Wednesday, September 28, 2016

FENCES, A Christmas Gift

I've written before that Hollywood's lack of inclusion and the need to embrace diversity is evident in how long it took any Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway work of the late and great black playwright August Wilson to make it to be big screen.  Neil Simon won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for his Broadway hit, LOST IN YONKERS.  The film version hit the screens in 1993.  A CHORUS LINE won the Pulitzer Prize in 1976.  The film version arrived in 1985.  AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize.  Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts received Oscar nominations for the 2013 movie adaptation.  FENCES, August Wilson's play about the life of a 1950s working class black American family, won Wilson the 1987 Pulitzer Prize.  THE PIANO LESSON, another play about black life in America, won Wilson the 1990 Pulitzer Prize.  Did you get that?  Black playwright August Wilson won TWO Pulitzer Prizes for his Broadway dramas about African American life.
Neither play ever got a big screen adaptation like other Pulitzer Prize winning plays did.  I was extremely to be able to see the Broadway production of FENCES starring James Earl Jones as the ex-baseball player father and Courtney B. Vance as his son.  James Earl Jones was magnificent.  He'd been remarkable in another Broadway play, THE GREAT WHITE HOPE, that had been turned into a critically acclaimed 1970.  Martin Ritt's film version of THE GREAT WHITE HOPE earned Jones his one and only Oscar nomination, a nomination for Best Actor.  Seeing FENCES was one of most thrilling nights of theater I've ever experienced.  At the end of the play, there was silence in the audience and then an astounding rush of applause and cheers and a standing ovation for James Earl Jones.  The ovation was overwhelming -- as if he'd hit the World Series-winning grand slam home run for the home team.
FENCES should have become a movie starring James Earl Jones in the late 80s.  But films featuring predominantly black casts in positive, substantial roles had trouble getting the money to go into production.  Just ask director Norman Jewison when he wanted to -- and did -- shoot A SOLDIER'S STORY starring Denzel Washington.  The 1984 film was based on the stage hit, A SOLDIER'S PLAY by Charles Fuller.  Jewison, who gave us IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1967), THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968) FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, MOONSTRUCK and 1999's THE HURRICANE starring Denzel Washington as imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, said that no studio wanted to make the film.  The story focused on black American soldiers in the segregated troops of World War Two dealing with racism.  Jewison offered to a lot less money than usual to direct the film.  After A SOLDIER'S STORY came out, one of the Oscar nominations it went on to get was for Best Picture of 1984.

Two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred in the also Tony-winning and critically hailed Broadway revival of FENCES in 2010.  The two stars won Tony Awards for their performances.  They star in the film version, directed by Mr. Washington.
FENCES opens Christmas Day.  It's been a long time comin'.  Here's a link to click onto so you can see the trailer:

I repeat my prediction:  Viola Davis will make Hollywood history as the first black actress to have more than two Oscar nominations to her credit. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Did you see the debate last night?  I'm visiting my sister and we watched it together.  I cannot tell you the number of times our jaws hit the floor watching that presidential debate.  It was like watching the inner Lonesome Rhodes of Donald Trump come bursting out like the creature when John Hurt's character is having dinner with the space crew in ALIEN.  Yes, I make many classic film references in my posts but I could not help thinking of Lonesome Rhodes -- the manipulative, shady network TV host-turned-political force in A FACE IN THE CROWD.
If you've never seen that classic from the 1950s, you should.  Especially during this presidential campaign season.  This 1957 Elia Kazan film, A FACE IN THE CROWD, is prescient.
What was up with the Donald Trump sniffling?  He sounded like a Saturday night in the men's room at Studio 54 back in the disco era.  Then there was his constant interrupting of Hillary Clinton when she spoke.
The debate is being reviewed this morning on network news shows.  It will be the topic of the day on TV and news radio.  If you missed the show, Trump wants to bring back "stop and frisk" to help race relations.  He pretty much said that we black and Latino people are living in inner city hell.  He said that major airports in New York and Los Angeles are like "third world" countries.  He basically bragged about not paying his taxes.  Watch and listen to the news for the exact quotes and moments.

Oh!  And during a presidential debate, Trump not only got in a plug for a new hotel of his, he mentioned Rosie O'Donnell when the topic of sexist comments he's made about women came up. Rosie O'Donnell was a talking point in a presidential debate.  And there was the business of his claims, for years, that President Obama is not an American.

He was clearly unprepared for that debate.  And he looked pretty raggedy by the end of the debate for someone who claims to have more stamina than Hillary Clinton does.  At the end, she looked pulled together.  She looked like a leader.

I am not saying that Hillary Clinton is perfect.  But as for Donald Trump...I wouldn't trust that man with my zip code let alone the nuclear codes.

Watch the news, pay attention, read and "stay woke."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Do The Right Thing, Lester

I write this as someone who was approached to work for local NBC in New York City, accepted the job and then voluntarily quit my job on the hit weekend morning show three years later.  In other words, I saw how some of the sausage is made, if you will.  NBC embraces the GOP like Pepe LePew embraces a black female kitty cat who has a white strip painted by accident down her back.  Tonight, as moderator of the Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton debates, anchorman Lester Holt has his work cut out for him.  He must not make the NBC erection for GOP figures so obvious.
He must not lob softball questions at Donald Trump as, reportedly, Matt Lauer did to the across-the-board dissatisfaction of TV columnists and late night politico-comedy talk show shots. Lauer was crucified by the critics.  Personally, I've been acquainted with Matt since we worked together on local WNBC in the early 90s. I'd seen his TV work since the 80s.  He was never, ever known for being a political news reporter.  He could expertly talk to Daniel Day-Lewis about what it was like to play Abraham Lincoln, but he was never a news journalist like other NBC figures such as Tom Brokaw and the late Tim Russert.  Matt was an odd -- and perhaps -- intentional choice to keep Trump from breaking an orange sweat.  Lester Holt must do better than Lauer.  He will.
When Donald Trump was still host of NBC's popular reality game show, THE APPRENTICE, he starting mouthing off that President Obama is not an American.  He demanded to see his birth certificate.  I am not the only black American who was offended by that.  But he continued to have his network talent job as he continued to insult the President of the United States. As I told a friend, "Remember when Kanye West was on the live telethon to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims?"  Kanye said that George W. Bush didn't like black people -- because Bush's response to the disaster which affected thousands of black people -- was so slow.  You can probably find that moment on YouTube.  I told my friend that a standard talent contract has a morals clause that you should essentially mind your manners and not embarrass your TV show.  I said to my friend that if I was hosting an NBC show like AMERICA'S GOT TALENT and if I got on a red carpet for a premiere and said, "Yo, Kanye was right.  George W. Bush does not like black people," I probably would not have still been the host of the show when it returned after a short holiday break.

But Trump insulted the President and kept his job.  He got canned after he called Mexicans "rapists" and "murderers."  Keep in mind that NBC had spent about a billion dollars to purchase Telemundo and the viewers of that Spanish-language channel were outraged by Trump.  NBC had to protect a huge investment and let Donald go for appearances' sake.

For one summertime broadcast of the NBC Nightly News anchored by Lester Holt, the entire broadcast was done from Donald Trump's office on Fifth Avenue.  WHY?!?!  His building is, at most, a 10 minute walk to the lobby of NBC.

As I've written before, when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for Republican Gov. of California, a press conference had been planned. It was scrapped.  He made the announcement to Jay Leno on NBC's TONIGHT Show.  Schwarzennger was Governor of California.  He's now separated from his wife, Maria Shriver, because the news broke that he fathered a child outside of their marriage with a former domestic staff employee.  Nonetheless, he'll take over for Donald Trump as the new host of THE APPRENTICE.

Sarah Palin has been a guest host on the TODAY Show and NBC News hired two members of the Bush Family as TODAY Show contributors regardless of the fact they had neither TV nor journalism experience. They are Jenna Bush Hager and Billy Bush.  They're now getting great exposure and making a good buck.  Oh, yes.  Donald Trump was once a guest host on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  Sarah Palin and New Jersey's Chris Christie also made appearances on the show.  Current TONIGHT Show host, Jimmy Fallon, recently had Trump on for laughs. Just two buddies having laughs.
Yes. NBC is sweet on the GOP.  But that affection needs to be kept in check for the sake of journalism tonight.

As The Washington Post wrote of Lester Holt's duties for tonight:  "Your job is not to bend over backward so you offend no one.  It's to help your fellow citizens learn as much as they can in preparing to make one of the most consequential decisions they will ever render in a voting booth."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SULLY Brought To You By...

"Awesome" is a much overused word nowadays but it is totally accurate in describing the life-saving accomplishment of Captain Chesley Sullenberger.  Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as SULLY, the man who became an American hero for doing his job.  Hanks is excellent and I will not be surprised if he makes the list of Oscar nominees for Best Actor.  I would be surprised if Clint Eastwood makes the list of Oscar nominees for Best Director.  He's not at his best here.  He left product placement and in-house promotion get the better of him as a filmmaker.  SULLY is entertaining and touching, but not isn't a top Eastwood outing like UNFORGIVEN, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. Tom Hanks' star power is a great asset for this movie.  Looks-wise, he may seem like an unusual casting choice in the same way middle-aged James Stewart did playing young Charles Lindbergh in Billy Wilder's 1957 film, THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS.  But it's the star's All-American movie star appeal, acting skill and special place in the heart of moviegoers that makes him the perfect choice.  The qualities and virtues he represents are perfect for the image of an American hero.  Captain Chesley Sullenberger is an American hero played by a beloved American star.
 I was living in New York City that January day in 2009 when "The Miracle on the Hudson" occurred.  You've got to admit, it was miraculous.  His US Airways passenger flight was disabled by a flock of geese during its ascent out of LaGuardia Airport.  In the movie, the dedicated and experienced captain is being grilled by the N.T.S.B, the National Transportation Safety Board.  His newfound status as an American hero could and his reputation could be ruined if the NTSB finds that he could have returned to LaGuardia after the geese strike instead of landing on the Hudson.  This rather mean interrogation seems like an element of liberty taken with the tone of actual events for the sake of dramatic tension in the screenplay.  We know what the most riveting part of the film will be.  The plane's forced landing with 155 people onboard.  This is in a New York City changed forever by the tragic events of September 11th in 2001.  America was terrorized by pure evil at work, evil that took over commercial airliners and used them as lethal weapons, killing hundreds of innocent people.                                                                
Captain Sullenberger's experience and professionalism and grace under extreme pressure resurrected our faith in miracles.  Here's a trailer.

SULLY isn't really a biopic.  Within the dramatic story of this veteran pilot getting 155 passengers to safety after a plane's serious malfunction is a plea for the respect of age and experience.  That is the heart of the movie -- a plea for the respect of age and experience.  At the beginning of the story, when Captain Sullenberger must testify before the NTSB, he calls his wife and says "...I did the best I could."  At the end of the story, Sully gets his co-pilot alone and thanks him with a humility and graciousness that's been his hallmark the entire film.  Sully says, "We did our job."  Those two lines of dialogue delivered by Tom Hanks are, to me, the heart of Eastwood's message in this film.  We're now in a society that wants to kick experienced employees to the curb merely because they're in the AARP age category.  Useful employees.  A sense of humanity is being ejected from the American workforce.

As for Eastwood's directorial effort, he must have been forced into product placement and in-house promotion.  Sully and his co-pilot are put up in a Marriott Hotel.  If I saw that Marriott sign one more time on a building or a hotel bathrobe -- let's just say that once or twice was enough.  We even learn that a Snickers bar costs $5.00 from a Marriott Hotel room mini-bar.  Then there's a scene that could have been dropped totally.  A troubled Sully is restless one night.  He goes out for a jog.  Then he stops into a pub for a drink.  There are two patrons who recognized the silver-haired hero immediately.  These two patrons are just like the two guys who recognize Alvy Singer in line for a movie in ANNIE HALL.  Alvy describes the pair as "..two guys named Cheech."  The bartender also recognizes Sully and is awestruck.  He makes Sully a special cocktail named in his honor.  The Sully is Grey Goose with a splash of water.  I'm sorry but that drink name seemed like a gag worked seriously into a movie scene.  What is the point of the scene?  Sully looks at the TV screen above the bar.  We've seen TV reports of "The Miracle on the Hudson" earlier in the film.  Sully is watching a report of his astonishing feat.  We've seen this kind of report already.  But this report Sully watches is on the New York all-news cable channel, NY1.  SULLY is a Warner Brothers Time Warner release.  NY1 is a Time Warner station.  See what I mean?  That scene wasn't really necessary.  It was in-house promotion.

Katie Couric is in SULLY as herself. Her scene with Tom Hanks is one I'd use as an example for acting class students.  Her appearance does seem like stunt casting because the network interviewer part could have been done by any actor or actress, black, white, yellow or brown.  It was not important that Katie Couric be in the movie as Katie Couric.  But she is. And you catch her acting at portraying herself.  Meanwhile, in the same scene, you see Hanks being Captain Sullenberger.

The scene from inside the airplane as passengers are instructed by two steady and professional female flight attendants to "Brace for impact!" is gripping.  And the surprisingly happy outcome brought a tear to my eye.  If I had a job as a contributor on a network news magazine show, I'd like to interview a few folks who were passengers on that flight.  I'd ask how their lives changed.  Did they keep the same jobs they had?  Did they draw closer to relatives and friends?  Did they live their lives differently keep doing things the same way?

The almost incredibly handsome Aaron Eckhart co-stars as Captain Sullenberger's co-pilot and does his usual excellent job.  If he had been around in the 1940s and 50s, he probably would've pulled roles away from the likes of Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis with his good looks combined with fine acting chops.  In SULLY, he sports sort of a hot 1980s porn star mustache.
Aaron Eckhart makes you want to say, "Need some help in the...cockpit?"  Woof!
There is another miracle in SULLY besides the airplane landing on the Hudson.  Laura Linney actually makes something out of a nearly nothing role as Mrs. Sullenberger.  Linney is mostly on the phone saying anxious things to Captain Sullenberger like "Are you alright, honey?  Talk to me."

Director Clint Eastwood was heavily influenced by, among other directors, Preston Sturges.  Look closely and you can see the influence of Sturges' 1944 wartime satire, HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, in Eastwood's true life tale, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS.  Both films pose tough questions about patriotism, American hero worship and the marketing of heroes.

As I wrote earlier, Sully says a heartfelt "We did our job" to his co-pilot in the last act.  That moment has all the same sentiment as the end of HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO when Eddie Bracken as the 4-F Woodrow during World War 2 says to a group of Marines "I knew the Marines could do almost anything, but I never knew they could do anything like this."  The Sergeant replies, "You got no idea."

If only Eastwood had done as thoroughly a good job with SULLY as Preston Sturges did with HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO.  Nonetheless, SULLY was still worth seeing.  It's inspiring and Hanks is in first-rate form.  Clint Eastwood may not get an Oscar nomination for Best Director but he could get an Oscar nomination in the Best Song category.  The song at the end of SULLY, heard when we see closing credits and footage of the real-life passengers and crew reunited with Capt. Sullenberger himself, is a beauty.  Clint Eastwood co-wrote that song.  It's titled "Flying Home."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thank You, Curtis Hanson

"Now this was an elegant, beautiful picture."  That high praise for L.A. CONFIDENTIAL came from master director and screenwriter Billy Wilder.  Curtis Hanson was the director and co-screenwriter of that 1997 screen classic.  I feel it's a screen classic, a must-see crime thriller based on a best-selling novel.  It's the film that put Russell Crowe on Hollywood's A-list.
I remember the day I saw it at a preview screening in the Warner Brothers screening room in Manhattan.  I was a regular on Fox5's GOOD DAY NEW YORK, a popular weekday morning news program that allowed me to do entertainment features.  I'd was scheduled to interview Kim Basinger.  I'd wanted to see the film mainly because of Russell Crowe as Officer Bud White.
In the early 90s, I had a highly enjoyable part time job as a clerk in an independent video rental store in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.  It was called Video Blitz.  Films are my passion so that job didn't really feel like work, especially since I was a member of the kind of work staff that would've inspired a hit sitcom like CHEERS.  A bunch of misfits who were a fine fit together in that workplace.  As an employee, I could rent movies for free and I took full advantage of that opportunity.  I'd rented some Australian films and a young actor named Russell Crowe really caught my attention with his acting chops and versatility.  He could be tender and shy like he was as the gay athlete taking care of his widower dad and hoping to find romance in THE SUM OF US (1994).  He could be terrifying as the Asian-hating skinhead racist in ROMPER STOMPER (1992), a film that I believe influenced 1998's AMERICAN HISTORY X starring Edward Norton.  ROMPER STOMPER deservedly earned Russell Crowe Australian equivalent to the Best Actor Oscar.
I wanted to see how Australian film star Crowe would fare as a brutish member of the 1950s Los Angeles Police Department on the case of a complicated Christmastime mass murder mystery with a Hollywood connection.
I was outdoors for all my live segments on one edition of GOOD DAY NEW YORK. A book fair was underway on Fifth Avenue.  One writer was eager to be on camera and promote his work.  As well he should have been.  The writer was James Ellroy, the man who wrote that book that was adapted for the big screen.  But he did not help write the L.A. CONFIDENTIAL screenplay.  I asked him about that on camera.  Ellroy was so pleased with the film, so happy with the adaptation of his book that it made me even more excited about seeing the film.

I got the invite to a preview screening.

Wow.  I got that moviegoer tingle in the first 20 minutes...that tingle that tells you "This could be something superior."  And it was.  I paid to see Curtis Hanson's L.A. CONFIDENTIAL more than once when it opened nationwide.  I've rented it several times for home viewing.

The biggest mystery about that L.A. crime story is how Kim Basinger was the only member of the cast to get an Oscar nomination.  The movie made Russell Crowe a major player in Hollywood's eyes.  Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and James Cromwell were in peak performance under Curtis Hanson's direction.  They did remarkable work.  So did Hanson.  I am not disrespecting Kim Basinger.  She did a fine job as the unhappy hooker in Hollywood.  But did The Academy not see the other performances in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL?

I totally agree with what the late, great Billy Wilder said about the movie.  L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is one of the finest Hollywood films of the 1990s.  Curtis Hanson died this week at age 71.  He's another artist who leaves great work behind for us to savor again and again.  He did other good films (WONDER BOYS, 8 MILE, THE RIVER WILD).  L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is my favorite.  Man, how I love that crime thriller.  It's like a big, beautiful juicy California orange -- with worms in it.  Yeah, baby.  Thank you, Mr. Hanson.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two Sides of Peggy Wood

She got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her last big screen performance.  That performance was in a family film that was a gigantic box office hit.  It also took the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture of 1965.  Peggy Wood played the Reverend Mother in the abbey opposite Julie Andrews as Maria in THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  We see the affection she has for Maria when all the nuns sing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" right after the film's gorgeous opening with Julie Andrews singing the title tune.
In that classic film musical based on the Broadway hit of the same name, Peggy Wood reminded me of every kindly nun I had as a teacher during my many years of parochial schooling.  One of most stirring highlights of the film is the Reverend Mother singing great advice to the confused Maria. 
Reverend Mother knows Maria needs to be with the Von Trapp kids and their widower father.  Maria has run back to the convent to become a nun mainly because she's heartbroken.  "What is it you cahn't face?" the wise senior sister asks.  Reverend Mother knows the convent is not the right place for Maria.  She needs to get back in those hills, follow her heart and find love.  The Von Trapp children and the Baron need her as a governess.  And a stepmother.
Later on, Maria can invite all the nuns to her big fabulous wedding.  The older nun musically encourages Maria to "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
That older nun sings the song like it's a national anthem.  After she hits the final note, you feel like an umpire should yell "Play ball!"  I love the "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" number.

The sentiment and attitude of that number and of Peggy Wood's performance as Mother Abbess are the exact opposite of her character in another film classic, one that came out in 1937.

In the original version of A STAR IS BORN, Peggy Wood has a brief role as the glacially elegant Central Casting Corporation office supervisor who tries to discourage a hopeful Esther Blodgett (played by Janet Gaynor) from seeking a career and success in the Hollywood Hills.  After the supervisor informs the movie hopeful that the office hasn't put anyone new on the books for movie extra work in two years, she guides Esther to exit and says, "You know what your chances are?  One in a hundred thousand."

Esther crestfallen yet politely replies, "But maybe...I'm that one."

There you have it.  Two different kinds of Wood for one double feature.

Monday, September 19, 2016

I Miss Jackie Collins

It took a while for her to get the same respect from media folks that the guys got.  Jackie Collins mentioned this during one of the TV shows were on together.  I was enjoying a local arts and music festival one night when I checked my phone for messages and news updates.  I thought it was another celebrity death hoax when I read that Jackie was dead.  Then when I saw the same news item from The New York Times and other credible sources, I had to sit down.  The world had lost a best-selling and highly entertaining novelist.  I'd lost a longtime pal, one who was very gracious to me for over 20 years.  We met when I interviewed her during my VH1 days in the late 1980s.  Jackie was promoting her hip new novel, ROCK STAR.
Jackie loved the entertainment world -- the world of rock music, movies and TV.  She was an insider.  A generous insider.  She helped people -- especially the underdogs, the down and out, and the disenfranchised in ways that she could.  She helped her sister, Joan Collins, to land the role on the TV hit DYNASTY that kicked Joan's career up to a higher level of fame and stardom than decades of Hollywood movie work ever had.
I loved interviewing Jackie.  She was dishy, witty, fun and fabulous on-camera and off.  There was a touch of the "Auntie Mame" about her.  She invited me into her Beverly Hills home for one TV interview.  I was not surprised to see classic literature on her bookshelves.  Jackie Collins had something in common with Charles Dickens.  She cared about the working class, the less fortunate, the people who'd been kicked aside because they didn't belong to the right social class.  And she gave us something Dickens didn't.  Delightfully naughty sex scenes.
When network anchors talked about male authors such as Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum, those writers would be described as "prolific."  Once Jackie asked aloud during a commercial break on a network TV news magazine show stage why she didn't she get same word attached to her output.  I was present at the time.  And she deserved to have it attached.  Maybe she wasn't writing espionage thrillers, but she was tops at the genre of writing she did do.  She wrote 32 novels.  They all made the best-seller list of The New York Times.  Just a couple of months before her death, she was promoting her last novel, THE SANTANGELOS.  When I saw her, she was noticeably slimmer and slower in her gait.  A certain physical vitality had dimmed but not her attention and not her passion in promoting her work.

In the 1990s, when I was working mostly of New York City news programs, I mentioned the diversity in her novels during one of our interviews.  I don't know why Hollywood never took her sexy books to the big screen the way it did those of Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann and the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY author, E. L. James.  But Hollywood should have.  Jackie, from ROCK STAR to THE SANTANGELOS, wrote black and Latino characters into her stories.  They were dignified, dimensional characters that black and Latino actors would have liked to play had the books been adapted into screenplays.  Jackie told me she did that on purpose to assure diversity in casting.  She knew that Hollywood was not color blind.  You couldn't be subtle and expect Hollywood to hire a black actress to play a registered nurse or an entertainment lawyer if it wasn't spelled out in the book or screenplay.  The embrace of racial diversity was important to her and it was in her work for years.  That's one reason why I was glad to read and promote Jackie's work.  I appreciated that she included us.

She was kind and a generous friend.  I knew her when she'd lost her dear husband.  She found love again years later.  She was engaged.  Her fiancĂ© was diagnosed with cancer and she became a caregiver during his terminal illness.  She once contacted me and pitched me for a network TV job.  I've been actively job hunting for a few years now.  I was extremely touched and honored when she had her book reps for THE SANTANGELOS contact me.  Jackie would be doing a June question & answer book session in Manhattan's Bryant Park.  She wanted me to be the moderator/interviewer.
I was a weekly regular on Fox5's GOOD DAY NEW YORK morning program from 1995 to 1999.  I did mostly entertainment segments interviewing stars such as George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Helen Hunt, Spike Lee, John Lequizamo, Nick Nolte...and Jackie Collins.

On June 18th, day of the afternoon Bryant Park event last year, Jackie was a guest on GOOD DAY NEW YORK and mentioned that I'd be moderator.  She also mentioned that I used to be on the show.

After Jackie's segment, show host Greg Kelly asked co-host Rosanna Scotto what I did on the show.  Greg wasn't at Fox5 when I was working there.  But Rosanna was.  He posed that question about me to Rosanna live on the air.  She thought for a moment.  She didn't know and replied, "I think he went into music."

That's show biz.  Novelist Jackie Collins knew more about my career than a New York City TV journalist who worked on the same floor for the same company when I was there.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity for one last time with Jackie Collins a few months before her death.  I miss her.  She was a great dame.  Jackie Collins died of breast cancer at age 77 on Sept 18, 2015.
Here's an short demo reel of mine that includes a clip from my Jackie Collins interview during my time on GOOD DAY NEW YORK.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Emmys Tonight on ABC

The Emmy Awards will be handed out on ABC this evening.  When it comes to major entertainment awards presentations like that one, I always find myself thinking of those tremendously talented artists who never got an award or never even got a nomination.  Not that I'm a famous, gifted artist but I have worked on television since B.C. ("Before Cable").  I'm a veteran of a few TV decades.  I've never been in a category for a local or network Emmy.  When nominated actors say "It's an honor just to be nominated," I know they mean it.  That's exactly how I would feel if I was nominated.  With that in mind, let's look at some greats Overlooked by Emmys.  Here's something that surprised me speechless.  One of the most internationally famous, legendary and groundbreaking network TV sitcoms of all broadcast time was I LOVE LUCY.  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were the stars.
Arnaz was the executive producer.  He and Lucy formed the highly successful Desilu Studios and headed Desilu Productions.  CBS had a powerhouse sitcom hit with its four stars -- Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz,  Vivian Vance and William Frawley.  Desi Arnaz, an innovative TV producer and broadcast visionary, was the only member of the quartet who never got an Emmy nomination for that show.
He never got an Emmy nomination nor did he get a special lifetime achievement Emmy for giving us that iconic sitcom, revolutionizing the way sitcoms were shot and starting the production company that went on to give us THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and STAR TREK. To name a few.
 Cuban-American Desi Arnaz should've gotten Emmy nominations and a lifetime achievement award.
Just like Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, actress Ida Lupino starred on a 1950s TV sitcom with her real life husband, actor Howard Duff.  In the 1930s and 40s, Lupino had establish herself as a top Warner Brother actress.  She distinguished and slammed across critically praised performances in such films as THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, HIGH SIERRA, THE HARD WAY, DEEP VALLEY, DEVOTION and THE MAN I LOVE.  Come the early 1950s, Ida Lupino cracked a big hole in the Hollywood glass ceiling by becoming a director of small-budgeted hit movies.  She continued to act during her new career as a director, thus opening a door for such future actress/directors as Penny Marshall, Jodie Foster and Barbra Streisand.

If you want to be further impressed, go to  Search for Ida Lupino.  Go into her history and click on the *Director* category.  Look at all the TV episodes she directed. What an extensive list of credits!  Westerns, medical dramas, thrillers and sitcoms.  For a number of those years, she was the only woman directing episodes of network TV shows.
Ida Lupino never got a special lifetime achievement award for her pioneering work behind the TV camera.

Broadway musicals and, later, network TV made Hollywood veteran Angela Lansbury more famous that her 1940s and 50s movies did.  She won Tony Awards for her Broadway excellence.  A couple of years ago, Hollywood's Academy awarded Lansbury a special Oscar.  But...through years of hit work on CBS' MURDER, SHE WROTE...Angela Lansbury racked up about a dozen nominations in the Best Lead Actress category for that show alone -- and never won.
 She deserves a special lifetime achievement Emmy.

Today (Sunday, Sept. 18th), is the 99th birthday of longtime cartoon voiceover artist June Foray.  She was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel in the ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE cartoon series.  Foray is certainly the First Lady of the cartoon voiceover category.  She worked in the classic Warner Brothers cartoons.  Remember Witch Hazel with Bugs Bunny?
That was June Foray.  Back in 2013, The Emmy Academy made a most excellent move in presenting her a special Governor's Award for her contributions.

Another surprise.  Unfortunately, the late and great cartoon voiceover genius, Mel Blanc, never got a special Oscar or Emmy for giving brilliant vocal life to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat and other characters that delighted millions on the movie and TV screen for 50 years.

Every Sunday night, I sat in front of my TV and waited for HBO to take down the road to Oz.  That prison drama was adult, provocative, entertaining and wonderfully acted and written.  It's still hard to believe that Rita Moreno never got an Emmy nomination for her brilliance at the worldly Catholic nun prison psychiatrist.
The same goes for other top-notch members of the cast like Christopher Meloni and Lee Tergesen.  Oz was totally overlooked by the Emmys.  That was a crime in itself.
The Emmys start at 7p ET/4p PT on ABC.  Let's see how they surprise us later on this evening.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Song Choice Hits DWTS Sour Note

I guess you've heard -- and seen -- that ABC had a "Disruption With The Stars" on live network television Monday night.  Disgraced Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte, had performed his first dance on DANCING WITH THE STARS.  Personally, I chose not to watch.  Casting him strikes me as insensitive and sending the wrong message.  Especially for a network owned by Disney.  News of his being added to the celebrity line-up of dancers for this season came during coverage of his scandal in Rio.  He was a lead story.  The gold medal winner lied about being held up at gunpoint in Rio.  That lie infuriated Brazilians.  It embarrassed Americans during the Olympics.  Immediately, he took the blond out of his hair to appear less like a privileged party boy American.  You could tell that image rehabilitation was forcefully in progress by his handlers.  Especially since a big sponsor like Speedo dropped him during the international scandal.
News came out from ABC that Lochte had been in discussions to be a contestant on this season's DANCING WITH THE STARS before he made a mess of things in Rio.  I feel that ABC should have replaced him when the scandal broke.  The show's producers could have found a replacement quite easily.  That would have been the sensitive thing to do because this whole Rio crisis has the odor of white American privilege in an ethnic community.  That point was made in initial reports in The New York Times which included quotes from Brazilian officials.  DANCING WITH THE STARS already had Paula Deen on the show.  She got rich thanks to Food Network shows and exposure.  Then came news of her racial insensitivity.  She was dropped by the network, did mea culpa appearances on TV news programs and then made big money as a contestant on DANCING WITH THE STARS.  Reportedly, contestants get paid quite well and the money increases each time they advance to the next round.
 ABC and DANCING WITH THE STARS did not replace Ryan Lochte.  Brown people in Brazil are still pissed about what he did.  I can understand that. As I've written before -- what if this year's Olympics had been held in Los Angeles and what if Lochte did what he did in a black or Mexican community?  Think about what the aftermath and anger of that would've been like.  Would he be on DANCING WITH THE STARS now if that was the case?
So, he danced Monday night.  And the song chosen for him to dance to was a tune very popular in the 1960s.  It won the Oscar for Best Song of 1963.  The song is "Call Me Irresponsible."

That really irked me.  Lochte didn't pick that song.  He'd probably never even heard of it.  But for producers to choose that particular song made me feel as if the show -- which boasts of having only positive vibes -- was making light of an incendiary situation overseas in which a white American besmirched the image of Latino people.  Another song should have been assigned Lochte.  He did not make some wacky teen boo-boo with dad's car, something like you might have seen in a 1980s comedy written and directed by John Hughes.  He made a more serious mistake as a guest in a foreign country and others were involved.

Producers should have chosen another song.  And if they did think they could make light of his situation, the disruption on the set during the telecast and the removal of protestors from the audience proved otherwise.
That's just my opinion. 

Oscar Buzz for TILL

 I'm on Twitter and, in the last three weeks, there's been Oscar buzz from a few established movie critics. The buzz was that Cate B...