Saturday, April 15, 2017

REMEMBERING RADIO

RADIO, A KID’S BEST FRIEND
“I am the Whistler and I know many things for I walk by night.  I know many strange tales hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows.  Yes I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak.”

With the lights off every Sunday night on KXLY CBS I would get creeped out listening to my Sears Roebuck little radio in bed.  Signal Oil Co. was the sponsor and the intro theme was whistled by Dorothy Roberts, according to “The Big Broadcast 1920-50.”  Yes the Whistler could give you nightmares so don’t tell Mom.  I should have been sleeping but who could sleep with the Whistler on.

Old time radio was the drug of choice for kids and Spokane, in fly over land, was spared television’s introduction until 1953.  So at an age when I could appreciate radio drama I was into it with CBS, MBS, NBC and ABC.

Sunday afternoon was big with the Mutual Mysteries:  The Shadow and Nick Carter, not to be missed. With “Inner Sanctum” and “Gangbusters” there was no reason to leave the radio.


I actually participated in a radio play reading when I toured the BBC on Regent St. in London in 1998.  The Brits in the tour insisted on doing a western which was a strange choice, I thought.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

LALA LAND, SO. AFRICA, HOPKINS MANN

HOLLYWOOD IN SOUTH AFRICA
“Untamed” is a Fifties romanticized Hollywood whitewash of the “taming” of the native African continent by whites.  It’s best to cheer when a Zulu heaves a spear that lands in the chest of an unwelcome white.  

A related documentary in 1993 is worth a look: “In Darkest Hollywood:  Cinema and Apartheid.”

DIM IMAGES AT CINEPLEX
At the Mann Hopkins yesterday for “LaLa Land” we experienced a very dim image on the screen which makes us think that Mann is trying to save a few nickels on electricity.  If you were home you would select “dynamic” on the remote.
This has happened elsewhere, including the AMC Rosedale.  But the Riverview is consistently brilliant.

LALA LAND REVISITED
A good reason to revisit this movie is the argument between the two leads about whether she should accompany him on a gig in Boise.  Having been a Boise resident, I appreciated the humor in that.  Also watch for the symbolism about the importance of taking the right exit ramp from the freeway (of life.)  
Cues about the retro life in the arts community include the references to the Rialto Theater (So. Pasadena) and the audio cassette deck in Ryan’s Olds.
The ending is reminiscent of Bogart and Bergman in “Casablanca” and dancing on the stars is from the MGM Fifties musical “Lovely to Look At” which is a lame remake of the RKO hit “Roberta.”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'AMERICAN GRAFFITI' SURPRISING SUCCESS

AG features classic cars.
CRUISIN’ FOR LOVE
A low budget movie featuring a quaint early 1960s California mating ritual, cruising Main Street, with no name actors and a freshman director/film editor was an unlikely candidate for box office records.  The 1972 musical “American Graffiti” at a cost of $750,000 defied all odds and reaped $55 million for Universal Pictures and Lucas Films.   
The premise for the movie seemed weak:  Teens cruising downtown in classic cars while in real life young people were demonstrating against the Vietnam War.  Also, the featured musical act, “Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids,” was mediocre at best.  Was it escapism for a war weary public or Universal’s promotions that connected people to “American Graffiti”?  Maybe it was excellent entertainment.
My Los Angeles roommate John Miller in 1963 enthusiastically recalled kids cruising downtown Ontario, Calif., and that was 10 years before AG was released.
On my recently purchased new VHS tape, the interviews at the end of the film with George Lucas, Ron Howard and others is worth the 60 cents I paid for the tape.  
Lucas broke ground with a documentary rather than a tiresome teen comedy with a weak plot.  Cinema photographer Wexler deserves much credit as well.


Compare it to the 1956 “Rock Rock Rock” with Tuesday Weld and Alan Freed with has an annoying sitcom type plot. See this one for the scene in the night club with the starburst chandelier similar to the light fixtures rescued from the Terrace Theatre before it was demolished.

Friday, March 24, 2017

SOUTHDALE LIBRARY PLAN SUSPENSE

Now that Edina held its last “open house” Thursday night (March 23), it’s up to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners to receive proposals for redevelopment of the Southdale Regional Library on York Avenue in Edina.

I was the “ambassador” Thursday night for one of the groups providing input to the Edina city and library officials and here’s what we recommended:

Don’t rush into redevelopment now.  The retail property picture is changing rapidly and the Southdale Mall could be available to the county for a library and other uses at bargain basement prices.

Avoid providing Tax Increment Financing for redevelopment.  We don’t need to give Fortune 500 companies tax breaks.
Buildings bordering Richfield’s residential area should be low so they don’t cast a shadow over the neighboring homes.
Don’t allow “big box retailers” as tenants in this development and provide adequate and accessible parking so that library patrons don’t have to compete with restaurant customers for parking spaces.  Also, underground parking spaces should not be narrow and difficult to navigate.  Edina has a sorry record in planning for parking in its commercial areas; Grandview Library/senior center case in point.

The “plan” presented by Edina refers to limited “discreet” above ground parking and that needs to be defined.
Remodeling the existing library building was an option presented at previous meetings but apparently has been ignored.  Edina Economic Development Manager Bill Neuendorf said the remodeling option is being “tracked.”  Another official said although their are no cost estimates for remodeling, he thought it was not economically feasible to remodel the existing building.

It was previously  reported in the Sun Current: “The space could be used for an indoor concert facility, suggested Doris Rubenstein, a member of the Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority. While Richfield has two outdoor stages under development, it lacks a venue for indoor performances, Rubenstein said.”

County Commissioners need to hear from taxpayers and remain flexible.  I hope hearing dates will be announced in the media.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

MARCH 25, USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL,PEARL HARBOR


Fifty from Minnesota toured the Arizona before boarding the NCL cruise ship on Saturday.


Hawaii 2017

Royal Hawaiian Hotel, built in 1927, the Pink
Palace
Hawaii Island cruise aboard ship
CALL ME KAWIKA
After four short classes aboard ship I was certified in Hula and performing with visitors from Japan and the U.S. on the stage on the sun deck of the NCL Pride of America.  Kaulana Bucasas and China Hill were are onboard instructors and enriched the wonderful Aloha spirit and Hawaiian experience.
TRUMP SUPPORTERS STILL ANGRY
You couldn’t swing a dead cat on deck of the Pride of America cruise ship this past week without hitting an angry Trump supporter.  One from South Carolina groused about “post election protest syndrome” and another from Orlando referred to the “United States of Objectors.”  
I replied that I would insist that our Republican Congressman resist all attempts to increase the national debt limit by an additional $54 billion for the war industry.  It could be a boondoggle; like $200 saws for the Army, said the Trump guy.  We agree on something.

This park is near where Jay stays in Honolulu and is away from the tourist district near the beach.  Honolulu is way overbuilt but Oahu has design standards so McDonalds can't build yellow structures with red arches.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Naturally Native, Allegiance, RCA SelectaVision Player

No talent Dora Hall album found
“NATURALLY NATIVE”  MOVIE EXPLORES RACISM
Jennifer Wynne was the co-director on this movie featuring an all Native American cast and financed by the Pequot Tribal Nation.  Ms. Wynne spoke to our Road Scholar group earlier this month at the LA Downtown Hotel.
The movie is the story of three native women who struggle establish a cosmetic business and are frustrated by racism and sexism.  The characters also challenge the stereotypes prevailing for Native American alcoholism and casinos.
The conflict between those who were raised Christian and those who are more traditional is also a theme in this worthwhile movie available on DVD.
DORA HALL ALBUM FOUND IN SUBURBS
A cousin had this LP from the infamous Dora Hall, a no talent with a rich husband who did a TV special for syndication in 1963 that I saw on KCOP/13.  She dabbled in several venues but country probably worked best since you don’t have to be Rene Fleming to pull it off.  She sounds like Lucille Ball in “Mame.”
“ALLEGIANCE” THEME OF RACISM RELEVANT NOW
EDINA—From coast to coast today audiences in movie theaters saw a Fathom January 2016 performance of “Allegiance,” based in part on actor George Takei’s real life experience as a child in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.  The women in the internment camp in “Allegiance” found a way to unify in resistance with letter writing to Washington officials objecting to the racism. 
The showing here was lightly attended but those that saw it in LA and San Francisco must have enjoyed a few communal moments.  (Takei appears in the 1960 war movie ‘Hell to Eternity” which is a sympathetic look at the plight of Japanese Americans during the war.)

RCA SELECTAVISION VIDEO DISC FAILED PRODUCT
A suburban relative was an earlier adaptor of home movie equipment in the early 1980s when he and his wife purchased an RCA SelectaVision player.  I inherited it this weekend and find that the power source is dysfunctional so it won’t play the large floppy discs.  
This is America’s only attempt to invent a TV connected movie viewing device and was a total bust; worse than the Sony Betamax.  The RCA product is a reworking of the phonograph with a magnetic cartridge, needle and grooved vinyl records. 
I am sure that this analog rendering of movies is no improvement over VHS.  Next month I will give it away.

The RCA system fell victim to poor planning, conflicts within RCA, and technical difficulties that stalled production of the system for 17 years until 1981, by which time it was already made obsolete by laser videodiscs.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

LOS ANGELES FEB. 2017

Norma Talmage House
“WHAT’S GOING ON?” LOVE, THAT’S WHAT
HOLLYWOOD, USA — Marvin Gaye’s hit song could serve as an anthem for the multitude who gathered Saturday (Feb. 4) at the Hollywood Pantages Theater for “Motown the Musical” in a communal cross generational outpouring of emotion during the week of hell from the twisted mind of a maniac in Washington, DC.
You could feel it in the gorgeous art deco auditorium as we clasped hands and gently swayed and sang “Reach Out and Touch” someone and make this a better world.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time; Los Angeles is America and I was happy to be among it’s assembled multitude on that beautiful day. 

REMEMBERING GOLDEN ERA MOVIES
CULVER CITY — From the alley I could get a shot inside MGM’s Sound Stage 15 where the “Wizard of Oz” was filmed in 1939 and also “A Day at the Races” with the Marx Brothers.  An entire race track was constructed for the later in this sound stage.  In this darken building are old movie sets, but photos aren’t allowed.  In a similar alley, Gene Kelly in Navy blue denims drew approving glances from ladies on the lot in a scene from “Anchors Aweigh,” an MGM musical.

MGM STARS REMEMBED
CULVER CITY — The MGM studios has been reduced to a mere 500 acres by Japanese electronics giant Sony.  Much television is recorded here.  We rubber necked ourselves through sound stages for “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Goldbergs.” 
 We also spent time in the sound recording studio which is named for Barbra Streisand.  Bungalows on the old MGM lot have been named for famous stars.  One of these bungalows appears in the 1945 MGM musical “Abbott and Costello in Hollywood.”

LOS ANGELES — Thanks to Road Scholar tour guide John Daugherty for taking us to the downtown Fine Arts Building, a prime example of Gothic architecture. We also toured the Art Deco Union Station which is featured in several movies (below).

POVERTY ROW STARS ON BOULEVARD
Dave O’Brien was stoned on pot in “Reefer Madness” and was the Dead End Kids social worker in “Spooks Run Wild.”  Their stars are on Hollywood Boulevard.


POVERTY, WEALTHY CONTRASTS
LOS ANGELES — This strange door was donated by a wealthy arts patron to the city for the plaza near the Forum performing arts center.  Nearby, the homeless sleep in the streets.  Psychologist Dr. Stuart Perlman illuminated the humanity and pain of the homeless in his paintings that can be seen in City Hall. 
You can see Perlman’s paintings when you go to the conference room in the Los Angeles City Hall.  

WHERE RACIAL HATRED LEADS
Now is the teachable moment about race relations in America so see the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles for critical discussions on the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans 1942-45.  In Little Tokyo.


SANTA MONICA TOUR
Norma Talmadge’s Santa Monica house also was home to Brian Aherne, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott together and David Niven and Merle Oberon together.  Talmadge, a silent era star, was married to United Artist chief Joseph Schenk.
Japanese American barracks, WW2, Wyoming
Fine Arts Bldg., downtown LA