Friday, February 26, 2010


Today would have been the birthday of several classic stars who have passed from our world. One was the great Jackie Gleason who was born in 1916. Another would have been the great Tony Randall. Tony is perhaps best known for his work on television. His breakthrough role was as history teacher Harvey Weskit in Mr. Peepers (1952–1955). Does anybody remember Mr. Peepers and its star Wally Cox. After a long hiatus from the medium, he returned in 1970 as fussbudget Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, opposite Jack Klugman, a role he would keep for five years. The names of Unger's children on The Odd Couple were Edna and Leonard, named after Randall's sister and Randall himself. In 1974, Randall and Jack Klugman appeared in television spots endorsing a Yahtzee spinoff, Challenge Yahtzee. Although not identified as Felix and Oscar the TV spots were filmed on the same set as The Odd Couple. Subsequently, he starred in The Tony Randall Show, in which he played a Philadelphia judge, and Love, Sidney. In the TV movie that served as the latter show's pilot, Sidney Shorr was clearly written as a gay man, but his character's sexuality was made ambiguous when the series premiered. Disappointed by this turn of events and the series' lack of acceptance, Randall stayed away from television series. Years later he was the host during the breaks for the October 30 - November 2, 1987 free preview of HBO's short lived premium channel Festival. In September 1993, Randall and Jack Klugman reunited once again in the CBS-TV Movie The Odd Couple: Together Again reprising their roles as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. The story began when, after Felix ruins plans for his daughter Edna's wedding, his wife Gloria throws him out the house for 11 days which left him no choice but to move back in with Oscar and to help him recover, getting him back in shape after throat cancer surgery left his voice very raspy. It would also have been the birthday of "good old Fred Mertz' aka William Frawley who was born in 1887. This amazing veteran character actor, best known for his portrayal of Lucille Ball's gruff landlord ‘Fred Mertz' on the groundbreaking 1950's television sitcom "I Love Lucy." By the time Frawley came to "I Love Lucy" he was a veteran of vaudeville, Broadway and over 100 Hollywood films. He was born William Clement Frawley on February 26, 1887 in Burlington, Iowa. In his youth he sang in the St. Paul's Catholic Church choir, played at the Burlington Opera House, and also appeared in amateur shows at the Garrick Theater. His first "real" job was as a stenographer for the Union Pacific Railroad. But his true love was show business, which he pursued in a vaudeville act with his brother Paul, and later joined pianist Franz Rath in an act they took to San Francisco, "A Man, a Piano, and a Nut." After four years, in 1914 he formed a light comedy act with his new wife Edna Louise Broedt, "Frawley and Louise," touring the Orpheum and Keith vaudeville circuits until they divorced in 1927. Then he moved to Broadway and appeared in such shows as "Here's Howe!" "Bye, Bye Bonnie," "The Gingham Girl," "Sons o' Guns," and "She's My Baby" (with Bea Lillie, Clifton Webb, and Irene Dunne). His first dramatic role was that of press agent ‘Ward O'Malley' in a 1932 production of "Twentieth Century" at the Broadhurst Theater. Then in 1932, it was off to Hollywood for a seven-year contract with Paramount. When Frawley approached Lucille Ball about a part in "I Love Lucy" in 1951, she was surprised to hear from a man she knew only barely from the forties. Lucy responded, "Bill Frawley, how are you?" and promised to discuss the matter with Desi Arnaz. Arnaz agreed that Frawley would be wonderful for the ‘Fred Mertz' role, but shared the network's concern over his reputation for instability and drinking problems. Arnaz immediately leveled with Frawley about CBS's reservations. He denied it, but Desi warned him that if he was late to work, or unable to perform except because of legitimate illness more than once, he'd be written out of the show. So began the saga that continued until 1957 when "Lucy" went off of prime time after 179 episodes. In 1960, Frawley accepted an offer to do a show with ABC, "My Three Sons," portraying ‘Michael Francis "Bub" O'Casey,' a character not unlike ‘Fred Mertz.' He continued with "My Three Sons" for five years, until failing health forced him to retire. On the evening of March 3, 1966 while strolling down Hollywood Blvd. after seeing a movie, Frawley suffered a heart attack and collapsed. He was rushed to nearby Hollywood Receiving Hospital where he was pronounced dead, a week after his seventy-ninth birthday.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Today would have been the 105th birthday of one of the greatest composers of all time: the one and only Harold Arlen. What an amazing life he had. After his dear wife passed away of a brain tumor in the 1970's, he wrote only one other song in fifteen years: the title tune of the short lived TV series "Paper Moon". In 1929, Harold Arlen composed his first well-known famous hit song: "Get Happy" (with lyrics by Ted Koehler). Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler wrote shows for the Cotton Club, a popular Harlem night club, as well as for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. Arlen and Koehler's partnership resulted in a number of hit songs, including the familiar standards "Let's Fall in Love" and "Stormy Weather." Arlen continued to perform as a pianist and vocalist with some success, most notably on records with Leo Reisman's society dance orchestra. Harold Arlen's compositions have always been popular with jazz musicians because of his facility at incorporating a blues feeling into the idiom of the conventional American popular song. In the mid-1930s, Arlen married, and spent increasing time in California, writing for movie musicals. It was at this time that he began working with lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. In 1938, the team was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayerto compose songs for The Wizard of Oz. The most famous of these is the song "Over the Rainbow" for which they won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. They also wrote "Down with Love", a song later featured in the 2003 movie Down with Love.Arlen was a longtime friend and former roommate of actor Ray Bolger who would star in The Wizard of Oz, the film for which "Over the Rainbow" was written.In the 1940s, he teamed up with lyricist Johnny Mercer, and continued to write hit songs like "Blues in the Night", "That Old Black Magic," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" Harold Arlen composed two defining tunes which bookend Judy Garland's musical persona: as a yearning, innocent girl in "Over the Rainbow" and a world-weary, "chic chanteuse" with "The Man that Got Away". Today is also the birthday of Galileo and Susan B. Anthony as well as the official "President's Day" with all of the banks and schools and post offices closed. It's a beautiful sunny day and I am going to a Santa Monica dealership to apply for a job. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Today of course would have been Abraham Lincoln's 201st birthday. The Disneyland resorts in both Anahiem and Orlando, Florida of course have celebrated Mr. Lincoln well with their audio animatronics show on the amazing sixteenth president of the United States. I was amazed to find out how many statues of Lincoln there are in his home state of Illinois. There are statues of Lincoln in every position a public figure could be engaged in. But today is also a historical day. It was on this day in 1973 that the first prisoner of wars from Vietnam were exchanged. And this birthday date is also shared by Charles Darwin, and on the still living side are Franco Zeferelli, the director who is eighty-seven and Joe Gatagiola, the sportscaster. He is eighty-four. Arsenio Hall is fifty-five and Josh Brolin is forty-two. In history it was also the birthday of General Omar Bradley and Alice Roosevelt Longworth who was the politically influential daughter of Teddy Roosevelt. I wonder what dear Mr. Lincoln would say about our present day America. Of course, his prediction that no military giant would strike America was proved untrue on Sept 11, 2001, but at least it was an attack by stealth (and a cowardly stealth at that) and not by actual military attack. Today I go out looking for new work and I will follow a lead from mid-week. I pray that I will be successful. We forged a new friendship with the York Theatre last week and that was a real blessing. Thank you, Jim. Schools are out today and the sun is shining, so lets hope it will be a great day! The Disneyland cast members will be treated today to a preview of the re-launch of Captain EO at Disneyland featuring the late great Michael Jackson. It is still a few weeks away before it will open to the public, however. I remember when this attraction opened back in the 1980's that there was an all night party at Disneyland that I attended. That was back in 1985-- twenty-five years ago! I still have the pictures I took back then.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Today would have been Jimmy Durante's birthday. We lost him thirty years ago this year on January 29th. What an amazing performer with an incredibly generous heart. Jimmy's love for children continued through the Fraternal Order of Eagles children, who among many causes raise money for handicapped and abused kids of all ages. At Jimmy's first appearance at the Eagles International Convention in 1961, judge Bob Hansen inquired about his fee for performing. Jimmy replied, "Do not even mention money, judge or I'll have to mention a figure that'll make ya sorry ya brought it up" "What can we do then?" asked Hansen. "Help da kids," was Durante's reply. Jimmy performed for many years at Eagles conventions free of charge, not even accepting travel money. The Fraternal Order of Eagles in his honor changed the name of their Children's Fund to the Jimmy Durante Children's Fund, children and in his memory have raised over 20 million dollars to help. A reporter once remarked of Durante after an interview: "You could warm your hands on this one." Jimmy's later years were his best. He appeared in the classic comedy "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963) (in which, early in the film, his Smiler Grogan character tells a concerned crowd of $350,000 "buried under a big W" and then dies, literally "kicking the bucket") Jimmy made many classic television appearances through the early 1970s. He narrated the Rankin-Bass animated Christmas special Frosty the Snowman (1969), re-run for many years since. The television work also included a series of commercial spots for Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereals in the mid 1960s, which introduced Durante's gravelly growl and narrow-eyed, large-nosed countenance to millions of children. "Dis is Jimmy Durante, in puy-son!" was his introduction to some of the Kellogg's spots. One of his last appearances was in a memorable television commercial for the 1973 Volkswagen Beetle, where he proclaimed that the new, roomier Beetle had "plenty of breathin' room....for da old schnozzola!"
In 1963, Durante recorded an album of pop standards, September Song. The album became a best-seller and provided Durante's re-introduction, to yet another generation, almost three decades later. His gravelly interpretation of "As Time Goes By" accompanied the opening credits of the romantic comedy hit, Sleepless in Seattle, while his version of "Make Someone Happy" launched the film's closing credits. The former number appeared on the film's best-selling soundtrack.
He wrote a foreword for a humorous book titled Cockeyed Americana, compiled by Dick Hyman. In the first paragraph of the "Foreword!," as Durante called it, he met Hyman and discussed the book and the contribution Hyman wanted Durante to make to it. Durante wrote, "Before I can say gaziggadeegasackeegazobbath, we're at his luxurious office." After reading the material Hyman had compiled for the book, Durante commented on it, "COLOSSAL, GIGANTIC, MAGNANIMOUS, and last but not first, AURORA BOREALIS. [Capitalization Durante's.] Four little words that make a sentence--and a sentence that will eventually get me six months."Aside from "Dat's my boy dat said dat!" , "Dat's moral turpentine!" and "It's a catastastroke!" (for "catastrophe,") Durante sent such catch phrases as "Everybody wants ta get inta the act!", "Umbriago!" and "Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaaaa!" into the vernacular. Jimmy suffered a stroke in 1972, and used a wheelchair during the last years of his life. He died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California, on January 29, 1980, aged 86, and was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.

It is also actor Robert Wagner's 80th birthday. Robert Wagner was actually discovered by a talent agent as Lana Turner was. It was a protegee of classic actor Clifton Webb. His most famous marriage was to actress Natalie Wood who drowned while aboard his yacht at Catalina Island.

Monday, February 08, 2010


For all people who think that Disneyland would be uncrowded on Super Bowl Sunday-- forget it. Both Disneyland and California Adventure Parks were jammed all day and the weather in the evening was down right cold. The park has drained the Frontierland River and is refurbishing for the first time in seven long years. It's quite amusing to see bulldozers and trucks along the riverbed. Here reality and fantasy cross over. I am amazed at the rocket high prices for food--even with cast member discount of 20% a hot hot dog would cost $5.25 and a turkey leg $6.40. Wow! But I had a good time. I've included photos of the Frontierland River construction and make over here. Yesterday February 7th was also the 70th birthday of Walt Disney's classic film and character Pinocchio. If you haven't seen this amazing animated classic in a while, you really need to. You will cry as I always do. Pinocchio is actually my second favorite Walt Disney film of all time and it's main song "When You Wish Upon A Star" is my all time favorite song. Jiminy Cricket was always voiced by veteran film star Cliff Edwards. Cliff was known also as "Ukulele Ike" and he was he who introduced the song "That's Entertainment". Cliff was a favorite of Walt and when he died penniless, it was Walt Disney who paid for his funeral and burial expenses. It also would have been the 85th birthday of classic comedy actor Jack Lemmon-- dear old Ensign Pulver and of course Hollywood's Felix in "The Odd Couple". We lost a great talent with Jack's passing. I always enjoyed watching him perform. John Nugent and i continue writing for our Vermont deadlines and now we have finally installed two gigs of ram into the computer that we badly needed. Now we can load the entire Garritan sound catalog of instrumentation into the computer without it crashing somewhere around the percussion.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Today would have been the 198th birthday of one of the most prolific writers in all of English literature. Who can forget Oliver, Ebenezer Scrooge or David Copperfield. He was no friend of dear old Virginia Woolf, a fellow writer from his era who thought all of his many characters were "unabashed sentimental balderdash." and his plots purely impossible. Oh who cares about Virginia Woolf?-- or even who the hell is afraid of her! Not me! There is an incident in Dickens' life that very few people know about. It was an event that pretty much cut the famous author's writing proficiency in half , and he died five years to the day of the event. That event was a train crash. An illustration of this crash scene is rendered in the drawing of the aftermath of this event on this page. It was quite a horrific event. This train crash occurred on June 8th, 1865 while returning from Paris with a woman named Ellen Ternan to whom he was deeply devoted (even though he was married at the same time.) No one knew of the extent of his devotion to her. It should be known that divorce with an impending affair at the same time during this time period in England would have ended Dickens Career. Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash in which the first seven carriages of the train plunged off a cast iron bridge that was being repaired. The only first-class carriage to remain on the track was the one in which Dickens was travelling. Dickens spent some time trying to help the wounded and the dying before rescuers arrived. Before leaving, he remembered the unfinished manuscript for Our Mutual Friend, and he returned to his carriage to retrieve it. Typically, Dickens later used this experience as material for his short ghost story The Signal-Man in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash. He based the story around several previous rail accidents, such as the Clayton Tunnel rail crash of 1861. Dickens managed to avoid an appearance at the inquest into the crash, as it would have become known that he was travelling that day with Ternan and her mother, which could have caused a scandal. Although physically unharmed, Dickens never really recovered from the trauma of the Staplehurst crash, and his normally prolific writing shrank to completing Our Mutual Friend and starting the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood after a long interval. Much of his time was taken up with public readings from his best-loved novels. Dickens was fascinated by the theatre as an escape from the world, and theatres and theatrical people appear in Nicholas Nickleby. The travelling shows were extremely popular. In 1866, a series of public readings were undertaken in England and Scotland. The following year saw more readings in England and Ireland. I had never heard this story before. Well, it's a beautiful sunny day today after a lot of rain. I am going to church. Financial worries again.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Goodbye Ford!

Well believe it or not I was laid off from my New Job at Sunrise Ford in North Hollywood. They just eliminated my position without ever giving me a chance. Less then a month. Oh they apologized from the sky to the ground below and said it was nothing personal and that I had done nothing wrong! They really liked me, and a few were even been let go with me to supposidly 'balance the budget". If you are a big car dealership with two locations and you balance your entire fiscal budget and become solvent by simply saving the monthly salaries of five people making $8.00 an hour after a pretty damn good sales month in January 2010 (because after all any one who sells the car will get the commission-- even a trained monkey) you are in deep financial doo-doo. And what hurts even more is that two people were kept who were hired after me and were not let go as I was. And one was kept who had been hired five days after I had. And get this-- one guy they kept hadn't even shown up on the first day! But I am 62 and this may be age discrimination. I was totally Ford certified and licensed and now as I go around looking for work at other Ford dealerships, I find that Sunrise Ford in North Hollywood has a pretty bad reputation. Of course, like everybody in the car business, they try to get you on to the lot where there is a 65% chance that you will buy a car. If they get you into a show room then the chances increase to 85%. I was to be in charge of Special financing for credit challenged customers, but I was told so many times "don't waste your time with this one or that one". And yet one sales counselor was telling people over the phone that she had a new bank that just loved to finance potential customers that just had their bankruptcy discharged. Now there isn't a worse credit risk from of these type of customers and so the two statements completely clashed with one another. This was just really heartbreaking because i was really getting people to come in. I had purchased four cars at this dealership over the years, but you can bet that I will not be foolish to do so again. So beware. If what they say sounds too good to be true-- it is-- in the worst way. They sent me my last check today and didn't even return my sales license-- what the hell goes with that! There are good people here, but something is definitely wrong!