Saturday, December 20, 2014


10. I heard a LIFE AFFIRMING story on NPR about a kid who POOPED ON A FRANKENSTEIN! 9. I watched the INCREDIBLE movie ESCAPE PLAN! 8. I had an AWESOME gun pointed in my face! 7. Hips were thrust lasciviously at me by an ASTONISHINGLY ENORMOUS inflatable Batman! 6. I read part of a book where Sterling Hayden gets WILDLY ENRAGED when someone describes the hull of his boat incorrectly! 5. I LEANED CASUALLY on the Wienermobile! 4. I read on wikipedia about owls spitting out mouse bones in CRAZY COOL pellet form! 3. I watched a guy PAINSTAKINGLY retype THE SOUND AND THE FURY! 2. I saw part of the movie starring Joey from FRIENDS and a guy in a chimp suit! 1. I read about a SEXY GHOST!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Wrong Mistakes

Finished that Bob Hope bio (which had an owl in it, like every book: Bob Hope described as a "night owl") and now I've moved on to a Thelonious Monk bio written by Robin D.G. Kelley, which I picked up in hardcover at Square Books back in 2009, and it's just been patiently sitting there on the shelf ever since. It starts out with something pretty surprising: the subject of the biography coming to the author in a dream! This was 30 years before the writing of the book, when the author was an aspiring pianist: "he came to me in a dream. Decked out in divine alligator shoes, a dark green silk suit, yellow tie, bamboo sunglasses, and a cold straw hat, he snuck up behind me as I sat hunched over my stepfather's Steinway upright, looked over my shoulder, and simply mumbled, 'You're making the wrong mistakes.'" I also read this about Monk: "One of his favorite pranks was to stare intensely at a spot on the ceiling or in the sky... Invariably, several people would look up with him." That reminds me of the gag Saint Thomas More used to pull!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peripatetic Chimp Continues to Fascinate McNeil

As far back as May of 2007, McNeil has been fascinated with the story of a certain castaway chimp. He even contacted an Australian reporter about it! McNeil is still pondering the implications. He has tracked down more information and provides a "link" to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center, which he swears will bring Jerry Lewis into the story of our wandering chimpanzee. And so it does: "On the dark night of December 21st 1959, Robert sneaked into the zoo and stole back Moko. It was not as if Robert wanted to steal him because he was obviously very attached and so he left in the animal’s place a cheque for $1,000 and an IOU for $2,000... The missing animal naturally made headlines and the story even appeared in Life Magazine... During this missing period Mr. Moke appeared in the Jerry Lewis movie ‘The Bell Boy’ [sic] which must have earned Robert a bit of money." As McNeil notes in his email, a lot of the story is sad - the harmless typos peppering the account add to the heartbreak somehow - and I don't like to "link" you to sad stuff but here is the "link" anyway, you're a grown person.

I Leaned on the Wienermobile

Ace Atkins and I took one of our famous trips to Memphis yesterday. I'll spare you the details. EXCEPT! We saw the Oscar Mayer wienermobile in a parking lot so I went and leaned on it and Ace took a picture.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Half a Panda Act

Got kind of stuck halfway through writing a SpongeBob script so I jumped in the car and went to see the new Chris Rock movie, which I am happy to report is a "sad clown" movie in the old tradition, where the sad clown learns that the most important gift he can give is the gift of laughter. Rock's character - the sad clown in question - even talks about Chaplin. And at what is arguably the climax of the movie (spoiler alert!), DMX appears and sings the Chaplin composition "Smile." So I don't think I am crazy. Now let us move on to the dwindling pages of this Bob Hope biography I am reading. Several things about Bob's 1979 trip to China tickle me in just the right way. Bob brought Peaches and Herb with him because "Hope thought their hit song 'Reunited' was a good theme for the trip." I just like to think of Bob Hope listening to a Peaches and Herb 45 and saying something like, "You know, these kids are really onto something!" I find it amusing that Dolores Hope carried "packets of Cup-a-Soup in her luggage" in case she didn't like the food in China! I find it adorable that Bob took a tai-chi class and spoke to Chinese film students about MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE. And I enjoy this sentence very much: "The owner of a trained panda complained that he wasn't getting paid enough and said he would allow the show to use only half of the panda's act."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cancel My Reservation

Now we're getting into the CANCEL MY RESERVATION era in this Bob Hope biography. And you know what that means: you're not qualified to read my "blog" "posts" about it anymore. I have to email this stuff directly to McNeil. It's too sad and obscure for you to grasp. I guess I'll mention that Bob Hope's son just lost all his money (the son's money, I mean; don't worry about Bob Hope's money!) investing in a movie called WHO FEARS THE DEVIL?, "based on a series of fanciful folktales... about an Appalachian balladeer who is transported back in time." But the weirdest part is that "Arlo Guthrie was originally cast in the lead but he didn't work out and had to be replaced by an unknown." I find it inexpressibly touching to think of Bob Hope's broke son sitting around thinking, "If only Arlo Guthrie were in this movie! Everything would be different." See, I knew you wouldn't understand. Say, did you know that one of the short stories in my supposedly forthcoming collection (2016!) is called "Cancel My Reservation"? No, why would you? And the book originally had an epigraph taken from the closing theme to CANCEL MY RESERVATION, a kind of ersatz Osmond Brothers number. But I replaced it. And for a while I considered using part of a Dwight Garner review for the epigraph: "Peter has left behind a wife, Bea, with whom he runs a small parish in an English village, and their cat, Joshua, about whom we learn way too much... This reader did not mourn Joshua’s freakish death." But then I was afraid that readers might think I was endorsing Mr. Garner's gross pronouncement rather than marveling at its chilling soullessness. (Hey, I had drinks with Dwight Garner at City Grocery Bar and he seems like an okay guy. I even made him a mix tape! Ha ha, what a suck-up.) So then I had to couch that Garner epigraph in some other epigraphs to give it context, like Mark Twain saying something good about cats, and then Garrison Keillor saying something dumb about Mark Twain in the New York Times Book Review, but it got too complicated, it spiraled out of control, it started to get like MOBY-DICK! So never mind. Forget I said anything. Oh, Bob and Shirley made up and liked each other despite their political differences, you'll be glad to know.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Shirley MacLaine Yells at the TV

Well, Bob Hope's hawkish attitude toward Vietnam is spicing up this bio a little. People are getting sick and tired of Bob Hope! Shirley MacLaine yells "Oh, shut up, Bob Hope!" at the TV screen. That's an actual event that is actually recounted in this biography. A critic writes that Bob "seems to be living a cruel fantasy that he's Dean Martin." Ouch! Speaking of Dean Martin, Bob takes some of Dean's dancers - "The Golddiggers" - to the White House to do a little performance. At dinner, one of the Golddiggers unfurls a napkin that says "STOP THE WAR." A kerfuffle ensues.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Give Me Some Undercurrents

Like I said, this Bob Hope bio really bogs down after World War II. Like, you might get a page or two of Bob grumbling about how much his fax machine cost. But I did find out that on one trip to Vietnam he took along "nearly a ton of thirty-by-forty-inch poster board" for cue cards. So that seemed like a lot of poster board. That was something to think about. And when Tony Coelho got kicked out of seminary for having epilepsy (!) and his parents thought he was possessed by the devil (!!) Bob and family took him in for several months and Bob advised him to go into politics (he became a six-term Democratic state congressman). And Bob sent Tony Coelho to the bank and told him to take as much money out of Bob's account as he needed to start a new life. Also, the playwright John Guare lived with Bob Hope and his family for ten months. These facts briefly struck me as interesting but I think it is wearing off. "It was not a house full of undercurrents," Guare says. "It was a genuinely pleasant house." Zzzzzz.