Tuesday, December 9, 2014

bookmobiles in the rearview


This morning on Facebook, I ran across an article my friend Derick Mitchell posted regarding the passing of bookmobiles.  He loves old vehicles and is also married to a librarian.  I imagine he's been in plenty of bookmobiles in his lifetime.

I only boarded the City of Gadsden's bookmobile only once in my life.  It was in the late 1960's and the children of R.A. Mitchell elementary were lined in single file for a walk-through of the unusual book filled bus parked in front of the school.  At the time, I had never heard of such a thing. Was it a car made out of books or a car you could somehow read.  Before leading the kids out, Mrs. Lane told us that the Bookmobile was a library on wheels.  My mind then went to a vehicle made out of brick and mortar.  I had no idea what we were about to behold when we all got outside and see for ourselves.

Our visit that day was "look but don't touch" visit, because we were not invited to actually check a book out.  They were merely showing off the spanking new vehicle as if it were a traveling museum of sorts.  Not being able to actually check out a book that day kind of lead me to believe that those books were not meant for us mountain kids. We after-all had a nicely stocked library at school and my family had lots of books lining our large bookcases at home.

There was a reason I wasn't too anxious to check out a bookmobile book when given the opportunity.  I don't recall the bookmobile dropping by often ~ how regular the visit and when. I wasn't sure when, how and if I would be able to return a book borrowed if the bookmobile failed to come my way again.  Would there be a penalty for a book I was unable to return?  Would the bookmobile come looking for me in the middle of the night?  Would an angry librarian wake me from my sleep, demand that I produce the un-returned book, a high fee or worse...face a penalty?  Would the last time my parents see me, was me crying-calling out to them from the back window of the bus as it drove out of site and to where?  I know I was a child with a vivid imagination, but I wasn't about to take any chances.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

50's in the 70's

 
Gadsden High School Parade, Broad Street, 1974


During that time, we teens were experiencing a 50's revival of sorts. We had school Sock Hops, watched Happy Days on television and American Graffiti at the Drive-In. Sure American Graffiti was set in the early 60's, and all the cruising cars radios were tuned to music of the 50's. It was a great soundtrack and we borrowed it for a while in the 70's. We enjoyed listening to the classic rock'n and roll'n mixed in with the pop hits of our decade. We didn't mind the generational mix - able to dance to music from 50's through the 70's. I enjoyed the spirit of it, but for some reason never got around to watching Grease.
The photo above was shared by Bobby Bugg at his Facebook group Gadsden,AL: City of Champions.  I was in the graduating class of 1977 at Gadsden High's rival school Emma Sansom High School. Having not gone to Gadsden High, I don't know anyone in this shot.  It does however bring back memories of that time.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

comedy is better together

I first noticed that comedy wasn't as fun if experienced alone was in 1977. It was a return of Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein when the show came back to town.  The first time I had seen it was with by brother when it was originally released in 1974. I had watched it several times that initial showing with other friends who had yet to see it.  It was a brilliant piece of work, and still remains one of my favorites. 

In 1977 it had already shown on our little screen at home and I was looking forward to seeing it once again on the big screen.  I just couldn't enjoy it.  It wasn't as funny without having someone to enjoy it with. Sure, a joke isn't as funny after the first time it's heard ~ because we've already heard the punchline.  But Brooks had made a comedic classic ~ a work of art that rates right up there with best of The Marx Brothers.  So there I was, sitting in the mall cinema, hilarious stuff going on, but couldn't laugh.



Maybe it's as simple as the fact that it's easier to laugh with someone than without someone. I can watch Buster Keaton's The General and appreciate the seamless movement and synchronicity of his genius and timing, but not enjoy it to it's fullest because it's a joy that must be shared. Last year I shared Buster Keaton with my youngest daughter Kelsey.  She is now a Keaton fan. I relive his comedy completely again in her presence.  

Not so long ago, my daughter Katie and I would watch The Three Stooges together.  We enjoyed the silliness of it all sitting side by side on the living room couch.  When I was a kid, I'd watch The Three Stooges with my siblings on Saturday mornings, huddled together on a blanket in front of the old black and white Zenith on the living room floor.  Those guys brought giggles and roars of laughter from that young audience.  It wasn't the same until Katie came along, I could laugh at them again.

These days, when a good comedy comes around, which is rare, I don't go it alone. I really believe that you don't know how fun a moment can be when you're not experiencing that moment with someone. I realize this post is terribly redundant, but I'm trying to make a point.
Shared laughter is the best laughter.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

the fly: the original still has it

HELP ME!  HELP MEEEEE!
Halloween has just changed since we were kids.  The neighborhoods are not crowded with little kids out trick-or-treating like they used to do.  Schools no longer have Halloween Carnivals, but rather Fall Festivals and parents now take their kids to no spooky Trunk-or-Treats.  I'm not complaining, it's just not the same.

My girls like chili and so I decided to make the day a little special by teaching them how to make the stuff.  Gina wanted us to drive out to Glencoe and cook it over at her mother's house which is now vacant after she passed away last December.  We are about to lease the house, and Gina wanted to spend a little time there as a family.  We did.

Nothing much goes on in our neighborhood in Southside, so we were thinking that College Street in Glencoe might be teaming with children.  Katie wanted to give out candy this year.  Gina bought candy, the good stuff, for Katie to give away.  As the chili was simmering and the Mexican cornbread baking, Gina took Kelsey trick-or-treating the old fashioned way.

Even though I lit the house up with candles and lit plastic pumpkins, not a single visit from area children.  No one was out.  Maybe the shower kept the children in, but that kind of rain would not have kept me in when I was a kid. Katie and I killed time talking and cutting up, while waiting for Gina and Kelsey to return. The smell of the chili and cornbread was beckoning me.

Gina and Kelsey returned after a 45 minute walk around the neighborhood.  Most of the residents in the neighborhood seemed to not be participating. Those that did, kindly offered stuff they could dig up quickly from their kitchens.

Nevertheless, as different a Halloween night as it was, it was a good time together.  We ate the chili, talked and laughed together.  We cleaned up, took out the trash, locked up and came home.  Gina wanted to watch an old horror movie.  She wanted to show the girls THE FLY (1958).  I told her that I found it on Netflix and had it on my favorites list to watch this week.  That's how she wanted to spend the rest of the evening...watching a campy old horror classic.

The movie was made the same year I was born.  I was surprised that Katie and Kelsey were captivated by the story.  I had no idea how an old movie like that still maintained it's creepy factor.  I remember watching it as a boy, and it did it's job of creeping me out pretty good.  I didn't think it could still be as potent all these decades later with a young audience acclimated to the super realistic special f/x of today.  I can attest to the fact that THE FLY has still got it!

I made one mistake tonight. Right at the end of the movie, right as the spider neared the fly, I reached out and touched Kelsey as she was tensely crouched on the couch next to her mother.  She shot straight up off the couch...launched like a rocket she did.  I am afraid that scared the living daylights out of her.

Bad dad...bad-bad dad!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

most memorable halloween

I don't remember the year but I'm pretty sure it was 1972, during my first year of junior high school.  It was the last time I went trick-or-treating.  Kids my age were still going door to door for the fun and candy of it.

My brother Brook an an MGB that he tooled around in back in those days.  It was a fun ride...when it was running.  Brook seemed to always be working on it.  A rusty toolbox always at ready in the yard, next to where the car was usually parked, because the these foreign jobs always needed the work.

The car was running that October night. My littlest sisters Cindy and Florrie took the passenger seat. There was no backseat to the MGB, so I happily got to perch up on the back of the car, with only my legs in the vehicle to keep the rest of me with the vehicle.  The atmosphere of that early Fall evening was cool  and clear...the air was perfect!

Brook drove us all around the mountain neighborhoods that night. The ride was more enjoyable than the stops that evening.  Brook usually had his 8-track going, but tonight it was just the sounds of that night.  I remember the sound of that MGB motor purring around curves and down the straights, up and down hills, what an awesome ride!  I was looking down on the road, over their heads, over the windshield.  It was a great view all around as dusk turned to night.

I guess it was 9:30 that neighborhoods started getting darker, as people started turning off their porch lights - to indicate it was time for all munchkins and goblins to go home.  Our last stop had been on a hill.  Brook took the emergency brake off and the little car rolled back a little just before the engine started.  The cold seemed to come now that the neighborhood lights were going out.  Riding home in the darkness, running beneath the occasional street lamp, feeling the chill, and knowing that we were all homeward bound. It was my last time out on Halloween night as a boy.  It was the best!

Friday, October 24, 2014

catchy tune


There was this public service announcement back in 1969 that played often throughout the day.  I was ten at the time, had no idea what the song was trying to say.  The video consisted of image after image of people of all ages going about, laughing, having fun. A woman's voice could be singing 'VD is for Everybody'. It was a very upbeat and chipper sounding song.  At eleven years old, I had no idea what VD was (Valentine's Day?), but it sure sounded like something I'd enjoy.

The lyrics were so catchy that I started singing the song right after the family had gathered for lunch one Sunday afternoon. I remember getting the strangest looks from around the table.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Caribbean Blue is Parrish Blue

About the time music videos lost their newness, started becoming formulaic, along came Enya from across the sea.  Her music was ethereal, layered and textured, as were the music videos that accompanied her songs.  The 'Watermark' LP made this Irish woman and international star.  'Sail Away' was a big in the United States.  Her album, 'Shepherd Moons' featured a song with very nice visuals that appealed to me.  'Caribbean Blue' is a song that features wistful imageries of Maxfield Parrish brought to life.  All of Enya's videos are rich in color, with thick textures as if painting oil with a knife.  Shepherd Moons is no different.  This tribute to Maxfield was a perfect marriage of both audio and visual.

I had discovered the fantastical works of Maxfield Parrish and Arthur Rackham in my teens, right before I discovered the brothers Tim and Greg Hildebrandt. I've always appreciated illustrators who could put the meat on the bones of fiction characters. Another artist that comes to mind is N.C Wyeth.  Maxfield Parrish was the first for me, and maybe that's why I find Enya's Caribbean Moons personally satisfying.

Watching this video today, I think of my daughter Katie, how she loves books.
Caribbean Blue reminds me of one of my favorite artist, with imagery that captures what awaits young eyes inside dusty old books. I was reminded when Katie started getting into reading, experiencing new worlds spinning into existence as she reached from page to page, book to book ~ from world to world. These visuals bring these sweet moments back to me. Through her eyes I was reminded of my early pilgrimages, my first adventures into printed worlds.

Enya of course, is always pleasant to listen to, like feeling a cool breeze from the sea, or the first bite of a York Peppermint Pattie.  Her music is ever soothing, and  nice that the video of awakened Parrish figures were invited to the dance.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Elvis the Actor



Elvis was king of rock 'n roll, but he also had the chops for acting.  He wanted to get beyond his teenage heart-throb fluff movies.  He wanted to sink his teeth into some serious roles.  It's just too bad that he never got that chance - or couldn't recognize it when it passed under his nose.  There were only a couple of times that he got to scratch at the surface with Love Me Tender (1956) and Charro (1969).

He had agreed to do Charro because he had read the script and it was a movie that he didn't have to sing.  He was disappointed when he got on the set the first day and found out that the script had been completely overhauled to his disliking.  It would've been interesting to see him in movies that didn't simply rely on his personality and presence.  I would've liked to have seen Elvis get that chance, with a good script and a good director.

Elvis might've let that chance slip from his fingers.  He was offered the role John Norman Howard in the 1976 remake of A Star is Born that eventually went to Kris Kristofferson.  Elvis didn't like the idea that he would have to portray such a weak man.  Hey Elvis, IT'S CALLED ACTING!   I really believe the part was written for him.  If he wanted to break out of the typecasting, the rut he had been wedged in all those years, he should've taken that part and play weak.  You also have to throw Colonel Tom Parker in the mix, making any possibility of accepting  or getting the role impossible.


Kristofferson played the part well, but I believe A Star Is Born could've been a Hollywood benchmark movie if Elvis Presley had taken that role.  Sure he would've had to have sung a little, but this wasn't going to be the same template of his past films.  I believe he would've taken the audience deeper by putting a little more flesh on that character.  I believe his personal appeal and connection with the audience down through the years would've played to his advantage in this story.  He really could've done something with that part, but let it go for a silly reason so as to not appear a vulnerable and flawed man.

But maybe, just maybe Elvis didn't want to take that role because the character was in fact a little too real for him, a little too close to home.  Looking at his life; what he'd just been through as an artist, surviving the British Invasion, his coming back, maybe he thought he might lose ground.  But maybe, just maybe his comeback to movies would've been even more a triumph if he'd thrown himself into that John Norman Howard character.  This is just my conjecture.

We'll never know.
  Elvis died in 1977.  He went out big even though he never made his imprint on film like he wanted to do.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Monkeemobile


It might have looked good on the drawing board, but it sure turned out to be one ugly rod when it actually rolled out of the shop.  Frankly, I don't think it looked good on the drawing board.  Dean Jeffries was hired to create two of these Monkeemobiles from Pontiac GTOs for the televisions show.  One Monkeemobile was made to be used on the show and the other for the road as a promotional vehicle.  Eventually, both were used on the show.

This car sold a lot of plastic models in it's day.  A little further down the road, the model resurfaced as Fonzy's dream rod.  I think the Fonz would've chosen differently, something really cool.



If I had my choice of one of Dean Jeffries' famous customs, I'd opt for The Green Hornet's Black Beauty.  My second choice would be The Batmobile!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

rock this world


Punk and New Wave hit the airwaves in the late seventies and early eighties, washing away remnants of disco.  At the time, I was enjoying to a degree a raw refreshing reprieve from the over-produced sounds of the day.  I was still lamenting the exit of the singer/songwriter era that lasted from the sixties to the seventies.

There was a band that came out from amid the punk, who's members looked punkish, but gave the audience something both retro and fresh.  The Stray Cats were born of punk, but their sound was more old school, reminiscent of the artists and sounds that once came from 1950's Sun Records.  I was floored by the dynamic of their distinct sound.  The punk infused rockabilly band resurrected an old familiar sound into new life, rocketing the music world toward a rockabilly revival.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

to have and have not

As baby boomers, we grew up in a time when television was still in it's infancy.  We didn't have oodles of channels.  We had a dial that had only thirteen channels and many had no stations broadcasting from the other end. Weekdays we'd watch the B movies rebroadcast on Tom York's 'Dialing for Dollars'. Friday night and Saturday night was when we'd watch those those A list film classics that our parents had gone to see at the cinemas of their youth.

Bogart was dead before I was born, yet I was introduced to his work via the small screen from our old black and white zenith. 
There were many actors and actresses from the silver screen that I first met on our family's little screen.  I became a fan of Clark Gable, John Garfield, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Maureen O'Hara, John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Ingrid Bergman ~ there are just too many to mention them all.  My generation was connected to all those old movies and all of those stars of preceding generations.

We are now experiencing the final curtain call, the last of that golden era taking leave of us.  I know of only a few of those old film greats still among the living.   Lauren Bacall is among the very last.  We lost Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney this year.  We no longer have them among us, but we will continue to have a part of them captured on celluloid.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Goodbye Jim

April 7, 1928 ~ July 19, 2014
James Garner is one of my all time favorite actors.  So much in fact that I kind of always dreaded seeing James Garner grow old.  I knew that that inevitable day would come, and never wanted it to.  How did a mere actor find his way into so many peoples hearts?   It's almost as if hearing of an uncle's death.

Funny thing, I tried to write this post last month, but simply couldn't pull my thoughts together to write about him. How did he manage to get into this heart like that? It's a month later, and I want to make note of his passing.  I still can't wrap my mind around it.
Perhaps a past post will suffice.

Monday, August 11, 2014

what Robin Williams taught me

July 21, 1951 ~ August 11, 2014

I am not a professional stand-up, but I am a funny fellow.  I know that's my lot in life is to laugh and make others laugh.  If I am not doing that, and in the dumps, I know that I am not doing what God meant me to do.  My purpose is joy, and the fight in my life is to keep the devil from stealing it.  I'm serious.

I was saddened to hear of Robin Williams death today.  I am purposely not going to linger on the tragedy of what they are saying is a suicide.  Instead I will linger on all the laughter in my life that he's directly responsible for.  I am going to thank God for that joy that shot out of his being like a fire hose.  I am sorry Robin, that you left before the end of the show. 
What an awesome fellow.
Robin Williams had a big influence on me down through the years.  I didn't care for all his movies, but the guy was fluent in comedy.  He was the greatest ad-libber of his generation, and perhaps anyone who has gone before.  Like Robin, I was influenced by his early influence, Jonathan Winters.  Both possessed the same comedic genius, as if they were father and son. 

I watched the Wacky World of Jonathan Winters as a kid from '72 - '74.  It was Winter's show that I started exercising that brand of wacky improvisational wit.  When Robin landed as Mork in '77, I enjoyed watching a younger and zanier version of Winters.  Like I started this post, I am not a stand-up, but I've always related and learned from those two nuts.

There was a time in the mid-eighties that I picked up some bad advise.  You see, ad-lib requires to be spontaneous and work without a net.  With this brand of comedy, you associate everything, pull funny out of nowhere, not knowing where you find the next bit.  It's all free association humor, and it's often not pretty.  The problem is, I was told by someone I loved and respected dearly that I should think through everything I say before I say it and say only the funny stuff.  I tried doing this for about three years and it made me feel as if I was tripping over myself ~ and I was!  A lot of the joy had gone from me, and I just wasn't myself.

In the early nineties, after I was married and living in Bowling Green, I was watching an interview with Robin Williams.  In his interview he expressed that he made mistakes all the time.  He said he works out his act while doing his act.  He said that he did have prepared material that he used only as a springboard, and just dives into the unknown.  The success of his act is that he was pulling the stuff out of nowhere with just a little memorized material.  He was like a wild and uninhibited comedic Tarzan swinging from vine to vine, with an oblivious hope of where the next line would be.

You'll never know what it meant for me to hear that conversation.  This fellow wasn't filtering every word, but the freedom came from just jumping in there and having fun with it.  It was God whispering in my ear to go out there and break a leg ~ have fun, bring the spirit of Joy with you...and don't look down.  

I also learned through that interview that I can have fun without necessarily being funny.  I've had plenty of moments when people have said, "That's not funny!"  I reply, "So?"   I fail less often these days, I don't apologize when I do.  I just get back up, laugh at myself and keep pitching.  The only failure is to lose the joy.

Robin, thank you! 



Monday, July 14, 2014

that red headed jewish girl

September 29, 1942 – December 3, 1999
I was and always will be a fan of the late Madeline Kahn.  A classic beauty, an incredible actress, singer and dancer...Madeline could do it all.  She remains one of my all time favorite comedians. You could've taken that talent of hers and dropped it anywhere in the Hollywood timeline and she would've risen to the top.  Her best work was with Mel Brooks, who tapped into her comedic genius.  Brooks literally had to gag his film crew every time Madeline was in front of the camera, she was that funny.  Yet Madeline never thought herself to be a funny person, she said that she had to work hard at comedy.  You'd never know it to watch her.  Oh how I wished she were still around entertaining today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

no easy horses

Me on my two-wheeled chariot, a long time ago.
Learning to ride a bike is as easy as falling off a bike.

Kelsey is eleven years old.  It's past time that she learns to ride a bike.  I need the exercise, and I want to ride bikes with her before school starts.  My girls, like a lot of kids today, are indoor creatures.  They read, play video games and forage for food in the fridge.


Today I beckoned Kelsey out to the garage.  I oiled up the chains to Gina's old Schwinn an got Kelsey to fill the tires with the foot pump.  I made some adjustments to the handlebar and seat and commenced to teach her how to ride a bike.

She's compliant to instruction, but she had the look as though she had rather be inside playing Minecraft on her Kindle Fire.  Kelsey has spent enough of her short Summer in her room playing Minecraft or creating stuff with her Legos.  She needs to get out, move around, feel the wind in her hair.

I don't remember when I learned to ride a bike.  I was pretty young.  No one taught me how to ride.  The only way I was going to keep up with my older siblings was to jump on that thing and learn.  I remember falling a lot. I don't remember getting frustrated.  I wanted to learn it right then and there and I don't recall it taking me that long to learn.  The secret to riding a bike is not falling off.

There are two steps to successful bike riding; (1) motion (2) balance.  Kelsey seemed to get the balance down pretty quick. She's still having trouble getting her foot on that peddle for that initial thrust.  She'll get it, not today, but soon, and for the rest of her life.  You go girl!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

¡Viva la muerte... tua!

I stumbled across an Spaghetti Western made back in 1971 that starred Eli Wallach and Frano Nero.  It's a quirky film which has similarities in plot to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Wallach once again plays a bandito character and Franco who's character is a Russian Prince.  Both characters, like in Leone's masterpiece, are two men who don't like each other but both after a buried gold treasure.  Sound familiar?

Both Wallach and Nero play well off each other in this strange Western action adventure comedy. There's plenty of action and adventure and the story doesn't drag like many substandard Italian Westerns often do.  The comedy aspect falls flat in this picture.  It's a shame the script and production are weak.  I watched this movie because of the late Eli Wallach.  I'm a fan.  He's always entertaining to watch, but he didn't have the choice lines, nor were his scenes framed very well.  The story had potential, but just wasn't carried through as well as it could've been. 
It's still though enjoyable movie to watch.
¡Viva la muerte... tua! is the original title, English translation is Long Live Your Death.  Eli Wallach didn't like the title so he insisted on Don't Turn The Other Cheek for the American release.  You'll understand the title as the story unfolds.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

three amigos


I never got enough of these guys.  They were so incredible in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I had hopes that Leone would throw them together somewhere down the trail. That was never to be.  Eli Wallach only appeared in one of Leone's Dollar films.  He was brilliant. Van Cleef was in the first and last of the trilogy.  His career was revived after those films.  Eastwood's rise never stopped.

Leone did offer Eastwood and Wallach roles in Duck You Sucker (aka: Fistful of Dynamite).  Eastwood declined because he felt the role was too close to his Man With No Name character in the Dollar films.  James Coburn picked up Eastwood's part and Rod Steiger ended up with the part written for Wallach.  That would've been interesting to watch.  Coburn did a great job, but the film seemed hollow without Wallach playing the bandit. 

Leone originally intended an opening farewell at the beginning of Once Upon A Time in The West.  Leone wanted to kill off his three Dollar stars at the beginning of his new Western trilogy. Sergio intended to have Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef to be the three gunmen waiting at the train station at the first of Once Upon A Time In The West.  Wallach and Van Cleef agreed to do it, but Eastwood refused. 

I wonder how many other young men like me waited and hoped that Eastwood, Wallach, and Van Cleef would one day be in a Western together again.  It was a secret hope of mine.  Sergio Leone was an admirer of John Ford.  John Ford had what people referred to as his 'stock company'.  Wouldn't it have been nice if Leone had picked up on that idea from Ford.  Leone did use actors over again, but why dust his boots off of these three amigos?




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chuck paints a ceiling


Tonight I watched THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (1965) with Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison.  I've had this movie on my 'to watch list' on Netflix for about three months and didn't even know if I had the interest to finish it once I started.  I vaguely remember seeing this movie many years ago, and only remembered a continuous argument between a pope and a painter.  I didn't recall anything else about it, but wanted to revisit it in my adulthood, as someone with more of an attention span and interest for such arguments.

I was really fascinated at how great this movie really is.  To me, this is Charlton Heston's greatest piece of acting.  I realize that Charlton work is shadowed by his role as Moses in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and as Judah Ben Hur in BEN HUR, but dog-gone it, his Michelangelo is his masterpiece.  I've always enjoyed movies with Chuck, from Moses to the Omega Man, but I always thought of his acting as a little stiff ~ a little lofty.  I'll admit it's been my misperception all along, because the man had a face that could've been chiseled and smoothed by Michelangelo himself.  Maybe I placed him in my mind as more the big movie star rather than that of a great actor.   Now that I've seen The Agony and the Ecstasy as an adult, I have completely changed my view of him.  This man was a great actor!

Heston wasn't stiff, or lofty, no striding in this film.  Chuck's Michelangelo seemed more like a blue collar worker who was passionate about his craft, demanded pay for his work, and didn't mind giving his employer a piece of his mind if he felt the quality of his work was compromised...even if his employer was The Pope.

Kudos also to Rex Harrison who played Pope Julius II.  Harrison has played many memorable characters throughout his career, but this Pope peering up to Michelangelo peering down from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were incredible film moments.  Iron sharpens iron, and these two great actors delivered brilliant sparks flashing against each other throughout this film. They were just wonderful together.


Now that I've revisited and enjoyed the ecstasy of The Agony and the Ecstasy, I am going to have to revisit another one of Irving Stone's book to movie LUST FOR LIFE that starred Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh.  I remember it being a great movie.  I must watch it again after having not seen it in over thirty years.  I'll get back to you.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

the robe revisited


I noticed Netflix made the 1953 movie THE ROBE available.  I remember television networks showing this movie every year around Easter.  It's been a long time since I'd watched it and I had almost forgotten about it.

THE ROBE is a fictional story that tells the story of the Roman soldier who won Jesus' robe in game of dice.  It's a good story for what it is and was worth revisiting.  It's is a dramatic film that was one of many Biblical epic productions of that time.  I felt it a little over-dramatic, much like most of the Biblical epic films of it's day, but the movie still has it's merits.

Most Biblical based films were that way until Johnny Cash's GOSPEL ROAD (1973) and the television mini-series JESUS OF NAZARETH (1977).  These movies seemed to bring the Son of God down to Earth more so than the huge productions that preceded them.

Interesting note about THE ROBE is that it was the first film shot in CinemaScope and actually had a sequel, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954). Throughout my life I had never seen the widescreen-letterbox version, rather the standard 1.33 ratio that was altered for television.  The visuals in the movie are quite stunning and worth watching again just so you can get big picture originally intended.  I also just learned that Jeff Chandler was originally considered to play Demetrius before Victor Mature.  Chandler would've made a great Demetrius, but Mature played his melodramatic part well.



Monday, March 17, 2014

squad 51


Jack Webb followed his successful Dragnet with Adam-12 and then to Emergency!.  Like the two previous shows, Emergency! focused on the lives of two civil servants, going day to day doing their job.  Unlike Webb's previous productions, Emergency focused on the lives of two paramedics, John Gage and Roy DeSoto, rather than law enforcement officers. 

I've watched all the Dragnet shows and the characters are stoic and the scripts dry and often preachy.  Even Harry Morgan's Bill Gannon's comic lines were dry and added minimal warmth to the show.  Dragnet begat Adam-12 which was a little warmer, but still a little dry and impersonal.


Emergency! came along and there was more warmth to the show.  Sure there was all the professional tech jargon and proper procedure being exhibited that Mark VII Limited productions had become known for, but the characters of Emergency were warmer and more identifiable.  As the show progressed, the viewer got to enjoy the interaction, the community of people working together at both the Rampart General  and at L.A. Fire Station 51.  This community ~ the relationships were something new for Webb to show the audience. 

I enjoyed revisiting Emergency! this past month these three decades later.  As a youth I'd  watch the show for the rescues, but found myself enjoying it for the relationships portrayed within the story.  Should I dare relate the kind of community portrayed in this show likened those memorable characters in the old John Ford movies?  I think I'll pay the show that great compliment.  Watching Emergency! again, I really wasn't pulled in by the death defying rescues, but rather enjoyed the show for a different reason. 

The show, like all other Mark VII Limited dramas were formulaic, and limited in realism.  I do believe that Jack Webb was probably the first to try to bring a type of reality television to American audiences.  Funny thing is, as much as I enjoyed Emergency!, I couldn't remember any of the episodes from my youth.  This isn't so with Dragnet.  As dry and stoic Dragnet is, I easily remembered most of episodes some four decades later. 

I remember very little about Adam-12.  I am trying to watch them, but they are not as interesting to watch as Dragnet or Emergency!.   I don't know why, I can't just seem to get into it like I did the prior and latter.  What I have noticed is that Adam-12 is the series between the two, a little warmer than Dragnet yet not nearly as warm as Emergency!.  I remember thinking when I was a kid that Webb's casting for the Emergency paramedic duo reminded me too much of the casting for the Adam-12 patrolmen duo.  At first glimpse the Adam-12 duo Pete Malloy and Jim Reed seemed almost identical to Emergency's paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage.  Was it just me that thought that? 

There was a cookie cutter means in which all of Jack Webb's productions were made.  They were all shot quickly and in like fashion.  I thought it humorous that Emergency! partners seemed to be clones of Adam-12's partners.  But as Emergency! developed, Roy DeSoto and John Gage took on their own identity and unique relationship.  I read where both actors, Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth, in real life became life long friends from their working together for seven years together as DeSoto and Gage.

Before Emergency! I'd never heard of a paramedic or an EMT.  The show spawned national interest in the idea, rescue squads started popping up all over the place thanks to that particular show.  Another thing I liked about the show is that several of the firemen on Emergency! were actually firemen.  These moonlighters turned out to be pretty good actors.  I really didn't know if I was going to enjoy the show like I had when I was a teenager.  It took me a while to actually get around to watching Season 1, Episode 1 on Netflix.  Once I started I didn't stop.  It was fun revisiting the Emergency!

Friday, March 7, 2014

more than 86




Don Adams was a comedian who started his career doing stand-up.  He's most known for his roll as Agent 86, Maxwell Smart on Mel Brook's and Buck Henry's Get Smart. Don was a funny guy who experienced a great deal of success with his bumbling wry-voiced secret agent character, but ended up being tied to it for life.  After the show he continued to work doing stand-up, voice over, and guests appearances on television shows.  He wanted to move on to dramatic rolls but he was stuck with Smart.  I know Adams would've done great with other type rolls as other comedians have since.  Nevertheless, Don had a successful career and has a place in television history as well as our collective memories.

Here's some more about Don Adams to add to your memories. I had read a while back that Don Adams was once a United States Marine Drill Instructor. Would you believe that he saw combat on Gualdalcanal and was the lone survivor of his entire platoon?  He nearly died after contracting blackwater fever and was hospitalized for over a year.

 
It wasn't until after his ordeals that he became a Marine Corps DI.  It's hard to picture this funny fellow serving in such a serious roll in life.  It would've been interesting to know how his sense of humor played a part in his wartime experience.  I know his story is larger than he ever let on.  Don is like countless other men who volunteered to serve and sacrifice ~ who return to civilian life to pursue their happiness without saying much about their experience.

Don Adams was definitely more than Maxwell Smart.


 
 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jack Webb Gone Wild


Jack Webb had two successful spin-offs with Dragnet; Adam-12 and Emergency!.  In 2005, during the fourth season (episode 22) of Emergency!, Jack tried to launch a new spin-off that he directed himself.  905 WILD was very much like Emergency!.  It featured an LA Animal Bureau Control officers instead.  Like all Webb productions - it was going to have the same format as his previous productions.  It's the worst episode of Emergency! and I don't know what in the world was on Jack's mind to even think that a show would go anywhere but to the birds.

Seeing this episode last night, I immediately recognized a very young Mark Hamill.  He's kind of goofy looking.  The other Animal Control officer was played by Albert Popwell.  This wasn't his best work, nor was it any other actor on this pilot.  Popwell played in all but one of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry movies.  David Huddleston plays an animal doctor in this show.  He's a character actor I've seen countless times on both small and large screen.  Huddleston played supporting roles in Rio Lobo, Blazing Saddles, The Big Lebowski and on and one.  He's also been in a plethora of television shows throughout the decades.  Gary Crosby (Bing's son) also had a part in this show that just wasn't to be.  Gary had just finished a regular part on Adam-12.   Even though 905 WILD had a good cast - the acting was mediocre.  It was doomed from the start.  Not to worry, all of these show's cast members went on to bigger and better things...well...all of them except Bing's boy.

You can watch this episode on Hulu that I've linked here.  I'll warn you that this is a terrible episode.  The part where the a dying baby goat was taken to Rampart Hospital is just too silly and sappy for my liking.  As cute as it is, my heart won't bleat over an unconcious baby goat.  Sorry Jack - this show was dead on arrival.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

flexible flyer


My children have missed out on sledding.  They have no idea as to what it's like to fly down a steep snowy hill, negotiating the turns, avoiding the trees, the ditches, those bare spots, feeling the chill and the thrill on a sled.  I'm sure Katie and Kelsey have seen pictures in storybooks, but doubtfully seen the real thing. 

I know they've never sanded and waxed the runners; sandpaper or steel wool, an old candle or a bar of soap. They've never chosen the perfect place to start.  They've never mounted atop a genuine sled, push off with their toes and slide quickly forward - no brakes.  They've never had to stop by pulling hard to one direction and rolling into a snowy awkward end and laughing and laughing at the foot of the hill. 
I hope they get a chance while in their youth. I hope they get a chance at such a memory.
 

I still have mine.

Monday, February 10, 2014

made by Marx

The original Stony Smith by Marx
 Marx Toys made those little green army men we used to play with as kids.  When Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe in February of 1964, Marx saw the need to get in on the act. They introduced a big green army man called Stony Smith.  Now Stony wasn't the man of action that G.I. Joe was because the early design of Stony didn't have as many articulating body parts as Joe.  The legs were as stiff as a little green army man.  The elbows could articulate, the head could swivel and the hands could grasp guns and grenades.

I got a later version of Stony in which the legs could move, but could not bend at the knee.  Marx Toys just didn't know how to compete with Hasbro's hero that had nineteen pivotal contact points.  Marx kept coming up a minute late and a dollar short.  The idea behind an action figure is so the figure can pose in various positions.  Marx simply could not compete with Hasbro's soldier because of their product's limited moveable parts.


The idea behind G.I. Joe was to sell a product to accessorize with more gear and vehicles.  Stoney came with the green fatigues he was molded with as well as a lot of really cool gear.  All his equipment was as green as Stony's plastic flesh.  Joe's gear came painted for realism, but you had to buy Joe's gear separately. 

The more articulate Buddy Charlie by Marx
Marx tried to make various improvements to make their action figure more articulate, but in the meantime, Hasbro established their product as THE action figure to buy.  Marx finally came out with a more moveable action figure with a flesh color body that a kid could dress as he pleased, they called him Buddy Charlie. 

It was too late for Marx to compete with G.I. Joe.  They eventually took the Stony Smith head and stuck it on a brown cowboy body and called him Johnny West.  They did pretty good with the Western action figures. They stuck to their idea of stuffing lots of stuff in the box that came with their figures.  I had a Stony Smith, Johnny West, Captain Maddox and a Custard.  Of course I didn't play Cowboys and Indians with The Best of the West characters.  I put fatigues on them, handed them an M-I and made them fight Nazis.


Rat Patrol television characters by Marx
Besides all the extra gear that came with Stony Smith, there was another feature that I appreciated about the Marx figures.  Aside from Stony and Johnny sharing the same head sculpt, all the rest of the Marx figures had different faces.  G.I. Joe had the same facial features with different colored hair.  Marx also started marketing action figures associated with popular television shows such as The Rat Patrol, Man from Uncle, Lone Ranger and others.  Marx found their niche after trying to compete with Hasbro and losing.

Personally, I liked Stony Smith.  He was one of my favorite guys.  Even when his legs fell off, I found a way to keep him in the story by making him Captain- issuing his orders from his sleeping bag.  At one point I tried to tie his legs back on, but never got them tight enough to where he could get back on his green feet and back into action.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The first A-Team


Hasbro stopped marketing their successful selling 'fighting soldier' as the Vietnam War seemed to become 'unpopular'.  A lot of stores were slowing down marketing war related toys.  Hasbro started de-emphasizing the military aspect of G.I. Joe and started emphasizing 'action' by selling G.I. Joe as members of the Adventure Team.  Joes were dressed and equipped with gear for high adventures in mountains, deserts, jungles and the oceans.  Joes no longer fought Japs or Nazis, but rather lions tigers and bears - OH MY!

These Joes didn't look like the old Joes either.  They came with 'life-like hair, kung-foo grip.  Some had super human abilities such as Eagle Eye and Bullet Head to play off the then popular action Six Million Dollar Man action figure made by Kenner..


I remember being disappointed with the new Adventure Team Joes at that point.  I especially didn't get into super human guys.  The Mike Powers, the one that was competing with the bionic man Steve Austin.  It looked like a Ken doll and I didn't want a bionic dude fighting Nazis.  Sorry Mike.


Adventure Team Fuzz Heads
I never wanted any of the Adventure Team mission gear.  I did acquire some of the life-like hair, kung-fu grip Joes.  They didn't go hunt white tigers or wrestle alligators, they were drafted into my army. I removed their AT dog-tags and AT sticker on their shirts and issued them M-1 carbines and ordered them to fight Nazis.  The military gear was now in short supplies at the stores.  I could still get guys, but I had to make due with military ordnance.  I didn't have enough rifles and machine guns to go around.  There were plenty of times when one Joe died in a firefight, the weapon was on to one of the fuzzy faced new guys that needed a gun.  The Adventure Team Joes did come with a sidearm, a shoulder holster with a revolver.  Those were pretty cool, but I had plenty of boots on the ground, but JC Penney and Sears were on an anti-war kick, and weren't selling the supplies I needed for the war effort.

One cool thing about the kung-fu grip Joes, I could take an X-acto blade and separate the trigger finger of the hand so the new Joes could grip a firearm better.  I wished all my Joes had that kung-fu grip.

The Adventure Team guys were okay, but I gave my old Joes seniority and preference over the fuzzy headed ones.  I wasn't pleased that the military aspect was being phased out. I wasn't happy that Hasbro had changed their soldier into an adventure guy.  I was just a kid.  I wasn't a hippie mad at Uncle Sam for Vietnam.  I wanted wanted my G.I. Joes to stay G.I.'s!  Was that such a terrible thing to want?

Friday, February 7, 2014

fighting man from head to toe

An old Joe stands guard upon my studio shelf.

In 1964 our family was visiting relatives in Columbia, SC for Christmas.  I'd never heard of a G.I. Joe before that day.  I never asked Santa for one.  Boy was I a happy kid to find a little fighting marine under the tree that year with all that gear. I was ecstatic.  There wasn't a Christmas or a birthday throughout the rest of my childhood that I wasn't asking for another Joe, another accessory, or vehicle.  I had the biggest army in the neighborhood.

I spent countless hours with these guys lost in my vivid imagination, acting out all kinds of adventurous and dangerous scenarios.  Most of my friends had Joes too.  Every now and then we'd combine forces for massive battles.  My G.I. Joes were my most prized possessions as a kid, my all time favorite toy.

G.I. Joe is turning 50 this month.  Happy Birthday soldier!



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

when worlds collide


Dixon Hayes writes a terrific blog called TV When I was Born. He shares his blog with us at the Boomerville,USA facebook group.  This week he wrote about The Beatles.

I'm a little older than Dixon, but I was also a too young to remember much.  I don't remember the Ed Sullivan show or ever seeing The Beatles appear on television during the first waves of the British Invasion.  I do have a memory, the first time I ever heard a Beatles' song.  The first time I heard it,in 1964, wasn't from The Beatles, but rather from the lips of my older brother and sister Brooky and Jennie. The song was I Want To Hold Your Hand and I heard it while sitting in the living-room of my aunt Jennie Llew's house in Columbia, South Carolina.

All my aunts and uncles were in the house. Most of them had been trained in classical/traditional music by their mother who was a voice and music teacher. Brook and Jennie weren't performing the song for them, but were just excited children moving about the room singing the song as they played. I remember the reaction from the grown-ups present which was a look of "What kind of song is that?"  It had a catchy tune and lyrics a six year old could sing so I started singing it too.  The second Beatles song I learned was She Loves You
At six I became a rock and roll fan.  Rock and Roll had been around before I was born, but it was The Beatles that moved me. 
 

Growing up I soon realized that the music our generation loved to listen to and sing wasn't what they thought was music.  I didn't know that back when I first heard Brooky and Jennie started singing that song. Looking back, to me it's ironic that the first time I heard that song was in a room packed with dad's classical music loving siblings.  Throughout my life, whenever they heard me sing a song I wrote, they'd often say I had such a pretty voice to be wasting on such music. I knew they had to have said this to my other singing siblings.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't trying to be hateful or discouraging, but rather were trying to encourage us to sing the right kind of music.

It just wasn't going to be.  This is the music of my generation.  Dad never said much about the music I sang.  Rock albums, guitars and amps eventually came into his household.  I don't think dad cared for the type of music his children played.  I'm sure he had to silently tolerate much of it, but maybe he related.  After all, his Pop wasn't a fan of the Swing/Dance music that he drug into the house.

It wouldn't be long until the Jesus Movement influenced Westbrook's children.  Our love for Jesus and the music of our generation came together like chocolate and peanut butter.  We played our songs youth groups, street corners, coffee houses and eventually before congregations.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

a moveable feast

 
Christian Brothers Association group photo (late 70's).
There's a bunch of people who are absent and wish were represented here
(David A, David B, and David C to name a few).

Our old coffeehouse ministry had various locations as well as various names.  What started out as a prayer meeting of high school and college kids ended up a small coffee house starting as FREE House which was located at 212 South 5th Street downtown Gadsden.

Around the time of Emory Bogg's death, we had moved to a small house on 253 College Street across from the Gadsden Public Library.  The little house is no longer there.  The place was simply too cramped from which to have room to fellowship, let alone sell books and records.  I was a junior in high school at the time and a member of Central United Methodist church on 11th Street.  Many of FREE house members were also members of Central too.  I started inviting friends to the Youth House at 1123 Christopher Street which was owned by Central UMC, located right behind the church.  I have a lot of good memories of our meetings of having FREE house.

There was a point where the ministry started growing.  It was about that time that Christian Brothers Association was formed.  We moved our activities to a larger location at 235 South 6th Street.  The back 2/3rds of the building was used by a daycare.   The entire front of the building was perfect for our book and record store and coffeehouse meetings.  Many people still referred to our meetings at FREE house, but most were calling it Christian Brother's Coffeehouse.  Christian Brother's Association had a lot going on by that time.  Our primary function was the coffeehouse fellowship.  There was a big demand for Jesus Music and we were the place to plug into the music with Christian Brothers' Books & Records.  By 1977 we had our first 'No Jive Jesus Is Alive Falls Festival' at Noccalula Falls Park & Campgrounds.  We amassed a rather large sound system for the festival and ended up going on the road with it with Christian Brother's Rent-A-Sound.  CBA rented out systems for both small and large events.  Even though we grew into doing many things, the coffeehouse, that little fellowship remained the core ministry.

In the early 1980's Christian Brothers Association moved to it's final location at 421 Broad Street where Gadsden Vineyard Church resides today.  The building had a nice old skylight and we appreciated the spiritual implication and named the coffeehouse SKYLIGHT. Christian Brothers continued ministry until 1998.  Upon dissolving the non-profit organization, we gave the building to the church that had been renting from us for their Sunday services - giving the church a permanent home.  You can still find see a small number of old Christian Brother Association members (and their descendents) amid that congregation today.

People came and went down through the years.  We moved multiple times and went by various names.  We had a twenty five years run and it was a great experience.
  Though the coffeehouse is gone, the friendships I made there down through the years are forever.  No matter where we are now, we share a common past and good memories. We will always love each other, remember each other as Christian brothers and sisters.

God bless each of you in your ministry today.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

two wheeled memories


I was ten years old and really wanted my own bike.  I didn't just want any bike.  I wanted one of those new cool looking bikes with high handlebars and a banana seat.  I didn't get a new bike for my birthday.  Dad bought an old bike from a buy and sell show that would come on every Saturday on a local radio station.  It was a worn and rusty bike some guy had under the eave of his house with some other worn and rusty old bikes.  Dad seemed to be very pleased with the bargain, but I was beginning to think I was getting the short end of the deal.  The rusty old bargain was loaded into the back of our Ford Fairlane station wagon and brought home.

Dad got Brook to help me sand the rust off that Saturday afternoon.  Afterward, a coat of silver paint was sprayed onto it.  It was starting to look alright.  Dad picked up some nice fat-knobby tires and a new chain from the Otasco at the Agricola Shopping Center.  Otasco didn't carry those new fangled high handlebars or banana seats.  No one carried them in town.

Dad asked around and found out he could order the items through J.C. Penney on Broad Street.  The order pick-up department was at the back of the store and there was parking lot and entrance in the back which made it quicker to access.  I had to wait about two weeks for my high handlebar and banana seat.  To me, it felt like an eternity.

I remember the day they came and opening the boxes.  Wow!  I started getting excited about the old bargain bike.  I had to wait till the following weekend until Dad and Brook could put on all the new parts.  When I say dad - I mean that dad oversaw Brook.  He was good at giving instructions from the sideline.

My bike never looked brand new, but that didn't matter to me.  My bike was unique and it was MY bike.
It wasn't a pretty bike, but it was durable and custom made for me.  I rode that bike all over the mountain.  I rode it on roads and off, up and down steep hills, shortcuts through people's yards, through bumpy trails in woods.  I road my bike throughout the rest of my childhood, through every season of each passing year.  I rode it until it could carry me no long.  It served me well.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

maybe just my memory alone


As I've mentioned a gazillion times here within this blog ~ I grew up on the mountain on Scenic Highway.  As a kid, like most of the kids I knew, I stomped all over Lookout Mountain neighborhoods. 

I'm thinking of one road in particular today ~ Agricola Drive.  Most of it was a long stretch of dirt road back then that I'd walk or ride my bike down countless times forth and back.  Agricola wasn't a high traffic road, usually if I walked with pals, we could stroll right down the middle side by side without having to move to the shoulder in single file.

Agricola Road was a nice walk from my front door.  To take the long way, I'd just travel up Scenic Hwy until I reached Tuckahoe Golf Course and then take a horseshoe right turn onto Agricola Drive.  It was a little longer with a few uphills on the way.  When starting on Agricola Drive from the top, the golf course would be on the left.  My mind still sees the road as it runs by a little dump site right at the edge of the golf course.  Every now and then I'd go dump diving with a friend.

The dump was at the end of Hazel Drive.  That was where my shortcut would come out if I wanted to get to Agricola Drive quicker. There were no uphills to Agricola Drive, a really quick fun trip if on a bike.  I could zip and zig-zap my way to Agricola in no time.  I'd pedal down the hill in my front yard, on across Scenic Hwy, onto and across my neighbor's yard.  I really didn't have to pedal much.  We had some nice steep hills in my old neighborhood.   I'd cross over onto Red Oak Road and ride down to where the Condra's lived.  I'd take a sharp left up the Reese's driveway and pedal on through their flat backyard which took me to Hilltop Road.  I'd connect with Hazel Drive then to Agricola (close to the little dump).

Once on Agricola Drive, it was downhill all the way.  From the dump I remember the sharp curve in the road that ran by an old farm house.  Classmates, Karen and Rusty Morgan used to live there for a short time.  They had a sour apple tree in their backyard.  I never was invited in when on a visit, but was invited to play in their yard and partake of the fruit thereof.  The Morgans moved before we graduated elementary school.  It's been a long time but I still remember them.

After the sharp curve the Agricola straightened out for the rest of the way to Fairview Road.  There was a little cottage on the right where a little lady always seemed to be outside in her straw hat and apron working in her garden.  It was a small tract of land but she made use of every inch of it with flowers here and vegetables there.  It was very quaint.  It was about there that I could see the rear of Pearly and Ben's Store in the far distance.  Pearly and Ben's was my usual destination.

Almost immediately to the left of the little lady's cottage was a large pasture on the left that extended along down Agricola to Fairview Road. Pine trees lined the boundary of the pasture, dense vines and weeds covered the rusty fencing.  Sometimes cows could be seen scattered in the field.  Most of the time the field was vacant of cattle and full of weeds.

This was the eerie area of Agricola, because in the overgrown field was an old two story abandoned house.  The boards were rotten and dark.  The windows were vacant and black.  If ever there was a real haunted house, it was that house on Agricola.  If I were afoot, I'd quicken my pace.  If I were on my bike I would tighten my grip on the handlebar pedal a little faster.  I would never coast by that place.

I liked Agricola Drive except for that old house.  Anytime I walked by it, my heart would find it's way into my throat.  Once or twice I ended up making the return trip home a little too late for my liking.  I was on foot and did not like walking the way back up that road at dusk.  The house seemed to have moved even closer to the road.  It seemed to have a spirit about it, the blackness within the windows even blacker.

I had dreams of that place countless times as a young boy.  In the dream there was only one street lamp and the light from the street lamp offered the only safety for me.  Dusk would quickly turn to night and I had to run, run and run up that dirt road into the night if I ever wanted to make it home again.  There was no quick way, no safe way, no light for my feet.  I had to pass that old house and hope that I woke nothing that dwelt in it.  I ran as fast and as quietly without sobbing - only silent tears.  It was a horrific dream for a 10 year old.

The road now is paved.  Pearly and Ben's Store is gone.  The old house no longer in the field or in my dreams.  It's all very different there, but the memory is still very vivid.

Monday, January 13, 2014

not your average joe

Joe Piscopo is a multi-talented and funny fellow.  I used to look forward to his skits on Saturday Night Live, especially the ones with Eddie Murphy.  Those two guys made a great comedic duo.  Eddie quickly found his place on the big screen when he left SNL, but Joe didn't seem to catch hold of his shooting star.  Joe was one of the most talented cast members to come from the show.  Was sketch comedy and stand up all he wanted to do?  Maybe he never got the right vehicle for a career on the big screen.  Maybe he doesn't really care for acting.  Did his bout with cancer in the early eighties change his direction?  I always wanted to see Joe Piscopo do some more acting.

He did a great job playing opposite Michael Keaton in Johnny Dangerously (1984).  I remember going to see Joe in Dead Heat (1988) in which flat-lined.  In 1986 Joe also starred in a Brian de Palma comedy with Danny DeVito in Wise Guys.  Other than Johnny Dangerously, most of the films Joe starred in are forgettable.  Other very talented SNL alumni, for some unexplainable reason, didn't make a successful move to movies as did previous alumni.  I'm a fan of Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey, Victoria Jackson and John Lovitz...those guys can made me laugh.  They just didn't translate to the big screen as much as I had hoped.  Phil did go on to play a wonderful role that suited him in the sitcom Radio News.  Lovitz has done some good supporting rolls ~ but not much playing the lead.

The thing is, I still like Joe.  I don't see him much anymore.  Truth is, Joe does his own thing.  He never cared for the Hollywood game. He likes doing stand-up and grateful for all that did come his way.  I don't think he ever saw himself as a movie star, but enjoyed just being a part, he loves those supporting character rolls.  He's a guy that doesn't have to have all the limelight~ he just enjoys being in the cast ~ a part of the team. 

I'd still like to see him in a good roll.  I know he's big screen worthy.  I've seen what he's got ~ more than a lot of other joes up there on the screen.