Monday, March 31, 2014

Oh Dear

A very pleasant Jerry Lewis double feature with Megan Abbott last night. And you know what that means: this morning Megan sends me a "link" from the bad and evil part of the "internet" where the crazy people are, purporting to connect the terrible, unsolved murder of an actress from THE LADIES MAN with the Kennedy assassination. Here, here's something unrelated but kind of appropriately terrifying from THE LADIES MAN: Jerry Lewis's first encounter with "Miss Cartilage."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Smorgasbord of Swedenborg

Thumbed through another Swedenborg book - his dream journal this time! - and read in the scholarly introduction that dreaming "appears to occur in animals too, though we can't ask them to confirm this." Ha ha ha! I love introductions.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Clownin' 'Round

Look what Bill Boyle got at the library book sale for a quarter (see also). I told you I love library book sales. Expect to hear much, much more about this in the future. For example, the author's bio on the back explains that he was a preacher until divorce ruined his career.

A Message From Beyond

Picked a volume of Swedenborg off the shelf, idly and mostly at random (he came up in conversation yesterday) just after reading McNeil's email about the rarity of the word "iota" in his email vocabulary. I opened to a random page with the word "iota" right at the top of it. "... the very smallest particulars down to the most minute iota signify and unfold within them heavenly things..." That's Swedenborg, not McNeil.


It was heartening to walk into Square Books last night and find Lee Durkee in the middle of an impassioned case he was making to the folks behind the counter that Bill Boyle's novel GRAVESEND should be more prominently displayed. Writers sticking up for other writers! It's a beautiful thing. Then Lee and I went up the stairs into the City Grocery Bar and there was Bill Boyle and we all had a drink on it.


Welcome to the long-awaited return of "McNeilileaks," in which I leak the contents of emails that McNeil sends me. Today he sent me an email with the word "iota" in it, then commented, "I don't think I've ever typed 'iota' before. Looks funny. Lotta vowels there... Gonna nap in the car now."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Good Picture of a Creepy Tree

"I took a good picture of a creepy tree when I was frightened walking home." - Megan Abbott

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Murderer's Goblet

So I guess what I'm saying is Tom Franklin was drinking... from the goblet of a murderer!

A Variety of Occupations

Last night somebody said about Faulkner's great grandfather, "He was a travel writer... AND A MURDERER." The last part wasn't really in all caps.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Black Gloves, White Vermouth

I know what Hogan is talking about! For the first time in my life I know what Hogan is talking about. I got to the part of BACHELOR IN PARADISE that mentions cornflowers and vermouth. Well, a lot of it mentions vermouth. But would you want to read a novel that doesn't mention vermouth? Anyway, a girl is listening to a dance band and declares the music to be "Cornflowers," by which she means corny. She's the same girl of whom Caspary writes, "She kept on the black gloves while sipping white vermouth." If your novel doesn't have that sentence in it, I don't want to hear about it!

Ornate Goblet

Tonight we went to Larry's house to celebrate the birthday of our dear friend Dean, his wife, who passed away some years ago. I noticed that Tom Franklin was drinking wine from an ornate silver goblet and asked about it. "That was the old Colonel's," said Larry. By the "old Colonel" he meant Faulkner's great grandfather. We were eating at the table where Faulkner revised ABSALOM, ABSALOM! Earth Wind and Fire was playing on the boom box.

Why Pie Cry

Now I will tell you about the rest of that Red Skelton sad clown movie. Are you excited? Like, remember when I told you that he had a job attacking people at an amusement park with a cattle prod? Okay, well, one guy got kind of mad about it. So Red Skelton's boss comes out and says to Red Skelton, "Hey, we run a family place here!" He's mad at Red Skelton! Even though HE'S the one who hired Red Skelton to attack the customers with a cattle prod. It's a strange business, being a threatening clown. So Red Skelton gets fired. For doing his job too well, I guess. Next he gets a job being a "receiver." That sounds bad! He says, "Don't let my kid see this." So he sits there while a guy gives him an exploding cigar and smashes butter on him and hits him in the face with a couple of pies. And his kid sees it! And silently weeps! Ha ha ha! Doesn't this kid - whose name is Dink (!) - know what a clown does for a living? He's been living with a clown his whole life. The weirdest part of that scene is that Red Skelton gives no reaction whatsoever as the guy assaults him with pies and so on. I mean, he doesn't move a muscle. Put some effort into it, clown! Half the fun of the old pie in the face is the hilarious reaction of the "receiver." I mean, even if you're going to be deadpan about it, you have to be deadpan in a funny way. Like, I don't know, stoically and with economical motions wipe the pie out of your eyes, one at a time. Oh well. And the kid is just crying while his dad gets hit in the face with pies. I forgot to mention he's not just a sad clown he's a drunk clown and a clown with a gambling problem. Charles Bronson (!!) wins all of Red Skelton's money in an all-night dice game and Red Skelton picks his sleeping kid's pocket for a gold watch that means the world to him. I also forgot to say he sent his kid to sleep in the backseat of a random stranger's car! (Remember, now, at the end of the movie, Jane Greer says, "You did a great job raising him, Dodo.") I'll tell you who I liked: Little Julie, a shady operator who does his business out of a diner booth. "Step into my office," he says with self-loathing and also regular loathing. He organizes what Megan Abbott would probably - probably? does! I've heard her! - call "smokers" - smokers with racy entertainment! This guy has a touch of authentic sleaze. The actor's name is Lou Lubin. Let's hear it for Lou Lubin (pictured)! He gets Red Skelton a shameful gig where he has to tell the 1953 version of dirty jokes while ladies take off their clothes. At the end Red Skelton dies from clowning too much. For real! And I skipped over some surprisingly brutal moments like when Red Skelton smashes a pane of glass with his fist and then starts hitting the wall and screaming. That is one sad clown. Okay, bye!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Two Pleasant Publishing Gentlemen

Vera Caspary writes in the introduction to her novel BACHELOR IN PARADISE, which began as a 70-page movie treatment, "When M-G-M announced that Bob Hope and Lana Turner would star in the picture, two pleasant publishing gentlemen came to my house and suggested a novel." Maybe it's just because it's Vera Caspary, but that sounds ominous! It's the "came to my house," I think. Has overtones of the guys who show up at your grocery store and manhandle the produce and tell you it's a nice place, be a shame if something was to happen to it.

Hogan's Intriguing Hashtags

Hogan has started reading the novel BACHELOR IN PARADISE for the Doomed Book Club and that's good enough for me. In I go! Her tweet on the subject included such intriguing hashtags as cornflowers, vermouth, and drapes. No word from the other members.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wistful Urchin Face

I watched the first three minutes of that Red Skelton sad clown movie. Guess who (according to the credits) is in the Red Skelton sad clown movie and TWIN PEAKS? Jane Greer! (And guess who's in TWIN PEAKS and this season of JUSTIFIED, which I was coincidentally dvr'ing while watching TWIN PEAKS? Alicia Witt!) The Red Skelton sad clown movie starts out with the clown and his kid, who has strategic smudges of dirt daubed on his wistful urchin face for extra wistfulness and urchin cred, AND a Goober hat! Red Skelton runs onstage and a dwarf tries to hit him with a plank, to the delight of all. Then Red Skelton shocks the dwarf in the behind with something like a cattle prod. Then Red Skelton and the dwarf use their weapons to very aggressively and without warning harass the paying customers of an amusement park. That's their job! That's a weird job.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Dodo Dies

Remember when I watched all those sad clown movies in a row? Those were the days! I'm not sure I'm up to it anymore. Still, I couldn't help but set the old dvr to record THE CLOWN, a Red Skelton movie that was coming on TCM in the wee hours. Maybe I'll work up my nerve to watch it. I seem to recall that it's based on the old Wallace Beery tearjerker THE CHAMP. Why would I remember something like that? Only instead of a sad boxer he's a sad clown. Hey, when I was searching for an illustration for this "post," I saw that a youtube clip of THE CLOWN is entitled "When Dodo Dies." Oh no! (See also.) I didn't watch it and I'm not going to "link" to it either because oh my God.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

$1 Mystery Beer

As I was strolling around the square today I saw a sign in front of a suffering (I assume) establishment, a chalkboard (see also) proudly advertising "$1 MYSTERY BEER" - I thought it might sound intriguing to a certain kind of young person... might! When I came round again to the spot, a scant half hour later, the sign had vanished. Mystery upon mystery!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sherbet That's Turned

We've been rewatching TWIN PEAKS and Dr. Theresa accurately refers to the color scheme as "sherbet that's turned."

Overlord of Crime

Tonight Tom Franklin showed me some of his old comic books, including issue #3 of DAREDEVIL, in which, according to the cover, Daredevil battles "The Owl, the Overlord of Crime." So that makes DAREDEVIL a book with an owl in it! Also tonight the poet Dave Smith said, on the subject of universality, "Everyone's had a dog that died." Good night.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Not Too Many Snakes

Went over to Ace and Angela's tonight. Stood on the back porch marveling at the lake behind their house. Angela said they go swimming in it. "It's mucky, but there's not too many snakes," she said. Then she got out some strawberry moonshine (photo by Bill Boyle). The guys who made it are long dead, she said. It was incredible. Like grappa at first, but considerably more complex. Like brandy, really.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Italics Are Hard

Ha ha, remember when I briefly considered alerting you every time I read a book that had Jell-O in it, that was dumb, so this is from PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT: "It was my mother who could accomplish anything, who herself had to admit that it might even be that she was actually too good... She could make jello, for instance, with sliced peaches HANGING in it, peaches just SUSPENDED there, in defiance of the law of gravity." Roth uses the more proper and elegant italics, of course, not my caps, but I have never learned to do italics here.

Don't Punch a Mountain

I think I suggested that Jake should punch a mountain? In yesterday's ADVENTURE TIME meeting? And Pen said, "If you're looking at a mountain, you're not going to punch it." That struck me as wise, so I jotted it down. It was also a writing lesson, not as revelatory as the first writing lesson Pen taught me, which also involved punching ("click" here to learn), but a helpful one. What else about writing? Megan Abbott and I have been talking a lot about Philip Roth lately. I remembered that when I was still but a lad I found a sort of curdled and corroded yellow paperback of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT for ten cents at one of the library book sales I loved so much. But I was too ashamed to take it out and read it publicly (the poorly treated paperback was even physically repulsive!), so I stuck it in a drawer and forgot it forever. So I have never read PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT of all things! So yesterday, on the way to meet Tom Franklin for one of our lunches, I stopped by Square Books for a fresh copy. Then I sat reading the first few pages while waiting for Tom to show up, and I was laughing so much! What really got me was the narrator describing his father's almost mystical case of constipation. Roth brings constipation into the realm of legend and myth! (For contrast see Mailer's approach in ANCIENT EVENINGS.) Finally, Lisa Howorth writes in to suggest that maybe they said something about eating "a banana whole" in DOCTOR FAUSTUS, not "banana hole," as we were certain we had heard. "They def ate a banana," Lisa wrote. I replied that maybe I should not watch Elizabethan plays drunk, though I'm sure the Elizabethans did.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Banana Hole

Lisa Howorth and I went over to Lee Durkee's last night to watch a production of DOCTOR FAUSTUS, and both Lisa and I swore that we heard the devil (I think) mention a "banana hole." The more Lee objected, the more Lisa and I convinced ourselves that the "banana hole" was an important aspect of DOCTOR FAUSTUS. Tonight at City Grocery Bar, Ace was buying everybody Jack Roses, which is a cocktail Hemingway loved, made with apple brandy and grenadine and who knows what. Bill Boyle gave me the startling news that EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND was part of the inspiration for his brutal novel GRAVESEND. Then Lisa came in and we talked about banana holes some more. Lisa claimed that she looked up banana holes and they are a legitimate oceanic geographic feature, is that what she said? God knows what she said. But I was proud because she repeated to Dr. Theresa what I, inspired by the banana hole, had told Lisa the night before: that on different occasions Dr. Theresa has rightfully said to me, "Shut your truth hole!" and "Shut your manhole!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No Breathers

Next week it's the surprising season finale of ADVENTURE TIME! Long season: 52 episodes, of which I was lucky to work on the second half. Which reminds me. There's this internet commenter who posits repeatedly with firm and knowing authority (she or he just did it again), that the season was so long to give us "more time to plan out season 6... while 5 was a breather for a while." Is it something that someone involved with the show once said? That seems to be the commenter's implication. But I can't figure out how a double-length season is a "breather." By definition it is twice as much work, and I can tell you it leaves no time for planning anything. All right! I'm glad I got that off my chest. One of the most exciting things about working on ADVENTURE TIME is how little planning we can do. No, it's constant action! Every meeting is a dizzying plummet into the vortex! Be sure to tune into Monday's finale, featuring guest stars Lou Ferrigno, Mark Hamill and Andy Samberg, a combo you have been dreaming of I bet.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Dreaming About Capitalism

Dozed off watching more of BACHELOR IN PARADISE... had hazy thoughts about capitalism... Bob Hope and Lana Turner in parallel aisles of a supermarket, moving the same way at the same speed, but unaware of one another, cut off from true connection by a bright wall of goods... looked like Godard to me... or was it Jacques Tati... Hey, remember that other time a Bob Hope movie reminded me of Godard? Ha ha ha oh boy gee life is pointless. Woke up and watched some more. Look at this neat bar Bob has in his house. Then he donned an ascot and gave a talk to a ladies' garden club about how to make their marriages sexy.

Look at Me I'm Wearing a Hat

Walked Megan Abbott home from our place last night because look! She had to go through at least one dark alley. Which I'm sure she could have handled alone but for God's sake! I'm a gentleman! And like most gentlemen I am wearing a derby. Because we were watching THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN and I was like, "Hey! I have a hat just like one of Paul Newman's hats in this movie! Same color (brown) and everything!" So I broke out the hat. ("Click" here for another incredible story about someone exclaiming something about a hat in a movie.) Let me tell you about my hat. This tale will be sure to bore you! I was up at the City Grocery Bar and a doctor who frequents that place surprised me by giving me a hat he had ordered for me! In a hat box! This was some years ago. One year ago? At least a year ago. I once wrote a novel about a 30-foot-tall giant who wears just such a hat, and this was the doctor's way of saying he enjoyed the novel. I guess the giant is 30 feet tall. I don't believe I'm very specific about it. Once in a Q&A session after a reading someone asked me how tall the giant was, and that's what I came up with. "How much does he weigh?" a smart aleck followed up. "A hundred and ten pounds," I replied sarcastically. It occurs to me that in the first draft I had the giant switch sizes when he felt like it. Tom Franklin read that draft and said, "You know, if he changes size he's not really a giant." I had to admit Tom had a point! Ugh, so then I had go back and rewrite the whole thing. So thanks for nothing. Now, the novel was inspired by a guy I saw in the Little Five Points section of Atlanta wearing a derby, rather ridiculously, I thought, and I imagined his inner monologue, which resulted in the first sentence of the novel: "Man, I look fantastic in this derby." Isn't that the first sentence of the novel? Was that comma in there? So I guess I was making fun of people who wear derbies. But remember what Mel Brooks said! (You really need to "click" on that "hyperlink.") The hat was far too small for my melon-like head, so I borrowed a hat stretcher. Guess who had a hat stretcher. That's right, Chris Offutt! He is the kind of man who has a hat stretcher lying around just in case. So anyway now I have worn a derby in public, sort of. I have slunk through back alleys wearing a derby.

Saturday, March 08, 2014


I was wrong! EVERYONE is interested in Vera Caspary's novel BACHELOR IN PARADISE. Looks like it will be our next Doomed Book Club selection. Ace Atkins and Scott Phillips are already onboard, so that's a good sign. And the anonymous Hollywood producer "favorited" my "tweet" on the subject BUT DOES THAT EVER MEAN ANYTHING? Megan tells me that the novel is based on a treatment Caspary did for the Bob Hope movie, and that a great pulp illustrator named Robert McGinnis did the cover for the paperback (I'm not sure it's the one above), and that McGinnis is still around and occasionally turning out new covers for the Hard Case Crime imprint. ("Known for drawing women w impossibly long feet!" Megan tweeted at me.) McNeil, basing his observations on the film versions of BACHELOR IN PARADISE and Caspary's novel LAURA, claims to have already spotted a connection between the "outta control soap" scene in BACHELOR IN PARADISE and what he calls "the highly mannered and homo-erotic soap situation involving Clifton Webb's bath" in LAURA. I have to say I don't recall the "outta control soap" scene in BACHELOR IN PARADISE. I'll soon fix that. Finally, the mention of an ice bucket in this selection from Rosemary Clooney's autobiography prompted Megan to email it to me: "Just a few months before, I'd been sleeping - or trying to - in a room over the clattering kitchen in a honky-tonk in Wildwood, New Jersey, where Dizzy Gillespie was working on his tan in the parking lot, wearing only a leopard-skin thong. Now I was swaddled in the silence of an air-conditioned suite: ankle-deep snowy carpet, silver bucket of champagne, more roses." I have to say that clattering kitchen and parking lot don't sound too bad either!

Friday, March 07, 2014


Can't seem to get anyone interested in the fact that Vera Caspary - author of LAURA - wrote the story on which the Bob Hope movie BACHELOR IN PARADISE was based... but trust me, that's weird! And so very interesting! TRUST ME! Also noticed as I was idly rewatching the beginning of that film last night that the assistant director was Erich von Stroheim. "Not THE Erich von Stroheim (pictured)!" I screamed in the abyss of my solitude. I seemed to recall that von Stroheim had a son who also did a little directing. And sure enough, a quick check confirmed that the real Erich von Stroheim had been dead for a few years by the time BACHELOR IN PARADISE came out, so at least he had that going for him.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Big Man in Jaguar in Dream

McNeil has been checking out the facts on Margo Moore of WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER, or WMWIO, as McNeil adorably refers to it. He says she appeared uncredited in BACHELOR FLAT, and is listed in that cast on imdb just under a character called "Big Man in Jaguar in Dream." Seems she eventually married a former police officer who worked with robots on the SWAT team, and remembered them fondly. Margo Moore and her husband moved to Pennsylvania and opened up the Toy Robot and Pig Museum, which, by the time of this youtube video that McNeil sent (see also), had chucked the pigs to focus exclusively on toy robots.

Effie Klinker

Having read (I assume) my "posts" about Zeno Klinker and his wife Sugar Klinker, Phil (natch) wrote to remind me that Edgar Bergen had a dummy named Effie Klinker. Phil attached a 1944 TIME magazine article about Effie Klinker, but I couldn't read the whole thing because I don't subscribe. Phil quoted the article as saying that Effie Klinker has a "spry libido." By gritting my teeth and googling the phrases "effie klinker" + "spry libido" I was able to find a reprint of the entire article, which indeed contains the not-stellar sentence, "Inside her prim decor lurks a spry libido." A good subject for study might be "Why are ventriloquist's dummies always so interested in sex?" I think I know the answer! And it has to do with repressive desublimation. In other news, McNeil has now watched WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER, ha ha ha, sucker! He notes that Ernie Kovacs wears his tropical shirt at one point "tied up around his belly button like a pin-up girl might." Yes, that's true, I forgot to mention that.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sugar Klinker

Speaking of Zeno Klinker (!) I just found a museum that has his driver's license! Why? I don't know. They refer to him as "writer/adventurer" (!). Why? I don't know. Here's a comment from the site: "i knew zeno klinker and his wife sugar as a child. they used to come to my parents motel, THE PARKLINE, in three rivers, california. i even stayed in his home in hollywood several times!" (See also.)

Zeno Klinker

Before I "post" anything I make it a rule to ask myself: "Will this interest the fewest possible living people?" So today I started watching an Edgar Bergen movie on TCM. Edgar Bergen! A performer so unrelentingly bland he makes you pine for the pyrotechnics of Richard Dix. When Edgar Bergen speaks he sounds like a therapeutic hypnotist. So this movie was called LOOK WHO'S LAUGHING and the answer was "nobody." Ha ha ha, I just did that thing I hate. But when the title popped up the two o's in LOOK became a pair of wacky, rolling eyes, and beneath them the O in WHO'S turned into a hellishly gibbering mouth as muted trumpets in the score went wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah in a disturbing approximation of the laughter that never came. Hey did I mention that Fibber McGee and Molly are in this movie? So you're probably pretty fired up about that. The writing credits were weird. They mentioned who wrote Fibber McGee and Molly's jokes and who wrote Edgar Bergen's jokes. One guy who wrote Edgar Bergen's jokes was named Zeno Klinker, which I thought was either a terrible or perfect name for someone who writes jokes. I should mention that LOOK WHO'S LAUGHING is directed by Allan Dwan, darling of the auteurist set, and good for him. So the movie starts out with Edgar Bergen performing with his famous ventriloquist's dummy Charlie McCarthy. Lucille Ball does a "sexy nurse" bit and the dummy leers at her and makes gross jokes. So it's very clear that within the reality of this movie Charlie McCarthy is a wooden dummy. But suddenly it is announced that Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy are going on vacation together! And that's okay. Maybe he brings his dummy on vacation to practice. But to get to his vacation destination Edgar Bergen pilots a small plane, okay, and he's got one hand up Charlie McCarthy the whole time, and they have conversations! He's up there by himself flying his small plane with his hand up his dummy. I don't like it. Fibber McGee's jokes are terrible. His enemy says something about an "unimpeachable source" and Fibber McGee says "unimpeachable APPLE-source!" It's a pun on applesauce. I don't want to get into it. Then I was like, "I'm going to bed." And I did. I wasn't even tired! It was the middle of the day. Oh yeah and the production design or something was by someone named Van Nest Polglase or something. (Whoa, the same year as LOOK WHO'S LAUGHING he was the art director for CITIZEN KANE.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Dax Shepard: Took a Slice

Speaking of comedians you never heard of for the third time today, did you guys see the Oscars when they handed out pizza to the stars? There was an oddly formal newspaper list of who ate pizza and who didn't, formatted like so: "Dax Shepard: Took a slice" - and it made me think somehow of the old Red Buttons routine "Betsy Ross... never got a dinner," a fact which I lamely tweeted, and two very young persons on twitter astonished me by knowing what I was talking about! It was a first. Did it give me hope for the future? Of course not. Maybe it even depressed me! For some reason! I am pretty sure they are young because one of them keeps tweeting about her dad listening to Taylor Swift (I oversimplify the variety and majesty of her tweets!). This has nothing to do with that, but I just saw that the Twain biographer Justin Kaplan died. Please "click" on this old "post" in which I quote him on a crazy New Year's Eve party attended by Mark Twain. Which reminds me. Megan Abbott reminded me the other day that Billy Wilder once met Freud and tried to interview him, which reminded me that Freud once went to see Mark Twain give a reading, which means that there are two degrees of separation (or is it three? don't tell me; I don't care) between Marilyn Monroe and Mark Twain, and three between Marilyn and U.S. Grant, and four between Marilyn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln, and that is all of the garbage that came out of my brain today, goodbye.

McNeil's Movie Korner: Fourth Beach Girl

Welcome once again to McNeil's Movie Korner, your one spot on the "internet" for things you don't care anything about. Here is an intriguing paragraph from a recent McNeil email: "So I was at my parents the other day and they casually mentioned that when they were in high school, someone they knew left town after graduation and took off for Hollywood. It wasn't long before they saw this gal in a Jerry Lewis movie as well as an episode of Petticoat Junction. I have no idea why I hadn't heard this story before. To top it off, my parents began arguing over her name. Her real name was Mary Lee H_______. She had two sisters: Mary Ruth and Mary Ann. But when Mary Lee went to Hollywood she changed her name to, my mom says, Marilee Summers. My dad disagreed, of course, having nothing to do with my mom's obvious fabrication of this Marilee business. Anyway, it went on and on....Then my mom couldn't remember if she were actually in HS when she saw the pic or not...or if Dean Martin was with JLew or not. I went through a lot of 'full cast and crew' lists looking for Marilee Summers. Turns out everyone was wrong. The real girl is Lorrie Summers. She was on Beverly Hillbillies, not PJ....and Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, and The Man with the X Ray Eyes instead of The Patsy (which is what I was rooting for). Anyway, Lorrie Summers ended up marrying the heir to the Lear Jet fortune - so I guess she didn't move back to Mississippi." Some editorial notes here! First, McNeil's Mom was right. The "internet" tells me that Lorrie Summers played "Fourth Beach Girl" on THE BEVERY HILLBILLIES under the name "Marilee Summers." And here is the interesting part (ha ha! It is not interesting). On imdb, we see that Ms. Summers was in one movie uncredited, one TV show as Marilee Summers, and TWO MOVIES as "Lorie Summers" - that's right, with one r! And that is her entire filmography. So why is her given name on imdb Lorrie Summers with TWO r's, A NAME UNDER WHICH SHE NEVER ACTED? What is behind this conspiracy, imdb? Merely by doing a "Google Image Search" using the one-r variation, I immediately found this variety-show publicity still of McNeil's parents' old high school chum with Bill Dana (speaking of comedians you have never heard of), suggesting that this is only the beginning of... eh, I'm tired now.

Richard Dixon

You know how Ward McCarthy and I email back and forth about forgotten comedians you never even heard of. Yesterday we were doing that about David Frye, a Nixon impersonator. Ward wrote, "I was going to tell you that my brother had a poster of him as Nixon in his room, but did some checking first and it turns out it was a poster of Richard Dixon, a Richard Nixon lookalike even more obscure than David Frye." I admitted to Ward that he had stumped me with Richard Dixon. I googled around a little and asked Ward if he knew that there was a movie in which Richard Dixon played Richard Nixon and Mickey Rooney played his guardian angel. "... um, yes - I did. Please don't tell anyone," Ward replied.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Cute Oscar Poetry Vomit

In the most boring news you are likely to hear all day, my sister and I tied with equally unimpressive scores for the third year in a row in our boring annual Oscar-guessing contest which we don't even care about anymore. Two mighty titans of Oscar-guessing, equally matched, forever! The only thing I remember about the Oscars is a commercial for the iPad, which was horrible. A crackly voice tells us "We don't read and write poetry to be cute..." and then goes on and on about poetry while there are shots of something I can't remember... clouds in a sky? "Ordinary" people doing "amazing" things? Or maybe it was the other way around. And somebody crackling on and on about "poetry." It really made me sick. First of all, I was like, "Hold on, crackling voice! I'll read and write poetry because it's cute if I want to." It was like the time Michiko Kakutani said schlumpy guys can't think about flowers. Then I remembered the other day when Dr. Theresa and I were riding around listening to some "quiet, wry humor" on NPR and Dr. Theresa aptly remarked, "This makes me want to vomit in my mouth... and ears." Oh, I was reading THE DAIN CURSE as a palliative during the Oscars, and it has an owl in it.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Jack Warden's Realistic Shish Kebab Reaction

Remember what I told you about Jack Warden's performance in WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER? Of course you don't! That was like half an hour ago. But look at him in the background of this publicity still, reacting realistically (grim concern laced with irritation) to the "zany comic spectacle" of that guy from STALAG 17 dressed in an elaborate plumed and silken costume and bearing enormous flaming shish kebabs before him.


Just finished watching what I think the critics like to call a "bloated farce": WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER, a 1960 vehicle for Dick Shawn. Maybe it just seemed so long because it took me practically a week of being sick to watch it. Plus it has the kind of title that makes it too easy for dumb critics: "Wake me when it's over INDEED!" they probably huffed. I hate them so much. I have been emailing Megan and McNeil about this movie (separately) and neither one of them has seen it, which amazes me, because between the two of them, or so I figured, they have seen everything. It's about some servicemen on a remote island building a mod, swinging hotel out of old airplane parts. You can kind of see that in the frame above, though there are no decent shots from WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER on the "internet." WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER has everything McNeil likes: mod curtains and remote islands. And that is everything McNeil likes. It also has sexism, Orientalism, colonialism, you name it! It's an often morally and politically wretched piece of work that seems to endorse slavery - ! - as a cute local custom, for example. Some early scenes in the second act anticipate Altman's M*A*S*H. Who cares? Not even me. Jack Warden gives one of those performances that interests me: he really digs in and goes for an actual character when everything around him cries otherwise - though it's always nice to see Don Knotts (in a brief early film role that shows his persona fully formed). But the main thing is Megan sent me Dick Shawn's obituary: he died onstage and lay there for five minutes before some of the audience figured out it might not be part of his act.

Saturday, March 01, 2014


Just last Sunday I was bragging and boasting to Bill Boyle about how much of ANCIENT EVENINGS I had raced through - they said it couldn't be done! - and Bill said, "You've still got a long way to go," and I said, "But I'm reading so fast!" Ha! The next day I got sick. I've been sick all week! Which explains my prolonged and unnoticed absence. Don't worry, Dr. Theresa has been on the case, though she is not a doctor of medicine. I'm on the mend thanks to her! But I found myself unable to open ANCIENT EVENINGS again, I just couldn't make myself do it. Was it because of all the gross stuff in it all the time? Not really, I don't think so. I had a thought on Tuesday, something I wanted to look up about Richard Strauss. And today is Saturday and I still haven't quite summoned up the energy to walk across the room for MILTON CROSS' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC. Things seem like an effort! WILL I EVEN GET THROUGH THIS "POST"? There was an advance copy of Megan Abbott's forthcoming novel handy, though, and once I felt like reading again, that's what I went for, though ironically (?) it is called THE FEVER and it's about girls who are suffering from "terrifying, unexplained seizures" as I think it says on the back of the book. Yet it's a tonic! Keeps the old heart pumping and the mind racing. In an appalling coincidence, given its subject, I happened to grab as a bookmark a postcard advertising the Frank Tashlin movie THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT. That's not funny! But it's true. Megan's book will put you in a trance, pull you under. It's dream-like and dangerous, and things are starting to get out of control! That's a terrible description but I'VE BEEN SICK. Megan said, "You're like Cathy in Wuthering Heights! When will you be half-savage, hardy and free again?" But everybody knows I more like Heathcliff's kid, the one he left out in the rain, the one lolling all frail on a couch with a peppermint stick, weak and cruel.