Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ken Burns’ massive Vietnam documentary on PBS

Me with Huey helicopter at Minnesota’s Camp Ripley
Now is the teachable moment for Ken Burns’ massive Vietnam documentary on PBS with “lock & load” in the White House and the U.S. involvement extended again in Pakistan.
My Idaho fishing buddy and photo journalist Dave Frazier in his memoir, “Drafted! Vietnam in War and Peace,” said it succinctly:  “While there were . . . heroic acts on the part of American servicemen, it’s impossible  to claim much good came out of the war.  We didn’t stop communism, it didn’t rally the nation.  About 58,000 Americans died and millions had their lives altered because of the war.”

Like the lead character in “Full Metal Jacket,” Frazier was a public information rear echelon M.F.  He revisited Vietnam as a civilian several times.

Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War shows a news clip of the toxic Madame Nhu on her “goodwill tour” of the U.S.  Nhu was the wife of the South Vietnam security chief who was the brother of the corrupt S.V. president Diem.
The “dragon lady” brought her act to Los Angeles in 1963 when I was an editorial assistant at KNBC News.  Veteran reporter Bill Brown covered the volatile lady for KNBC while she was in the Southland. www.historynet.com/assassination-coup-madame-nhu.htm

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Famous neighborhood residents are shown on this mural.  Prince attended Bryant Junior High School nearby where he was on the basketball team.

Last night several of us, some form the ‘burbs, walked through the East 38th St. area, an event sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis.  Here we saw a familiar injustice:  Government builds a freeway through a community of African American residents.  

East 38th Street has a reach cultural heritage where African Americans were entrepreneurs, clergy,  home builders and more.  The brick structures fronting this residential development are all that’s left from the stadium.

Destruction of Central High School was a political decision, replacing it with Green Elementary School.  Also the freeway went through this African American neighborhood where land values are less than elsewhere.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


VICTORIA -- I joined Caver County DFL Chair Mary Leizinger Saturday Aug. 19 afternoon in greeting visitors to the Volksfest Craft Fair.  The monsoons subsided for a day to provide an ideal setting near a lake to meet local residents.  Mary charged me with registering new voters.  A life-long local Republican thanked Mary for giving the DFL visibility at a similar event.
This district has a promising candidate for the Legislature and may be a bit more blue now.
Victoria is west of Bloomington and near Prince's Paisley Park complex.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Motown DVD, Gene Wilder, 4th July, Gilda

First Friday July 4 @ Maxine's in St. Paul
Young African American musicians are united with their roots in Motown R&B in the wonderful documentary about the Funk Brothers backup band, “Standing in the Shadows of Love.”  In DTS, this is a real treat.
Some of the artists include Joan Osborne, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan and Montell Jordan with the legendary Martha Reeves providing a historical perspective.  It’s available on DVD and D-VHS from Artisan.  Like a rich desert, you can’t say no to this treat. 
My congregation asked me to do 45 minutes standup on Gene Wilder, but without an audio video presentation this would have been short and deadly.  So I bowed out.  To get Gene, you need  to see a scene with his blanket in “The Producers” or his summation on the ineptitude of adults in “Willy Wonka.”  
I lack skills to put together an audio video presentation with film clips.  I am sure there is an A&E Bio on Wilder worth a view. 
Film noir historian Eddie Muller makes an interesting observation about the two male characters in the classic 1946 film “Gilda.”  So there may not be a femme fatale in what is commonly referred to as a film noir.  Check out the Criterion DVD interviews on “Gilda.”

Bocce ball and root beer floats were the headliners Tuesday at the First Friday group picnic hosted by Maxine in suburban St. Paul.  I didn’t want to risk injuring anyone including myself by throwing bocce balls, a Minnesota tradition.  This BB@ is a tradition with Al, the hamburger chef.  Jesse and Sue were back from Arizona and Carol Berg continues to post on Facebook.


Race and Real Estate offered this summer for University of Minnesota OLLI scholars is the class I wish was offered in 1969 when I was a graduate student at the U of M.  I could have written about urban renewal in terms of racial discrimination and historic preservation in my star paper.
Dr. Brittany Lewis of the UM Center for Urban Affairs Thursday (July 6) drew a distinction between gentrification (bad) and revitalization (good.)  She also dispelled popular notions about “white proximity” as a model for community development.  
Shrinking availability for affordable housing for people of color is the issue I hope to pursue with the Bloomington Coalition on Affordable Housing.
Look for a Star Tribune feature this week byline Randy Furst on the U of M mapping prejudice project.
Derek Thompson has written in The Atlantic magazine that “ the non-white population of the Twin Cities has grown to 20 percent. Affordable housing developments are concentrated in only a few pockets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, creating the ghettos that mid-20th century policies avoided so well. If growing racial inequalities are not addressed, Minneapolis could find itself as one of the nation’s poorest cities when it comes to racial politics and urban decline.
Lewis recommended the book, “How to Kill a City.”
More from Thompson:  “The Minnesota state legislature passed a law requiring all of the region’s local governments—in Minneapolis and St. Paul and throughout their ring of suburbs—to contribute almost half of the growth in their commercial tax revenues to a regional pool, from which the money would be distributed to tax-poor areas. Today, business taxes are used to enrich some of the region’s poorest communities.
Soon after publication of Thompson’s article, responses began appearing, challenging his evidence and arguing that Minneapolis’s success is not shared with its residents of color. A recent study by WalletHub, a personal-finance site, found that Minnesota has the largest racial poverty gap in the nation. Black residents in the Twin Cities live below the poverty line at a rate three times greater than that of white residents. Banks in the Twin Cities have been found to be nearly four times more likely to give high-income black residents subprime loans than their poor white counterparts. Minnesota consistently earns top national rankings for its students’ reading, math, and college-entrance exam scores, but it is one of the worst states in the nation for non-white students. While the studies are of the worst states in the nation for non-white students. While the studies are fresh, the Twin Cities’ communities of color—where most of Minnesota’s non-white population resides—have known and lived with these disparities for much longer.

Today, the non-white population of the Twin Cities has grown to 20 percent. Affordable housing developments are concentrated in only a few pockets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, creating the ghettos that mid-20th century policies avoided so well. If growing racial inequalities are not addressed, Minneapolis could find itself as one of the nation’s poorest cities when it comes to racial politics and urban decline.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Frederic & Mabel, Pirates of Penzance 6/24/17
On a river island near downtown St. Paul Saturday the GLBT One Voice Mixed Chorus performed the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Pirates of Penzance” in a gender-bending fashion.  A rain storm preceding the play didn’t dampen our spirits.  

Given the technical limitations of performing outdoors on a stage, Penzance was a delightful event; one of the most memorable of the summer.  The temp was in the low 60s; very unusual late June Day.

A giant chorus backed up the principal singers in Saturday’s Penzance performance on the Mississippi River, St. Paul.  This is the realization of the urban river as an attractive recreational resource, an idea being pursued by Boise City when I was a reporter there in the mid to late Sixties.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

3 For the Show, Shining, Teacher's Pet

“Three for the Show” (1955) is one of the best and sexiest of the 50s musicals.  Betty Grable, Jack Lemmon and Gower Champion are super.  I love the Swan Lake ballet with Marge Champion and the tropical/congo number is quite memorable.  I had my doubts about a Columbia musical but this one was worth the 15 cents at Goodwill I spent and even more!
Meanwhile, I bought a D Theater D VHS which (like advertised) won’t play on my VCR.  This is a totally phantom system.  What a discovery!

Before they moved into the haunted hotel, Jack and Shelley were inadequate parents.  In the opening scene, the kid is engulfed in smoke from Shelley’s cigarette and soon we learn that Jack, when not working on his novel, is a drunken abuser.
So when all hell breaks loose in the Colorado mountains resort hotel, we don’t have much sympathy for the hapless couple.
Director Stanley Kubrick borrowed generously from wide angle techniques Gregg Toland used in RKO’s “Citizen Cane” so that everything is in focus in the long shots down the endless hallways to hell.
Reviews are dismissive of “The Shining” in Halliwell’s book, but audiences ate it up in 1980.  “Here’s Johnny!” 

Appropriate for the Gay Pride celebration underway today, I am reading Clive Jone’s autobiography, “When We Rise” where we learn how he rose from street hustler to a resourceful leader in the 1970s Gay Rights Movement.  
For those of us who didn’t live in California in the Seventies, there’s more than we need to know about local political figures in this book.  Jones can thank Milk for pressuring him to stay in college and get a degree.  He later achieved political prominence as an aide to a Democrat legislative leader.
Jones’ book would have benefited from economical editing.  The title is the basis for the ABC documentary which aired in February.  

When I was a teen watching “Teacher’s Pet” at Spokane’s Fox Theater with my friend Paul, little did I know in 1958 that I would pursue a journalism career.  Professional virgin Doris Day portrays the professor who uses the same overhead projector to critique students’ news writing that my instructor used in Journalism 101.  Gig Young is a college psychology professor who can’t hold his liquor.
Writers Fay and Michael Kanin crafted an insightful exposition on the importance of a college education for aspiring journalists.  It’s the “old pro versus the egghead” story and the later prevails.  The romance between Day and Clark Gable as the city editor is curious but then maybe Gable still had some fans from his Rhett Butler days 18 years earlier.

“Teacher’s Pet” is remembered for Mamie Van Doren’s torrid bump and grind in “Girl Who Invented Rock n’ Roll.”  Ms. Van Doren later got a college teaching appointment in Allied Artists’ comedy “Sex Kittens Go to College,” where a computer selects a stripper to head the mathematics department at a small college.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Monday, June 05, 2017

Sen. Franken, Poverty "Report"

Sen. Al Franken doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  Instead he writes about simpletons like senators Ted Cruz and Tom Corbin and former senator Jeff Sessions in his new book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.”  
Frankekn  was interview by Prof. Lady Jacobs Friday night at the Ted Mann Theater on the Minneapolis campus.  “Cruz is the guy who microwaves fish,” Franken said about the senator who annoys many people regardless of their political leanings. 

MINNEAPOLIS — In a forum Monday night at the University of Minnesota, the School of Public Affairs asked: is a left-right bargain on poverty possible?  My answer:  NO.
The evening was saved by Federal Board Chair MayKao Hang, the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation president and CEO.  She graciously pointed out to Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution, and Robert Dour, American Enterprise Institute, that their two-year old report omitted any mention of racial discrimination.  (Ms. Hang is Asian American.)  Talk about ignoring the elephant in the living room!
Two of the whitest men on the planet, Haskins and Dour, pimped the “Opportunity, Responsibility and Security” report, to a large gathering in the Cowles Auditorium.
The usual platitudes about supporting early childhood education were voiced with the caveat that fears about our “national debt” precluded any progress.  In fact, Haskins stated the obvious, that Congress “does not want to spend money on universal pre-school.”
None of what was aired Monday night by the Brookings and AEI representatives would pass muster as credible academic research anywhere on the planet.  Also missing from this “study” is a mention of the concentration of wealth in this country and the educational needs of immigrant children.  
Sixteen, mostly white guys, gathered to prepare the poverty report but only 15 signed off on the finished document.  Other speakers were critical of the report but no one framed it as a patently offensive mess that wasn’t worthy of discussion. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


EDINA — An overflow crowd Tuesday night at the Southdale Library Community Room heard Third District Congressional District candidate Dean Phillips in his first public presentation.  Thankfully it didn’t include a power point or the dreadful robot-like recitation that is so common with other politicians here.
Phillips, who owns a coffee shop and has managed his family’s foundation, has that “Wellstone-Franken” self-deprecating charm that served him well before a crowd that wasn’t always friendly.  It was evident in the way that he answered questions that he had done his homework.
Those that came to the meeting hoping for a lambasting of Trump and the incumbent Erik Paulsen must have left disappointed.  Phillips is not a hell raiser or spellbinder in the Humphrey mold, but he comes across as being sincere.
Global warming was a major theme in his response to questions about the environment and he advocated for the “carbon tax” so that we can leave the planet better than we found it.  You can be sure that the word “tax” was recorded by Paulsen’s team and will be used in upcoming commercials.
Phillips faces a formidable task in that a DFL candidate hasn’t won the district since 1958, but the west metro is considered a swing district where Mrs. Clinton won here by 10 points over Trump.
The question and answer period ended on an emotional note when a woman in the audience recalled the lack of response from Paulsen when she asked for his help related to her gay son.  For his response, Phillips got a standing ovation. 

Before the meeting, two young people outside the building displayed signs reading “Unqualified is spelled D-E-A-N.”  An avowed Republican sat under Phillips nose the entire evening and it didn’t rattle him in the least.  The crowd was eager to hear from a politician that didn’t spew hate or body slam a reporter.  Someone in a SUV tailgated me out of the parking lot, honking the horn.  An excited citizen, I suspect?  — Dave Zarkin

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

P. Martin, Erik Paulsen and More

The students’ participation today was memorable in Prof. Tapp’s class on Chris Hedges book, “Unspeakable.”  Several of us spoke about getting involved in local school district elections to identify possible candidates who want to revise history with their “special” books.  Tapp teaches in the U of M OLLI program. 

Monday night on his “telephone town hall” Rep. Erik Paulsen made the outlandish statement that Republicans and Democrats agree on the major tenets in the tax reform bill.  But according to published reports the Democrats remain skeptical, oppose net tax cuts and will resist proposals that mostly benefit high-income households,
Listeners were asked to submit questions but Paulsen rattled on incessantly about the FBI Russian probe to visiting police chiefs from Minnesota in one breath.  
Paulsen spoke to a class at Chaska High School recently and one of the students summarized the talk in a letter to the Star-Tribune.  Here’s part of what Mackenzie Herring wrote:
“I am a senior at Chaska High School. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen visited. His answers to students’ questions had a prevailing and troubling theme. He was asked about not hosting town hall meetings, lack of women in Congress, actions to protect against hate speech, and the recent GOP health care bill. Paulsen would acknowledge the point, but then deflect the intent of the question to find a way to criticize the Obama administration.”

Bloomington was founded by Europeans and American Indians in a spirit multi cultural cooperation and that spirit should be revived, City Council candidate Patrick Martin said Tuesday night at a meeting of Bloomington’s Progressive Issues group.
A fundraiser for non-profits, Martin seeks to bring aggressive programs to east Bloomington with problems that no longer should be ignored.  Outreach programs are needed to reach e east side residents don’t speak English and seniors ill poor health.  Lack of public transportation, affordable housing are other vexing issues.

Martin has done research and approaches these challenges with a solid background in the dynamics of communities coming together to improve lives of residents.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Robinnsdale’s Historic Terrace Theatre is featured in Classic Images (#504) June 2017 issue, pp. 44-45, with photos and other art work.  
“Terrace Theatre, One of America’s Finest,” was written by David Zarkin, Bloomington, a former writer for United Press International, Idaho Daily Statesman and University of Minnesota.  

To order this issue of the magazine, contact Classic Images, Carol Peterson, 563-262-0539 or carol.peterson@muscatinejournal.com

Minnesotans for more than a year have been sharing movie-going memories and celebrating one of the nation’s outstanding mid century modern design movie theaters, the Terrace in suburban Robbinsdale.
“Few, if any, Twin Cities movie theaters ever attracted the kind of national attention that the Terrace received when it opened in 1951,” Dave Kenney wrote in his book, Twin Cities Picture Show.  The theater was demolished in early October by the property owner to make way for a Hy-Vee grocery store.
The Terrace Theatre, which was vacated 16 years ago and changed ownership several times, was a beacon to the community with a high tower topped by lighted letters that spelled out Terrace.  Looking more like a church than a movie house, the Terrace was a community gathering place where residents came together in this mid century modern building that set Robbinsdale apart from lager suburbs that were littered with dreary strip malls.
The Terrace Theatre was the vision of businessmen William and Sidney Volk, orphaned immigrant children who came to Minneapolis from Lithuania in the early 1920s.  Sidney attended the University of Minnesota and wanted to go to medical school but couldn’t afford  the tuition, said his niece Barbara Sidley.  
By the 1930s the brothers were well established Twin Cities movie exhibitors looking to make a big splash by building the Riverview Theater in 1949 near the Mississippi River in a residential neighborhood.  The Riverview was later remodeled to incorporate many of the modern design elements of the Terrace and remains a popular destination for Twin Cities moviegoers who want to enjoy the latest exhibition technology at bargain prices.
Architectural magazines raved about the Riverview, Will Hertz reported March 3, 1949 in the Minneapolis Tribune, while the brothers were building “the theater of tomorrow” in Robbinsdale.  Realizing that television was taking a toll on movie attendance in the late 1940s, the Volks recruited imaginative architects Liebenberg and Kaplan to design a modern unique space age movie house that would give Minnesotans compelling reasons to leave their comfortable living rooms. 
When the Terrace opened in 1951 showing Father’s Little Dividend,  the theater’s newspaper ad boasted that this new theater has “two spacious well furnished nursery rooms, special loge sections for ultra comfort, staggered seating for better vision, 100 percent temperature conditioner and the largest theater in the great Northwest with 1,300 seats.”
Volk brothers’ great grandnephew David Sidley said as a child going to the Terrace he was surprised to find a TV lounge on the side of the foyer which seemed out of place in a movie theater.  Boxoffice magazine on Aug. 4, 1951, reported that the TV lounge “gets a steady play from patrons who become perfect prospects for soft drinks and snacks served from the bar.”  Barbara Sidley, the Volk brothers’ niece, said the Terrace was the first theater to sell hot dogs in addition to popcorn and other refreshments.
Going to the Terrace was like coming home.  The theater featured a sunken lounge with a copper-hooded fireplace and a redwood smoking lounge was provided in the men’s room.  “Unique features included three garage stalls in the basement, a system of dumbwaiters serving the candy counter and coke bar, spacious refreshment storage rooms and two large private offices.  The theater tops a rise overlooking a surrounding portion of the countryside set with several of the sparkling lakes for which the region is famous,” Boxoffice reported.  
Years before the theater closed in 1999, it was divided into three screens, but competition from nearby suburban multiplexes sealed the fate of the space age modern building.  David Leonhardt of Robbinsdale worked at the theater where he met his future wife Alyssa and most recently headed a group that sought to preserve the building.  He and others encouraged developers  to incorporate  the theater in their plans for the site. 
“Everybody in Robbinsdale or from Robbinsdale has some kind of an emotional connection to the Terrace,” said Diane Jacobson, president of the Robbinsdale Historical Society. “It was the showplace of the town.”  
Efforts were underway before the demolition to list the theater on the National Registry of Historic Places and May 23, 2016, was declared “Historic Terrace Theatre Day” honoring the 65th anniversary of America’s finest movie house.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Side splitting hilarious is the 1971 teen fanzine “Spec” which must be short for spectator. My friend Babs gave me this rag and it brought back memories of my very short stay at the UPI Hollywood International Bureau in 1963 in the Los Angeles Mirror Building. 

UPI frankly didn’t know what to do with me so they shuffled me off to the Hollywood desk where I worked with a young woman who was a student in broadcasting at USC. One of her instructors was John Thompson who she referred me to and that bit of kindness landed me a job as a go-for editorial assistant at NBC News where Thompson was news director. (He was later fired for some improprieties; the details escape me.)
Working on the Hollywood desk got me out of firing range of Vernon Scott’s paper torpedoes. REMEMBERING UPI’s VERNON SCOTT
Paul Scorvino portrays United Press International Hollywood reporter Vernon Scott in 1964 in the Warren Beatty movie “Rules Don’t Apply.”  I worked with Scott at UPI in the Los Angeles Times Building on Spring Street in the summer of 1963after completing Coast Guard boot camp.
Scott was manic at times, throwing waded up balls of copy paper at me across the office that he would rip out of his typewriter in the course of knocking out his column.
“Rules” deals with an eccentric billionaire corporate deal maker who may be crazy and fears that his enemies may want to lock him away in an insane asylum.  Sound familiar?
More than a movie about Howard Hughes, it’s about “sexual puritanism in the late 1950s.”  Much of the story may be fictional but the character “Mamie” could be Mamie Van Doren who Hughes discovered at the Miss Palm Springs beauty contest and cast in “Jet Pilot.”  Ms. Van Doren was not acquainted with sexual puritanism, according to her autobiography.

I definitely was not up to the challenge of fabricating a piece on Ricky Nelson who was recently married to Mark Harmon’s sister and they were expecting their first born. These features were distributed by mail to newspapers worldwide. Since the Nelsons did not allow interviews, I needed to make up something benign out of thin air. I had difficulty rewriting a news release let alone make up some garbage about them shopping for strollers and diapers. As if I really cared. I did a quick count from the marriage date to when the little cherub was due and said to my coworker, “there’s our story.” She was not amused. I did not last long at Hollywood UPI.


Nestled in the bends of the Spokane River amongst the huge rock formations was the heavenly Bowl and Pitcher Park where we celebrated July 4th with cap guns and a picnic.  It was a kid’s wonderland which I looked forward to every summer until we got the lake cabin which was a different kind of July 4 .

Although Gramps didn’t observe dietary laws, he avoided eating pork.  And Mom warned us kids that we weren’t to say anything about the canned pork and beans.  So at the picnic I left slip that  I wasn’t supposed to say anything about the p-o-r-k.  We had a good laugh about that one.

The park was down river from the famous Natatorium Amusement Park where summer brought rides on the Jack Rabbit and dodgem cars.  I also lived the “nut house” fun in he dark ride and the Merry Go Round with the huge clown’s head where you could throw the silver rings.  I was too nervous to grab for the brass ring which would bring you a free ride.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


“You drive me crazy.  Don’t worry about it, I still love you,” whines Tommy Wiseau as the romantic lead in the midnight cult classic “The Room” playing once a month at the Uptown.  The DVD is more rewarding wherein an interviewer interrogates Wiseau, a middle age freaky no talent with a German accent and a Tiny Tim wig.  This contemporary Orson Welles credits his success to “meticulous planning.”

“This is getting worse and worse,” one of the actors observes and after few minutes of this soft core porn mess I couldn’t agree more.  Wiseau is not only the romantic lead but also the writer, producer and distributor of “The Room.”  In Wiseau’s film, actors open and close doors frequently, interspersed with some nudity.  

Guys in tuxedo’s toss a football around in a scene reminiscent of the charging buffaloes in Ed Wood’s “Glen or Glenda.”  Cutaway shots are frequent and out of context.  

This is a “weekend movie” where an erstwhile director rents a camera and assembles a few drunken friends to “act” in his apartment.
In this era where incompetent people aspire to high profile positions it’s no wonder Wiseau has achieved some notoriety.  In fact, the quirkish actor James Franco plans to make a biopic on Wiseau and “The Room.”

Is this worth staying up till midnight and paying $8 at the Uptown?  Probably not. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Recommended Movies, TV May 2017

Of the 100 “America’s greatest films” on the AFI list, I own 15.  Three are on DVD and the others are VHS. http://www.filmsite.org/afi100filmsA.html

“I like the world better drunk than sober,” says Madame X played by Lana Turner in the 1966 Universal tear-jerker of the same name.  Words  to live by in the tragic world of scorned film women also portrayed in “Stella Dallas” and “Rain.”  
Bring Kleenex to the climatic death scene with X and her “son” in the jail cell.  For “Stella Dallas,” you’ll also need tissue as a forlorn Barbara  Stanwyck  stands on the sidewalk behind the fence’s iron bars as she watches her daughter’s wedding.  (Imprisoned by her imprudent ways.)
The defining scene in “Rain” comes at the end when Joan Crawford as Sadie Thompson dressed for barroom rendezvous with torch music blaring shows no remorse at the untimely demise of the Rev. Davidson.  

Take note of the similar slutty costumes for both Stanwyck and Crawford and Turner’s transformation from glamour queen to bag woman is amazing.  -  Zarkin

If you live in the Midwest you have to know at least one or more Doris — people who have put their lives on hold and don’t know why.   “Hello, My Name is Doris” with Sally Field as Doris and Max Greenfield as the object of her desires, is a provocative dramedy,  
Max was born in 1980, almost 20 years after Ms. Field’s sitcoms were airing on TV.  The key scene in the movie is when she is removing her makeup.  You either cry or laugh.
There’s no Hollywood ending for Doris. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6vBnnryIug

The PBS documentary deals with the 1930s when the Communist Party was most active in the U.S.  Great concentration of wealth and unskilled laborers demanding higher pay and better working conditions were prominent issues then.  Sound familiar?  Compelling viewing.   www.americanreds.com

Matronly Gertrude Berg sews the loose buttons on strangers clothing while she dispenses unsolicited grandmotherly advice in the sitcom “Mrs. G. Goes to College.”  What’s supposed to be hilarious about this ill-advised TV show is the idea that a granny might want to further her education.  
Well, it’s happening everywhere now through the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute at the University of Minnesota, UC Riverside, Boise State University and more.  Seniors take non-credit classes on campus, at community centers and senior residence communities.

Matronly Gertrude Berg sews the loose buttons on strangers clothing while she dispenses unsolicited grandmotherly advice in the sitcom “Mrs. G. Goes to College.”  What’s supposed to be hilarious about this ill-advised TV show is the idea that a granny might want to further her education.  
Well, it’s happening everywhere now through the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute at the University of Minnesota, UC Riverside, Boise State University and more.  Seniors take non-credit classes on campus, at community centers and senior residence communities.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 02, 2017


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 09, 2017


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

Hawaii 2017

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

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