Saturday, December 31, 2016

Glenn Miller Story revisited 63 years later

NEW YEAR’S EVE 1953 REMEMBERED
I was breathless with anticipation when I went to this New Year’s Eve offering at Spokane’s Post Theater at road show prices.  The LP was a Chanukah gift from Auntie Dora (Barer) and I still have it.  Singers Tex Beneke and Ray Eberle from the original Miller band aren’t in the movie but can be seen with Glenn in the 40s TCF musical “Sun Valley Serenade.” (Not available on DVD yet.)  

The VHS tape I am watching tonight has a $69 price tag but I got it for a buck at the thrift store.  A restored version of Glenn Miller was shown at a downtown St. Paul auditorium in the 80s and I took Mike to that.  The ending was from the imagination of director Anthony Mann.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Favorite Musicals, Oliver! and Ski Party

HIS PANTS SPLIT AT END
James Brown turns in a pants-splitting performance of “I Feel Good” in the 1965 AIP comedy “Ski Party” with Duane Hickman and Frankie Avalon in drag in a hare brain scheme to improve their love lives.  Leslie Gore and Dick Dale make this a must see beach movie.

IT’S A FINE LIFE

The 1968 award winning film “Oliver!” is excellent because the producer turned a deaf ear to suggestions to cast Liz and Dick in the leads or other Hollywood box-office stars.  Instead a talented British cast and crew makes this one of the best film adaptations of a stage musical, unlike “Hello Dolly” and “Mame.”  Bloomsbury and the London market are all sets built at Shepperton Studios, which is amazing and wouldn’t happen today.  I saw the play, heard the music in Boise in about 1966.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Butcher Shop, Zsa Zsa, 5th Avenue

THE OLD BUTCHER SHOP
Shopping at the meat counter at Fresh Thyme yesterday reminded me of going with Mom to the Manito Grocery Store in Spokane where bald headed Herb was the butcher.  Although Fresh Thyme lacks the sawdust floors, it provides that friendly personal touch so missing at CUB or Target.

LIFE OF THE PARTY
Nervous about entertaining this holiday?  Alfred Hitchcock has the recipe for a perfect party in his 1948 film “Rope” with John Dahl and Farley Granger.  

ME AND ZSA ZSA
When Johnny brought the “Tonight Show” to Burbank in 1963 I was in the audience with my roommate John Miller of Ontario to see Zsa Zsa in person.  By then she was no longer one of the “beautiful women” from “Queen of Outer Space” (1958).  During the commercial break Carson lit up a smoke and exited the stage leaving Zsa Zsa alone.
Her maroon Rolls Royce with her name on the door was parked at Clifford Odet’s funeral in 1963 that I covered as a reporter for UPI.  Danny Kaye gave the eulogy.   Zsa will be remembered as the love starved scientist in “Queen” who falls for Eric Fleming in this Allied Artist cosmic classic.

CHRISTMAS MOVIE FAVORITE
A homeless squatter enters a mansion through a manhole and brings joy in the 1947 Allied Artist comedy “It Happened on 5th Avenue.”  Playing the tramp, Victor Moore is quite believable and helps reform a money mad capitalist who is estranged from his family.  Actors from fifties TV sitcoms in this holiday favorite are Don Defore and Gale Storm.  

I saw it at the rustic Spirit Lake, Idaho, theater in the summer of ’47 with Mom and my sister and never forgot the man in the manhole.

Gun Safety Vigil at Mt. Zion Temple

At least 100 Minnesotans braved the bitter cold to hold an interfaith candlelight vigil Wednesday night  at Mt. Zion Temple in St. Paul on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.  

Preceding the vigil, Protect Minnesota met in the temple where people spoke about gun violence that has affected their families’ lives and people they have known, such as the students of educators and the clients of social workers.  

Participants were asked by the Protect Minnesota Executive Director the Rev. Nancy Nord Bence to have respectful conversations with people, even if they disagree on gun violence protection, “to soften hearts” rather than change minds.

“The weakest state law will become the national standard” if the Mandated Concealed Carry bill is passed by legislators, Rev. Bence said.  If this bill passes, Minnesota would recognize all carry permits from all states including those who don’t require a permit to carry a firearm, she added.  Introduction of the legislation is expected by the spring of 2017.


Minnesota groups and individuals involved in gun violence protection include hunters, sport shooters, licensed dealers, veterans and interfaith religious groups such as Muslim and Jewish Women of Minnesota and Daughters of Abraham (Jewish, Christian and Muslim.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Susan Slept Here and More

Debbie Reynolds in RKO Radio's Susan Slept Here
LAST PICTURE SHOW
In the Peter Bogdonavich 1971 classic film the town turns to a tumble weed ruin when the movie theater closes.  Very are many cues to 1950s diversions:  Father of the Bride, Mutual Radio, Fulton Lewis Jr., Strike it Rich with Warren Hull, Your Show of Shows, Red River (the last movie) and Grandma’s Lie Soap.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
A blue collar New England man consumed by guilt and depression bonds with his teenage nephew and ward in a contemporary setting.  This is NOT the movie to lift you out of your post election early winter blues.  Not to be confused with Frankie and Annette at the beach but definitely destined for several awards.  Casey Affleck is a revelation.

FINIAN’S RAINBOW
A hopeful message on racial tolerance is delivered by St. Louis Park’s community theater in their production of the 1947 musical “Finian’s Rainbow” at the SLP Jewish Community Center.  Today was the final performance which featured Adam Western with a great voice as the romantic lead and the ballerina Julie Hattestad as Susan Mahoney.

VIEWER’S GUIDE TO “SUSAN SLEPT HERE”
A favorite holiday movie for the nostalgic, this 1954 RKO Radio big budget May-December romance with Debbie Reynolds as the teenage rebel and Dick Powell as the playboy screenwriter.  This was Powell’s last big screen appearance and he dusts off his dancing shoes after a 20 year hiatus for a big production number.  A ballet with Debbie in a cage is quite campy and not to be missed.  

Take note of the nod to Fifties Modern design with the furniture and signature stone fireplace wall.  I had the 78 record of Don Cornell singing the movie’s “Hold My Hand,” not to be confused with the Beattles hit 10 years later.

Friday, December 09, 2016

CITY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

No harm can come from a citizen task force formulating the Forward 2040 Comprehensive Plan for the city but I suspect that the Bloomington City Council will give attractive developers exemptions from the plan when its said and done.
The first task force session Wednesday Dec. 7 was the usual Power Point statistics and the January meeting in the City Hall will include a facilitator.  The comprehensive plan document may be required for cities seeking grants and aid from the state and federal governments.
I see Bloomington as part of a greater conurbation that also includes Edina, Richfield and beyond.  
Many Bloomington residents call the Southdale YMCA in Edina their community center serving toddlers to seniors.  For meetings, lectures and reference room help we look a few blocks north of the YMCA to the regional Southdale Library.  Edina is where we go for health care with the Fairview Southdale Hospital and adjacent satellite clinics.
The 2040 Task Force would be wise to do a France Avenue bus tour.  North of I-494 dense commercial and residential development dominates the landscape where urban density “claustrophobia” has been experienced by some Edina residents testifying at a recent meeting to discuss plans for demolition of the regional library.  Neighboring Richfield homeowners have concerns from this York Avenue plan that include aggressive commercial use of public property.
South of I-494 on France Avenue is Bloomington with three churches, a pristine lake and marshland where the fog rises in the fall.  On this serene suburban landscape can be found a college campus, the dated unappealing Valley View Shopping Center and a planned unit development that replaced Andy’s Tap, an iconic venue where residents met, drank and dined.
I am aware that the 2040 plan coordinators held meetings this summer including one in a school cafeteria in August without air conditioning.  
Similar task forces in Edina and Richfield should join with the Bloomington group and discuss the similarities and difference in their plans and then report to the public.

-30-

Thursday, December 01, 2016

World War II Memories

AMERICAN FAMILIES
Billy Manbo is about my age and we both grew up during the war in the American West, with a significant difference.  I was comfortably raised in Spokane while Billy and his family were dealing with harsh realities in Heart Mountain, a Japanese American relocation center in the Wyoming badlands.  
While my father was serving in the Army reconstruction unit in war devastated Japan, his father, Bill, was trying to truthfully answer harsh loyalty questionnaires for military authorities.
Like my Dad, Bill Sr. was handy with a camera and took color photos of life in the camp that are featured in the book “Colors of Confinement” edited by University of North Carolina law professor Eric L. Mueller.  
WEST COAST MILITARY ZONE
It was Military Zone 2 if you lived in Spokane during the war starting in 1942 and relatives in Seattle and Bremerton were in Zone 1 where Japanese American citizens were uprooted from their homes on Bainbridge Island and sent to a War Relocation Center.
One of those former Seattle residents, Sally Sudo, spoke Saturday at the Or Emet Minnesota Congregation of Humanistic Judaism meeting in the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center.  She was six years old on Dec. 7, 1942, when the Imperial Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Her family operated the Olympia Cafe in Seattle.  
They were “relocated” to the Minidoka WRC near Jerome, Idaho, where I visited the memorial markers in 2015.  When her brother, with the military service, was transferred to Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities much of the family followed him here after the war.

Upcoming events here related to Japanese American relocation include a Day of Remembrance 2 pm Feb. 19 at the Minnesota History Center  and starting Jan. 27 through March an exhibit at Wallace Fine Arts Center at Macalester College, St. Paul.

Friday, November 25, 2016

BROTHERHOOD OF WRITERS

Jesse Eisenberg
Jason Segel
You know this story because it’s yours and it’s mine.  David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace, two gifted writers, meet for the first time in 1996 in the movie “The End of the Tour” on a day like today.  Wallace is an acclaimed novelist on tour selling his latest book and Lipsky, also a published author, is assigned by Rolling Stone Magazine, to write a profile piece on DFW.  Wallace teachers creative writing at a Midwest university,
TWO DAVES BOND
The chemistry is right between Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky with James Ponsoldt directing.  One reviewer called it “funny” but that misses the point.  Maybe it’s ironic.  Both characters are in thirty-something limbo and meet at the right time.  The dynamics of bonding are explored where the two Daves are first antagonists but find they have much in common.  Lipsky stays overnight at Wallace’s home and snoops through his stuff to get a better idea about the “real” Wallace.
TOUR ENDS IN MINNEAPOLIS
Lipsky and Wallace then fly to Minneapolis where Wallace, at the end of the book tour, gets a short downtown tour.  On the way to the reading, they pass the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall which is a defining local icon, their local driver explains, but to some visitors it’s hokey small town bad taste hilarious.  The two writers do more sharing at the Mall of America with the theme park in the background, another iconic Twin Cities venue.
YOU KNOW THESE GUYS
“Of Course You End Up Being Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace” is the book by David Lipsky which was made into the movie “The End of the Tour.”  Some memorable references in the movie about the two Daves:  They choose to take dates to see an incredibly bad action guy movie at  the Mall.  Wallace is addicted to TV, likes the 1939 classic movie “Algiers” and his “best friend” is a junker Honda Civic.  Questions of uncomfortable conforming while being misunderstood in a perceived hostile society must be issues for many writers as they are for the two Daves.
“TOUR” RESEMBLES “VELVET”

 In the British movie “Velvet Goldmine,” a Rolling Stone reporter bonds with gay glitter band 70s rockers with the reporter played by Christian Bale.  Like “The End of the  Tour,” it’s good to be a Rolling Stone writer where the assignments are better than what I knew as an Idaho Statesman reporter in the 1960s.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

 LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD
Little did I know in 1956 when I saw Mike Todd’s “Around the World in 80 Days” that 35 years later I would be living in his home town, Bloomington, Minn.  Todd was one of those bright young Jewish lads, sons of Eastern European fathers like the Volk Brothers, who found their fortune in movies.  (Todd was born in 1909, a year after Sidney Volk and a contemporary of my father who came to Minneapolis in about 1920.)

FAIRY TALE FOR ADULTS
I saw Todd’s “fairy tale for adults” “Around the World in 80 Days” at the refurbished Post Theater in Spokane where the projection booth was moved from the second balcony to the first floor and a wide curved screen was installed for Todd-AO plus surrounding speakers.  Todd-AO and Cinerama were both Todd enterprises that brought TV viewers out of their living rooms to the theaters again.

THRIFT STORE BARGAIN
The price tag was $49.63 but I bought it for $1.28 at the thrift store.  That would be the double DVD set of “Around the World in 80 Days” which includes a documentary on Todd’s life.  Liz Taylor is flashing the 29 carat diamond Todd gave her in the 90 minute CBS live coverage of Todd’s Madison Square Garden “party” celebrating the movie and this is painfully boring.
Todd never had a follow up act for ATW and I doubt that when the bills came due he could swing another ring for Liz.  They lived large and did not frequent thrift stores.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Player, Bob Roberts and William Tell


I KNOW THAT THEATER
A famous organist gave a concert at the Rialto in South Pasadena in the summer of 1963 and I went with my roommate John Miller of Orlando, Calif., when we were living in a quaint apartment without air conditioning in South Pasadena.
  It was a beautiful theater and is featured in the Robert Altman black comedy “The Player” (1992) where movie producer Maxwell drowns the innocent screenwriter David in a nearby alley.  According to Los Angeles magazine, “The building was sold late last year (2014) to downtown developer Izek Shomof, who has restored several historic structures including the Alexandria Hotel and Title Guarantee Building.”

MUSIC UP CLOSE
I have never bought a ticket in advance for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra so Sunday at the last minute I was seated with the orchestra on the stage.  You really do FEEL the William Tell Overture sitting near the brass section.  Hi Ho Silver!  I learned my lesson; buy early when the orchestra is at  the Schneider Theater.

FAMILIAR STORY?

A famous media celebrity launches a political campaign based on empty slogans and slandering his opponent.  This celebrity is quick tempered with an enormous ego.  Sound familiar?  Actually it’s the 1992 Tim Robbins’ fake documentary “Bob Roberts” and worth seeing now in the light of recent events.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

SWIMMING IN THE ABYSS

Before Nov. 8 we thought we were peering into the abyss, but on Tuesday “we fell into the abyss,” said journalist Moustafa Bayoumi Wednesday afternoon at the University of Minnesota Provost’s conversation in Coffman Memorial Union.

“The election was a catastrophe of global and epic proportions, especially for foreign policy,” said Bayoumi, who has served on the American Studies Association's National Council and currently teaches English at Brooklyn College.

Trump-land “is not the country I want to live in.  I want a pluralistic society that demands cooperation,” he added.  There’s a lot to deplore out there including Steve Bannon and Frank Gaffney but maybe we can agree to support the Native Americans in their fight against the Keystone Pipeline and Ms. Levy-Pounds for Minneapolis mayor.  Also, the Minnesota Interfaith Alliance on Gun Safety is worth our efforts. 

Bayoumi is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, The London Review of Books, and The Village Voice, Moustafa Bayoumi has served on the American Studies Association's National Council and currently teaches English at Brooklyn College. In eye-opening lectures based on his award-winning book “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?”, he highlights challenges facing young Arab- and Muslim-Americans today.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Carnival of Souls and Spellbound

ORGANIST CHASED BY ZOMBIES
There are a few times in my life when I feel like the church organist in “Carnival of Souls” being chased by zombies and now is one of them.  Other incidents in my life when I was a bit paranoid were the three years I worked for the Grain Exchange and the four years I lived in Boise.
Sad to say, the church organist couldn’t escape the zombies.  They done her in.  So when a friend called last night to suggest I watch someone from the Trump group on “60 Minutes” I said “no.”  I’ll catch that act at the State Fair Midway’s freak show in August.
Mrs. Trump looks and talks like Ingrid Pitt in the Hammer gothic horror “The Vampire’s Daughter.”  Let me know when apocalypse arrives or is it here?

“SPELLBOUND” PROVIDES LINK TO VOICE TO VISION
To understand what University of Minnesota art professor David Feinberg is doing with the Voice to Vision project you need to see Hitchcock’s forties thriller “Spellbound.”  Focus on the Salvador Dali hallucination where the Gregory Peck character sees art that shows the nightmare he represses from a childhood accident.
V to V particpants use art to form a collage that helps define the terrors they experienced in the Holocaust or similar homeland depravity they escaped.

Feinberg spoke Friday night at a meeting of Or Emet Jewish Humanist Congregation at the St. Louis Park JCC. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

SPOKANE TV IN '50s


DEEP RETRO TV
Before Trump, America’s most notorious died blond was villain wrestler Gorgeous George who was resplendent in a pink fuzzy robe entering the ring before gouging the eyes of his opponent.  I traveled down that rode lat night via YouTube and watched the Gorgeous one strut his stuff in the Chicago Inernational Arena.  In the Zarkin household, we gathered around the Arvin with our TV dinners to see this permanent wave get mussed up.

SNOOKY LANSEN AND MORE
Saturday night was eagerly anticipated with KHQ/NBC showing kinescopes of Your Hit Parade.  The episode from 1956 featured Dorothy Collins singing “The Wayward Wind” on a train.  YHP did pantomimes to illustrate the hit songs, but they were annoying.  Collins number would have worked better if she was hanging onto a tree in a Florida hurricane.  The number one hit was the theme from “Picnic” that week and that was handled by the dancers.  Other singers on the show were Snooky Lansen, Gisele McKenzie and Russell Arms.  Raymond Scott led the orchestra. www.imdb.com/title/tt0042172/

CHUCK HESTON AS HEATHCLIFF

Continuing in the retro mode, last night I watched the 1950 Studio One “Wuthering Heights” with Charles Heston and others eating up the scenery.  I continue in the Heston vintage performances today with “Ben Hur” at the Heights Theater.  Studio One Westinghouse spokesperson Betty Furness was pushing a B&W TV that could be converted to color with an adapter in 1950.  Seems suspicious to me.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

HALLOWEEN FAVORITE MOVIES

HAUNTED HOUSE MOVIES
Tis the season for scary movies and here’s what I have been watching:  “Legend of Hell House,” “The Haunting,” “Amityville Horror” and “Rebecca.”  Robert Wise directs “The Haunting” and it is the best because it’s the most psychological.  In “Hell House,” the ghost looks like Charlie Rose but Roddy McDowell is super.  
Who isn’t crazy about Mrs. Danvers in “Rebecca” talking about underwear?  A back story movie on Mrs. D. in happier times should be in the works, huh?  

For a comic respite, see "Spooks Run Wild" wherein Bela Lugosi does a sendup on Dracula and the East Side Kids freak out.  Bela disliked the kids intensely.
Creepy viewing this Halloween.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ATTORNEY SAYS CITY SUPPORT OF DEMOLITION ILLEGAL

MINNEAPOLIS — Robbinsdale’s city government, the owners of the Robbinsdale’s historic Terrace Theatre and Inland Development Tuesday afternoon in Hennepin County District Court asked citizens advocating preservation of the theater to provide bonds totaling almost $6 million if the court approves a temporary restraining order to stop the planned demolition of the 1951 movie theater.
After hearing arguments from all sides, Judge Michael J. Browne said he would take the lawsuit under advisement and issue a written order.
Terrace Theatre 2016
Attorney Erik Hansen, representing the concerned citizens group, said by advocating for demolition of the theater, a natural resource, the city through it’s redevelopment agency was in violation of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA).  The Robbinsdale Economic Redevelopment Agency was represented by an attorney and another attorney represented the property owner New York real estate trust Brixmor.
The Legislature’s intention in passing MERA was to encourage citizens who lack financial resources to challenge development that would destroy natural resource, Hansen said.
Hansen presented documents from Minnesota Preservation officer Dennis Gardner stating that the Terrace would qualify for designation on the national register of historic places.
Affidavits were submitted to show that others have tried to purchase the theater, but Brixmor never returned their telephone calls, Hansen added.
The attorney advocating demolition said City Manager Marcia Gleek and Inland Development CEO Ken Carlson are both working with HyVee to redevelop the property, although HyVee publicly stated that it was putting its involvement in the project on hold.
About 25 people attended the hearing which lasted until about 6 p.m.   — Dave Zarkin

CHANNEL 12 INTERVIEW
In an interview I did with cable Ch. 12 after the hearing, I said that the Terrace Theatre story is the most exciting news in Minnesota aside from the election.  My interest in preservation and restoration dates back to my days as a news reporter for the Idaho Statesman.

The level of civic involvement in Robbinsdale to save this national resource is truly amazing and uplifting to all Minnesotans.

Friday, September 09, 2016

POLLY BERGEN, MULTI-TALENTED

If you watched KHQ-TV on Saturday night in the ‘50s you saw Polly Bergen singing the weeks top hit songs along with Dorothy Collins and Snooky Lanson  on "Your Hit Parade."   I scored this album last week at my neighborhood thrift store.  Bergen is no relation to Edgar Bergen but may have dated Charlie McCarthy.  She appeared in the comedy “Cry Baby” with Johnny Depp and in 1957 portrayed torch singer Helen Morgan on a CBS-TV special.


 Surprise Fact about Polly Bergen.  In high school I read "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.  When I gave my book report, I mentioned that Polly Bergen was starring on Broadway with Farley Granger in a musical version of "Pride and Prejudice" called "First Impressions."  There is an LP.  Of course, it is rare now.  I've never heard the LP of the show.  (Gary Hudson)

Monday, September 05, 2016

MEMORIES OF STATE FAIR 4-H BUILDING

With some exterior work, this WPA building has become quite attractive.  When I worked in it form 1970-77 as the public information specialist for 4-H, it smelled like a toilet inside and was quite dingy and dark.  It was a good time with enthusiastic 4-H staff like Leonard Harkness and Juanita Reed.  

Teens performed from across the state long before we knew “Glee.”  We prepared hometown news releases, copied on a ditto machine and mailed to newspapers in an adjacent trailer.  (The 4-H Building at the Minnesota State Fair. Leila Navidi, State Tribune, Saturday)

Sunday, September 04, 2016

GONZO JOURN., TROPICAL STYLE

In the subversive 2011 movie “The Rum Diary,” a conservative politician says, “Bomb Cuba off the face of the earth and let their people live in peace.”  
The movie based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name provides biting political commentary relevant to 1960 wherein San Juan, P.R. is portrayed as a poverty stricken hell hole being victimized by ruthless corporate villains.
Johnny Depp reprises the Thompson intrepid reporter role without much of the drunken and stoned stupor recalled in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” a film noted for its gross out scenes.  
Filmed in “super 16mm” it looks a bit gauzy even at 1080i, but I found it quite engrossing.   

Gonzo in Person

In the 1990s, Dr. Thompson stumbled on stage late with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand for a forum at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, and I was in the audience.  The good doctor was no stranger to strong waters and he was indeed “in the bag” that evening so I can’t say that I got the good of the $12 I paid for that event.

Friday, August 26, 2016

‘TEACHER’S PET’ REVISITED


When I went to see the 1958 movie “Teacher’s Pet” with my high school buddy Paul I had no idea that I would pursue a career in news writing.  Paul and I were drawn to Spokane’s Fox Theater by the promise of Mamie Van Doren, “the girl who invented rock and roll.”  We had recently seen her in “High School Confidential” where she was Russ Tamblyn’s almost incestuous loving aunt.
Upon revisiting this comedy last night, I think it has a lot of merit as a whimsical look at newspaper reporting.  (Apparently TV news was not taken seriously in 1958.)
Doris Day promotes the five W’s in the college classroom and Clark Gable plays the cynical city editor who is convinced that academia has no business in journalism.  By the last reel, he comes to appreciate the benefits of a liberal arts education.
Ms. Van Doren plays the platinum bombshell girl friend of Gable and Gig Young is an inebriated  psychology professor.  Both higher education and news reporting are lampooned in “Teacher’s Pet.” 

Mamie matriculated to a PhD in Allied Artists’ “Sex Kittens Go to College” wherein she lectured on math and psychology.  This begs the question:  why not a grand reunion of Ms. Van Doren and Ms. Day in “Teacher’s Pet on the Internet.”  They both are alive and kicking!

MEMORY LANE STROLL Woolworth



We lost a legacy name when  F.W. Woolworth closed in the 90s but it reopened for a day Wednesday so we could relive the moment.  It’s neighbors with the Golden Rule/Donaldsons and the Emporium, long gone and now office space in downtown St. Paul.

A St. Paul firm will convert the Woolworth building into office space.  It’s not known if the escalator will be retained.  Rubber-neckers got a last view of the two-story building this week.


I bought VHS movies, Charlie Chan and Flash Gordon, at Woolworth’s on my lunch break from a grim job across the street with Disability Determination Services as an examiner.  I took the training but never worked at the job.  The movies were not top quality.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

RACE, SAVING THE THEATER aug. 2016

MINNESOTA NICE REVISITED
I learned about writing this past week by reading the incredible collection of memoirs in “A Good Time For The Truth: Race in Minnesota,” edited by Sun Yung Shin.
In “People Like Us,” David Lawrence Grant writes about Minnesota Nice (p.197) that makes so much sense I wonder why we’ve never had this conversation before.  
Sherry Quan Lee, in “Discomfort Zone,” ends her memoir on a hopeful note.  These 16 essays made me glad that Garrison Keillor’s reign at “Prairie Home Companion” has come to an end.  His Lake Woebegone was never anyone’s Minnesota; not even his.  (He was the son of a postal worker in the undistinguished suburb of Anoka.)  People in Seattle may think the PHC is Minnesota but it isn’t.
I lived in Idaho four years and never heard an anti-semitic remark, but my first week as a graduate research assistant on the University of Minnesota Farm Campus I was shocked by a comment from a coworker that was the standard assumption about “Jews.”  I suffered in silence.
Now I live in an apartment community with immigrants from many developing countries who speak several languages while I am lucky to manage one.
Scandinavian culture is giving way to more exotic ways of life here and not too soon.  You still can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Lutheran church here.

This collection of short stories was referenced in an article in the “Korean Times” that I picked up at the library in my neighborhood.  All the contributors to the book are accomplished writers with different styles including poetry. http://www.mnhs.org/mnhspress/books/good-time-truth
ST. PAUL FIRM COULD GET BID FOR DEMOLITION, SOON
A St. Paul demolition company that moved the Academy Theater in 1999 to it’s present downtown Minneapolis location could get the bid to demolish the Terrace Theatre it was learned today.
A representative of the firm Thursday afternoon was quite vague and hesitated to answer when asked when a bid might be let but he thought that Inland Development (not Hy-Vee) would contract for the work.  He also hedged on whether his company is or will be the successful bidder.
His involvement in the project seems fairly significant; in fact he inspected the inside of the theater a few months ago and said it’s “bad and I don’t see what there is to save.” He also has been inside the building several other times and noted mold and a leaking roof.
So has he inspected the theater on behalf of Inland or the city or both and has an agreement been reached formally or informally for demolition? 
He added that he never understood why the Academy Theater was moved and said it too was bad.  He was unaware of the transformation of the Academy to the successful Cowles Center which opened in 2011.  The Academy/Cowles stood vacant for about 30 years, 
He said he couldn’t understand why anyone is interested in saving the Terrace.
His company has been involved in demolition related work to the Ordway Theater expansion and the long vacant flour mill in downtown Minneapolis that is now the Mill City Museum.  
IT’S THE CORPORATIONS, STUPID
Donald Trump is in town to raise money and I am clipping my toenails or I would be at the Minneapolis Convention Center now.
The big news in Minnesota is not Donald or Hillary but how corporations are screwing over homeowners and other residents with the blessings or city councils and mayors.  If we don’t stand up for our communities, who will?  
In Robbinsdale, we jumped from the frying pan into the fire today when the Iowa grocery store chain dropped plans to build a mega strip mall on property that houses our historic mid century modern theater.  A few minutes later we recoiled in horror when the New York real estate trust that owns the property filed a request with the city to demolish the theater now because it’s a “blight.”  (A demolition expert told the owners that it’s “bad, nasty.”)  A hearing will be held Tuesday and we will have an appropriate response. Stay tuned.
In the spirit of mock democracy, the mayor has given residents a Hobson’s choice of pitting the theater against a grocery store in an online “survey.”  It’s either the theater or the grocery store because that’s what the corporate suits want.  But we had both the theater and the grocery store on that site for many years before both went out of business.  
So is this property a white elephant and blowing up the historic theater will solve nothing?  All of Minnesota needs to be involved in the conversation; not just the local yokels.  Who’s going to build another mid century modern design theater for us now?  No one.  Let’s worship at that historic cinema temple and find our way out of the wilderness.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

SOUR SISTER OF SONG


Florence Foster Jenkins was to singing as Donald Trump is to presidential politics:  Both are rancid fish out of water.  But in the biopic “Florence Foster Jenkins,” director Stephen Frears turns the society matron Jenkins as played by Meryl Streep into a sympathetic character.  
By the end of the film, we want her to succeed even though she sounds like a bull moose in heat.
FFJ borrows much from actors of the 1940s with Streep a dead ringer for Margaret Dumont of Marx Brothers fame and Nina Ariana stealing scenes reminiscent of the tough blonde Iris Adrian  in several Monogram and PRC films of yore.
Big Bang star TV actor Simon Helberg plays off the Streep’s over the top matron with ease and is a revelation.

The danger in making a Jenkins film is that her life was a one-line joke:  she couldn’t sing.  But Frears and writer Nicholas Desplat have turned the focus on a universal desire to realize life long desires and aspirations.  She is the Rocky Balboa of bad music.

Monday, July 18, 2016

WRIGHT’S 1940 NOVEL TOO IMPORTANT

 Richard Wright’s 1940 provocative novel, “Native Son,” could be the narrative for current events as racial strife continues unabated.  Here are the thoughts of the central character, pursued by the law, in Wright’s novel:
“Why should not this cold white world rise up as a beautiful dream in which he could walk and be at home, in which it would be easy to tell what to do and what not to do?  If only someone had gone before and lived or suffered or died—made it so that it could be understood!

(Thank you Janet in the UM OLLI class on civil rights where you provided a bibliography that led to the Wright novel. dz)          

Thursday, July 14, 2016

RACIAL DIVESITY CHALLENGES HERE

BLOOMINGTON — Racial diversity is coming to this 150 year old suburb and the city is attempting to update it’s 20-year plan to integrate non-white residents into the community.  Presently almost half of local kindergarten students are non-whites.
At a meeting Wednesday night in the cafeteria of Kennedy High School, city staffers attempted to get feedback from a few residents in a room with tiny backless stools (hard on the back), no air conditioning and no microphone.  Only one person of color attended this meeting.  (I left after 45 back wrenching minutes, straining to hear the presentation.)
From what I gathered they were looking for suggestions that might promote integration.  I suggested the annual Labor Day carnival and classic car show at Bonaventure Catholic Church as the kind of event that would attract a diverse audience.  (I go every year.)
Besides racial diversity assimilation, the outlook is poor for infrastructure with 74 percent of the sewer pipes and almost as many water mains at least 45 years old.  More than half the park buildings need repairs or replacements.

The city sends out a newsletter periodically that non-English readers would find useless.  The city’s cable TV channel might be of interest.  

“THE MASTER” RESONATES WITH TODAY’S NEWS
The main character in the 2012 film “The Master” is reminiscent of today’s headlines where a mentally disturbed man is released from the military and can’t or won’t fit into mainstream society.  It’s about a man lost, lonely and looking for a family, any family.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix plays the obsessed sailor post World War II who drifts into a religious cult where its messiah is portrayed by Philip Seymour Kaufman.  The cult leader is amused by the deranged man whom he calls an animal but other cult members, including his wife played by Amy Adams, see the man as “insane” and a danger.  
The sailor is a poor candidate for cult membership because he refuses to follow the messiah and in the end is rejected.  The story is thin but the character development and acting are great.  If the movie had been made 40 years ago Orson Welles would be the messiah and Richard Widmark would be the crazy guy.

“BLACK CALHOUNS” POST CIVIL WAR SUCCESS STORY
Parts of this book are interesting, but author Gail Lumet Buckley lacks focus and it’s not an easy read.  Buckley is the daughter of African American singer Lena Horne.  The book traces the history of a successful African American family post-slavery with emphasis on Horne’s story and civil rights.  Less would have been more.

Monday, July 11, 2016

ALL’S NOT WELL IN LAKE WOEBEGONE

After the latest in a series of cop vs. African American shooting this past week, it’s apparent that status quo politics won’t reform police departments or get guns off the street.  While people demonstrated in frustration in front of the Governor’s Mansion, they were preaching to the choir since Gov. Dayton has identified the shooting as being related to racial profiling.  
The demonstrators need to take their act to Isanti County and plea at the home of Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt to pass police reform legislation.  We need to elect people to the Legislature and Congress who support gun control and police reform.
Meanwhile, county and city governments are silent.  The county attorney probably will call a grand jury which never indicts police in these Twin Cities police shootings.  More anger will ensue.
(From Pioneer Press:)  DFL Party African American Caucus board secretary Kelis Houston said “she wants to see a stop to the endless circle of protection for police…The mayor has the power to address the union contract which protects them, and if the mayor doesn’t have the power, the governor does.”  (But the governor needs enabling legislation.)
Although the governor got some money from the legislature this session to address African American poverty issues, more needs to be done to level the playing field.

It’s been almost 50 years since the 1967 violent Plymouth Avenue riot in North Minneapolis, and the road ahead does not look promising unless we get some new voices in positions of power here. 
REQUIRED SUMMER VIEWING
Stupid whites can be presidential advisors or anything they want to be, an African American woman observes in the 1979 black comedy “Being There” wherein a witless gardener becomes either the new Messiah or the next president.  The mindless utterings of Chauncey Gardiner will resonate with some who are following the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Besides this Hal Ashby masterpiece, have a look at Tim Robbins mockumentary on U.S. politics, “Bob Roberts.”
It’s a long hot summer so have a few yuks.

MEET THE 16MM GUY
OLLI member Don Wilkie, a 16mm movie collector, is showing part of his collection of westerns this summer at a local senior apartment complex.  Wilkie has been active in the western movie collectors’ association and is conversant on the history of poverty row studios.  His summer showings are from the LIppert Studio and included “Marshal of Heldorado” (1950) with the handsome James Ellison who was the romantic lead in the 40s Fox musical “The Gang’s All Here.”  
Wilkie has been featured in the Austin and suburban Sun newspapers here.  I thought I was quaint collecting VHS movies, but Wilkie reaches back to a time when you could get 16mm movies from local rental libraries, much like the Blockbusters that went bust.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Eyes Shut Movie Is A Mess

A bored doctor freaks out at a kinky Halloween party and it’s not even Halloween while his wife has a nightmare in "Eyes Wide Shut" 1999.  Almost three hours are consumed until we reach this happy conclusion.  Kubrick should have quit while he was ahead with “Clockwork Orange.”  Thumbs down on this Cruise-Kidman mess.  Britain's Pinewood Studio is where it was filmed, not Manhattan.  Kubrick quit making films in the USA many years ago.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

OLLI Tours Streetcar Museum 2016


MINNEAPOLIS — Some of the OLLI seniors actually rode on one of these street cars when they were kids, from Lake Harriet to Como Park before street cars gave way to busesin 1954.  Motor men from the Streetcar Museum have fond street car memories.


MINNEAPOLIS — U of M OLLI scholars gathered at Lake Harriet’s restaurant on the beach for lunch after the Street Car event, now an annual OLLI summer get together.  One of the students was born in The Hague and lived with her parents in South Africa during apartheid and free times.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

"South Pacific" --Memorable Summer 2016 event

BROADWAY AT THE GUTHRIE
Sending shivers up my spine with his wonderful baritone rendering of “Some Enchanted Evening” was Broadway actor Edward Staudenmayer as Emile de Becque in the 1940s musical “South Pacific.”
Another show stopper was the ensemble’s gusto performance of “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” so well done with the vocals and choreography and making it most memorable for the final preview performance at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater.  Kudos to director Joseph Haj, but the Guthrie’s steep stairway is much too challenging for seniors and parking/driving in downtown is more nerve racking then ever.

“South Pacific” was the season’s big money maker and next summer “Sunday in the Park with George” is being offered which I saw in Houston.  George is not my cup of tea.  www.guthrietheater.org

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

CAMP RIPLEY JUNE 2016


CAMP RIPLEY — Over a thousand Minnesotans died in Vietnam while 68,000 Gopher State residents served in that war.  Here I am in my “Navy Whites” in front of a Huey helicopter, the kind used in Vietnam.  The Military Museum is at this Minnesota National Guard training center, not far from St. Cloud.

GOVERNOR’S RETREAT
CAMP RIPLEY — This cabin may have been imported from Norway and is infrequently used by the governor, although I doubt that Mark Dayton has retreated here although the horse fancier Al Quie favored this “Valhalla.” 

MILITARY MUSEUM

CAMP RIPLEY — A very cramped little museum on the base tries to pay honor to those who served in several wars.  The Viking Battalion’s story lends itself to a movie with soldiers on skis sabotaging a Nazi German facility in Norway experimenting with nuclear warfare. We toured this military base as part of a U of M OLLI class.  Ain’t education great?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

TRUMP vs SCOTLAND’S PRISTINE SEASCAPE

“The worst environmental crime in the United Kingdom’s history,” is how filmmaker Anthony Baxter described Donald Trump’s golf course development on Scotland’s pristine coastline, leveling 4,000 year old sand dunes and endangering wildlife and habitat. 
Trump’s Scottish campaign is detailed in Baxter’s award-winning documentary, “You’ve Been Trumped,” available on DVD.
Even American golfers, who are the target market for this venture, reacted negatively to the golf course which they said is “gaudy” and not in Scotland’s tradition where golfing started.
The farm of longtime Aberdeen, Scotland, resident Michael Forbes, who Trump said “lives like a pig,” was targeted by the billionaire for removal because, along with windmills, it “ruined the view from the golf course.”  

When Scotland’s Parliament refused to order the removal of the eco-friendly windmills, Trump scrubbed plans to build a hotel on the site.  Also, Trump canceled plans to seek compulsory orders to remove local residents from their properties.  Residents prevailed over Trump even though the golf course was built, but it was difficult because the ruling elites sided with Trump while local property owners suffered the turmoil caused by Trump’s ill conceived scheme. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431694/donald-trump-global-bully

Friday, May 13, 2016

Historic St. Paul Tour 2016


HISTORIC SCHOOL
During a stop at St. Joseph School on Summit Hill, St. Paul, I met several fellow students in the U of M OLLI program who hail from Bloomington.  One lady was raised on the east side and moved to prestigious West Bloomington — the American dream fulfilled.  Another, like myself, was on staff at Normandale Community College for a short time and knew Dave Doctor of the music department (his son Pete is a famous Pixar film producer.)

ST. PAUL’S FAMOUS SWEENEY’S BAR
We stopped for cheese and crackers at this Victorian like setting.  Last time I was here in the 1980s this Selby Dale neighborhood was treacherous at night but now it is a magnet for young professionals.  TOP PHOTO

NOT OVERLOOKED AT THE PARK

In  the background at Overlook Park is the University Club in the 1920s which was a magnet for Scott and Zelda Fitzgrald. (Fitzgerald lived in house on left.)  It is at the top of a steep hill that hindered city development in the early days.  A streetcar tunnel solved the problem.  The tour on Friday was through the U of M OLLI program and the Minnesota History Center with an informative tour guide.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BLOOMINGTON CIVIC THEATER EXPERIENCE

IMMIGRANT’S STORY — “sun crying”
Bloomington civic theater cast member discussed Jewish culture, immigrants, oppression and hope during the audience talk back session after today’s performance of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Few musicals stir up such emotion as this venerable classic and one audience member bore witness that this production was equal to the Broadway debut that he saw 51 years ago.
Director/choreographer Michael Gruber provided the cast with background on the pograms in Eastern Europe in the early 1900s and this was helpful.
“Fiddler” remains relevant in light of today’s report from the New York Times that Pope Francis received drawings from Syrian children in a refugee camp — one showing children drowning in the sea and another depicting the sun crying.
(John Paul Gamoke makes you believe that he is Tevye.)

MUSIC THEATER TRADITION, MINNESOTA STYLE
With acclaimed programs in music theater at Mankato State University and U of M Duluth it’s a small wonder why we have a wealth of talented young performers in the Twin Cities and beyond.  Mentorship of young performers learning from professionals is one of the byproducts of Bloomington Artistry’s civic theater efforts, we learned Tuesday  at the U of M OLLI class at Bloomington Arts Center. 

It’s a two-way street, explained Equity actor John Gamoke, with the professional actor learning from the newbies.  Anita Ruth for the past several years has conducted these informative classes on music theater and it’s time well spent in the lifetime learning program.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

PAY INEQUALITY FOR MEXICANS PROPOSED


BLOOMINGTON — A Minnesota Republican legislator has introduced a bill that would discriminate against migrant farm laborers based on their country of origin, said Ken Peterson, Minnesota's Commissioner of Labor and Industry, Tuesday night at the Progressive Isssues meeting at Davannis Restaurant.  
Farm workers now earn $12 per hour for working up to 48 hours per week, but overtime pay is time and a half or $18 an hour.  Under the Republican measure Mexican workers would not be eligible for over time pay, Peterson said. This is a “bad step” and “let’s give these people a break,” Peterson added.  The labor commissioner said he believes that Gov. Mark Dayton would veto the bill if it ever reaches his desk.


Boise’s Oldies FM Station 99.5 reported that Idaho Democrats held the largest ever caucus in the United States and Bernie got 80 percent of the vote in Ada County and 78 percent in the state. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Junk Dealers, RKO and Movie Sale

GOING APE OVER RKO
Thank you Rick Notch for giving me this wonderful encyclopedia, “The RKO Story” by Jewell and Harbin, of all you need to know about American movies.  The back stories on “Hunchback” and “King Kong” were entertaining as I watched these two movies last night.  We should have been at the Orpheum or Fox in Spokane to see both of these on the big screen.

PEDDLERS TO PROCESSORS
The family business is being honored now at the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest with the display “Jewish Scrap Stories”.  I am interested since my father and two uncles were in the scrap business in Eastern Washington.  (Uncle Dave was quite prominent with B. Barer and Sons, Walla Walla.)  Families fled from persecution in Europe and emigrated to American in search of a better life, the narrative reads.  Most everyone my age knows of scrap metal dealers, the first recyclers, in their communities.  See the exhibit at the Jewish Community Center, St. Louis Park.

MOUSE IN THE REFRIGERATOR
Imagine a movie junkie like me being in a room with nothing but old VHS tapes and DVDs.  That’s the scene at the Southdale Library which is selling ($2 and 25 cents) the massive collection of movies and TV shows that the Star Tribune TV critic received over the years from networks and studios.  It boggles the mind.