August rambling: look to the Founders

Simon Bar Sinister
Underdog villain Simon Bar Sinister, and a former NYC mayor

When Even the IEA Sounds an Alarm on Climate, the World Must Listen. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans, and land,” – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Burnt parts of Pacific forests are landing on the Atlantic.

Lying about vaccination status. Some people are going to intense lengths to get unauthorized COVID booster shots and When it comes to COVID vaccines, look to the Founders for answers

The Once and Future Coup

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Housing Discrimination and Emergency Medical Services  

After The Fall. Ben Rhodes raises a hard question: How did America get from the pinnacle of our Cold War victory to this sorry place?

Persepolis “Banned” in Commack, NY

Nearly 14M Individual Tax Returns Still Need Processing

The lie of “expired” food and the disastrous truth of America’s food waste  problem

Re: Simone Biles:  Olympians Are People First and Sports Culture’s Toxic Masculinity and ask yourself the questions on this decision tree

Gender inequality in esports

The Cleveland Indians/Guardians a teachable moment?

Are journalism programs properly training students to navigate harassment?

How Rudy Guiliani Went From 9/11’s Hallowed Mayor to 2021’s Haunted Ghoul

Sure, we got a billion bucks lyin’ around someplace (new Buffalo Bills stadium on the public dole?)

The worst money we’ve ever spent

7 Questions About America (from My Danish Husband) I Just Can’t Answer

Explaining the Different Post-Colonial Trajectories of Ireland and Haiti

Childhood of Some (In)Famous Americans

The culture

There’s a reason for the “k” in “knife”

The floorplan of 148 Bonnie Meadow Road in New Rochelle, NY — home of Rob and Laura Petrie and their son Ritchie.

Mark Evanier:  Flying the 747 (1970)

Dream of the Green Turtle, in mid-1944, arguably the first East Asian superhero

Poetry on Vinyl: An Interview with Jeff Alessandrelli of Fonograf Editions

The Oatmeal: Why it breaks your brain to take a compliment and You should love yourself and Leaving your pets at home

Colour trends of the year

Now I Know:  The Village That Went Dark and Was Proud of It and The Staircase With the Traffic Light and  Happy Belated Birthday, Australian Horses! and The Hidden Danger in the Walls of Your Old House and Why Congress Gets Free Men’s Magazines and Where’d the R in Mrs. Come From? and The Bugs That Make Danger Glow and There was once a Mickey Mouse gas mask. Here’s why and  The Great Cookie– er, Biscuit– er, Cake Debate of 1991

FFAPL

2021 Literary Legends Tickets on sale NOW. The program is on Saturday, October 16, 2021, at the Pine Hills branch of the APL. Support the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library and join us as we celebrate this year’s honorees, Lydia Davis and Eugene Mirabelli. General tickets

The Friends and Foundation were very sad to learn that former Friends president Paul Hacker passed away in July. This follows the news about David Colchamiro, who passed away in June.

MUSIC

Sharp Little Pencil: Loving You Today

Find My Way – Paul McCartney and Beck

Drive My Car – MonaLisa Twins

Mr. Popeil – “Weird Al” Yankovic. (RIP, Ron Popeil.)

Overture to La Cenerentola by Giachino Rossini

Rough Boy – ZZ Top

Coverville 1366: The Depeche Mode Cover Story III and 1367: Tribute to ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, and Cover Stories for Tony Bennett and Martha and The Vandellas and 1368: Track by Track Album Cover – Who’s Next

Footsteps in the Snow by Claude Debussy – Des pas sur la neige (Préludes – Book I)

A Musical 

Love and Mercy – Libera

Contrafactum – noun: A composition that makes use of an existing piece of music with different lyrics

Stories Behind 12 of Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits

10 Beatles Hits That ‘Rip Off’ Other Songs

Inside the Making of Prince’s Posthumous Album, Welcome 2 America

The “good death” of Carl Reiner

Denny O’Neil, David Mazzucchelli, and me

It appears that Carl Reiner had a good death on June 29. The 98-year-old was productive and vital until the very end.

This is very clear as I was watching If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast, the 2017 documentary for which Reiner was nominated for an Emmy. I caught it on July 3.

He “tracks down several nonagenarians [and older] to show how the twilight years can be rewarding.” The participants included Fyvush Finkel, who died before the release; the recently deceased Kirk Douglas; Betty White; Dick Van Dyke, with his much younger wife Arlene; Norman Lear; and naturally, his friend of 70 years, Mel Brooks. Here’s the preview.

I’m pleased to note that my daughter has watched all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Carl Reiner created, and which I love. Of course, he played the irritable TV star, Alan Brady, as well as the budding English anti-existentialist Yale Sampson, and several other annoying characters.

Not like his characters

But as Mark Evanier noted: “Carl Reiner was the friendliest, most talented person in show business… He was a guy I admired not just for his fine work as a writer, producer, director, and performer but for just the way he was as a person. Every time I was around him, he was an absolute delight – funny, engaging, willing to talk with anyone about anything. He was just what you’d want an idol to be. He was a role model for how to be truly successful and sane in show business.”

Yes, Carl Reiner was an actor (Ocean’s 11 franchise, Hot in Cleveland) and director (Oh, God; The Jerk; All of Me). But mostly he was a writer, going back to 1950s television, with Sid Caesar and Dinah Shore. He co-wrote and directed Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and The Man with Two Brains (1983).

I had wished he would have been selected for the Kennedy Center Honors, like his friends Mel Brooks had been in 2009 and Norman Lear in 2017. It may be that he was underappreciated as the straight man, such as the interviewer of Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man.

Other recent deaths of note

Dennis O’Neil, who died June 11, was a comic writer who I admired greatly. His Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Neal Adams made the book relevant. He also did work on Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Somewhere in my possession is a photo of O’Neil, David Mazzucchelli, Augustus Manly (Matt at the time), me, and a fifth person at the comic book store FantaCo in Albany. Denny and David were working on Daredevil at the time, so this had to be 1984 or 1985. He was quite pleasant, but I might have been a bit awestruck.

Hugh Downs, who passed away on July 1, was a constant presence in my television watching the last third of the 20th century. He hosted the game show Concentration (1958-1968), which BTW I was very bad at. Downs also co-hosted The Today Show (1962-1971).

With Barbara Walters, he co-hosted the news show 20/20 from 1978 until his retirement in 1999. In 1984, “he was certified by the Guinness World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours).”

The reference to the “good death”, incidentally, comes from Paul McCartney explaining the song The End of the End from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full.

Mary Tyler Moore: “girl with the three names”

Danny Thomas thought Mary Tyler Moore had too small a nose to play HIS daughter on his sitcom

When I went to see the movie Ordinary People in 1980, I knew that, like the character Beth, Mary Tyler Moore, who died this week, had a son die tragically, and during the filming period. It’s impossible to ascertain how that event affected her acting. But it was a ferocious performance; one of my friends said, painfully, it reminded him of his growing up.

Mary was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, though she lost to Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter. But it was clear, Beth was NOT “Our Mare!” that we knew from the show named after her, one of the most popular TV shows ever, which “helped define a new vision of womanhood.” Mary Richards is the cultural ancestor of Murphy Brown, Liz Lemon, Carrie Bradshaw, and so many others. There was initial talk of having Mary Richards be divorced, but that was nixed.

That theme, written and sung by Sonny Curtis, who wrote “I Fought the Law”, was changed after season 1. The iconic first line, “Who could turn the world on with her smile?” started in the second season after she actually moved, got her job, and made new friends after a romantic breakup. The theme song’s original first line was “How will you make it on your own?” The last line was also changed from “You just might make it after all,” to “You’re gonna make it after all.”

It’s well-repeated that shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, produced by MTM Enterprises, Mary’s company with second husband Grant Tinker, had people staying home on Saturday nights, and it was true. Here’s the fall CBS Saturday night schedule, with # indicating an MTM show:
1970: Mission: impossible (hr), My Three Sons, Arnie [no, I don’t remember it either], MTM#, Mannix (hr0 -[Mike Connors just died, too – watched that show regularly as well]
1971: All in the Family, Funny Face, New Dick Van Dyke Show, MTM#, M:I (hr)
1972: AITF, Bridget Loves Bernie, MTM#, Bob Newhart Show#, M:I (hr)
1973: AITF, MAS*H, MTM#, Bob Newhart#, Carol Burnett Show (hr) – THE classic lineup
1974: AITF, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers#, MTM#, Bob Newhart#, Burnett (hr)
1975 and 1976: The Jeffersons, Doc#, MTM#, Bob Newhart#, Burnett (hr)

Watch
alt MTM opening
Love Is All Around – Joan Jett
Chuckles the Clown’s funeral

Read
John Amos on being on the MTM show

I watched all the spinoffs, Rhoda, Phyllis, and especially the hour-long drama Lou Grant. And those other MTM Enterprises shows were among my favorites: The Tony Randall Show (1976-1978), The White Shadow (1978-1981), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982), Paris (1979-1980), Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), St. Elsewhere (1982-1988), and Newhart (1982-1990)


But it’s the original Dick Van Dyke Show where I learned about Mary Tyler Moore, the “girl with three names” who Danny Thomas thought had too small a nose to play HIS daughter on his sitcom, but who he recommended to play Laura Petrie to Dick’s Rob. And when I was eight and a half when the show started, I noted that she was pretty.

But there was something about the episode It May Look Like a Walnut, featuring Danny Thomas, a month shy of my 10th birthday. I couldn’t have identified it at the moment, but I later realized that Laura Petrie rolling out of a closet on a wave of walnuts was sexy as all get out.

Watch
DVD show opening
DVD/MTM song and dance
another DVD song and dance
I Am a Fine Musician
It May Look Like a Walnut – 5 minutes

Read
Growing Up with Mary Tyler Moore: The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Larry Mathews Shares Memories of His TV Mom
Mary Tyler Moore’s Greatest Quotes

I’ve watched Mary Tyler Moore in all sorts of projects, from Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman Special, to at least four other series she starred in, to that not very good Mary Richards/Rhoda Morganstern reunion in 2000, to a 2013 appearance in Hot in Cleveland with Betty White and Georgia Engel. Before the Dick Van Dyke Show, I probably saw her in a bunch of shows, but I never watched a show hosted by Boris Karloff called Thriller

The Fatal Impulse (1960) – small role for MTM
Man of Mystery (1962) – a substantial role for MTM, though she doesn’t appear until 10 minutes in

D is for Richard Deacon

deacon2There are only two television shows for which I own the entire series on DVD, and they have several things in common.

Both The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), aired around the same time on CBS-TV. They each featured actors that were not born in my hometown of Binghamton, NY, but who grew up there, attending Binghamton Central High School in the same time frame.

One, of course, was Rod Serling, creator, and host of TZ. The other was Richard Deacon, the guy who played Mel Cooley, the put-upon producer of the Alan Brady Show, the fictitious variety show within the Van Dyke Show, and not incidentally, Alan’s brother-in-law.

Richard Deacon was born in Philadelphia, PA on May 14, 1921. According to someone on a Binghamton list on Facebook, he eventually lived on Crary Street in Binghamton with his parents, Joseph and Ethel, and one sibling.

At BCHS, he was in the Dramatics Club playing the role of the doctor in “Kind Lady” in 1938, and one of the elders in “Ruth of Moab” in 1940. He was in the percussion section of the school’s band for a time.

Richard, like me 30 years later, also participated in the “Red Cross Representatives” program at BCHS.
Richard Deacon ad
Besides the Van Dyke show, he was best known for playing Fred Rutherford, Clarence (aka Lumpy) Rutherford’s father, in the TV series Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963).

The IMDB notes: “Stage legend Helen Hayes told Deacon that he would never become a leading man but encouraged him to become a character actor,” which he did.

He was well regarded as a gourmet cook.

Richard Deacon appeared in a 1964 episode of the Twilight Zone, The Brain Center at Whipple’s. I’ve read that he was present at the premiere of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983 in Binghamton, though I did not see him there. He died of hypertensive heart disease the very next year at the age of 63.

In 1990, the city of Binghamton honored Rod Serling with a plaque, and the following year, it was decided to expand the program to have a Sidewalk of the Stars, and Richard Deacon was one of the first inductees. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair but found a new home in the Forum Theater in 2014.
abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17