FRANK CAPRA – THE ODD BOID – Garry Armstrong

I was thumbing through an old magazine when I remembered this one. Don’t think I’ve ever shared it.

Early in the 1970’s at the Boston television station where I worked.  The newsroom was on the third floor and we had a lobby receptionist who looked and sounded like Thelma Ritter.

The phone rings at my newsroom desk. It’s the receptionist in the lobby.  “Hey, Geeery,  got a guest fer ya.  An old guy. Odd ‘boid.’  Sez his name is Frankie and he’s gotta book fer ya.”

Frank Capra

I was puzzled.  Didn’t have any celeb guests booked.  Who was this “Frankie?”

“Geeery, Hon. Ya still there?   Frankie’s got this book fer ya?  Whadda I do, Hon?”

I was still puzzled.  I didn’t play the ponies and I didn’t know any bookies. I asked him to send the guest up on the elevator, then I raced out to meet him. The elevator opens and out steps … FRANK CAPRA. I simply stared with my mouth wide open.

Capra laughed at me. “Hi Garry, will you interview me?” Capra continued laughing as I continued to stare.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – Frank Capra, Director

Of course,  we went out for a few drinks afterward. He shared some great stories about working with Harry Cohn at Columbia.  Capra had “director’s final cut” in all his contracts.

Harry used to go wild. He wanted a different ending for “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” Frank told Harry where to go.

HISTORY VERSUS TRUTH – Marilyn Armstrong

How’s your credibility doing these days? 


We watched “Serenity.” Again.

It’s a consolation prize, a followup movie to the all-too-brief television series “Firefly.” We loved it. It went a small distance to answer the questions left in the wake of the premature ending of what should have been the best ever science fiction television show.

serenity_movie_poster

Nathan Fillion was a fine, dashing, surprisingly believable hero. He was just un-heroic enough to be witty and upbeat, but brave enough to save the universe.

Despite spaceships and a futuristic planetary setting for the movie, it’s a western. It’s “Tombstone” and “The Magnificent Seven.” A dollop of “Ride the High Country.” It is every thriller, western, and space opera you’ve seen. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Forbidden Planet,” too.

serenity_8

It’s based on “Firefly”, currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime — so if you haven’t seen it and you like science fiction and/or westerns and/or thrillers, you can’t help but love this.

Heroes curse in Chinese. Some have super powers or maybe they aren’t superpowers, but they sure do seem pretty super to me. Beautiful women, handsome men. Terrific pseudo-science that you are pretty sure you almost understand because it uses familiar gobbledygook language.

Serenity movie cast

No warp drive. I suppose that means that going from galaxy to galaxy on a whim isn’t going to happen. No one exactly says where the story takes place. It’s a “terraformed” planetary configuration that you would call a solar system, except that technically, there’s only one solar system because there’s only one “Sol.”

And then The Hero, Mal Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, said it. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want mad at you, so when he came out with a line this terrific, I wrote it down on the back of an envelope before I forgot it. I knew I would write about it.


“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Spoken by Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the “Serenity.”

I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, steampunk and weird mysteries involving some kind of magical or futuristic technology. But I also read a lot of history, recently a lot of history that essentially debunks all the history I read in the past and makes me completely rethink everything I thought I knew. Tony Judt’s “Postwar” was one such book, but there have been a bunch of others. Some of them I’ve reviewed or otherwise written about. Others, I will talk about eventually.

serenity movies firefly science fiction 1024x768 Fillion

When Mal Reynolds talks about “hiding half the truth,” it sums up history as most of us know it. We learn the “mythology” of history. It can also be a complete lie. There’s half the truth — and then, there’s a complete absence of any truth.

We are told what is true and for most people, it is easier to accept what we are told as “The Truth” rather than make an effort to find out what really happened.

History (mostly) is the stuff the winners say is true.  Author Dan Brown said:


“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”


Sometimes, what you hear as “history” is a truth which never happened, but which losers need. It soothes guilty consciousness and makes it possible for them to “move on” and thus pretend the past never happened.

Every nation has a dark past. No nation is guiltless. In no country have the victors treated their victims with kindness and charity. There has been slaughtering throughout the world. Whether your particular people got slaughtered or not is pure luck of the draw.

It’s always an interesting philosophical question: Who draws the straws? Why us? Why them? It’s one of those “ultimate” questions and there is no answer.

History isn’t credible as taught. The history we hear in school has nothing to do with telling later generations what really happened. It ought to be but actually, it’s about getting everyone to believe a story that supports the current power structure.

Debunking those stories comes later when a changed power structure requires a different story.

Nathan Fillion Hero

Take your history with many grains of salt. Not because I said so, but because Mal Reynolds said so.

He saved the universe, so he ought to know.

DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? – Marilyn Armstrong

This story has been on the news for the past few days. Every time it has been on, Garry and I had a good laugh.

There was a zesty little scuffle between Bill Murray, actor, and Peter Simon, a photographer who is, incidentally, Carly’s brother. And it was at “the restaurant” to which everybody who is anybody goes so that everybody knows they were there.

We used to go there once every vacation. It was wildly expensive, so not the sort of place you visited often. Or at least, not a place we visited often. Mostly, I prepared our meals at the house.

The Simon’s are permanent Martha’s Vineyard residents (and you should see their house — it’s amazing) which means something on the Vineyard. They do a lot to try to help feed the people who get hungry in the winter when all the tourists are gone and there’s no work.

The Taylor family (James, et al) are also Vineyard residents, so even though Carly and James are no longer married, they sometimes get together and do a show that will raise money to feed and house the hungry.

Thus, when Bill Murray asked Peter Simon “Do you know who I am?” and Peter answered with “Do you know who I am?” it was like a Vineyard joke.

Photo: Washington Post – Bill Murray

The thing is if you’ve spent any amount of time on the Vineyard — not as a two-day visitor but weeks at a time — you realize that everybody on the Vineyard is somebody, or is related to somebody, married to somebody, used to be somebody or is about to become somebody.

It’s a very somebody kind of place.

Peter Simon, photographer

I remember when Garry spotted Patricia Neal at a store in Edgartown. He whispered to me to wander over and find out if that was really Patricia Neal.

It is considered uncool on the Vineyard to ask for autographs or anything like that. People come to the Vineyard to get away from that … but they do want to make sure you know who they are. This can be difficult if they are on the naked beach in Aquinnah, by the way. Naked people just don’t look like their picture in the newspaper.

So as I was sashaying over to see if I can overhear relevant conversation (yes, she was), someone else was pointing at Garry because that was when he was somebody, too.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t anybody. Pat did give me some good advice which was “The most important thing for a woman is to have someone who’s good with hair and great with makeup.” Not that I have anyone, but if I had become a star, I would have taken that to heart because I’m sure she was right.

Patricia Neal – PHOTO: JAIMIE RODRIGUEZ-GLOBE PHOTOS, INC

There’s no point to this story except that if you are going to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, be careful about assuming you are more important than that other guy. His face may not be familiar, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a movie studio. Or his father does.

RDP #74 – ZEST

BRIAN WILSON, NO PIER PRESSURE – Rich Paschall

Young Voices and The Old Master, Rich Paschall

On the Brian Wilson “solo album,” as most seem to be calling it, Brian is only going solo on four of the 16 tracks,  When you consider that he is backed by a chorus of singers on those, then you may think he has more of a “Beach Boys” album than a solo affair.  The author of most of the Beach Boys hits, however, can not call it a Beach Boys album.  He doesn’t own the name.

The first guest performer has a song that was not well received by most critics.  “Runaway Dancer,” featuring Sebu (part of the duo Capital Cities), is nothing like the other tracks.  It has a heavy dance beat that screams “pop record.” Yes, it is laden with Wilson vocal work.  Wilson’s own voice can clearly be heard throughout.  Perhaps the new direction can be attributed to the work of Sebu Simonian off-site.  Wilson’s demo was titled “Talk of the Town,” when it was sent to Sebu, who recorded his vocals at another studio.  Sebu is also credited with “Additional production,” which could mean a lot of things.  If critics wanted just another Beach Boys tune, they didn’t get it.

“On the Island” brings an almost Bosa Nova beat and some sun and sand to the album.  The song features the work of “She and Him,” which would be Zooey Deschanel on vocals and M. Ward on electric guitar.  Deschanel’s vocal is perfect for the tune about being “lost in this island nation.”

One track is given over to an instrumental, well sort of anyway.  A mellow piece of jazz shows up as the fifth track of the deluxe album.  The very sounds suggest sunset over “Half Moon Bay.”  The work features Mark Isham on horn, but the Wilson touch is there too.  Voices are blended throughout to create harmonies giving this a soft and warm feeling.  It is a break from the other type of soft harmonies Wilson has layered throughout the album.

In case you think I loved every bit of this album, I must confess to be mystified by the song “Our Special Love.”  The track may have been the one slated to go to Frank Ocean. Wilson canceled him out, explaining that Ocean wanted to rap his performance.  If you think a driving dance tune was not well received by hard-core Beach Boys fans, just imagine a rap tune.  Peter Hollens, a You Tube generation performer if ever there was one, shows up instead.  Little of Hollens can be heard on the track as Wilson takes the lead on the chorus and the overproduced harmonies just about drown out much of Hollens work.  I am not even convinced the verses fit well with the chorus.  The music, uncharacteristic of a Wilson song, does not blend as you come to expect.

On the other hand, the light-hearted “Guess You Had To Be There,” featuring Kacey Musgraves on the verses with Wilson leading the Chorus is a perfect mix. The happy sounding tune is not as layered or overproduced.  A banjo mixed into the song seems to go with Musgraves work and one wonders if that is indeed her touch.  The lyric could easily be a commentary by Wilson on the ending of the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary tour.  Anyway, it all seems to fit.

The most energetic and contemporary sounding track features Nate Ruess of Fun.  Just like he does with the work in his own group, Ruess energizes “Saturday Night” and turns in a spirited performance.  Given author and composer credit along with Wilson and Joe Bennett, Ruess has a spirited contribution for the album.  Here is the live Soundstage performance:

The final track of the album, “The Last Song,” was originally scheduled to go to Lana Del Ray.  When the list of songs finally came out, her name was not to be found.  At first, Wilson told interviewers that Del Ray had canceled them, but it turns out that she actually recorded the vocal the previous year.  It was ultimately decided that the nostalgic piece about looking back on a career seemed to suit Brian Wilson much more than Lana Del Ray.  Was it the swan song of the music master?  No, Wilson never seems to run out of tunes.

Don’t be sad
There was a time and place for
what we had

If there was just another chance
for me to sing to you…

WITHOUT PEER – Rich Paschall

The Beach Boys had a successful 50th-anniversary album and tour in 2012.  It all ended rather spectacularly when Mike Love dismissed founding members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks and went on with a crew of replacements.  He could do that because he owned the name, Beach Boys.  Wilson went on to make a new album in 2015 (reviewed below) with Jardine and a crew of young stars, No Pier Pressure.

The Beach “Boys” are still around and performing separately.  They have agreed to “reunite” for a Q&A session conducted by Rob Reiner to be played on August 10 on Sirius radio.  Undoubtedly the release of a new album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played into this.  It is the old vocal recordings of hit tunes with the Orchestra arrangements added.  The CD is out now, the vinyl on August 15.

Brian Wilson’s No Pier Pressure, Rich Paschall

When the Beach Boys finally got back together in 2012 for a 50th Anniversary Tour, Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the sound, agreed to sign on.  Wilson had been a nervous performer over the years, and there were many years he could not perform.  His mental health history not only is well-documented, but it was played out on-screen in the 2014 biopic, Love and Mercy.  After decades away from the often-feuding Beach Boys, Wilson was ready to go.

To start the anniversary year, Brian Wilson produced and arranged a brand new Beach Boys album, as well as having written most of the songs.  In true Beach Boys’ form, it was steeped in harmonies of the voices that had blended so well over the decades. Fans still revere their work for the unique sound.  The genius behind the Beach Boys had done it again.

L to R: Bruce Johnston and founding members Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks

Although Wilson did not originally want to perform many shows for an anniversary tour, he finally agreed to 50 shows for the 50th year.  The tour went so well, shows continued to be added.  There was some talk of yet another Beach Boys album in the future. By the time the “boys” got to their 75th show in London, Wilson, who was usually cloistered in a studio, was willing to continue. True to the Beach Boys history, the tour ended on a sour note.

Brian Wilson

Mike Love, frontman, lead singer on most of the hits, and owner of the name Beach Boys fired Wilson, Al Jardine and most of his crew.  The mastermind of the tour was stunned.

For his part, Love claimed he did not fire Wilson but had other commitments.

The other commitment turned out to be a tour with a stripped-down show and a crew of replacement Beach Boys.  Yes, he booked his own tour — even as the highly-acclaimed Wilson-engineered production was on the road.  Love, by the way, is Wilson’s cousin and a founding member of the Beach Boys along with Al Jardine.

The backlash was immediate.  Fans were outraged.  Love took to the LA Times to pen a letter claiming he would never fire Wilson.  He pleaded innocent.

Wilson fired back with his own letter: “What’s confusing is that by Mike not wanting or letting Al, David [Marks] and me tour with the band, it sort of feels like we’re being fired.”  David Marks is an original member of the Beach Boys and a neighbor to the Wilson Brothers and Love as they grew up.

The new album, That’s Why God Made The Radio, grew in popularity as the 50th Anniversary tour rolled on. “What’s a bummer to Al and me is that we have numerous offers to continue, so why wouldn’t we want to? We all poured our hearts and souls into that album and the fans rewarded us by giving us a Number Three debut on the Billboard charts and selling out our shows. We were all blown away by the response,” Wilson was reported in Rolling Stone as having written.

Wilson continued to perform over the next two years in a limited amount of shows.  Al Jardine and sometimes David Marks came along for the ride.  It is hard to say whether Love and his version of the Beach Boys or Wilson and Friends were more popular.

Brian Wilson

So was the idea of a new album dead?  Was Wilson near the end of a long and successful ride?  Was he ready to fade away while Love kept singing songs from the 1960s.

The answer was delivered loud and clear.  Wilson made 2015 one of the biggest years of his career.

Wilson went back to the studio and created a new album.  Perhaps it would have been one for the Beach Boys, but there are former Beach Boys and longtime Wilson musicians on hand to give it that Wilson-arranged, Beach Boys sound. The album debuted to strong reviews.  It is filled with songs you would expect from Wilson, along with a few surprises.

Wilson clearly could not take the lead on all of these songs, so there are plenty of artists on hand to share the parts.  Lead vocal credits are given to Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, one-time Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, country singer Kacey Musgraves, YouTube star Peter Hollens, Zooey Deschanel (She & Him), Sebu Simonian (Capital Cities) and Nate Ruess (Fun.)  Some of them also get a songwriting credit and/or contribute background vocals.  David Marks contributed guitar work to two of the songs that featured Al Jardine.

A blast from the past comes from a new song, Sail Away, featuring the lead of Chaplin and Jardine.  It is reminiscent of Sloop John B and Sail On, Sailor and will evoke past Beach Boys hits.

Much of the new album was featured on a PBS Soundstage special, Brian Wilson & Friends.  There are also some other Wilson hits to thrill the live audience.  For some insights to other songs here’s the official Soundstage trailer:

Tuesday: New Voices energize No Pier Pressure
Read more on the Mike Love, Brian Wilson letters:
Brian Wilson to Mike Love,” Rolling Stone, October 9, 2012.
Sources also include: “Beach Boys, Royal Philharmonic Preview,” Rolling Stone, May 10, 2018.
Surviving Beach Boys To Reunite For Radio Q&A,” liveforlivemusic.com, July 26, 2018

HAPPY NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY!

There has never been a dearth of assholes in our world, but I think recent years has raised them to a level of importance they never previously enjoyed.

The assholes are everywhere! Obviously, we know who the biggest asshole of them all is, but please don’t forget the rest of the crowd.


No need to name America’s biggest asshole. We all know him.

I have to thank my husband and his friends for bringing this important holiday to my attention. I had long felt that the morons, jerks, and assholes in our lives were not getting the recognition they deserve.

Often ignored and disrespected, this is a special day, dedicated to them all. The assholes we love, the ones we meet on the street. The ones we worked with and for. And most especially, for those we elected to run the nations of our world. If you voted for the asshole, please feel free to add yourself to the list.


To all assholes everywhere, this is for you.

Obviously, we have one overwhelming asshole, but he has gotten more than enough recognition. I think we should try to remember our local and less-international assholes. Not world leaders, yet somehow, they manage to get under your skin. They are the people you really don’t want to invite to your next party, but sometimes, you just don’t have a choice.

We worked for them and with them. We’ve lived with them. We are related to them.

This is your day, assholes. Enjoy!

A NOSTALGIC SPOOF: THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

A Nostalgic Spoof of a Beloved Movie Genre

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on all the “Miss Kitty/Miss Lily” saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who knows for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.


Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be an homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider,” is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well-written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon doubleheader at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second or third-run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime. Eleven cents if you were considered an adult. Which turned out to be any child older than 10, but they still made you sit in the kid’s section — which I firmly believed (and still believe) was unconstitutional.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!