11.30.2007

SHORT TURNAROUND

My review of playwright Kristen Palmer's new drama Local Story appears in todays' s edition of Downtown Express.

I saw this show (with Maggie) on Tuesday night at 8 PM and my review was due on Wednesday morning. After the show, Maggie and I went out to dinner and then I went to my writing office on 14th Street and wrote from about 11:30 PM until 3 AM.

And yes, I worked at my "day job" on both Tuesday and Wednesday.


I love writing like this. When I have three weeks to work on something, I will obsess over it for three weeks. It haunts me. But when I have to turn something like this around over night, it's over and done with before I even know it.

Read my story by clicking here.

11.28.2007

THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SPONGE

I had to take a sponge bath this morning.

It’s my own fault. All throughout Maggie’s building (where I sleep most nights, while retaining my own humble studio in the West Village) there have been signs for the last week warning of the water shutdown today at 9 AM.

The problem with a sign that stays up for a week is, you stop paying attention to it. You forget about it. And then you wake up and try to turn on the shower at 9 AM and it just makes a rumbling gurgle.

And you are left standing there, in the middle of the bathroom floor -- naked, cold and dirty. Oh so very, very dirty.

I think if I ran a building, and I had to – for some really important reason – shut off all running water to seven floors of apartments, I might chose a time that would offer my tenants minimal inconvenience. But maybe that’s just me.

One thing I have noticed in life is, people tend to need running water most of all in the morning. We wake up and go to the bathroom. Then we like to flush (at least most of us do). That requires running water. Then we brush our teeth. Again, water required. Then we take a shower. Plenty of water needed for that.

My point is, maybe 9 in the morning is not the best time to shut off the water in a residential apartment building. But who am I to suggest that the building maintenance staff be inconvenienced, rather than the tenants? That’s a crazy thought.

No, all the tenants that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy apartments so that they could live in the lap of luxury – let them go without a shower for a day. It serves them right for being so rich in the first place!

So what did I do? I’ll tell you what. I walked my naked ass right into the kitchen, opened up the refrigerator and poured a gallon of Poland Spring Water into a large pot. Then I put that pot on the stove at medium heat.

Unfortunately, medium heat is stronger than I thought. So when I took the pot off the stove, the water was very, very hot. So I threw in a handful of ice cubs from the freezer. And then I proceeded to give myself a sponge bath, with half icy, half boiling water.

It actually worked out just fine. I’m sure I missed a few spots, but I emerged from my sponge bath experience feeling clean and fresh – and extremely eco-friendly! Think of how much water we saved by the entire building going without showers!

Unfortunately my “Little House on the Prairie” style cleaning regimen made me late for work.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” I said as I walked into a meeting in the conference room. “But it takes really long time to wash yourself with a sponge when you’re as hairy as I am.”

I was excused from the reminder of that meeting, for reasons that remain unclear to me.

11.26.2007

A HEARTWARMING THANKSGIVING STORY

My sister got into a car accident on Thanksgiving Day, while driving to my parents' house -- with her three little kids in the car.

Everybody was okay. But can you imagine if they weren’t? It would have positively ruined Thanksgiving this year.

It doesn’t matter how good the turkey is if half the family has died in a tragic holiday car wreck -- even if there’s cranberry sauce (I mean at dinner, not at the car wreck.)

Now, before various members of my family (such as my sister) get mad at me for making insensitive jokes about the near-death of my sister and my little nieces, let me say the following: I don't think there's anything funny about this.

In fact, I'm mad as hell about it!


My sister only crashed her car because the driver in front of her on the highway slowed down. Then my sister swerved to avoid hitting other cars and banged into a wall. Then somebody called the cops and they came to my sister's aid.

But what about the driver who slowed down? What happens to him, that fat fuck? I'll tell you what. Nothing. He gets to sit down at the Thanksgiving table with his family, stuffing his fat face with mashed potatoes and gravy while our family is forced to mourn the near-death of four if its members -- three of whom are under the age of 10!

And that near-murderer gets off scott-free. That is completely unacceptable.

That careless driver not only almost killed a mother and her three children, he almost ruined Thanksgiving for me for the rest of my natural life. Never again will I enjoy my turkey dinner without thinking about this near-tragedy. In my book, that has lawsuit written all over it.

Of course my parents spun this near-tragedy into something positive.

"God was watching over them," my father said.

Really? That's a nice theory but, if God has that kind of free time on a major national holiday, then why wasn't God watching over the guy in the car in front of my sister, telling him not to slow down?

To me, that seems like a better use of God's time. And it would take less effort than figuring out how my sister could maneuver through three lanes of traffic and crash into a wall -- all without getting killed.

My Mom also agreed with my Dad.

"Now we have something to be thankful about," she said.

Honestly I would be more thankful for not being in a car wreck than for being in one -- even one that I made it through safely.


I guess it's all how you look at it. All I can say is, I have never driven on a highway on Thanksgiving, ever in my life. Because I don't want to ruin the day for other members of my family by dying (or nearly dying) in a tragic holiday car wreck.

My advice to you is to do the same.

11.24.2007

WHO IS NORMAN LLOYD?

On Friday night I attended the premiere of Who is Normal Lloyd, a new documentary about the nonagenarian actor, producer and director -- a man who worked with Hitchcock, Welles and Chaplin and continues -- at the age of 93 -- to act in films today.

The screening was held at Film Forum, New York City's best-loved alternative movie house and featured Lloyd himself, along with the filmmakers and Film Forum's repertory programmer Bruce Goldstein.

In the audience were notables such as actor/director John Turturro, Sopranos star Tony Sirico (he was dressed in a track suit, just like he alter ego Paulie "Walnuts" Gaultieri) and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

Prior to the screening of the documentary, Film Forum unspooled Lloyd's most famous film performance - as the title character in Alfred Hitchcock's 1942 thriller Saboteur.

Bob Cummings (left) and Norman Lloyd (right) in Hitchcock's "Saboteur"

I had never seen Saboteur and it was fun to see the Norman Lloyd of the early '40s and then the man who I recognize from his later work on TV shows like St. Elsewhere and The Practice.

Who is Norman Lloyd is a must-see for old movie fans, and for anyone (like me, for example) who thinks that the best way to grow old is to continue to work, create and remain relevant.

With his wife of 71 years in the audience, Lloyd had the audience entranced with well-practiced anecdotes and inspiring stories of a life that stands as a testament to overcoming challenges. Lloyd's blacklisting during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s may have broken a lesser man, but for Lloyd it served only to inspire.

It was exciting to be with a raconteur who could effortlessly (at 93) spin tales of tennis matches with Charlie Chaplin, arguments with Orson Welles, collaboration with John Houseman and an acting career that has spanned eight decades.

It was also fun to sit one row behind Keith Olbermann, a man who I watch nightly on MSNBC and who, I believe serves as a voice for all Americans who are fed up with corrupt government, lock step acceptance of revocation of civil liberties and human rights and a media that fixates on celebrity culture.

There's one more chance to see Norman Lloyd in person and ask him questions about the many icons with whom he has worked. On Monday night at 8 PM, Film Forum presents An Evening with Norman Lloyd, hosted by Bruce Goldstein and John Martello, Executive Director of The Players, with surprise guests.

It's an excellent opportunity to pay tribute to an inspiring man and, perhaps, to be inspired yourself.

I certainly was.
Norman Lloyd today - still raging against the dying of the light.

11.22.2007

HAPPY THANKSGIVING? FUCK YEAH!

I've noticed a disturbing trend this year. People are afraid to say "Happy Thanksgiving."

Over the last 24 hours, countless people have wished me a "happy holiday" or "happy holidays." This has happened at work, at the gym, at the tanning place and at the nail salon where I went to get my annual Thanksgiving pedicure.

Yes, I'm a metrosexual. Deal with it.

I've gotten used to the hollow wishes of "happy holidays" around Christmas time -- even from co-workers who are Catholic and know I am too. I don't like that any better, but at least I understand it. In their minds, addled though they may be by the disease of political correctness, to wish someone a "Merry Christmas" may be insensitive if they are not Christian.

Fine. I have a month to rant about that nonsense (since everyone knows that Christmas in this country is now a secular holiday, even the religious people.)

But Thanksgiving? What's the problem here?

Okay, maybe you shouldn't say "Happy Thanksgiving" to a Native American, whose ancestors were the victim of our turkey-eating, buckle-shoed, genocidal ancestors. But we made up for all that by giving the Indians casinos and cheap cigarettes. So how about we let bygones be bygones, okay?

But other than that? What's the problem? Who has a problem with Thanksgiving?

The great thing about Thanksgiving is, it's non-denominational. It's about family, and togetherness and remembrance, not about sanctimonious religious dogma. You don't have to go to church, or temple, or mosque or whatever building your religion forces to to go to a regular basis.

You just have to go somewhere where there's turkey.
And hopefully a few people that you at least partially like. (I know it's a stretch for me, too.)

So why has the crushing emptiness of "Happy holiday" crept into November?

Because a handful of Blue state liberal idiots are trying to ruin it for the rest of us. And I can say that, because I'm a Blue State liberal too - and only slightly less idiotic than the people to whom I am referring.

The same thing has happened with the Red State conservative idiots who have turned "Support the Troops" into a synonym for lock-step acceptance of the criminal activity of a corrupt regime.

God forbid you should say that we are wasting our time in Iraq - which we are. You know it and I know it.

If you say that, you don't SUPPORT THE TROOPS because you've diminished the sacrifice of those of who have died in the service of the COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME, MONEY AND HUMAN LIFE that is the Iraq War.


It's fear. And Americans are a fearful bunch. Annoying urban liberals have created a climate of fear around acknowledging anything that might even be vaguely religious or spiritual -- unless it's some trendy bullshit like yoga.

By the way, if I see another one of my over-paid co-workers carrying their yoga mats around in a custom made bag , I'm going to lose it. But that, too, is a rant for another day.

There is nothing overtly religious about Thanksgiving. You can make it religious, if you want to. That's your call. I'm sure there are people in the world who think taking a shit is some sort of a religious act. Good for them.

But Thanksgiving is a secular, American tradition that does nothing more than suggest that you should take one day to join with your (sort-of) loved ones and show your appreciation to them and to yourself.

That's it. So say "Happy Thanksgiving" today.

Or I'm going to find you and really give you something to be thankful about.

11.20.2007

SOMEBODY BUY THIS FOR ME PLEASE - THE FINAL CHAPTER

Today I finally got the birthday present that one of my loyal readers ordered for me from my Amazon.com Wish List!

Great success!

I tore open the box and found a nicely wrapped present inside.

Amazon has someone sitting there in the warehouse, wrapping all the presents that people order. I'm glad I don't have that job.

I hate wrapping presents. It's my least favorite thing about Christmas -- other than the intense depression and despair I feel at the end of every calendar year because I am no closer to achieving the goals I set out to achieve, and I'm one year closer to my death.

Was that a downer? Sorry. I forget to take my meds today!

I wonder if you can send presents that you buy at other stores to Amazon, just to wrap them? I would pay big bucks for that! Maybe they can start a website called wrapmypresentsbecauseiamtoolazy.com?

My long-awaited present was the new Twin Peaks - Definitive Gold Box Edition. It has every episode of the 1990-91 TV series, plus two versions of the pilot film and a package of collectible post cards that you can mail to your friends (if you had any, which I don't.)

Note the order date of the gift receipt - October 28. I got it on November 20. That's what happens when you select SUPER SAVER SHIPPING! I think somebody walked the package to me from the shipping center in Maryland.

So thanks to my anonymous reader for showing your appreciation for all my hard work this year and buying me a present!

Remember - Christmas is coming! And, if you select the SUPER SAVER SHIPPING option, you have to buy a present now so I can get it by December 25.

So get moving people!

11.18.2007

MY TRIP TO THE LOEW'S JERSEY THEATRE

On Saturday night I took a PATH train to the past.

It took me less than 30 minutes to get from Lower Manhattan to the Loew's Jersey Theatre, an old fashioned movie palace in Jersey City that first opened in 1929 and was reborn in 2002. But it felt like I had traveled more than half a century back in time.

The occasion for my visit was a screening of Otto Preminger's Laura, a classic 1944 film noir starring Dana Andrews as a hard-bitten cop and Gene Tierney as a murder victim he falls in love with - after she has died.

I have always loved movies but the experience of attending a movie has become increasingly joyless, mundane and unpleasant over the course of my lifetime. I longed for the days when going to the movies was an event, when movie houses were opulent showplaces in the center of town, not concrete bunkers on the back side of shopping malls.

There was an era in this country -- more than a few generations past -- when the movie theater was so much more than it is now. The multiplex of today is more like an airport than a palace, with ten, twenty or more films running simultaneously in tiny little screening rooms. Giant LED tote boards in the lobby list the film about to begin like flights preparing to depart.

There's a certain cold artlessness to the entire endeavor and this, coupled with ever-increasing prices and ever-decreasing audience etiquette, have inspired me to stay home and enjoy my favorite films on DVD.


But the Loew's Jersey Theatre threatens to turn me into a movie-goer again.

Located across the street from the Journal Square PATH train station, the Theatre currently programs classic films a few weekends each month, in addition to live events like concerts and an upcoming personal appearance by Santa Claus.

But the bustling Saturday night at the Loew's this weekend crowd belies a recent history of neglect and near demolition.

After being carelessly carved into a triplex back in 1974, the once majestic Theatre shut its doors in 1986 and nearly fell victim to the wrecking ball a few years later. In 1996 the Loew's was rescued by preservationists, given landmark status and acquired by the city of Jersey City. A DIY restoration was kicked off a decade ago by a team of dedicated volunteers who, with limited funding and unlimited dedication, restored the grandeur of the past to a historic structure that was nearly lost to the ravages of time.


As Maggie and I walked into the Theatre on Saturday night, a smiling volunteer asked us each for $6 for our ticket. That's not a typo. I don't remember the last time I paid $6 for a movie, or the last time a box office worker smiled at me while taking my money. I wasn't even in the Theatre yet and already I felt like I had gone back in time.

Inside the ornate lobby, equally enthusiastic volunteers sold snacks from a folding table. I asked for a box of popcorn, two cans of soda and some Reese's Pieces.

"That will be $5 please," said the salesperson, who looked to be about 12 years old.

"Um...Are you sure?" I asked incredulously, as his older co-worker (mom?) confirmed the price.

I handed the kid a $5 bill, but I couldn't help but feel guilty. I would have paid double (if not triple) the price for the whole experience and considered it a worthy bargain. So I dropped $5 on a raffle for a DVD in my efforts to support the cause -- and because it would have been inappropriate to start hugging each of the volunteers.


At a table near the grand staircase to the (not-yet-fully-restored) 1,000-seat balcony, author and film historian Foster Hirsch was busy autographing copies of his new biography Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would be King. On the wall behind behind him was a vintage candy machine, and displays chronicling the history of the Loew's, its restoration and the plans for the future.

But the real magic happened when the doors were opened and we walked into the gigantic auditorium. With more then 2,000 seats hand-restored and reupholstered, a 50-foot screen on a huge stage and a working, vintage pipe organ, a visit to the Loew's Jersey for a film buff is like a pilgrimage to a sacred temple. The sense of reverence, of history and of the commitment and love of the volunteers is so strong, it's almost supernatural.

And once the lights went down and the images of Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price filled the huge screen and their voices echoed through the vast auditorium, it was truly a religious experience.

If you're a New Yorker who loves classic films, and want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them as they were seen in their initial release, I suggest you visit the Loew's Jersey Theatre. I know, I was reluctant to go to Jersey too. But even with a $3 round trip fare for the PATH train, the Loew's Jersey Theatre is the best movie value in New York.

But I never imagined that a quick trip under the Hudson River could take me so far.


For more information about the Loew's Jersey Theatre, click here.

WHAT WOULD JESUS BUY?

My review What Would Jesus Buy? - the new documentary from producer Morgan Spurlock, starring the anti-shopping activist Reverend Billy - is in the current edition of The Villager.

You can read it by clicking here.

The movie opened this weekend in New York and Los Angeles and will be opening all around the country over the coming weeks. I highly recommend it.

11.16.2007

MORE BIRTHDAY PRESENTS

My aunt called me last night.

"I got you something for your birthday from your Amazon.com Wish List, just like you requested on your blog!" she said.

The good news: I got a present. The bad news: my aunt reads my blog. I guess I'm going to have to cancel that post I wrote called I Really Like a Finger Up My Ass While Getting a Blow Job. Oh well.

Anyway, back to my present.

"Wow, thanks!" I replied. "What did you pick?"

"The Bogie and Bacall DVD box set and the Warner Bros. Tough Guys DVD box," she answered.

Two DVD box sets? That seems excessive - not that I'm complaining or anything. That's ten movies. When you add to that the 5-movie Esther Williams Collection box that I bought for Maggie for our anniversary (obviously that was a gift for both of us -- sort of like a Victoria's Secret gift card) and the 30+ hour Twin Peaks set that one of my readers ordered for me, I'll be in front of the TV set until baseball season starts again.

I thanked my aunt for her generosity (and my uncle's as well) and told her that I hadn't gotten either set in the mail yet.

"That's because I had them shipped to me," she said. "That way I can get you to come for a visit."

My aunt is holding my birthday presents hostage. And blackmailing me to come and visit her.

The whole thing feels weird to me.

And when she reads this post it's only going to get weirder.

11.15.2007

THE 50 GREATEST TV ICONS

Friday night at 8 PM (ET), TV Land presents The 50 Greatest TV Icons.

And, according to their press release, the top choice is Tonight Show host Johnny Carson.

I love Carson. I grew up watching his opening monologues, long past my bedtime. But I'm surprised at the choice.

When I think of an icon, I think of Humphrey Bogart, or Marilyn Monroe or James Dean -- a personality that transcends time, genre and medium. Sadly, because of the topical nature of the humor of late night TV talk shows, an entire generation of TV watchers is coming of age with no exposure to Johnny Carson.


There were attempts back in the 1980s to package the comedy sketches from the Carson Tonight Show and syndicate them. Had it worked, Carson might have lived on forever in reruns and on DVD. But it didn't work. Those bits are integral parts of a larger whole, funny in the context of where they originally aired - and not as funny on their own, strung together like highlights.

Unfortunately, Carson will recede into history in the same way that Milton Berle, Steve Allen, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar and other huge TV stars - icons? - of their day have. The same thing will happen to Letterman, Leno and Conan when their respective reigns have ended. It's the nature of the talk/variety format. It's non rerun-able.

In terms of ICONS, meaning personalities that have stood the test of time, I would have to go with Lucille Ball (as Lucy Ricardo), Jackie Gleason (as Ralph Kramden), Carroll O'Connor (as Archie Bunker), William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (as Captain Kirk and Spock), Andy Griffith and Don Knotts (as Andy Taylor and Barney Fife), Fred Gwynne (as Herman Munster), Rod Serling, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and, from recent years, Jerry Seinfeld, Homer Simpson and maybe Ray Romano.

But all of these retrospective voting shows are nonsense, because the biggest TV star (or icon) of our time can't hold a candle in terms of popularity to those of the past.

Today, with so many more entertainment options, no one personality can dominate the landscape like they did in the past. Red Skelton had bigger numbers than Jerry Seinfeld, so did Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Berle, Gleason, Your Show of Shows and many, many more. These "votes" will always be skewed to the more recent performers, or to those who get more exposure in reruns than others.

What about James Arness from Gunsmoke, or Lorne Greene from Bonanza, or the cast of The Waltons, or Richard Boone from Have Gun Will Travel, or Daniel J. Travanti from Hill Street Blues, or Joan Collins from Dynasty or any of the popular hour-long dramas of their time that don't get rerun today? Those people are unlikely to make the cut because audiences today don't know them.

If it was up to me, I would excise the word "icon" from this endeavor. I would change to the 50 Most Memorable Performers and use it as an opportunity to inform audiences of today about the forgotten stars of the past.

But nobody asked me my opinion. Plus they're more likely to get people to watch a lot of clips of Simon Cowell, rather than Jonathan Frid from Dark Shadows.

I think you know which of those I would prefer.

GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT

I love smoking.

Smoking is fun. Smoking is cool. Smoking gives you something to do when you’re at parties. Smoking is a great conversation starter with a member of the opposite sex. Smoking allows you to take breaks at work while the other idiots are doing their jobs. Smoking is the perfect thing to do when you’re bored or anxious or nervous or mad or drinking or having sex or doing drugs or playing/listening to Rock & Roll. Or all of the above.

If only smoking were good for you. But sadly, it’s not.

Just ask Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Clark Gable, Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Buster Keaton, Vincent Price, Walt Disney, Rod Serling and Peter Jennings.

I wish someone could figure out a healthy way to smoke.

Actually, I think that’s already been done.

Of all the people mentioned in this post, he's the only one who's still working.

Coincidence? I think not.

11.14.2007

IRA LEVIN (1929-2007)

Two of my favorite films of the last forty years are The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby. Ira Levin -- the man who wrote the novels upon which those films were based -- died on Monday at the age of 78.

I love Levin's stories because they have unhappy endings. And they are about the scariest kind of evil -- that which is perpetrated by our friends, neighbors and loved ones.

The idea that those closest to you may be secretly out to get you - that's something that has always resonated for me.

The Stepford Wives (1975)

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

11.13.2007

IF I ONLY HAD A HEART - PART 2

Today is also the ninth anniversary of my first date with Maggie.

It wasn't exactly a date. It was more of a drunken hook-up with the college intern from my office at my 30th birthday party.

But it was still very romantic.

Maggie rescued me from the chain-smoking divorcee that I was dating when I met her, and I rescued Maggie from the suburban scuba diving instructor that she was keeping company with.

We both broke up with our respective significant others a few days before my birthday party, leaving us free to allow nature to take its course -- with the helpful assistance of alcohol, of course.

But what great relationship hasn't been kickstarted by a few cocktails?

IF I ONLY HAD A HEART

Ten years ago today -- November 13, 1997 -- I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic and mitral heart valves.

Here's a picture of me after my surgery.

Since then I've been tender and gentle and awful sentimental.

THE GLAMOROUS LIFE OF THE CRITIC

I went to a press screening tonight for a new movie that's being released in a few weeks.

Press screening are nice because they're free and usually held in comfortable private screening rooms. I even get to bring Maggie along with me. It's like a free date.

But tonight was different. The movie we watched was so bad that critics were actually walking out. As I watched a few of them leave I wondered how they would write their reviews.

Would they admit that they walked out? Would they tell their readers that the movie was so bad they couldn't bear to do their jobs?

I mean, how hard is it to watch a 100-minute movie? Yes, it sucked. But that's your job. You're getting paid to watch a movie and write about it. That's a pretty sweet job, in the grand scheme of things. The least you can do is watch the whole thing.

I have never walked out of a movie in my entire life - especially the bad ones. I learn more from a terrible movie than I do from a good one. I see where they went wrong, what they should have done differently, and it teaches me something, creatively.

Like, tonight I learned that, just because someone was in the New Kids on the Block, it doesn't make him a good actor. And I also learned that, if you give funny people unfunny things to say, they will seem unfunny.

Lastly, I learned that, tasty snacks really help an audience sit through a bad movie. So, if you ever make a movie, and it turns out badly, and for some reason you decide to show it to critics, make sure you provide free popcorn.

You'd be amazed at how cheaply I can be bought.

11.12.2007

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE FOR BIRTHDAY PRESENTS!

My Amazon.com Wish List

SOMEBODY BUY THIS FOR ME PLEASE - UPDATE!

Somebody bought this for me!

LET ME EAT CAKE


11.11.2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME


One year left to get my fucking act together.

11.09.2007

IF I WERE A TCM GUEST PROGRAMMER

November is Guest Programmer Month on Turner Classic Movies.

Every night of the month a different celebrity gets to program three or four of their all-time favorite films in primetime, and to appear in wrap-arounds with host Robert Osborne to explain and celebrate their selections.

The "celebrities" TCM has chosen range from good choices (tonight's guest, Jerry Stiller) to highly questionable ones (last Saturday's programmer Donald Trump), with most falling somewhere in between.

Even though I'd rather not see Mr. Trump get any more publicity than he's already gotten, I did love his selections: Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen, the epic Gone With the Wind and the greatest film of all time Citizen Kane. Sure, his choices are a bit Classic Movies 101, but the more times those films air, the more people get exposed to them.

All of this guest programming has gotten me thinking. What films would I chose if TCM allowed me to be a guest programmer for an evening?

There are many factors to consider when coming up with my picks.

First, the flow of the evening has to make sense. I would approach it as if people were going to watch my picks in order. I know the only people who do that are elderly shut-ins and committed mental patients, but I fully expect to be both of those some day - so I may as well start thinking like one.

Second, the films need to be in the TCM library (or easily acquired by TCM). That rules out a few of my favorite movie of all time - Star Wars (too expensive), It's A Wonderful Life (owned by NBC-Universal and the only black & white film in the last year to run on a major network in primetime), Miracle on 34th Street (owned by AMC -- one of the last vestiges from when the channel formerly known as American Movie Classics actually ran classics, and not Jean Claude van Damme movies)

And finally, the choices should be films that don't run all the time on TCM, so that I have an opportunity to expose movie lovers to lesser-seen films. For example, I love A Night at the Opera with the Marx Bros. (one of Jerry Stiller's choices tonight), but TCM runs that picture often, so I wouldn't pick it.

I also wouldn't pick Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Wizard of Oz, Sunset Boulevard, or On the Waterfront, even though I put them all in my top ten of all time. These films are relatively easy to find, either on TCM or DVD through Netflix, etc.

So that said, here is the Will McKinley TCM Guest Programmer lineup:

8-9:30 PM Buck Privates (1941) This musical comedy stars Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and features the singin', swingin' Andrews Sisters (Patty, Laverne and Maxine) in supporting roles. It's fast (84 minutes), funny (A&C use bits honed on the Vaudeville stage) and the music is great (the Sisters sing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy). This may be the only film in history that makes getting drafted look fun.

9:30-11:00 PM Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) This Edward D. Wood-directed sci-fi classic, considered by some to be the worst film of all time, is actually a ton of fun. Even though he had been dead for three years, Bela Lugosi somehow manages to star. This is the movie that inspired Tim Burton's excellent Ed Wood.

11:00-12:30 AM House of Dark Shadows (1970) Starring Jonathan Frid, and directed by Dan Curtis, this modern-day vampire classic was based on the popular 1966-1971 ABC daytime drama Dark Shadows. I love this film because it lies right on the fault line between the stylish, atmospheric classics of the past and the gory, more-naturalistic modern horror film. It's got plenty of blood, but also plenty of style.

12:30-2:30 AM Rosemary's Baby (1968) Is there a creepier film in the history of the movies? Everything about this movie is perfect: the adorable Mia Farrow as the young bride, John Cassavetes as her ambitious actor husband, and the amazing Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet, one of the most memorable screen characters of the last forty years.

So there you have it. It's a highly imperfect list, considering that it leans a bit too much toward horror and sci-fi and includes none of the noir or crime drama that I have recently come to love. But it starts out with a musical comedy, transitions into sci-fi that is also (unintentionally) funny, then to horror and finally ends with the perfect movie to watch alone, in the dark at 2 AM.

Now I just have to wait for TCM to call.

11.08.2007

IS THAT SOUP IN YOUR POCKET, OR ARE YOU JUST GLAD TO SEE ME?

Do you have a hook-up mix?

Chances are, if you hook-up with the same person on any sort of a regular basis, you probably have a CD or a mix of songs that you use as musical accompaniment.

But what happens when you hear that music outside of the bedroom? That's what happened to me today.

Maggie and I have a few CDs that we like to listen to when we're enjoying each other's company. Listening to a CD -- that sounds so '90s, doesn't it? I don't remember the last time I listened to a CD ( or bought one, for that matter). But what do you call it when you listen to all of the tracks from a given CD in order, on iTunes on a laptop or an iPod connected to a speaker?

For lack of a better idea, I still call that listening to a CD.


One of our favorite hook-up CDs is a two disc set called Buddha Bar - Volume II. It's great music to listen to while you're getting high, or gettin' down, or preferably both at the same time.

But today I heard it while I was doing neither of those things. I was getting lunch, at a crowded cafe called Medina on 17th Street in New York City.

If you live or work in the Union Square neighborhood you've probably heard of Medina. If you haven't, please don't go. It's already way too crowded. Medina at lunchtime makes a clown car at the circus look roomy.


This afternoon at around 1 PM I walked in to buy my daily dose of $6 soup (a real New York City bargain), and there it was, playing on the PA system - my hook-up CD! I have never listened to that music at any other time other than while gettin' my groove on. So hearing while gettin' my soup on was very odd.

I'm not going to lie. I felt a bit of stirring in my loins. But the great thing about Cafe Medina at lunch hour is, you can't help but brush up against people while you're there. Lots of people. And lots of brushing.

So, if there were any young, pretty, female customers at Medina who noticed something pointy banging into them repeatedly this afternoon, let me offer my most sincere apologies.

But be warned. I'll be back again tomorrow.

11.06.2007

FRANKLY MY DEAR, I DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THIS POST

Even though I consider myself a devoted old movie buff, I had somehow managed to live for 38 years without ever seeing Gone With the Wind.

That situation has changed, I am happy to report.

I had tried to watch Gone With the Wind many times over the years, but I never got all the way through it. It's not because it's not a good film (apologies for the double negative). In fact, it's one of the best movies ever made.

The problem is, it's almost as long as the actual Civil War.


I have a problem. I have trouble sitting still for any extended period of time. I used to deal with that situation by smoking a particular medicinal herb that makes you quite content to sit around and do nothing, for hour after hour after hour.

Ultimately, that was a
flawed solution.

After about five years of watching under the influence, I realized something: I didn’t remember any of the movies I had watched. I remembered the titles, and the actors in it, and vaguely hazy details of the plot -- but that’s about it.

Sometimes I would forget a movie I was watching while I was still watching it.


Like, “Wait. Why is there a scarecrow singing and dancing on my TV? Oh yeah. I’m watching The Wizard of Oz.”

After a while, I determined that forgetting the movie before it even ended really defeats the purpose of watching it in the first place. I may as well just stare at the wall.

So on Saturday night I decided that I was going to force myself to sit still and -- without any chemical assistance -- watch Gone With the Wind all the way through until the end.

And Saturday was the perfect night to do it, because on Saturday we set the clocks back one whole hour! This was the one night of the year where I could watch a four-hour movie in three hours!

What an opportunity. It’s like time
travel. I felt like I was a character in a science fiction story.

November is "Guest Programmer Month" on Turner Classic Movies and Saturday night’s guest was Donald Trump. Are you surprised that the man with one of the biggest egos in history would select the film with one of the longest running times in the history?

No? Neither was
I.

So on Saturday night, I put on my PJs, popped up some corn and Maggie and I sat down in front of the TV at 10 PM (ET). At 1:58 AM (ET) the film finally ended. And then – magically – the clock on the cable box jumped from 1:59 AM back to 1 AM.

I had done it. I had watched Gone With the Wind all the way through, without stopping, and it only took me 3 hours. I even watched the overture and the intermission -- in real time. When was the last time you saw a movie with an intermission?

Of course, Maggie had fallen asleep hours before. But she didn't take the same abstinence pledge that I did.

When it was all over, I remembered every single frame of one of the most iconic movies ever made. I was so proud of myself.

Maybe I'll do it again soon. After all, tomorrow is another day
.

11.04.2007

MY NEW IPHONE

My birthday is coming up in six days, and this weekend I got my first birthday present -- an Apple iPhone!

The iPhone is a replacement for my iPod, which was recently stolen from the locker room at my gym. Yes, I pay $160 each month for membership at an exclusive gym in the Village, and yet I still somehow manage to get robbed.

Worse than that, I was robbed while I was naked.

There is no great dramatic story here. Sadly. Nobody held me up at gunpoint while I was standing there in nothing but my birthday suit, my pectoral muscles glistening with perspiration.

No, it was far less exciting. I put my iPod down on a bench, removed my sweaty clothes and then it was gone. Actually I didn't really notice it was gone until I had finished dressing and was getting ready to leave.


I looked everywhere, and asked at the front desk, but no luck.

It feels weird, after 20 years of living, working or going to school in New York City, to finally be a victim of a crime. I guess, if I was going to get robbed, better for it to happen like this than with me at the wrong end of a .45.

Because you know, if someone pulled a gun on me and tried to take my shit, I would end up dead. Gun-toting robbers don't have a lot of patience with smart-asses like me.

Even though I emerged from this ordeal unscathed, I still feel violated. Ipods are such personal things. Not only does it have my music on it it also has hundreds of voice recordings of my old stand-up sets and interviews for newspaper stories (including with celebrities).

On the upside, maybe the robber will listen to my collection of hundreds of hours of old-time radio shows and become a fan!

I feel like Paris Hilton when her cellphone got stolen and her address book was published on the internet. Thankfully, this was my iPod so, unlike Paris, I don't have to worry about my coke dealer's beeper number showing up on TMZ.com. (I'm kidding, of course. My coke dealer hasn't had a beeper since the '90s.)

I went without an iPod for days, but I felt like an incomplete person. After all, how was I supposed to work out with out my Writer's Almanac podcasts, featuring A Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keilor reading poetry?

The best part of losing the iPod, of course, is that it gave me a reason to ask for the iPhone. I mean, it's not like I faked the disappearance of my iPod or anything, just so I could get someone to buy me a iPhone.

I would never do something like that...

11.02.2007

AFTER THE B-52s CONCERT

For some reason I had a really bad case of dry mouth.

11.01.2007

TALKING 'BOUT THE LOVE SHACK

Last night, Maggie and I saw the B-52s live at the historic Roseland Ballroom in New York City.

I've seen the B-52s a handful of times over the years, and they always put on a great show. But, at this performance, the activity in the audience was almost as entertaining as what was happening on the stage.

With their their last hit coming more than 15 years ago, the B-52s have transformed into a reliably popular nostalgia act. Their periodic tours attract men, women and couples who grew up on their music (like I did) in the '70s and '80s. And last night was no different. There were lots of gray and balding heads in the crowd-- present company included.

The band has always had a large gay following, so their were plenty of gay men of all ages, shapes and sizes in attendance, as well.

Plus, it was Halloween, so Roseland was filled with various costumed characters of all stripes. There was Batman, Superman, Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street, a very tall man dressed as Dora the Explorer, along with the usual Halloween suspects of vampires, witches and zombies.

Mix all of these characters together on the dance floor, add a helping helping of over-priced alcohol and a pinch of pot and stir it up! The end result had the feel of an old fashioned Bacchanalian blast, with all of the diverse characters joining together for some wild Halloween fun.

There was, however, one unfortunate incident that I must share with you.

As Maggie and I swayed together on the darkened dance floor, clapping to the beat of the 1990 hit Roam, a costumed threesome pushed past us.

The trio was clearly having a great time, dancing and elbowing all in their wake. The man (he was short and somewhat feminine looking, so it took a while for me to discern his sex) was wearing a flowing vampire cape with thick, coke-bottle glasses and greased-down side part.

His companion (seemingly female) was large and lovely (more the former than the latter). She wore a blond wig that she would periodically remove and swing around her head like a lasso, revealing a truly unfortunate haircut beneath.

And the third wheel was dressed as Lucille Ball's character from I Love Lucy, wearing a polka dotted polyester dress, with her red hair piled high in a 1950s style veil.

As the three of them bopped to the beat, both Maggie and I noticed an unmistakable odor gaining in intensity. It was strong and pungeant -- the kind of smell that is so present, you just can't ignore it, no matter how much you try.

After a fair amount of consultation on the matter, Maggie and I agreed that it was the smell of unclean female private parts.

Yikes.

Neither Maggie nor I have had extensive experience with unclean female privates, but we have both encountered them enough to know the smell when it presents itself. And it was presenting itself, unmistakably -- so much so that another couple looked at us incredulously and laughed when we shook our heads in agreement.

As the song progressed, the dancing trio got wilder. The guy started making out with the wig girl and then with "Lucy." "Lucy" made out out with the wig girl, and then the short guy. At one point the three of them danced and kissed and humped in a clump -- nearly 600 lbs of sweaty, smelly, undulating flesh.

I should add here that I love Lucy. I know that's the name of the show, but it's also how I feel. I have felt that way since I was a kid. But I can't think of anything less sexy than a woman dressed up as Lucy Ricardo -- even if she's involved in a three-way.

Add the unidentified, not-so-fresh scent and the whole thing was about as hot as an orgy at a Star Trek convention.

As Maggie and I were attempting to distance ourselves from the source of the odor, I noticed that the male portion of the threesome kept unintentionally elbowing a well-dressed, well-coiffed gay couple standing next to him.

The two men smirked and shook their heads for the first few blows, but then they lost it. Apparently there was one hit to the gut too many, because the tougher-looking half the couple grabbed the short, caped man by the shoulders and firmly communicated his displeasure.

There was no punching, but a fair amount of raised voices (necessary, due to the sternum-shattering bass). The three-way dance stopped and the two girls just sort of stood there as the dancing man took his medicine.

"Lucy" tried her best to distract the angry gay man with some caressing and fondling, but strangely enough, he was immune to her charms.

It was quite a moment - watching these bizarre, nerdy characters go from joyous to morose all in the course of thirty seconds. And then, when the angry gay guy decided his point was made, the (figurative) wrist slapping ended.

Moments later, the trio began dancing again, and the caped man and his unclean harem disappeared into the crowd, taking their crazy costumes and unpleasant odor along with them -- apparently none the worse for wear.

I share this story to remind you of one thing: No matter how weird you think you are, there's always somebody weirder.

And one more thing: You don't have to be hot to have a three-way.