Friday, December 18, 2015


 Driving into Desert Memorial Park FM Mod 107.3 was playing Frank’s “Fly Me to The Moon” so we knew this was the right moment to honor him on the 100th year of his birth.
So modest a gravestone for such an important talent, I thought.  “The Best is Yet to Come” implies some notions about the hereafter.
What song would you pick for Frank's grave?  His gravestone is easy to find since it is decorated with flags.  Other celebrities are lost amongst the flat grave markers.
CATHEDRAL CITY — KNBC news anchor Jack Latham is the one good thing I remember from working at KNBC/4 news in LA in 1963-64.  Latham took an interest in me, a flunky editorial assistant.  His career started at KHQ in Spokane and he appeared as a news anchor in the cult classic film “Wild in the Streets.”  He also had an uncredited part in the ‘30s classic movie “Showboat.”  
Three of us searched Desert Memorial Park last Friday for his grave marker. 

CATHEDRAL CITY —  Singer Ginny Simms, a Minnesota native, was well known for her movie and radio appearances.  She also owned Breezy Point Resort near Brainerd.  She appeared in the RKO ‘40s musical comedy “You’ll Find Out” with band leader Kay Kaiser with whom she was involved.  
Her grave stone was difficult to find. Loved ones spend thousands for burial here and it’s almost impossible to find the graves. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I am not wild about museums, but the one in Palm Springs gets kudos
for restoring a bank building into an architecture and design museum
celebrating the mid century.  The nod to the later is the model of the Frank Sinatra house near the museum.
The house was completed in 1950 just before Sinatra’s career collapsed.  The house, designed by a noted architect, features a piano shaped pool.
Riverside's Mission Inn is old California and dark but the city's historic restoration is very spotty with ugly 60s architecture interspersed.  
Altlhough Manheim Steamroller's Christmas music with a rock beat is enjoyable, the hard plastic seats at Fantasy Springs Casino are painfully uncomfortable.
Gas prices fluctuate wildly in the valley and some stations require a credit card PIN or cash.
Rare classic cars at the Westfield Mall included the Willys Aero coupe, AMC Gremliln and Studebaker Avanti.
Tomorrow's opera stars competed Dec. 5 in the Palm Springs Opera audience choice award event Dec. 5.  We rubbed elbows with desert millionaires who listen to G. Keillor on public radio.  I voted for the Russian in the blue dress.
The Town Center Cafe serves great Greek food in Palm Desert where the Goodwill has classic VHS movies including "Wolfman" and "Attack of the Crab Monsters."
We didn't skip aerobics here where Joslyn Senior Center was best.  Indio Senior Center's "Groovin' with Delores" is for fans of Richard Simmons manic work out. 
CATHEDRAL CITY — Driving into Desert Memorial Park FM Mod 107.3 was playing Frank’s “Fly Me to The Moon” so we knew this was the right moment to honor him on the 100th year of his birth.
So modest a gravestone for such an important talent, I thought.  “The Best is Yet to Come” implies some notions about the hereafter.
What song would you pick for Frank's grave?  His gravestone is easy to find since it is decorated with flags.  Other celebrities are lost amongst the flat grave markers.
INDIO — At our Indian Palms apartment we were 40 minutes from Palm Springs on the I-10, a miserable freeway with freighters weaving wildly in the breeze.  Atheists get religion on Highway 60 to Riverside, jammed with semis. In Indio we are about 100 miles from the latest mass murder terrorist horror
Altlhough Manheim Steamroller's Christmas music with a rock beat is enjoyable, the hard plastic seats at Fantasy Springs Casino are painfully uncomfortable.
Gas prices fluctuate wildly in the valley and some stations require a credit card PIN or cash.  Expect to pay at least $3.00/gal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Marketing Electric Car to California Elites

The infante terrible of electric cars and rocket trips is profiled by Ashlee Vance in “Elon Musk” which is entertaining in parts. The prologue is the best read in the book.  Much of the narrative is bogged down in detail about his marriages and business associates.  (Tom Mueller of St. Maries, Idaho, is one of his rocket scientists.)
Musk is more a marketing genius than a techno whiz kid.  He sexed up the electric car using a Mercedes body with aluminum sheet metal, which is the Tesla that caught the attention of the car magazine editors going 0-60 in less than four seconds.  Thumbing his nose at conventions, he markets the car directly through Tesla stores at $100,000 to elites.  Vance writes that there are plans to introduce a $35,000 vehicle.  His assembly plant is in Fremont, Calif., where Toyota and GM once made Corollas, a nasty rental vehicle.
Musk could be the modern day Howard Hughes (another LA eccentric genius) without RKO Radio Pictures and Jane Russell.  Rather than insane, Musk is “profoundly gifted,” Vance concludes.  But it doesn’t make any difference if you are driving a $100,000 Tesla or a $17,000 Chevy Cruze, you are at a standstill on the Harbor Freeway on the best of days.

Although the electric car is the eco-friendly alternative to the gas engine, more and better mass transit to counter the gridlock is a brighter idea.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mrs. Cook Was Mom To Boarders at 1007 N. 6th

In the kitchen with Margaret Cook

Content with the communal living I  knew when I was a frat boy, I took a room in 1965 at Mrs. Margaret Cook’s boarding house, a few blocks from the Statesman in Boise.
Mrs. Cook was a reluctant landlady who was forced into it by her humorless farmer son, Clyde, married to the righteous Priscilla, Queen of the Bible.  They were the real American Gothic with their children Nathan, Martha, Nealus and Luther.  Clyde, a former New Mexico extension agent, lured his mother to Idaho to raise his four children while he farmed on the desert near Mountain Home.  
At this point in her life she was ripe for retirement and almost crippled with arthritis.  While he was plowing, mom was running a boarding house so his children could attend Boise High School.  
Martha, a sullen teen, slept  on the first floor with her grandmother and the boys were in the basement with Dan the Man, a Boise State College student, YMCA lifeguard and a fine picture of young manhood.  Dan didn’t fraternize with me, Albert, Duane Mitchell, Terry Newman, Jose or Roy the Boy (flim flam specialist who taught us golf and cheated Mrs. Cook out of rent money.)  Dan kept company with the married woman across the street which caused tongues to wag.
Mrs. Cook referred to the relatives as “Clyde and the others,” but she had an attractive daughter who lived in Dallas who was very professional and urban.  The daughter would visit on holidays.
The house was a smaller replica of the Governor’s Mansion, three stories with transoms above the doors on the four second floor bedrooms.  
On Sunday’s when she didn’t serve meals, four of us would go to the Brass Lamp or the Village Pancake House.  Albert had a friend with stereo equipment and tape recordings of musical shows.  Through him I became familiar with the music from “Oliver!”  
Mrs. Cook was to cooking as the Three Stooges are to plumbing.  Memorable was the time she burned the hell out of the roast beef while she caught a nap.  Sometimes Clyde would bless us with milk from the farm which was noxious so she would dilute it with powdered milk, making it even more unpleasant.  Clyde would share the meat from critters he shot on the farm.
Mrs. Cook was in the Lady’s Circle at the Methodist Church and sometimes the ladies would meet in her living room.  Since I was working nights at The Statesman, I would be home during the days.  I am sure she wished I would disappear on Circle days.  
Priscilla supplied me with literature on Christianity so I could mend my heathen ways.  When the Others visited grace was said before the meal and it was a long painful affair as practiced by Priscilla.
I would sometimes go on errands with Mrs. Cook in her 1950 Chevy coupe with manual transmission.  I enjoyed taking her and a church friend in my car to lunch at McCall, Idaho’s answer to Aspen.
Mrs. Cook would invite us to public events at the high school sponsored by her church, such as a talk by the Jewish advice columnist Ann Landers.
Terry Newman was a smart kid whose parents moved to Colorado and left him in the boarding house so he could finish high school in Boise.  He had a portable record player and introduced me to popular music such as Steppenwolf and Jose Feliciano.  
The boarding house Jose was a Latin lover who kept to himself.  He installed a basement shower in exchange for rent money he owed.  I raised a stink when he didn’t get a city building permit before doing the work.
My social life picked up when Ralph Nichols, a coworker, moved nearby and we would go to Lucky Peak Reservoir.  Bob Gould from Spokane was an attorney for Albertsons and moved to Boise in about 1969.  We went to the Snake River Stampede Rodeo and saw “Bonnie and Clyde” but I was glad to find a better social life in Frostbite Falls.
As a family, we visited Mrs. Cook on a trip to Boise in 1973. Duane visited her in a nursing home in later years.

In 2006, I returned to the house now owned by an unkept woman with two big dogs and a broken screen door.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Robinson Pursues Artists Life

Here's Dwight Robinson with a reproduction of his painting, a wild west scene.  Dwight has a background in the natural sciences and worked for State Agriculture when I was working for Jobs and Training.  We traveled together on a Caribbean cruise, San Diego and New Orleans.  He also enjoys jazz and is expert on natural remedies.  He and his partner John live in Red Wing, MN.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Teen Musical, Tomlin Movie Both Span Generations

Lily Tomlin gives us an edgy look at the senior years in the new movie “Grandma,” now playing at the Edina Theater.  As Roger S. explained, the Tomlin character is struggling with end of life anger as she views her 30ish lover who can look forward to an exciting life full of interesting relationships.
As for the Tomlin character, she has hunkered down to a debt free retirement, going to the extreme by destroying her credit cards.  The later action complicates the plot when her teen granddaughter asks her for help in terminating an unwanted pregnancy.  The scenes with the teenager offer an opportunity to bridge the generation gap.

A former husband, played by Sam Elliott, offers another look at aging from the perspective of a proud grandfather but interested in reliving moments of past desire with the Tomlin character.  With so few films employing senior actors, “Grandma” is an opportunity not to be missed.

I could hardly get to sleep last night with adrenaline pumping after Edina High School’s homage to the torchy ‘30s in their performance of “Crazy for You,” a new Gershwin musical.  Teen Jack Fischer, playing the juvenile lead Bobby Child, has all the right moves whether it’s side stepping in tap shoes or just his over the top stage presence.  
Talk about your Glee-full resumes, Fischer is a member of the International Thespian Society and has lettered in theater at EHS.  
The ensemble has memorable numbers, singing and dancing that reminded me ofthe great Busby Berkley movies.  This feast for eyes and ears involves incredible coordination and staging, but it works and is rewarding.
The irony for me was that these kids were chirping to tunes that my Mom and Dad grooved on when they were teens.  Talk about bridging the generation chasms, “Crazy for You” at EHS is a landmark event.
The finale with the lead couple swinging on the moon is very campy 1930s romantic comedy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Summer Day at Statesman Staff Picnic


This was taken by a Statesman photographer, probably the summer of 1968, at a picnic for the Idaho Statesman where I was a reporter/writer from 1965-69.  Location:  Julia Davis of Ann Morrison park. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

RKO's "Brave One" Worth the Long Wait

Before I see the biopic on blacklisted screen writer Dalton Trumbo, I had to see the 1956 RKO Cinemascope epic “The Brave One” filmed in Mexico.  Trumbo was awarded an Oscar for his screenplay but couldn’t receive it until the 1970s because his political beliefs conflicted with the reactionaries in Congress.  It was shown on TCM last night.

A heroic bull representing the working class is the hero in this story and the matador represents the oppressive aristocrats, they way I read this yarn.   If ever a movie had to be in Cinemascope it was this one.  Jack Cardiff’s photography is breath taking and Victor Young’s music is memorable.  The Trumbo biopic is coming soon to theaters, but also see “The Brave One.”

Netflix "Master of None" Scores With Senior Comedy


Aziz  Ansari takes his girl friend’s grandmother out of the stifling confines of a nursing home to an elegant dinner where they bond.  She tells him about going to a Sinatra concert in her teens and he says his own experience at a Hootie Blowfish concert pales by comparison, but she says “don’t be so sure of that.”
The “Older People” episode of “Master of None” opens with Aziz and his buddy’s grandfather struggling with his VCR and the young men advise him to get a Blu Ray player but he argues against that.

Few programs explore the intergenerational gaps so brilliantly as this. (Netflix streaming)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Halloween Movies, Good, Bad and Ugly

This year I actually did get afraid.  The 1942 RKO Radio Picture “The Cat People” that I saw Friday night on TCM with Gary left me with nightmares.  It’s easy to figure out; the swimming pool scene with the woman and water reflecting off the walls was incredibly claustrophobic.  No way would I be in that room, even if a jaguar wasn’t chasing me. It had to be in an RKO sound stage because no one would design that mess in a health club.  Director Jaques Tournier knew how to work lights and shadows for maximum fright.

We also watched a less successful Tournier effort: “Curse of the Demon” wherein the producer inserted a monster right out of a Roger Corman fright fest.  It was dumb.  What was even dumber was the scary guy in “Monster from the Surf” (1965).  

Also, last night I was left with two virgin bags of candy unopened.  Apparently trick and treat is not part of the tradition for kids who live in my building.  The candy will be just as fresh a year from now.  I didn’t even bother to put on my vampire costume as I watched two Karloff classics on TV.  I think I went to a Jaycees party in about 1968 with a date as a bum in Boise but most of my Halloweens aren’t even a foggy memory.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


You miss a lot of the Bela Lugosi Universal classic “Dracula” on TV, including details in the costumes, sets and props.  It becomes abundantly clear that Dwight Frye as Renfield steals every scene he is in.   Seeing it last night at the AMC on the huge screen was a big treat.
Some plot essentials I missed on the TV showing included Lucy becoming a vampire and killing children.  Also the importance of Dr. Seward, who runs the sanitarium where Renfield is housed, is magnified and I will see the play “Dr. Seward’s Dracula” this week at the college across the street.
The VHS tape has the advantage of bridging the boredom gap with the Philip Glass music that fits the film’s mood.  The version shown at the Fathom TCM movie theater event had minimal music.  “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” have better scripts and are considered “art.”
“Dracula” looks like the stage play that it was originally.
The event included the Spanish language version shown in Latin America and made on the same set as the Lugosi version but with different actors.  The Spanish version provides more background, including Renfield’s admission that he wanted to atone for killing people when he became a vampire, so Van Helsing runs a stake through him.

Frye recreated that character in many other 30s movies and is seen as a gay hair stylist in Grand National’s “Something to Sing About,” an expensive musical with James Cagney that bankrupted the studio.  Frye is over the top in Majestic Studio’s “Vampire Bat” as a demented character with Faye Wray and Melvin Douglas.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ghost Expert Explains Mysteries of Musical Appliances

BLOOMINGTON — Ghosts and spirits are the domain of Bobby Sullivan who spoke Saturday at the Penn Lake library as part of our Halloween.  I have a stereo that will start playing music unexpectedly and following Sullivan’s reasoning ghosts may inhabit that Curtis radio/phono/CD player.  He showed photos of ghost/spirit activity.  The ghost and zombies have been confused, but now we know better. Ghosts can drain batteries in cell phones and other devices.  Who knew?

Friday, October 23, 2015


I am far left, second row.  And I have stayed "far left."  Miss Eckhart was one of the best grade school teachers, but left mid-term to marry a former governor.

Zarkin's Promotion Certificate From Spokane Grade School

In appreciation for all Roosevelt Grade School did, we put on a variety show. I played the comb and tissue paper, "Heart of My Heart". Memorable.

Here's where I first saw "March of the Wooden Soldiers" and made a clay recreation of Jesus in the Manger.  Quite interesting for a Jewish boy in a public school.

Third grade teacher Lou Eckhart married a senior former governor and bid farewell in her mink coat.

Friday, October 16, 2015




The life experiences of four Minnesota Vietnam veterans were quite different as evidenced by their remarks last night at a forum at the Roseville Library sponsored by the Ramsey County Libraries.  One of the survivors has dealt with chemical dependency and the other three volunteer with a veterans organization hockey program.
The centerpiece to this discussion was the award-winning book “The Things They Carried “ by Tim O’Brien, also of Minnesota.  An actor read passages from the book.  The book may have been too painful for a couple of the participants to read, but no one disagreed with O’Brien’s assessment that the soldiers’ job entailed wondering aimlessly in the jungle and blowing up a few villages and villagers.  
None of the four returned to ‘Nam.
The forum was a prelude to the History Theater’s play based on the book, but I just can’t relive the trauma of the lives of O’Brien, Ted Lavender, Kiowa and Rat Kelly in ‘Nam after reading the book three times.  

Elsewhere, former co-worker Dave Frazier of Boise penned a memoir last year based on his rear echelon Saigon support public information duties with the army entitled “Drafted!: Vietnam at War and at Peace”.  Frazier was compelled to return to Vietnam as a tourist about three times and reconnect with families he knew from the war.  Frazier’s story is quite unrelated to the O’Brien book. (O’Brien pictured.)

Sunday, October 04, 2015


It’s been 77 years and we still don’t know answers, but his daughter, Marda Liggett Woodbury,  has compiled the “evidence” in her book “Stopping the Presses: The Murder of Walter Liggett.”
Cut to the chase:  Minneapolis (Murderapolis) was a hot bed of organized crime and corrupt, inept law enforcement in the Depression/Jazz Age.  Liggett, a newspaper editor,  was a crusader against local gangsters at a time when reporters who wrote the “truth” were on the mobsters’ “list.”
Also, Liggett called for the impeachment of Farmer-Labor Gov. Floyd B. Olson who Liggett saw as a betrayer of Farmer-Labor socialist goals.  Liggett suspected ties between the “Olson Gang” and organized crime.  There was no love lost between the governor and the newspaper editor.
Olson died of cancer a short time after Liggett was gunned down in 1938 in the alley behind his home at Lake and Harriet streets, now a trendy business district.  
Liggett’s wife and children witnessed his murder and his wife testified that Minneapolis gangster Kid Cann (Isadore Blumenfield) fired the shots from a moving car that fateful night.  Further confusing the story were accounts that other gangsters resembling Cann could have been the killer.  Minneapolis and Chicago combined had no shortage of gangsters.

The Liggett family lived a tough life during trying times that were made dangerous by Walter’s crusading attempts to destroy the powers behind organized crime and the Farmer-Labor Party.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Defying the Odds, Man Stands Up to Volcano

When I last saw my Roosevelt Grade School buddy Jack Malone in May 2009, he gave me the LP his company distributed honoring Harry Truman who is an iconic figure associated with the Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic eruption.  In a narrative that Jack wrote for the album cover:  “On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens blew its top and according to authoritative sources, buried Harry (Truman), 84, under hundred of feet of ash and debris.”
“A Jack of all trades” is how Mr. Malone sees himself with a career that included managing an FM rock radio station in the Portland market.  Now there’s got to be a book in 1970s FM rock in a major market, but Jack didn’t write it as far as I know.

The LP is a collection of blue grass/country songs similar to the sound track of several popular movies.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bad Movie "Bride of Monster" Featured in Classic Images

The October 2015 issue of “Classic Images” magazine has a big feature on Ed Wood’s epic horror movie “Bride of the Monster” which was made 60 years ago with Bela Lugosi.  The movie is the product of the chemically addicted talents of Wood and Lugosi and I just bought the DVD this past spring.  
I first saw it at a midnight screening in 1971 on the U of M Campus with my ex-wife.  It’s a cult classic and is the focus of Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” movie.  The actress (Landau) who plays Loretta King is a dead ringer for Ms. King.  "Bride" needs to be seen with Monogram's "The Corpse Vanishes" (1940) which has a very similar plot about an aggressive reporter and a mad scientist with Lugosi in the lead and Luana Walters as the journalist.
At least the later may be on YouTube and possibly even "Bride" as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Dave Frazier did the driving and I took photos on our way to the Minidoka Relocation Center.  We ate at an "elegant greasy spoon."  Twin Falls is a must.

Monday, September 07, 2015

More on Japanese Relocation Center, Jerome, Idaho

This was a surprise visit to Jerome on Aug. 25, 2015  and not much remains of the original site.
It was 95 degrees.  The sight is located near a river and not farm from Twin Falls.  Not many Idahoans know about Minidoka.  Tribute to Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. armed service during the war is also featured at the site.

Japanese Relocation Center Meant Disruption For Loyal Americans in WW2

JEROME, IDAHO — The Japanese American Relocation Center is remembered with a display and recreation of the guard tower near Jerome, Idaho.  This center is referenced in a novel I read for a class at the U of M OLLI this past winter.  Dave Frazier, former Statesman reporter, did the driving and we dined at an elegant greasy spoon in Twin Falls.

Six Supreme Court justices during World War II were responsible for this sorry chapter in US history because they were convinced by Justice Dept. officials that some Japanese Americans might be disloyal which was not true, according to Ian Millhiser in the book “Injustices.”

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


BOISE —  “The state needs to empower parents with options for pre school education,” conservative Republican Rep. Christie Perry said Aug. 26 at a City Club Northwest Nazarene University forum on early childhood education.
Perry, chair of the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee, said the biggest obstacle to state pre-school is the paragon shift needed to overcome the present culture where policy makers fail to look outside of their own experience, ignoring the needs of others.  For those arguing that public funds need to go into infrastructure, our children are the roads and bridges of the future, the Republican legislator said.
Pre school tailored to local needs can enable children to comprehend math and reading when they enter third grade.  Presently two thirds of Idaho’s children lack reading skills when they enter third grade.
Perry called state sponsored pre-school a “conservative investment for the future” and the state will save millions by paving the way for successful educational experiences that will lead to productive career options.  Idaho is one of six state that lacks state pre schools, while Mississippi has devised a collaborative plan involving communities that provide state pre school.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton advocates for state pre school and Minnesota legislators would be well advised to seek the council of Rep. Perry as she charts the way to Idaho’s early education revolution for children.

Also on the program was Beth Oppenheimer, Idaho Association for Education of Young Children.  Attending the forum in the Grove Hotel were Lt. Gov. Frank Little. U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, several Boise City Council members and Kathie Johnson, Head Start for South Idaho Migrant Workers’ Program.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Big Stink Over the Beatles Concert 50 Years Ago

MINNEAPOLIS — The Beatles left Minneapolis this date 50 years ago and never looked back, at least until Paul returned last year for a sold out concert.  The big stink was over girl fans who breached security after the Met Stadium concert and entered the hotel rooms of the Beatles.  (I am sure they were gathering autographs from the mop head singers.)  A representative of the rock group’s entourage said Minneapolis was a “narrow minded town” when police demanded that the girl leave Paul’s room or they would break down the door.  Indeed!
On the anniversary radio special the police chief commented about the welfare of the “kids” and wished the Fab Four would never return to the Twin Cities.  And they never did.  
The anniversary show aired last night on WDGY included the press conference for the concert that was “hosted” by WDGY but that didn’t prevent cross town rival KDWB from horning in on the action.  WDGY DJ Johnny Dollar was the anchor for the radio coverage of the concert. 
Dennis Mitchell’s anniversary show was actually a tape from a Hollywood Bowl concert with screaming Beatle fans who are now grannies. 
The show includes a promo for “Help,” the movie.

I was living in Berkley at the time and not a Beatle fan.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


At first I thought the Jake Gyllenhaal film noir “Night Crawler was a commentary on the sad state of broadcast news, but now I think otherwise.  Writer-director Dan Gilroy actually provides a commentary on our society where a crazed sociopath can swim nicely with the capitalist sharks and profit handsomely in the business world.
I ask myself, who is the greater monster in this sad story?  The bug eyed gaunt zombie news photographer Lou Bloom played by Gyllenhaal is the initial focus of our contempt, but things change moving along.  The aging TV station gatekeeper Nina played by Rene Russo may be the real villain in the film as she aids the demented Lou to provide her with blood and gore video that will boost the news program ratings.  The Nina character resembles Bette Davis as “Baby Jane” with more eye makeup than Tammy Faye ever contemplated.
There’s some kvetching about what she will and won’t do with the photographer sexually, but otherwise they get along swimmingly.
Gilroy, in an interview on the DVD, provides a perspective on the Lou character who spews Management by Objective nonsense and other business school dictums to his homeless sidekick employee.  Gilroy said that Lou is a product of the generation who spends a lifetime glued to the internet with little socializing.  This explains his lack of compassion and humanity in part.  So if it’s a slow news day one needs to stage manage events with a macabre twist and sell it to Channel 6 for the 11 pm news.

The real star of “Night Crawler” may be the 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT that is but a blur of red flashing before my eyes but I love that blur.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Documentary Revives VHS Nostalgia

Sentimental saps like me are holding onto their VHS tapes and that subculture is pictured in Josh Johnson’s engaging documentary “Rewind This!”   I paid $230 for a Hitachi VCR in 1997 and most recently I bought a used Panasonic for $3.  Prices have dropped.
Afficianados of magnetic tape point to classics made by backyard Spielbergs like David  (the Rock) Nelson who claims “Dracula vs Sadam Hussein” as his VHS production. 
VHS attracted fans of chunk blower bootlegs and titles like “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” that are much appreciated by nerds who cruise flea markets in hopes of getting lucky.
I sometimes wonder as well why I persist with VHS given that it takes two players to watch the full array of my limited collection.  
With YouTube I have dispensed with many cassettes but even that’s a problem finding anyone who wants them or has a working VCR.  
One observer reminds us that in a few years 2 out of 10 tapes in our collections will be unplayable.  Since VHS opened a new world of movie viewing for many of us, it’s difficult to break the habit.  And I am aided and abetted by a friend who still records on VHS.

Diehards detect a resurrection of the beloved VHS, with Mongo now selling new tapes.  Whatever.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


As a college student on summer vacation I was on the front line of the “milkman wars” when I solicited accounts door-to-door for Carnation Co. home delivery.  Using our own transportation, we shadowed delivery trucks from the Erie Dairy and Arden Farms, writing down the addresses of their customers.  Then we would followup, knocking on their customers’ doors and trying to get them to switch to Carnation home delivery.  It was a dirty business.  The Erie Dairy driver was not amused and who could blame him.
I think we were a public nuisance and the police were called.  I was conspicuous driving dad’s red and white Olds 88.  I made friends with the other boy “salesmen” and our leader was a mature man who told off color jokes on breaks.
A very notorious experiment in capitalism, was my two months with Carnation.  The cows were content but I wasn’t.  I got the job through the state employment agency and I thought it would be better than selling shoes for Edison Bros.  I was wrong.  
Carnation sponsored “Burns and Allen” on KXLY/CBS on Thursday night and is famous for evaporated milk.  Donald O’Connor and Jimmy Durante were in the U-I musical comedy, “The Milkman.”

(Darigold is the major Washington State dairy but I don’t think we tailed their drivers.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Very Bad Reality Shows on Cable TV

Sean and Davina hit a rough spot on cable TV’s reality series “Married at First Sight” last night but not to worry because noted sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, University of Washington professor, was on the scene to investigate.  Suspicions instantly arose when the good doctor found the fridg bare except for a soda can and potato chips and there were no family photos on the wall.  It looked like they were only staying for the weekend. She immediately put the recently betrothed on notice and enrolled them in a cooking class so they can hopefully bond.
Such is the state of matrimony in the Big Apple that couples are resorting to cable TV where they can star in their own mini-dramas while avoiding the pesky cost of dating.  It also silences family and friends who nag them about being single.  The first time they laid eyes on each other was at the altar and then it was too late to turn back without creating a nasty scene.  In the case of Shawn, eyes are the only thing he has laid on Davina after a month, but Dr Pepper is frothy with optimism.  Davina remains unconcerned about Shawn’s disinterest.  After all she’s getting weekly exposure on cable.  The sky’s the limit.  We truly live in amazing times particularly when we have friends like Gary H. who invite me over to watch cable TV.

The Belle of the South was relaxing in bed with a coke and potato chips when the doorbell rang on the cable TV reality show “Arranged.”  Surprise; it was the mama inlaw calling to investigate her new daughter inlaw’s domesticity deficiencies.  Sadly things were amiss in the newlyweds love nest including dirt on the ceiling fan and the bride hadn’t made Beauregard’s favorite casserole.  Good news:  Mom was staying the weekend to set things straight.  You can’t top that for southern hospitality or chutzpa.
With last night’s “Arranged Marriage,” I shared the concerns of a Gypsy family’s aggressive plans to find spouse’s for their teenage sons even if the boys were disinterested.  Much to every one’s chagrin we learned that 17-year-old boys generally are poor husband material, but the parents charged ahead without changing course.  It’s tradition, don’t you know!
Some of this had to scripted and rehearsed because no one could be that stupid.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


In an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Maria Montez Universal movies, Columbia in 1953 issued the hilariously awful “Prisoners of the Casbah” with Cesar Romero, Turhan Bey and Gloria Grahame.  The costumes are decent but the acting and sets are strictly poverty row studio shlock.  
Ms. Grahame is totally unbelievable as any kind of Arabian princess.  Bey is the butt of many jokes but he is sexy as the dashing hero.  (Bey was a co-star in the Montez movies.)  Romero, as the corrupt king, must have been rehearsing for his Joker shtick in the ‘60s campy “Batman” TV show.  Can you believe this mess?

Thursday, March 26, 2015


If you read “Drafted:  Vietnam at War and Peace” you will learn about a friend and coworker at the Idaho Statesman who turned lemons into lemonade while serving in the US Army in Saigon starting in May 1967 as a clerk.
David R. Frazier soon advanced from that lowly position into a sergeant and public information officer using photojournalist skills he learned at UPI.  He schmoozed generals and politicians with the greatest of ease.  The Tet Offensive was but an annoying sidebar to Frazier who wrote and edited a publication for the Armed Services in Vietnam.  He parlayed a dicey situation into a tropical beach party, almost.
In Vietnam, Frazier quickly concluded that the usual military confusion and stupidity could work to his advantage.  Through skillful maneuvering and luck he found a sweet spot where he was making money on the side by selling “hometown news” to newspapers in his native Michigan and not dodging bullets and land mines.  In Vietnam, he was an Einstein amongst countless Gomers.  This is not “Catch 22” or “Mash” but you get the idea.

By pushing yourself to the limits, you could earn “density points” in Vietnam, Frazier would say on the Idaho mountain fishing trips we took shortly after he was discharged from the Army.  He earned his density points but I had to read the book to find out what he did in the war.  While he was in Vietnam, I had completed active duty four years earlier with the Coast Guard Reserve and was a local government reporter for The Statesman.

Monday, January 05, 2015


I binged this weekend on Alan Freed movies — “Rock Rock Rock” and “Don’t Knock the Rock” from the mid-50s.  Freed was somewhat of a stiff but somehow he convinced Hollywood that he had box-office appeal.  In fact, he sings on a Coral label single, “Rock Boogie,” which could be a collectable if you have it.  RRR features a 16-year-old Tuesday Weld who is conniving to get $30 to buy a prom dress and then there’s an abrupt segue where Freed introduces several rock acts including Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Chuck Berry and a bunch of unknowns.   Connie Francis sings while Weld moves her lips.  RRR,  from DCA a poverty studio, is inept in several area:  acting, editing, script and directing.  But there are some good acts and others so obscure you have to watch.  The actor/singer who plays Weld's love interest looks old enough to have children in high school himself and was recruited for his biceps rather than his acting chops.  The same DVD has a documentary on Freed which is worth seeing.  
 “Don’t Knock” from Columbia is almost high art compared to RRR with crooner Alan Dale who is about 40 romancing a teenager.  Production values are quite professional and the dance numbers are the best in any '50s rock musical.  Sony gets high marks for remastering "Don't Knock the Rock" and the companion DVD, "Rock 'round the Clock."