Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everything Is Perfect

Hey! Do you like everything perfect? Sound quality for instance? Then there is probably something wrong with you! Go see a doctor. I was thinking about "Blog" Buddy Kelly Hogan today and how a song she wrote called "Blue and Far" would have been a great Julie London number. And I just found a recording of it on the youtube, but the sound quality is pretty crummy because that's how we did things in 1993 and we didn't care and we still don't! I seem to recall (and Hogan can correct me) that the musical notes of "Blue and Far" came from some wind chimes hanging outside the bedroom where she stayed at her grandmother's house and they kept bothering her until she turned them into a song. Or am I making that up? Who knows? I'm crazy! And here's the gross braggy part: at around the 5:05 mark of the video below, Kelly starts singing a song I wrote! Who cares? Not you! But as far as I know it is the only recording left in the world of this song, so consider yourself an archeologist. PS That is the man from Hubcap City playing guitar! So now I hope you are sated with knowledge.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Literary Matters

Welcome once again to "Literary Matters." I know! Literary matters are almost always horrible. I'm the one who told you as much! But today's literary matters are bearable for some reason. It will never happen again. 1) I found out why Doomed Book Club members Megan Abbott and Scott Phillips are so far behind in their reading of our current book club selection, Mack Sennett's autobiography. They are both reading CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin instead! And who can blame them? 2) I found out from the twitter account of my friend Michael that a crazy man will read the ENTIRE BOOK of LONG, LAST, HAPPY by Barry Hannah on the "internet." "Click" here for details. It will only happen once and will not be recorded, so if you miss it you are the world's biggest fool. That's how we used to do things in the olden days! Only once, and we didn't record it. You had to be there! And that's where the phrase "you had to be there" comes from, I guess. 3) Don't get excited because this isn't happening until March, but I am moderating a panel at the next Oxford Conference For the Book. I have invited Michael Kupperman and Joe Matt (pictured), and they are coming! One from New York and one from California! So this is going to be some kind of coast-to-coast thing, you dig me? I am calling my panel "Comic Book Auteurs." Fancy! And now we bid you adieu from all your "Literary Matters."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crime Buddies

Did you know that Megan Abbott has a new "blog" with her crime buddy Sara Gran? Why are you still here?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Again With the Sad Clowns

Hey look! Here is a portrait Frank Sinatra painted of himself as a sad clown, yes, a self-portrait, that's what they call it. It was inspired by his role in THE JOKER IS WILD, recently discussed here, though I forgot to tell you that in a couple of scenes he really does appear as a sad clown, for real! I also forgot to tell you that THE JOKER IS WILD has a downbeat ending. After Frank Sinatra has driven away everyone who loves him, his reflection talks to him from a store window! His reflection gives him a hard time! And before you can stop to think about it, a big THE END is staring you in the face. The BBC "web" site where I found this sad clown picture that Frank Sinatra did of himself says it was also inspired by his broken heart (see previous "post"!) over Ava Gardner, only the BBC calls her "Eva Gardner," which is the dumbest mistake in the history of mistakes. Thanks for nothing, BBC! I mean, except for the sad clown picture.

Frankie's Broken Heart

Okay, so Hogan was right, THE JOKER IS WILD was not a "good" movie. I watched it thanks to her "instant viewing" tip. I will say one thing about it: Sinatra uses a cigarette holder in at least four scenes! Remember when we used to count every man we saw using a cigarette holder? Those were the days! I don't know what Kelly Hogan has against Sinatra, though. He was pretty good in it! Like, there was one scene when he's doing his nightclub act and making a lot of "drunk" jokes and everybody's laughing - but his friends aren't laughing! They know that his heart is breaking! Then he looks up and sees his "one true love" with this other dude she married, and he asks the piano player (Eddie Albert) to start playing their special song, which he hasn't sung in so very long on account of his broken heart. And he sings it and everyone's heart starts breaking! Anyway, that was a good scene, and old Frankie was good in it if you ask me, but nobody's asking me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh Boy!

Just read the part of Mack Sennett's autobiography in which he claims to know the guy who came up with the phrase "Oh boy!"

Mitzi Deficit

Somehow I can't make myself believe that Kelly Hogan's recent mention of Mitzi Gaynor's "drunk scene" in THE JOKER IS WILD is the first Mitzi Gaynor reference ever to hit the "blog." How can that be? I was certain we had mentioned her in one of the "blog's" necessary contemplations of Robert Goulet's son-in-law and his many show biz connections. And as you know, sometimes the "blog's" search feature doesn't work correctly. So I have searched and searched in every way I know how, but I guess that really truly was our first Mitzi Gaynor reference, though my mind is reeling at the thought. Let's make up for it right now with this "link" to Mitzi Gaynor's official "web" page!

The Sophie Tucker Reference You've Been Waiting For

Move over, Fred Ott! Just when I thought I had run out of things you have never heard of and don't care to hear of, along comes Kelly Hogan with a Sophie Tucker reference. Not only that, but she puts it in all caps and appends an exclamation point. That's the way we like to give this stuff to you. You'll take it and like it! For it seems that Hogan has watched (thanks to "instant viewing" on "the internet") the film version of our previous Doomed Book Club selection THE JOKER IS WILD. Hogan reports: "I watched it. The whole thing - but in pieces, given my aversion to all things Sinatra [!!!???!!! - ed.]. Sinatra AND the bad jokes! wow! I liked Beverly Garland though. And Mitzi Gaynor's 'drunk' scene! And all the ladies' waists were distractingly small! my favorite part by far was JACKIE COOGAN as Swifty Morgan, and a cameo by SOPHIE TUCKER! But wow. Like Cohn's book, the movie doesn't really explain the appeal of ol' Joe E. Lewis. Bless his heart. Sort of!"

Jolly Fats

Well, this is a happy day for me. I see from the "stats" that someone found this "blog" by searching for "movie with jerry lewis where there farm animals on plane." Sir or madam, I am so delighted to inform you that the film you are seeking is CRACKING UP. Foster Brooks is the pilot of the airplane for Jolly Fats Weehawken airlines. The scene to which you are referring inspired a scene in the Godard movie SOIGNE TA DROITE. Goodbye forever.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pass the Sauce

Hey! Did you know that one of Mack Sennett's earliest Broadway roles was in a play called "Wang"? Everybody likes some sauce on Thanksgiving, but I am not trying to ruin your holiday with "sauciness"! I am just telling you the plain facts as expressed in this Mack Sennett autobiography I am reading for the Doomed Book Club. It was near the turn of the twentieth century, and I believe the aforementioned play must have been an attempt at the same kind of would-be exoticism put forth by "A Chinese Honeymoon," another of Sennett's early stage credits. He was also in a play called "Piff! Paff!! Pouf!!!" - note the escalating exclamation points. Finally, Mr. Ward will be glad to know there has already been a Fred Ott reference in the book (in Chapter Two!), and mention of an early motion picture entitled HORSE EATING HAY.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beloved Turpin Splurch

Hey! Did you know that the pie fights of Ben Turpin appear on the book flap of my surprisingly (?) cheap first edition of Mack Sennett's autobiography? Allow me to quote: "custard pies sailed through the air and hit Ben Turpin with a splurch between his beloved, mis-mated eyes." Thus do at least three or four separate "blog" threads come together in stunning cosmic alignment. Yes, "splurch."


I have had reason to contemplate all the horrible things we used to think were entertainment back when I was your age: 1) someone wriggling on the floor in a black leotard; 2) a guy who pretended to be drunk and that was his whole act (we loved him so much that we later built a robot out of him, though a later generation threw the robot in the trash); 3) some celebrities you have never heard of marching down a staircase with various degrees of passive-aggressiveness; 4) a man with eye problems; 5) the Rappin' Duke; and those are all the things we used to call entertainment. That was it. After that, we were out of entertainment. I have tried to explain them to you from time to time. But I cannot explain Charo. Doomed Book Club member Ace Atkins and I met up at the City Grocery Bar the other night and talked for a long time about Burt Reynolds. The next day, Ace sent me a youtube clip of Burt Reynolds guest-hosting THE TONIGHT SHOW with special guest Charo. Though it is but half as long as the typical McNeil youtube clip, I can't subject you to it. It would be like handing you some Sanskrit and saying "knock yourself out!" Or maybe a Mahler score if you don't read music at all. There is NO ENTRY POINT. Also, the clip is polluted by vile, ugly youtube comments, which seem to be a youtube staple. What can I tell you? Charo's thing was to scream out her catch phrase "Coochie coochie!" and then make some "accidental" double entendres. By the way, that is Ace Atkins above, for really real. My brother-in-law David - a huge Auburn fan - sent me that photo a while back, but I only got permission from Ace the other night to put it on the "blog." I thought I should ask Ace first. As you can see, he is bellowing in unchecked bloodlust over the crumpled body of a foe. Or maybe he is shouting encouragement, like, "Better luck next time!" Like, "Nice try, anyway!" Below, Charo.

Oatmeal Tips

Just when you thought the "blog" had run out of things to say about oatmeal, we come charging back with another edition of our beloved regular feature "Oatmeal Tips." Today's oatmeal tip comes from Mack Sennett's autobiography, the official selection of the Doomed Book Club. Seems that when Mack Sennett was 17, he was employed by an ironworks, where he worked with "molten liquid often as hot as 3500 degrees." He drank "tepid oatmeal water to control perspiration." So that's today's oatmeal tip!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

From the Desk of Mr. Ward

Mr. Ward writes: "Hey Jack, I’m currently reading a book about the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and thought that you (and probably only you) would find this interesting. Apparently when The Who made their infamous appearance on the show where Keith Moon’s drum kit blew up and permanently deafened Pete Townsend, off to the side watching the whole thing were show guests Mickey Rooney and Bette Davis (who was dressed in a Queen Elizabeth I costume). After the explosion Bette fainted while Mickey thought it was awesome and was jumping up and down screaming for more."

Moon Swoon

Did you know there is maybe some art on the moon? That's what I learned from the twitter account of A. G. Pasquella. Oh, twitter! Every time I doubt you, you tell me there is art on the moon and what can I say to that? This art on the moon thing seems a little fishy. But I have decided to believe it. "Click" here to begin your own investigation! The thing I love about that "link" is this part of the New York Times caption to a photo of the moon art: "Thumb of person holding wafer obscures the signature of Andy Warhol." The "link" describes Warhol's moon art contribution as "a calligraphic squiggle made up of the initials of his signature." BUT if you do your research, you can find it on the "internet" and you will see the real reason that "thumb of person holding wafer" is obscuring it: it's too saucy for a family newspaper! I can say no more! Andy Warhol dirtied up the moon! If you choose to find it, you are responsible for your own swoon of disbelief. A moon swoon! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I love "blogging." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Moon swoon! Ha! One of the little moon drawings reminds me of Ignatz Mouse from the great George Herriman comic strip KRAZY KAT, and that's cool, but what if some moon people find the art? They will be like, "This Earth guy who made up this mouse is a genius" and George Herriman will get no credit for inspiring the moon art. I am going to fix that by sending my "blog" to the moon with this picture of the real, authentic Ignatz Mouse.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Cape For Larry

Well I was all excited because twitter promised to show me what Ryan Seacrest got Larry King for his birthday. Who wouldn't want to know that? No sane person! But I "clicked" on the picture and I can't figure out what it is. A pair of black jeans? A Dracula cape? A pair of black jeans with matching Dracula cape? One of those blankets with sleeves?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Am Sad

My rare Anthony Braxton CDs arrived but they are not Anthony Braxton CDs! They are CDs by the Ahmad Jamal Trio. It's some kind of mix-up. Nothing against the Ahmad Jamal Trio! But come on. I need my Anthony Braxton CDs. Gosh, my problems are monumental, aren't they? Really all I do is think about my sad life and just weep and weep.

Doomed Book Club

The Doomed Book Club is back in business with Mack Sennett's autobiography. I think it was Scott Phillips who said that this memoir is full of crazy lies. That's the way we like it in the Doomed Book Club! But I won't lie to you, I was rooting for THE CUP OF FURY, which I may read on the sly.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meat and Potatoes

Barry B. chimes in on those silent old Super 8 movies we silent old men used to project on our walls when we were silent old children. Part III of our continuing series! Here's what Barry had to say: "One of my favorites was entitled 'Good Old Corn.' It had several segments put together from old Keystone movies. One segment had this guy diving off a pier into the ocean and where he dives is only a couple feet deep. He’s upside down – his head underwater - with his legs kicking forever then the tide pulls out a little and we see him standing on his head then he falls over. There was another segment with a young woman walking an ultra rickety old man (like her grandfather) when a young man comes along and – I believe smarts off to the old man – when suddenly the little old man does this Popeye like transformation (more mental than physical) and starts chasing the young man around and beating him up. There was a big Keystone Kop chase at the end. I think the one I had with Ben Turpin and the pie fight was called Keystone Hotel. One time I got a super 8 from K Mart called The Spider and on the cover there was a spider with a skull head. When I watched the movie it was just a giant spider (with NO skeleton head). I also had a seven minute version of Roger Corman’s The Undead with Allison Hayes, Billy Barty and Dick Miller. The box had a scary cover (like the poster on IMDB). I also had a several minute version of The French Connection that started out with the guy getting shot in the face then it went to the car chase, then the weird ending shot and that was about it. I also had a several minute version of Psycho which had the shower scene – then Perkins running down from the motel (with the subtitle - 'God... Mother... Blood... Blood') then Balsam creeping up the stairs and getting offed, then Miles creeping around and finding 'mom' then Loomis grabbing Perkins, then Perkins sitting there staring at the camera. Just the meat and potatoes. I still have a little film box for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman – and an Andy Panda cartoon. But I used to rent super 8s from the library – Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, old Douglas Fairbanks, Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. That stuff was awesome. All that Blackhawk stuff. That was an awesome company. Like Ward, I’d show them forwards, backwards and sideways."

The Hook

You know how I rise before dawn sometimes? Sure you do! Every time it is dawn you are probably like, "I wonder if Jack got up before now! Gosh!" Anyway, I usually turn on the TV and stare blankly into its maw. This morning's treat was a horror movie called CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH. I turned it on just in time to see this credit: music by Philip Glass. And I was like, "Hey!" I was all, "!" I was surprised to see that. I was also surprised later when bees came out of a guy's face. But my original surprise came about because I thought that when Philip Glass received the call, he would have been like, "I am way too fancy to write the music for CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH." I mean look at him! Look at how fancy he looks! (He now joins our growing gallery of people who pose with their fingers for extra posing goodness. If you do a "Google Image Search" for Philip Glass you will see that he is the world champion of finger posing. Seven out of the first 10 images of him are finger-centric. And he doesn't rely on any single tired old standby finger pose, he really mixes it up - everything from the pensive "Hmmm" with finger crooked over mouth to "I just happen to be resting my cheek on my fist.") But when you think about it, the Philip Glass style is good for horror music. Remember the theme from PHANTASM? I'll refresh your memory. It goes "Deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle deedle." The repetition is creepy. It's not by Philip Glass, but it almost could be. The music for CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH is more "Ah ah ah oh oh oh ah/ Ah ah ah oh oh oh ah!" Same principle. So anyway this guy gets impaled on a hook, and he gets this look on his face like, "Huh." I think he even says something like "Ow." I really think that, though I can't say for sure. Well, as the hooking scene went on and on something really gross happened that I don't feel like typing up for you, and it made me feel bad inside, so I changed channels to a tepid "comedy" (probably an "indie" "comedy") about quirky people teaching at a quirky college quirkily. It seemed like it was supposed to be a "satire" of something but I couldn't tell what.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mr. Ward's Multimedia Experience

"Ben Turpin reference?" asks Mr. Ward. "If you really want to hook the tweens you need to work in more current stars like Elmo Lincoln or Fred Ott." He is referring, of course, to our recent "post" about Super 8 movies. Mr. Ward goes on: "I actually owned two - 'Mr. Magoo in Paris'; hard to imagine anything duller than silent Mr. Magoo with subtitles but my friends would come over and we’d watch it over and over. We also had a 3 minute version of the Laurel and Hardy classic 'The Big Bang' which was so cut up it made no sense whatsoever. I remember cracking the other kids up by playing the movie backwards and laughing hysterically at Hardy (who was very hefty at this point) running. Once got 'Frankenstein' out of the library, which was great. Also checked out 'Oklahoma!' for my Mom’s birthday and my Dad made it a true multimedia experience by playing the soundtrack LP at the same time. At the time I imagined this was what rich people did every night."

McNeil's Movie Korner

Welcome once again to the comforting environs of "McNeil's Movie Korner." Hi! Do you live in St. Louis and have a time machine? Then you may want to attend this thing McNeil found from earlier this year. It's an event at a place called "The Way Out Club" (!) and they showed Super 8 movies. You see, when McNeil and I were lads, you could check out Super 8 movies from the library - versions (severely abridged) of theatrical releases, which you could go home and project onto your wall from your little home projector. Barry B. remembers this, too. In fact, Barry B. and I both recall watching a Ben Turpin movie with a big pie fight in it. We tracked it down and aired it on our kids' show (the Rudy and GoGo World Famous Cartoon Show) once. As I am sure you know, Ben Turpin (pictured) was a comedian who was famous because there was something wrong with his eyes. That's what we used to call entertainment before your iPhones and gadgets and so on. I recall that in one part of the movie, Ben Turpin (or someone) was sitting with a collapsable top hat on his lap, and he would cause the collapsed hat to spring into its natural shape, using the popping-out crown as a method for launching pies into the faces of his enemies. Wow! Silent Ben Turpin movies. No wonder our kids' show was canceled - for too much awesomeness, that is! Now my childhood was not all fancy la-di-da like McNeil's, so I don't recall these Super 8 movies having sound. But look! The Way Out Club showed a fifteen-minute version of ANIMAL HOUSE, as well as McNeilian favorites such as THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT and one of the Matt Helm features starring Dean Martin. What horrible childhoods we had.

Stephen Will Play His Records For You Now

My friend Stephen knows all about LPs, and he confirms that I might have had an Ornette Coleman LP with the wrong music mistakenly pressed on the B-side, as my fragile memory tells me. He scouted around on the "internet" and found some guy who keeps his record collection in a warehouse in Hong Kong (?!?) and out of 30,000 records, the guy has ONE with an incorrectly pressed B-side. I am guessing this is the most interesting thing you have ever read! Hey, do you want to hear my friend Stephen's records? Because he has a "web" site where he plays his records for you. Hey, I should put it in my sidebar.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Sad Part

You can't stop ol' Kent Osborne from drawing things, so don't even try! In addition to his comic strip about his cat, there is this thing he just sent me ("click" here) where he draws the movies he is watching. For example, feast your eyes on this panel from "blog" fave THE KING OF COMEDY. This is the sad part, where Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) is in his luxurious yet crypt-like apartment all alone because he doesn't have a true friend in the world aside from his little dog (which, if I am recalling my Jerry lore correctly, was played by Jerry's actual dog from real life - hey, remember when Jerry bought his dog a hearing aid? Different dog!).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Accidental Ornette Inscription

Hi! I am listening to the album FREE JAZZ by Ornette Coleman. You have many good reasons for not caring what I do with my time! But I was just thinking about when I first bought the FREE JAZZ LP as an inquisitive youth filled with childlike wonder and so on. This is what I remember, though I cannot find anything on the "internet" to back me up: that the B side had the wrong stuff on it! It was like a flute concerto or something, yes, I want to say a flute concerto appeared on the B side by mistake. Is that even possible? Could a record-making machine accidentally inscribe the wrong grooves on the B side of a record? These are the questions I ask myself as I hasten toward the grave. Anyway, I took it back to the store and got a 100% Ornette Coleman A- and B-side FREE JAZZ record but now all these years later I think I should have held onto that first slab of freaky vinyl so that "Future Jack" (me now) could sell it on ebay for six dollars or something. Of course, back then, all I cared about was the music. I was so stupid! In other visionary saxophonist news, I splurged on a gigantic crazy Anthony Braxton CD box from Mosaic Records - rare stuff! - and now I check the mailbox every day all excited and everything, you should see my little apple cheeks aglow with anticipation. Yes, to answer your question, I find myself just as boring as you do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

There's Something About Pendleton

I remember something else about Austin Pendleton: we were sitting in a big room with a lot of MTV people when someone told us that Austin Pendleton would be in our pilot. Simultaneously, Mr. Ward and I yelled really loudly and passionately: "AUSTIN PENDLETON!!!!" and everyone stared at us in appalled silence. For you see, as the world's biggest nerds, Mr. Ward and I were huge Austin Pendleton fans, and the only persons in the room (aside from the casting director - who was Christian Slater's MOTHER [!?!]) who had any idea who Austin Pendleton was. In a perfect world, our Austin Pendleton knowledge would have made us heroes, but to the cool people all around us it branded us as Austin Pendletons. To burnish Mr. Ward's previous anecdote (see the "link" above): Austin Pendleton was far too classy to insult us outright, as I recall. What we overheard was Austin Pendleton inquiring in his subdued, nearly musical Austin Pendleton way, "Who do you suppose this is FOR?" (referring to our script) and Dan Lauria replying, "It ought to be rated 'M' for morons!"

McNeil's Movie Korner

Gosh! It has been so long since the last "McNeil's Movie Korner." In fact, we were starting to think that Barry B. had taken over "Movie Korner" duties permanently. McNeil left a phone message yesterday. He said he had watched "the first ten or fifteen minutes" of a movie called JOHNNY COOL and "couldn't make heads or tails of it." He wanted me to "enlighten" him. But I haven't seen it! Only McNeil can enlighten McNeil. At the end of the message he said he was calling from his car. "I'm sitting in my car looking at pictures of Jennifer Jones in DUEL IN THE SUN," he said. Rue! I detected rue in his voice. Somehow forlorn, this image of McNeil. McNeil!

Glamorous Years Gone By

Mr. Ward remembers even more sparkling details about those aforementioned occasions upon which he and I a) attended the BLUES BROTHERS 2000 press junket and b) years later, wrote an unrelated pilot for MTV. Please don't be confused: the two have almost nothing to do with one another, really, and were joined together only by free association in the former "post." And now, join Mr. Ward as he travels down memory lane. He writes: "I remember coming up to John Goodman before the shoot and eagerly asking him if he was clear on what we were about to do and he said something along the lines of 'Let me guess: you ask questions, we answer them,' leaving the 'you idiot' implied... I remember you telling Dan A. what an admirer you were of his and his career and his response was a grunt... At the BLUES BROTHERS 2000 screening there was only one small group of people laughing and cheering. When the lights went on after the film we saw it was director John Landis and his pals... At our pilot taping we overheard [pilot actors] Dan Lauria and Austin Pendleton [pictured] mocking our show, and I think it was Dan who said 'It should be rated 'M' for morons.'"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up

That's right, boys and girls! It's time for another action-packed edition of "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." There's nothing you like better than an inside look at the all-star world of celebrity entertainment, and "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up" is your one place on the "internet" for all the latest news about the hottest entertainment celebrity stars! ITEM! Are you like me? Do you lie in bed wondering whether craggy tough-guy actor Sterling Hayden went to the funeral of Marshal Tito? Then this is your lucky day! McNeil is not the only one who sends me long clips about Canadian defense ministers who believe in UFOs and Jack Palance's painfully reluctant plug of his cop show BRONK. My friend the Hollywood producer - yes, he exists, he is not imaginary, shut up! - sent me a ten-minute youtube clip ("click" here - you know you're dying to!) that answers all your most burning questions! As a bonus, marvel at Sterling Hayden's godlike two-pronged beard, and relish the part where he explains his headband and his cane! ITEM! This reminds me of the time that Mr. Ward and I went on the "press junket" for a film called BLUES BROTHERS 2000, a sequel to the original Blues Brothers movie. We were interviewing John Goodman and Dan Aykroyd, and we thought it would be really clever to ask them things no one else would think to ask. For example, we asked which historical figures would make good Blues Brothers. That question made no sense! But we didn't care because we were so clever! So Dan Aykroyd stared at us like we were idiots - which in retrospect we probably were! - and said in a very deadpan way, "Marshal Tito." It was hilarious and put us in our place and we enjoyed it. We were like, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" ITEM! I just remembered this! The BLUES BROTHERS 2000 press junket took place at the Essex House hotel in New York City. I was waiting for Mr. Ward in the bar when I witnessed former Nixon speechwriter turned actor Ben Stein (pictured) trying to "pick up" a woman who was much too young for him, in my opinion, but it's none of my business! One of Ben Stein's "pickup lines" was "I have my own game show." Hey, maybe I'm imagining all this! No offense, Ben Stein! The incident - IF it occurred! - made its way into a short story in my second book YOUR BODY IS CHANGING. Is "pickup" slanderous? Maybe Ben Stein was just harmlessly flirting! That's not a crime, is it? Or maybe he was making conversation to pass the time as innocently as can be or maybe nothing happened at all! By the way, Ben Stein had nothing to do with BLUES BROTHERS 2000 - he just happened to be in the Essex House bar. ITEM! And that just made me remember something that made it into my first book, THE MYSTERIOUS SECRET OF THE VALUABLE TREASURE: Once upon a time, MTV optioned a sitcom pilot that Mr. Ward and I wrote. It got into the rehearsal stages before it lay down on the floor and died. But we had to hire actors. That guy Shia Labouef auditioned, and we picked him for the lead role, but he had just signed up to do a feature film - one of his first, I think, if not the very first. So we had to go with our second choice, who by coincidence - this was a few years later - had portrayed the "little kid Blues Brother" (pictured, below) from the movie BLUES BROTHERS 2000. Yes, just one of the unfortunate things about BLUES BROTHERS 2000 was that someone decided there had to be a little kid Blues Brother in it. ITEM! And now I just remembered that Mr. Ward and I were on an escalator after a press screening of BLUES BROTHERS 2000 and Mr. Ward was shouting "The musical numbers were LEADEN! LEADEN!" and I turned back to respond and who should be standing behind Mr. Ward on the escalator - unbeknownst to Mr. Ward! - but Paul Shaffer, the man responsible for the musical numbers in BLUES BROTHERS 2000! That's it for this edition of "All-Star Entertainment Wrap-Up." Until next time, keep "reaching" for the "stars"!

Our Secret Home

Oatmeal Girl and I were - wait, that's such a stupid name and I'm sick of it and I don't know how it came to that. Elizabeth and I - that's her name, Elizabeth - were discussing the new Barry Hannah collection LONG, LAST, HAPPY yesterday, and we both love it. We're glad so many of his stories are packed together in one handy place, and what a beautiful package, too. But we were talking about our hope that people won't think of the "new and selected stories" as a REPLACEMENT for his other short story collections! Get the new book, YES, get it! But let it also act as a spur for discovering some of his other stories that are not included. The publisher did a terrific job of presenting the cream of the stories but once you have read them you should also try to dig up your own favorites, why not? For example, both Elizabeth and I think "Our Secret Home" is one of the highlights of AIRSHIPS, but it does not appear in the new book. Same goes for "Nicodemus Bluff" and "A Christmas Thought" - just for example! - from BATS OUT OF HELL. This is not a criticism of the anthology, which is especially valuable because of the great new stories in it. Elizabeth's "fave" Barry collection of all time is CAPTAIN MAXIMUS, so get that one, too. Yes, get everything, go ahead and get everything all the time.

Poor Shelley Winters

We watched NIGHT OF THE HUNTER with some friends last night. Here is something I believe I have discussed in real life but not on the "blog": poor Shelley Winters! It seems that in every movie she ever made she gets hit by a car or falls through a stained glass window or gets choked by Ronald Colman or winds up in a jalopy at the bottom of a river and in general something terrible always happens to poor Shelley Winters.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Like to Help

I know from checking my "stats" that someone stumbled on the "blog" today while searching for "song that starts mcneil mcneil don't steal my automobile." There has been no reference to that song on this "blog"... until now! No doubt the searcher was led here falsely by Google thanks to our many mentions of another McNeil. But it just so happens that I know the song very well, because it is by one of my favorite artists, Louis Jordan. The name of the song is "Salt Pork, West Virginia," so if you are still searching, dear stranger, I hope this helps!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sidebar Shakeup

Hey, I don't think the myspace exists anymore, does it? I used to have the myspace page of Kent Osborne over there in my "Friendly Links" sidebar - in fact, it was there until just a few moments ago, when I replaced it with a new "link" to Kent's comic strip about his cat! WARNING! Kent is one of these modern cartoonists who likes to dabble in saucy language. So if you do not like your cartoons PG-13, I cannot be responsible for your shocked fainting should you choose to "click." Look, here is a picture of Kent's cat in real life, the real cat upon whom the cartoon cat is based! Maybe that's more your speed! Yes, that's fine, just stop while you're ahead. The kitty is yawning! Just yawning away! As I have mentioned, Kent's cat is almost a twin of one of our cats! Wow! So you can look at this cat and sort of imagine you are kind of seeing my cat! Gee!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brandon's Owl

Here is one of John Brandon's lines about his owl: "It looks like a fat man in a fancy brown suit, like an old-time banker."

Ideas For Shoes

By the way, I spoke to Mr. Ward today. I think we mostly talked about Beetle Bailey for some reason. But you know how Mr. Ward always tries to convince me that the broadcast network television show PARENTHOOD is NOT about the ups and downs of life in a shoe factory, despite the fact that every time I accidentally see two seconds of it, it is always about the ups and downs of life in a shoe factory? Today I hit him with some hard facts: last night I caught a few seconds of PARENTHOOD and here is the EXACT line of dialogue that occurred as it flashed onto my TV screen: "The shoe business is hell, Sarah." With that, I clicked my clicker and it went away! Then later I happened to see a few more minutes of the show and Lauren Graham was in the back of a limousine with one of the Baldwin brothers, and he showed her his sketchbook, which contained his IDEAS FOR SHOES, including a golf shoe with retractable spikes. And then they started making out! So stop trying to tell me that the show is not about shoes. "All the interesting parts happen in the shoe factory," Mr. Ward admitted. Finally! (Hey, the characters in Beetle Bailey used to play golf a lot, so I thought I would cleverly combine two of the subjects of this "post" in my illustration. Instead, I found this "web" site that is nothing but comic book covers about golf. "Internet," you are crazy!)

Your Head Is In the Mail

Got my big McSweeney's head today. There is a lot of stuff in there and I've barely started on it, but you can bet the first thing I turned to was the story by "Blog" Buddy John Brandon. And guess what? This is the truth! John's story has UFOs AND owls in it! I know I am always telling you that all great literature has owls in it. But the true masterpieces have owls AND UFOS. If you don't believe what I am saying you can check out John's story for yourself. From my understanding, heads will soon be blanketing the country.

Mysterious Bubbles of Doom

Hey, so there are some mysterious "bubbles of energy" at the "center of the galaxy." That's what the New York Times says! I'm sure this is terrible news somehow. What is this phenomenon? The NYT says maybe "a gigantic belch from the black hole known to reside, like Jabba the Hutt, at the center of the Milky Way." That's a real quotation. Here's another helpful part of the article: "'Wow,' said David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Like an Owl

"He was like an owl." That's what Lena Horne says, very fondly, about her first sight of Billy Strayhorn in David Hajdu's biography of the magnificent composer and arranger. I don't mean to rub it in, but life keeps proving my theory that every great book has an owl in it.

The 80s

Am I really sitting here watching the Burt Reynolds vehicle PATERNITY on one of these here movie channels? Apparently I am! I wonder why. It keeps making me think of AUTHOR! AUTHOR!, though AUTHOR! AUTHOR! is, I suppose, a "goodnatured romp for the whole family" while PATERNITY is somewhat "smutty." How are they alike? Well, they are both terrible comedies from the early 80s set in New York City. Oh! Another thing is that Beverly D'Angelo plays a trumpet teacher, and in one scene she has this kid practicing his trumpet while she sits there smoking a cigarette right next to him. That's how we did it in the 80s! And as Laura Lippman pointed out in her famous "blog" analysis of AUTHOR! AUTHOR!, Pacino did his share of smoking around kids in that one. This is almost all I have to say about PATERNITY. Well, there is a horrible comedy scene where the funny part is that a butcher coughs all over the meat. I am sorry I even told you that! But why should I be the only one to suffer? Two more things and I bid you farewell forever: 1) It turns out that Burt Reynolds is better than Al Pacino at certain things, such as being the star of a terrible light comedy from the early 80s. He has an appealing nonchalance that is appropriate to the task. 2) Some guy named Mike Kellin (pictured) plays a hilarious boat captain. He has a couple of lines and that's it. But man, he brings his A game, like Joanna Moore in NEVER A DULL MOMENT. I admire that work ethic. Here's to the Mike Kellins of the world! (Also starring Elizabeth Ashley of WHEN MICHAEL CALLS.)

What I Am Also Thinking

I am also thinking let's start a magazine called GONG ENTHUSIAST.

Gong Enthusiast

There's an obituary in today's New York Times for a "gong enthusiast." That's what the headline says! I guess it's my favorite New York Times obituary headline since "cantankerous Hellfighter." I say if you have to have an obituary, "gong enthusiast" is a nice way to be remembered. A gong enthusiast probably never hurt anybody. The obituary has lines in it such as "Mr. Van Hyning first encountered his gongs in the mid-1970s."

Monday, November 08, 2010

McNeil More Concerned About Twinkies

Spoke with McNeil. He seemed a little shaken up by the particle collider news, but at least equally concerned with a headline he claims to have seen on cnn.com: "Man Loses 27 Pounds on Twinkie Diet."

Start Worrying Again, McNeil!

Just when McNeil was feeling so much better about that particle collider, they are firing it up again, and how! According to a scientist quoted over there on the gawker, "This process took place in a safe, controlled environment generating incredibly hot and dense subatomic fireballs with temperatures of over ten trillion degrees – a million times hotter than the center of the sun." I hope they remembered to use oven mitts!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

UFO Country

It is no surprise that Sun Ra's biography had a UFO in it. But now I am reading Loretta Lynn's autobiography - the inimitable COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER - and I did not expect it to have a UFO in it, but it does! This makes me think back to the time I read a John Cheever novel and a Charles Portis novel and they both had UFOs in them. Ah, memories. Anyway, Loretta's Uncle Corman "was walking in the darkness, when he saw something yellow in the woods, like a spaceship almost, but not moving." It turns out to be a mystical vision, not a spaceship, and I can say no more, because it's really at a sad part of the book and I don't want to make light of it.

Extra Furious Dust Jacket Correction

Kelly Hogan would like everyone to know that her copy of THE CUP OF FURY is a hardcover with a dust jacket that makes it look "extra furious" - not a paperback as erroneously reported by the "blog."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Literary Matters

Sorry, world! But it is time once again for "Literary Matters." There are just two, so you can handle it. 1) CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by "Blog" Buddy Tom Franklin is not done with the New York Times best seller list yet! It has climbed to #22! See? That was a good literary matter. Here's another: 2) Our friend Kelly Hogan picked up a "lurid" used paperback of Upton Sinclair's "anti-alcohol diatribe" THE CUP OF FURY. Says she, "You'll never want a double dirty martini so desperately...and have it taste so sharp and delicious...and plant that resonating rubber boing dart so deep in your bones...as when you're reading...THE CUP! OF! FURY!" (Exclamation points awesome, and hers.) I think that blurb should be plastered all over the reprint. Plastered, ha ha! But Sinclair would hate her blurb, Hogan thinks. "He was a lifelong BONAFIDE teetotalling keg-basher," she notes. (Pictured, Tom Franklin. Not really. It's Upton Sinclair. OR IS IT?)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Look At These Sunglasses

Hey, look at these sunglasses Claudia Cardinale is wearing in DON'T MAKE WAVES. I was just thinking about them.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Many Ubiquitous Everywhere

Hey, speaking of all my many ubiquitous columns which are everywhere, THE UTNE READER has asked to reprint an excerpt from my recent Oxford American column about Lady Gaga. And I was like, "Go for it, UTNE READER!" I would just like to point out that my Lady Gaga observations are even truer than when I first wrote them. For example, I recently watched two sitcoms in a row in which characters were dressed up as Lady Gaga for humorous reasons. If you read my column, you will understand what this means socially, politically, cosmically, etc. Think repressive desublimation!

Last Vestige of Doomed Book Club

You can read a small portion of my new BELIEVER column on the BELIEVER "web" site. In it, I describe myself as "a puckish, impish sprite, seemingly not born so much as deposited on Earth via moonbeam." In addition to representing the way I really feel about myself, that phrase is a salute to the writing style of Art Cohn in his crazy biography of Joe E. Lewis, as read by our doomed book club.

Space Is the Place

Did you know that Sun Ra voted for George Bush (the first one, I mean)? Neither did I! I found out yesterday (which was election day) as I continued to read SPACE IS THE PLACE: THE LIVES AND TIMES OF SUN RA by John F. Szwed. Who can figure out Sun Ra? Not me! Don't try, maybe that's the message here. It is kind of like the time I told you the true fact that the Dalai Lama is not a vegetarian. Favorite Sun Ra quotation lately: "Did you see STAR WARS? It was very accurate."

Glad to Help

Checking the old "stats" again. I am happy to say that someone found this "blog" by asking Google the question "Are music boxes creepy?"

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sheriff Guy Statue

I know I promised to find out why the guy who played the sheriff in WHEN MICHAEL CALLS has a statue dedicated to him... and I always keep my promises, though I believe you are still waiting for that definition of West Indies Salad I said I would give you in 2006. The name of the guy who played the sheriff in WHEN MICHAEL CALLS was Al Waxman, and he was a tireless philanthropist. And now let me be like my students and quote exclusively from wikipedia (Ha ha ha! Just kidding, students! You're great!): "The Toronto neighbourhood that his starring role in KING OF KENSINGTON made famous, Kensington Market, erected a memorial to Waxman following his death." So, yes, I guess he was in a Canadian TV show called KING OF KENSINGTON. His character's name was Larry King! Why does the statue have red eyes? Look at this person's "blog" for the surprising answer!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Trouble at the Fall Festival

SPOILER ALERT! I guess I will tell you some more about WHEN MICHAEL CALLS, a movie you will never see. But just in case you do, remember I said SPOILER ALERT! So, the aforementioned sheriff is at the Fall Festival but no one else is around. He says something like, "I wonder why nobody else is around." Then he starts dawdling around the empty booths and displays. He drinks some bright orange punch and empties most of his glass back into the punchbowl, which seems like an awful thing to do. He tries to play a jukebox but it doesn't work, and he does a bunch of professional actor pantomime about how mad he is that the jukebox isn't working. Then he hears a voice: "Help me, sheriff! Help me!" It's the same high-pitched weird voice we've heard before WHEN MICHAEL CALLS. So the sheriff naturally climbs some rickety ladder to investigate. Cut to the Fall Festival in full swing. Michael Douglas gets hit in the face with a pie for charity. Twice! Ha ha ha! Everyone has a great time. Then it's time for the pumpkin carving contest. Nobody can find the sheriff, hint hint, so Ben Gazzara is asked to be the judge, which makes no sense, because his daughter is one of the contestants. Anyway, it doesn't matter, as you have already guessed. The blue ribbon for pumpkin carving will soon be the last thing on anyone's mind! All the carved pumpkins are behind a big curtain. "And now we're turning the lights off for a moment," says some old guy who is in charge. "That way we can enjoy the magnificent glow of the carved pumpkins with the candles in them." (I am paraphrasing.) The deputy tugs and tugs on the rope, but the darn curtain won't seem to open all the way. I think you see where this is going! (Hey, when I looked for a picture of the guy who played the sheriff in WHEN MICHAEL CALLS I found out there is a statue of him for some reason! What reason? Leave me alone! I'm too tired to investigate and I have a terrible cold or something so maybe I will look it up for you tomorrow. Why are you still reading this? But anyway, that's crazy, huh? A statue of the guy who played the sheriff in WHEN MICHAEL CALLS.)


So in WHEN MICHAEL CALLS, one character is a caricature of a country sheriff, and he has this actual line of dialogue: "I'm a caricature of a country sheriff."