiner's chances of running for Mayor of New York City, much less any higher office. There are those who are calling for Weiner to resign from his current office, but he says he's not. Who is he kidding? As long as he remains defiant on this particular front, the story will linger far longer than it has any right to, and the pressure will intensify.

And, then, splashed on the front pages of the tabloids in NYC today, comes word that Weiner's wife is expecting their first child. New York Daily News editorial cartoonist Doug Bramhall is having a field day with Weiner, but how long will it be before he plays his joke (Weiner dressed only in a pair of boxer shorts and socks) into the ground? To me, it's getting old real fast.

Weiner, it's also been reported, was secretly involved with some no-name porn actress. Oh, please, give me a break! We went through that with Tiger Woods last year, too. Hasn't Weiner learned anything from either Woods, Favre, Charlie Sheen, or even former Governor-turned-talk-show-host Eliot Spitzer? Apparently not. In scandal-crazy NYC, Weiner's just another weasel.

Leonard Stern (1923-2011)

Word came over the newswires earlier this morning of the passing of writer-producer Leonard Stern at the age of 87.

Fans of classic television will recognize the name as the producer of the seminal spy satire, Get Smart (1965-71), and the light crime drama, McMillian & Wife, in the 70's. Stern also was a writer for The Tonight Show during Steve Allen's run as host, and also Allen's self-titled prime time show, The Honeymooners, and worked on the screenplay to the 50's remake of "The Jazz Singer", starring Danny Thomas.

It might surprise some of you to know that Stern also co-created the popular word game, Mad Libs, and his publishing company holds the rights to the Mr. Men characters.

Stern's last television work was the revived Get Smart, under the title, Get Smart Again!, for Fox in the early 90's.

Rest in peace, Leonard.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Andrew Gold (1951-2011)

Singer-songwriter Andrew Gold passed away on Friday at 59, just 2 months shy of his 60th birthday. The son of singer Marni Nixon, Gold had a pair of hits on the pop charts in the late 70's. "Thank You For Being a Friend" was later used, and recorded by another artist, as the theme to the 80's sitcom, The Golden Girls. Before "Friend", however, Gold scored with "Lonely Boy". CountryRock2u uploaded this performance clip from The Midnight Special:

In the 80's, Gold reinvented himself as the frontman of the pop-rock group Wax, teaming with 10CC's Graham Gouldman to score one more chart hit with 1986's "Right Between The Eyes". The video is more notable for the pastiche of clips and the young, anonymous hottie shown dancing throughout. I guess that was what kept "Eyes" in rotation at MTV, but who am I to judge?

Courtesy of VEVO:

Rest in peace, Andrew.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weasel of the Week: James Dolan

As the old saying goes, sometimes you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Contrary to that homily, New York Knicks owner James Dolan knew what he had when he hired Donnie Walsh as team President 3 years ago, but he didn't care. Dolan, who thinks he's the 2nd coming of the late George Steinbrenner sometimes, opted not to exercise an option on Walsh's contract Friday, less than 2 months after the Knicks had reached the NBA playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Yes, the Knicks were eliminated rather quickly by Boston, but that isn't the fault of Walsh or coach Mike D'Antoni. Walsh was able to acquire Amar'e Stoudamire in the offseason, then traded for former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony, which made the Knicks a better team almost immediately, but Dolan, obviously, wanted the biggest fish in the pond, LeBron James, who went to Miami instead. Now, James is playing for the championship, Walsh is out of New York, and Dolan is getting the heat, because, if you believe the tabloid media, he'd be happiest if he can bring back Isaiah Thomas for a 2nd go-round. Thomas, however, is largely responsible for much of the Knicks' problems over the last decade.

Thomas would have to first be released from his contract as coach of Florida International, which wasn't exactly a world beater last season. For all of his savvy as a player with Detroit in the 80's, Thomas has shown little talent as a evaluator of players or even as a coach. For Dolan to bring him back, putting heat on D'Antoni, obviously, shows again just what Dolan is all about to the Knicks' devoted fans. No respect for the team or the fans. Dolan has no real business sense when it comes to the business of basketball.

There are a number of candidates, identified today by the New York Daily News, that would be better choices to fill Walsh's chair than bringing back Thomas. 2 of those candidates are former Knicks players. Allan Houston was mentored by Walsh last season. Mark Jackson is now a commentator for ABC & ESPN, but has no front office experience. However, both were popular with fans during their playing days in New York.

Some fans, though, would rather see Dolan swallow his pride and sell the team to someone that actually knows how to manage it. That way, Dolan can go off and pursue his other passion in life as a weekend rocker. For denying Walsh the opportunity to continue the work he's started, and leaving open the possibility of that work being irretrievably ruined, Dolan earns a 2nd set of weasel ears. We'll tack on a weasel's tail, too, because, deep down, that's what Dolan really is.

Friday, June 3, 2011

James Arness (1923-2011)

Less than a full year after his brother and fellow TV icon, Peter Graves, had passed away, comes word that James Arness has passed on as a result of heart failure at 88.

Arness is best known, of course, as Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke (1955-75), perhaps the most definitive role in a long film & television career. Arness was recommended to CBS by no less than John Wayne, who had turned down the role of Dillon. Wayne & Arness had worked together on some movies, including "Hondo". To most fans, Arness' best known movie roles were in the sci-fi thrillers, "Them!" & the original "The Thing".

Following Gunsmoke, Arness stepped into another western character, this time as Zeb Macahan, starting with a 1976 ABC TV-movie, "The Macahans", which led to the series version of How The West Was Won. Arness' final series gig saw him wearing a badge again, this time in modern times, in 1981's McClain's Law for NBC. Arness returned to Dodge City in a series of Gunsmoke TV-movies during the 90's.

Following is the intro clip from the first episode of Gunsmoke, in which "The Duke" gives his endorsement to his good friend, James Arness:

Now, they're reunited in Heaven. Rest in peace, James.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

DC reboots its entire line: Fool's Gambit or Marketing Genius?

In September, following the current Flashpoint event miniseries, DC Comics plans to restart each of their 52 titles at #1. There are two schools of thought.

On one hand, the idea from a marketing standpoint is to ensure that today's generation of fans can say that they have a copy of, say for example, Batman #1. The original first issue of Batman, published 71 years ago, is worth thousands of dollars, and has been reprinted a few times over the years.

Superman & Wonder Woman went through this renumbering process back in 1987. In the case of the Man of Steel, DC decided to keep the original series' numbering by retitling the book, Adventures of Superman. Action Comics, the longest running continuous title active today, completed the trilogy of titles. Superman, volume 2, ended a few years ago, and Adventures of Superman reverted to its original title, now over 700 issues strong. Wonder Woman's issue numbering was restored last year when it hit a grand total of 600 issues. Rebooting these series to #1 in September gives both heroes their 3rd #1's. Green Lantern has them beaten rather easily. The series was relaunched in 1960 during the Silver Age, and has been rebooted at least twice since then.

Which brings us to the other side of the coin. The flood of new 1st issues will doubtlessly bring out a new generation of speculators, collectors who will buy up multiple copies of 1st issues, thinking that there will be some profit in the long term. 20 years ago, there was a feeding frenzy in the comics industry, but a lot of those extra copies ultimately would end up in the bargain bins once the well ran dry and speculators had realized the folly of their overestimations. Not every 1st issue is destined to lead to long-term value. For every 1st issue of a book tied to an established franchise, like for example Spider-Man or the X-Men at Marvel, there will be a dozen or two lesser books that have no such pedigree to fall back on. Still, the lure of a 1st issue is what drives the less-experienced speculators to make calculated risks that don't always pay off.

So, that brings us back to the question at hand. Is DC taking a chance on alienating long-time readers with this marketing gambit? Of course. It all comes down to the execution and presentation of the product at the end of the day. Marvel has done its share of renumbering over the last few years, operating under the premise that the magic number (1) will still mean extra sales. In the short term, yes, it will. Long term, because of the volume of copies printed, it won't reach the levels achieved in generations past.

My advice is this:

1. Check the solicitations. Later this month, you'll see the solicitations for September releases either online via sites like Newsarama or Comic Book Resources, or in the pages of the monthly Previews catalogue. You'll have an idea of who the creative teams will be on the books, which will be released not all at once, by the way, but in groups over a period of a few months.

2. Read the news. Those same sites I mentioned will also have the latest information as release dates draw closer, including interviews with creative personnel.

3. Be selective, and don't be afraid to experiment. You have your favorite titles that you collect every month from DC, be it Superman, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America, or even a non-superhero book like Jonah Hex. If you've got room to try out an extra book or three, then discretion---and your budget---come into play. In other words, I invoke the words of the frontier hero Davy Crockett, who was said to have coined the phrase, "Be sure you are right, then go ahead." Be your own judge.

DC is already having to deal with current books that are suffering from deadline disorders. In their case, they need to make sure everything is on course by the time September rolls around.

As a retired collector, am I tempted to step back in? A little, but not as much as you'd think. Patience has its own rewards. If I do decide to end my retirement, I invoke another phrase, this one associated with Off Track Betting back in the 70's, that applies to investing in this venture:

"Bet with your head, not over it."

Starting in September, we'll all know if DC is making the right move.