Saturday, December 31, 2016

Glenn Miller Story revisited 63 years later

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

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.


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

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.

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.  

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.

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
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.

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.

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.

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


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.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

World War II Memories

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.  
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.