HOLLYWOOD SEX AND OTHER DISTASTEFUL STUFF

I’m afraid there won’t be any men left in Hollywood. The way things are going, they will all be out on sexual assault charges. This is not me saying this stuff didn’t happen. I’m positive it did. I always thought it was going on. Everything I knew about people in show business said that powerful men abused women pretty much all the time and got away with it because … they were powerful men.

Some guy I know suggested he had thought that it was a mutual thing. Sort of humorous.

No, it wasn’t. Not mutual nor humorous. Guys who force women to have sex don’t look like a young Robert Redford. Guys who can have any woman by saying “Hey baby … ” and she faints in his arms, don’t need to force anyone to have sex. Okay, well, there are some pretty weird guys out there, so who knows … but overall, I think you’ll find more guys like Harvey Weinstein and fewer really handsome studs.

Date rape — regular old date rape — was so common when I was in college, no one bothered to officially complain about it. I wonder if they still don’t bother?

No one believed in date rape. If you were “out” with a guy, clearly you expected sex, right? I mean — we all know that women never dated men unless they wanted to have sex.

Your girl friends believed you, though. Because they had gone through the same experiences, if not with the same guy, then with guys just like him. The best way to prevent it from happening again was to tell all your girl friends — and have them spread it around — so they would know and not go out with those creeps. Those guys with eight, tentacle-like arms who more or less strangled you in the car and then told their friends that you’d really wanted it, oh yeah!

 

So there was no point in complaining because the cops sure as hell wouldn’t believe you. The school authorities wouldn’t believe it — and mostly, they still don’t. It was entirely possible your own mother wouldn’t believe you, so if you got into one of those scenes, you just got through it, never dated the asshole again and tried to make sure other women knew he was “one of those guys.” It was the least you could do for them.

So it’s really possible that by next year, at least half the guys in Hollywood will be up on charges, behind bars, or simply too embarrassed to be seen in public.

It’s going to put a real hole in the scripts of some yet-to-be-made movies. Somehow, I’ll deal with it.

TOO MUCH DRAMA – RICH PASCHALL

My Top Ten Half Hour dramas, by Rich Paschall


Have you ever watched an hour-long drama and decided it was too long?  Even with all the commercial breaks, it did not seem to have a story of any length.  “They could have told that in a half hour,” you may think.  With all of the extraneous character development for the sake of giving us details into the private lives of the main characters, the story may go on for much too long.  Recently I saw an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles that seemed to be torturing us with filler.  If they stuck with the main plot line, it could have been over quickly, but they found plenty of uninteresting ways to stretch out the episode.

Why can’t each episode be a half hour if that is all the story they have?  Why do they bury us with scenes that do not move the plot along?  While there are a few half hour dramas, there has not been much to choose from in recent years.  Showtime cable network has given us some short dramas, including the well regarded “In Treatment.”  A few other cable or internet programs have also tried the short form.  If you search for lists of half hour dramas, however, you will likely get redirected to lists of sitcoms. It is as if the internet does not know of any half hour dramas.

TESTPATTERN_RCA_3

In the 1950s and early 1960s, broadcast television was filled with half hour dramas as well as situation comedies.  Many of these shows have found new life on such networks as Decades, MeTV, Cozi, Antenna TV, Nick at Nite and TV Land.  In case you are wondering what were the best short dramas, I am here to advance the plot with my top ten dramas of the past.  Turn up the sound, adjust the rabbit ears and set the channel to SERENDIPITY TV.

Before we get too far along let’s give an honorable mention to a few.  Naked City was a favorite of my grandmother.  The first 39 episodes were just a half hour before the popular police drama expanded to an hour.  A syndicated series Tales from the Darkside was a hit in the 1980s, but most locations ran it late at night so perhaps you missed it.  MASH is often consider a comedy, but there were dramatic elements and serious story telling that made it a unique hit that was hard to classify.  By the way, you will find no Westerns on this list.  There were so many half hour Westerns it deserves a list of its own.

10.  Adam-12 starring Martin Milner and Kent McCord.  Think of this as Dragnet with police officers rather than detectives.  In fact the creator and Executive Producer was Jack Webb, star of Dragnet.

09.  Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  The anthology series was hosted by the famed director and ran 7 seasons as a half hour show before morphing into the Alfred Hitchcock Hour for 3 more seasons.  Hitchcock only directed a relative handful of episodes and those clever opening and closing monologues were written for him.

08.  M Squad starring Lee Marvin.  The novelty of this 1950 series for us was using Chicago as the setting.  We all knew that the municipal vehicle license plate numbers began with an “M,” hence M Squad.  I guess you could say there were really no unmarked police cars in those days.

07.  Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges.  The main thing I remember about this show was that my father loved it, so we never missed an episode.  Who knew so much action could take place under water?

06.  Dragnet starring Jack Webb, Ben Alexander and later Harry Morgan.  The popular radio series came to television in 1951 and aired for 8 seasons with Ben Alexander as Jack Webb’s partner in the police drama.  When Webb brought it back for 4 more seasons in 1966, Alexander was unavailable and Harry Morgan stepped in as his detective partner.  The second series was in color.

05.  Lassie.  A boy and his dog, what’s not to like?  The long running tales of the heroic collie should actually be considered several series.  Lassie kept turning up in new homes and with new owners.  It seems the dog even joined the US Forest Service for 6 years.  Let’s stick with the first two main sets of owners. 1954-1957 Jeff’s Collie and with Tommy Rettig as Jeff and Timmy & Lassie with Jon Provost as Timmy.

04.  Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves.  OK, we knew that Superman was breaking through fake walls and yes, we wondered why people were so stupid they could not realize Clark Kent was Superman, but we loved it anyway.  The series started in black and white, but went to color in 1955, long before the others.

03.  The Twilight Zone.  The anthology series was created and hosted by Rod Serling, who also wrote many episodes.  It touched on a variety of genres and always contained a twist or unexpected ending.  Ranging from Science Fiction and Fantasy to horror and the supernatural, each story held your interest.

02.  Honey West starring Anne Francis.  It was time for a female detective but it only lasted 30 episodes before the network reportedly went for cheaper programming.  It was an unfortunate decision as the series earned Francis a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy nomination.

01.  Peter Gunn starring Craig Stevens.  This crime drama featured a suave detective, a jazz club and plots that were well developed.  Executive producer was Blake Edwards and the well-known theme song was written by Henry Mancini.  This one never ages.

Note:  Click on any of the titles above for the opening sequence.

GEORGE CLOONEY ABOUT WHY HILLARY CLINTON LOST – THE DAILY BEAST

George Clooney Opens Up About Why Hillary Clinton Lost: ‘I Never Saw Her Elevate Her Game.’ The Oscar-winning actor-filmmaker-humanitarian spoke with Marlow Stern about his timely new film ‘Suburbicon,’ racism in America, and what happened with Hillary.


Written by:  MARLOW STERN  09.22.17 9:30 PM ET


INTRODUCTION

If the Hollywood powers that be ever endeavor to produce a Cary Grant biopic, George Clooney would be the perfect man for the job. Like Grant, he is possessed of an immense level of charisma with a pinch of playful mischief. It lends his best performances — Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, From Dusk Till Dawn — a carefree insouciance.

The charm bleeds off-screen, too. When you chat with Clooney, he will regularly address you by name, and maybe even compliment your place of employ‍. But the 56-year-old has a serious side, too. For nearly a decade, he has been a UN Messenger of Peace; has served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and has done more than perhaps any U.S. civilian to shed light on the genocide in Darfur. In August, it was revealed that he and his lawyer-wife, Amal, had partnered with UNICEF to help send 3,000 Syrian refugee children to school in Lebanon.

On top of acting, humanitarian work, and starting a family, Clooney has found the time to direct (and promote) his latest film. Suburbicon, which premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is a tale of two families in 1959 suburbia. On one side of the picket fence is Gardner (Matt Damon) and Margaret Lodge (Julianne Moore), a middle-class white couple prone to kink and murder; on the other is William (Leith M. Burke) and Daisy Myers (Karimah Washington)‍, a middle-class black family—Suburbicon’s first—whose arrival sets off a powder keg of racism and resentment. The white townsfolk’s suspicious stares soon give way to a full-blown lynch mob, as dozens of angry, torch-bearing East Coast “liberals” form a wall of hate around the Myers’ home, completely oblivious to the real villains across the way.

The Daily Beast spoke with Clooney about the film’s resonance in the wake of Charlottesville‍ — and much, much more.
I enjoyed the film. One of my big takeaways from it was that it confronted white liberal guilt in an interesting fashion—similar in some ways to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The notion of, “oh, you say you believe in equality but then don’t uphold those values when it comes to your doorstep.”

THE INTERVIEW

I remember the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and, although not a perfect film, there’s something great about the idea of, “Yeah, I’m a liberal, but don’t marry my daughter!” And it was fun because, having grown up in Kentucky, when I see movies depicting any type of racism it always sounds like Mississippi Burning—hick accents and all. And when I was looking at the crisis of Levittown, these people sounded like they’d come from the East Coast and they were still hanging Confederate flags on houses and saying all these racist things. It’s good to remember that it wasn’t just the South that was fucked up. It played out everywhere.

You mentioned your home state of Kentucky. Did you witness any acts of racism in your formative years that really stuck with you?

‘BATTLE OF THE SEXES ‘ — IS TRUMP VS. HILLARY WISH FULFILLMENT? 

Sure. Look, by the time I was aware of things we were in the midst of a very progressive time in history. I was born in ‘61, so by the time I was really aware of things it was the end of the ‘60s. At that moment, we were all very hopeful. We felt like segregation—certainly in the South—had just ended, and things were moving in the right direction. So the way you saw racism was always in much sneakier ways. If you were going to a restaurant they’d say, “Oh, no open-toed shoes” or “No shirts without collars” but they would only enforce it with black people. There was pervasive implied racism. It took me a while to realize what was going on because most of us growing up at that time, we thought, “Oh, this is all fixed. Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, they all died for a reason. And this reason is now coming to fruition.”

And what we soon realized was that we weren’t even beginning to exorcise our deep-seated original sin.

In Suburbicon, it’s an interesting juggling act as a writer and filmmaker, balancing the A and B stories—the white family and the black family—and giving each ample heft while managing the disparate tones.

Tone is always the trick, you know? And I’ve sometimes failed at getting tone right. It’s a tricky thing. But this one was interesting because, when we sat down to work on it, one of the things I talked to the actors about—including Karimah, who plays Daisy Myers—was that there’s somebody out there that would be the perfect person to do the African-American version of this story.

That’s not where my expertise lies, and probably where it shouldn’t lie, but I do have a fairly strong sense of white males worried about losing their place in society and blaming minorities. I grew up around that so I can speak to that, and we wanted to focus on that version of it.

And also, here’s the interesting thing about this: films never lead the charge. They’re usually reflective of a point in time.

So what we were talking about, when we started to do this, was less about black and white, although that’s something that unfortunately always comes up, and more about the idea of how I was watching a candidate on the campaign trail [Trump] talking about building fences, scapegoating minorities, and branding Mexicans, Muslims, or anyone who didn’t look like a seventy-year-old white guy as “the enemy.”

When we were doing this, I thought it was unique to see [the white community] building fences around a black family’s home and scapegoating them, while the entire time the white family’s doing everything wrong. I think that’s something that happened an awful lot—and can still happen. It was about white privilege and the fear of losing it, and the reason they think they’re losing it is because minorities are stealing it from them — when of course it has nothing to do with that.

On the topic of Trump, it’s interesting to think of him in the context of this film because the first time. Trump made headlines was in the ‘70s when he was sued by the Justice Department‍ for discriminating against Black applicants applying to live in his apartments.

Yup. And think about it this way: he got up and did that Boy Scouts speech, a nice political speech in front of twelve-year-olds. And in it he did a ten-minute riff on William Levitt and talked about what a great guy William Levitt was. How he was one of the richest men in the world and a brilliant man. He was probably a friend of his dad’s because they were both real estate guys on the East Coast at the time.

William Levitt, who created Levittown, was taken to court because he wouldn’t put Blacks in Levittown. And rather than integrate, he quit! So it just makes so much sense for Trump to say that this guy’s outlook is great. Yeah, it was great if you were a white, straight man. Otherwise, not so much.

QUESTION:

You mentioned the hanging of the Confederate flag on the black family’s windowsill during the film’s big riot sequence, with the white mob crowded around their home, some holding torches. On the heels of Charlottesville, it must have surprised even you how prescient those scenes were.

ANSWER:

Here’s the thing, Marlow. I do have a bit of a view into this. I grew up in Kentucky, around the Confederate flag, and although Kentucky was technically neutral during the Civil War, it was very much a part of the South.

I remember these guys would come into town and we’d do these Civil War reenactments, and you could choose whichever side you wanted. They’d bring you uniforms and guns with blanks in it, and you could play either a Rebel or Union soldier, and we’d do battle all around town.

We all wanted to be Rebels because it was fun—everybody wants to be a “rebel”—and we never thought twice about the Confederate flag; it never even dawned on me that that was a symbol of hate. And also, I was pretty young and wasn’t paying enough attention.

But as you get older, you see this was only a symbol of hate, and you remember that the Confederate flag was designed to be marched into battle against the United States of America in favor of racism. And they lost.

It’s important to remember all these things. It’s literally a symbol of hate that was designed as a symbol of hate. So OK, you can wear it on a T-shirt or a hat because that’s freedom of speech and you can do whatever you want. I don’t give a shit. Those are the rules we’ve made as the United States, and I believe in them.

But to have the Confederate flag on a statehouse paid for by African-American taxpayers? No fuckin’ way! That would be like going to the Holocaust Museum and saying that they have to pay for a Nazi flag hanging over it. It’s just ridiculous. I grew up in the South, and I know there are an awful lot of people who feel the same way which is, “Hey man, this is not the hill that we want to die on.”

PARAMOUNT PICTURES – Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in a scene from ‘Suburbicon.’

QUESTION:

Do you feel that President Trump is emboldening these white nationalists to step out of the shadows of the internet and into the light? And what do you feel is fueling these people? Because many of the (mostly) men who marched in Charlottesville were quite young.

ANSWER:

Well, think about it this way. If I was President of the United States and David Duke is praising me and the white nationalists were talking about how I was on their side, the first thing I would do is I would come out and say, “Fuck these guys. Anyone who believes this is not in my camp. I don’t believe it, and I completely reject it.”

Don’t play coy and claim that you don’t remember who David Duke is when you were actually running for president 25 years earlier and said that the reason you got out was because David Duke was in the party. That’s just a lie!

So what you’re doing is winking at everybody and saying, “It’s OK, come on over, because that’s my base.” Well, that shouldn’t be your base! It’s the simplest thing in the world in politics: “Nazis bad.” It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Those associations between Trump and the “alt-right” seemed to be exacerbated by the fact that a person like Steve Bannon‍ was acting as Trump’s consigliere.

Steve Bannon is a pussy. Steve Bannon is a little wannabe writer who would do anything in the world to have had a script made in Hollywood. He wrote one of the worst scripts I’ve ever read—and I’ve read it. His fake Shakespeare-rap script about the L.A. riots. Oh, you’ve gotta read it! It’s just fuckin’ terrible.

But here’s the truth: if Steve Bannon had Hollywood say, “Oh, this is really great, and a really good script,” and had they made his movie, he’d still be in Hollywood writing his fuckin’ movies and kissing my ass to be in one of his fuckin’ films! That’s who he is. That’s the reality. It’s almost like someone in Hollywood should’ve given him a script—or approved one of his scripts—just to keep him out of the right wing.

QUESTION:

You explored the world of journalism in Good Night, and Good Luck., and your father was an anchorman. Why do you think Trump has targeted and tried to discredit the news media?

ANSWER: 

There’s a great documentary that came out a few years ago called Nixon by Nixon. It’s sort of the last of the Nixon tapes. It reminds us that not one fucking thing about this is new. We think it’s all unprecedented but it’s not unprecedented. It’s a little louder because there’s more outlets to see it, but it’s not unprecedented. You hear Nixon on the tapes talking about [Walter] Cronkite and [Eric] Sevareid and how they’re going to sic the IRS on ‘em and scare the shit out of ‘em. And you see Daniel Schorr, this wonderful reporter who had been doggedly chasing Nixon, in front of Congress testifying about how this administration has set about to delegitimize our news, because if you can delegitimize the news, you can do anything. It’s the exact same thing.

So when Robert Mueller comes in and says, “Hey, guess what? You did fuckin’ obstruct,” and people report on it, Trump can say, well, Robert Mueller has all these liberal Democrat lawyers and the news-people who are reporting it are all fake, when of course all you’ve really done is take the Russian fake news—which is a real problem—and applied it to help serve yourself.

Well, congratulations. I also really feel like the institutions are taking hold. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I think a good number of our institutions abdicated their duty in the run-up to the election. I feel they didn’t ask enough tough questions. If you turned on many of the news programs on television, there would be an empty podium with a message saying, “Donald Trump will speak soon.” That’s crazy.

Julianne Moore and Matt Damon in a scene from ‘Suburbicon.’

That’s the interesting thing about Trump’s attacks on CNN. CNN is the network—more than any other network—that perhaps helped the most in getting Trump elected. They had about eight Trump surrogates in regular rotation, and aired his rallies start-to-finish.

Certainly they were the network that enjoyed putting him on the air. But on the other hand, watch how good Jake Tapper has been, and watch how good The New York Times, Washington Post, and even The Wall Street Journal have now taken their jobs, and watch how the other arms—the legislative branch, the judicial branch—they’re taking hold, and I’m optimistic. I feel that, well, with the exception of the one thing the president can do by himself, which is push a button, the checks and balances are starting to take hold. And I’m excited by that.

QUESTION:

You held a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton‍ during the campaign, and she’s on her book tour right now. Do you feel like history will look kindly on Hillary Clinton? This election seemed, in many ways, like a referendum on women.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with George and Amal Clooney to talk about refugee policy on February 12, 2016 in Berlin.

ANSWER:

I think it was. Here’s what I see from Hillary. Hillary, for years and years and years, has been the presumptive nominee, and quite honestly, she was incredibly qualified for the job. But being qualified for the job does not necessarily mean you’re the right person to be president. Here’s what I mean. She was more qualified than even her husband was when he was elected president, but she’s not as good at communicating things. That’s simply true. When she got up and gave a speech, it didn’t soar. Now, that doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t have done a great job as president, and I supported her because by the time we did the fundraiser the primary was over at that point and it was time to get on with picking someone to move forward, and she was the right person to side with.

It was frustrating because I never saw her elevate her game. I never saw it. And I had a lot of liberal friends who were like, “She’s not good at this.”

I see that, and I understand it. I also think, though, that if it was a guy it wouldn’t have been so polarizing. I think the fact that she’s a woman made it a much harder uphill battle. They’ve had the “Arkansas Project” where for twenty-five years the Clintons have been accused of murdering Vince Foster and accused of tons of stuff, so I thought it was a raw deal. I think that she wasn’t particularly good at articulating the things that she wanted to do.

Unfortunately we live at a time right now where articulating what you want to do is more potent in the electorate than the other way around, obviously, when Trump only said he was going to “Make America Great Again.” Don’t you think the next Democrat who runs should just run with a blue hat that says, “Make America Great Again?”

That would be an interesting ninja move. Let’s go back to Suburbicon for a moment. I wanted to discuss the power of satire. When you talk about 2017 and the age of Trump, satire has really risen to the fore as a mode of communicating people’s anger and frustration—and brings with it a sense of cathartic release.

Satire was really important in the age of Bush Jr. That was a big deal. Between Jon Stewart and David Letterman, we had people out there who were really funny. And remember, Jon Stewart was the most trusted man in news for a period of time because of it. We needed his voice then, and I miss his voice now.

But Colbert has found his feet and been great, as has Jimmy Kimmel, and Samantha Bee. Television right now is very interesting, and fun to hear. Satire is potent. When they start to make fun of you is when you’re really in trouble. That’s some deep shit.

Trump has been stoking this culture war between “coastal elites” and Middle America—the irony of course being that Trump himself is a “coastal elite.”‍

Here’s the thing: I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door-to-door. I sold ladies’ shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I’d have a tie to go on job interviews. I grew up understanding what it was like to not have health insurance for eight years. So this idea that I’m somehow the “Hollywood elite” and this guy who takes a shit in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable.

People in Hollywood, for the most part, are people from the Midwest who moved to Hollywood to have a career. So this idea of “coastal elites” living in a bubble is ridiculous. Who lives in a bigger bubble? He lives in a gold tower and has twelve people in his company. He doesn’t run a corporation of hundreds of thousands of people he employs and takes care of. He ran a company of twelve people!

When you direct a film you have seven different unions all wanting different things, you have to find consensus with all of them, and you have to get them moving in the same direction. He’s never had to do any of that kind of stuff. I just look at it and I laugh when I see him say “Hollywood elite.” Hollywood elite? I don’t have a star on Hollywood Boulevard, Donald Trump has a star on Hollywood Boulevard! Fuck you!

ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON “THE DAILY BEAST” TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 23, 2017

NOT IRRELEVANT – DAILY POST

THE LONGEST RUNNING TV SHOW

For 31 years, there was a series on Channel 7 in Boston. It was my favorite show. I watched it any day I could get home from work in time. It was on several times a day, five days a week. The first performance often aired during the pre-dawn hours, while the final day’s episode might air long after most people had finished dinner and many had gone to bed.

It was “good stuff.” Garry Armstrong was a smart, thorough reporter who cared about Boston and its people. He knew everyone and they knew him. He makes jokes about being trusted … but he was trusted because he had proved he could be. He had sources. He checked with them. He knew when the a story wasn’t “right” and he was cynical about politicians and big money.

Watching Garry kept me informed about events taking place in my neighborhood, the city, and the region. I also got follow-up and background information over dinner — sometimes quite different than what had been aired. There was stuff you could broadcast, and there was stuff that he and other reporters “knew,” but couldn’t prove.

It was sometimes difficult to reconcile the star of the TV show with the tired, crabby guy who came home expecting dinner, a newspaper, and when we were lucky, a baseball game. I always knew how the star’s day had gone. I taped his pieces so he could see them when he got home. Although he covered stories, wrote them, and performed, he didn’t see them as finished pieces unless I taped them.

I watched the news as I also watched him deal with violence and the calamities that are a constant in every reporter’s life. He never got used to it. Garry was, in a regional way — a celebrity. I was the celebrity’s wife — a very different role. My job was often to be there and smile. Television “people” don’t pay much attention to anyone who isn’t part of their habitat. At a good event, I got fed too.  I even got to wear ball gowns occasionally and I met some people I would never have normally encountered in my life.

Garry covered, or was involved with, virtually every major event in New England for his run of 31 years. From the great to the tragic, he was there.

Garry and I at President Clinton's party on Martha's Vineyard

Garry and I at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s Vineyard

We have one of Garry’s three Emmy awards on a shelf behind the TV, but virtually no tape of anything that happened. I don’t remember who found the piece below, but it’s a rare viewing of him doing normal work on a normal day in the news biz. Garry’s segment appears at about 1 minute and 30 seconds into the noon news. You can fast forward and skip the intro or choose to watch from the top of the show.

That was a “live shot.”

Time passes. It’s good to have something tangible to remember. Lucky me, I still have the star himself.

On September 12, 2013, Garry Armstrong was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

We keep the plaque on the mantel. His one remaining Emmy (Channel 7 lost the other two) is on a shelf that Owen built, along with his Kauff award and one other big one, the name of which I have forgotten. Amazing the things you forget even though at some point in your life, you couldn’t imagine ever forgetting something that important. His “Silver Circle” Lifetime Emmy hangs on the wall, too and there are other awards here and there in the house.

What is important changes over time. As time marches along, life and day-to-day events become more important than whatever career you had — except on days when the guys get together to remember.

That more or less wraps it up. I think it’s going to rain today.

BUT WORDS CAN NEVER HURT YOU … BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn recently wrote a piece using the word chutzpah which I’ve always badly mangled in pronunciation. It’s a word, what the heck? That was my take for many years until Robin Williams and Billy Crystal gave me a proper public whupping for butchering the pronunciation of chutzpah.  I don’t try to say Chutzpah in public anymore. It’s a word. I respect it because it carries different meanings and images.

These days, people often use words or phrases without understanding their origin or meaning. I hear political aspirants, celebrities, athletes and civic leaders say things that make me scratch my head and run back to my dictionary.  Words!  They can be powerful tools if used correctly. They can be dangerous if used in ignorance.

I grew up in a home full of books, including dictionaries. Big ones and pocket dictionaries. My parents insisted on using proper language and crisp diction.  Street slang guaranteed a head slap or a smack that stung. My two brothers and I were warned about using prejudicial clichés. Since my head has never been properly wrapped, I’ve been guilty of violating those warnings because of my warped sense of humor. Marilyn warns people that I have toys in the attic.  True.  Some of the toys are very old.

A friend and I were trading insults the other day. I snapped at him with, “That’s white of you”.  His smile said everything. Words!  You gotta know who, when, and where to use them.

Way back in olden times, I was 19 years old and worked in a department Store in Hempstead, New York. I was the only goy working in the children’s shoe department. I was waiting on a customer who drove me bonkers. I couldn’t take it anymore and told the parent he was a schmuck.

The manager quietly called me into the stockroom, explained what schmuck meant and asked me never to use it again — even if the customers were jerks. I think he was smiling although reprimanding me.  It was a word I’d often heard used in friendly banter, but I didn’t know its origin or real meaning. It was just a word. What was the big deal?  I was 19 and knew everything!  I used big words, “10 dollar” words to impress people. People often complimented me, saying I spoke very well.  I didn’t understand the veiled insult behind many of those compliments.

After all, they were just words.

John Wayne, of all people, once commented on words and ethics.  It was movie dialogue but still resonates more than half a century later.

In the 1961 film, “The Comancheros,”  Texas Ranger “Big Jake” Cutter (John Wayne) is lecturing his younger sidekick, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman). Regret asks Big Jake to spin a lie to his superiors to alleviate a problem. Big Jake refuses. Regret doesn’t understand, saying they are just “words.”

Big Jake, with that iconic Wayne frown, says softly, “Just words??  Words, MON-soor, are what men live by. You musta had a poor upbringing.”  Regret looks puzzled, not fully grasping the ethical code of this rough and ready Texas Ranger.  It’s a sublime moment and perfect for the young 1960’s when youth was defying the older generation’s moral code.

I recalled the scene years later in an interview with John Wayne. He smiled, shaking his head because he was in the middle of on-going national dissent against the Vietnam War.  Wayne was one of the most visible and vocal “hawks” in the Vietnam controversy. He had been ridiculed by strident protesters at a Harvard University gathering earlier that day.

“Words, dammit,”  Wayne looked at me, angry and sad. “My words! No damn Hollywood script. I have as much right as those damn college kids.”  Wayne was fuming. The Hollywood legend collected himself as I redirected the conversation to my time as a Marine. I had enlisted in 1959, fired up by the “Sands of Iwo Jima” script.

“Words. Good words,” I said to Wayne who smiled broadly.

Today, words are often tossed around loosely on social media, sometimes with little regard to truth or the repercussions of ill-advised words. We have a President who uses words without thought in a daily barrage of tweets.  Our media is engaged in a daily war of words, often ignoring crucial issues facing our nation and world.

Those of us of a certain age shake our heads as we watch young people immersed in tweets rather than direct conversation with friends in the same room. Words have become an endangered species.

I remember the good old days when me and friends went face to face with verbal jousts like “Your Mother wears combat boots!”

Words!  I love them.

HAPPY NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY!

Although there has never been a dearth of assholes in our world, I think this year has a special importance. Assholes are everywhere! I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out which asshole is the ultimately biggest asshole … but … wait … I think maybe I’ve got it. I don’t want to overly influence the election, so I will leave it to you, my friends, to make this critical decision.


Who is America’s biggest asshole?

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 our country.


To all assholes everywhere, this is for you.

BECAUSE I CAN – RICH PASCHALL

Wayne Messmer Sings, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Cubs Win

If you are from the Chicagoland area, or follow the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, you may know his name and his face.  You certainly know his voice.  As far as we are concerned here, he is the best National Anthem singer in the country.  There is no fooling around when Wayne sings.  He delivers the anthem as it was written.  There are no variations to the melody or guitar solos.  He delivers it each time in a rich baritone voice, full of passion and conviction. We consider it a privilege to follow along.  There will be no runs for beer or hot dogs when Wayne grabs the mic and takes to the field.

Wayne Messmer is a multi-talented guy.  His Facebook page introduces him as “Certified Speaking Professional, Singer, Storyteller, Live Entertainer. Chicago guy!”  In addition to singing for the Cubs, Wayne is Executive Vice President and national anthem singer for the AHL hockey team, Chicago Wolves.  He has a Sunday night Jazz and Blues radio program.  He gives live performances around the area.  While doing local theater many years ago he met his wife Kathleen, also a talented singer. They have performed together over the years at stadiums and clubs.

In 1991 Wayne’s dynamic performance of the Anthem at the NHL All-Star game in Chicago was carried around the nation and across Armed Forces networks.  It is still talked about for reasons that will be obvious here.  In the final year at the old Chicago Stadium, 1994, Wayne Messmer, age 43, was a beloved local celebrity.  It all nearly came to an end following a Blackhawk’s home game in April of that year.

Late at night following the game, Wayne left a restaurant and made it to his car in the old Stadium neighborhood.  When he got in his car there was a banging on the window.  Then a shot was fired at point-blank range.  It went through the driver side window, then through Wayne’s throat and lodged in muscle tissue.  Wayne drove off and back to the restaurant where he was found and taken to a local hospital.  Reportedly, one of Kathleen’s first concerns when she reached the hospital was whether Wayne would be able to speak and sing.

A few days later at the Chicago Stadium no substitute would do for the anthems at a Blackhawk’s playoff game.  Wayne appeared on tape.  There was no mistaking the sentiment of the crowd.  It would be the final anthem in that building.

It was a 15-year-old boy who shot Wayne in the failed robbery attempt.  The boy had a 9-mm hand gun.  He was with a 16-year-old accomplice.  It was a tip from another teen that led the police to the suspect.  Once caught, the shooter confessed to the crime.  Messmer underwent a 10 hour operation and was in serious condition after the shooting.  Chicago Wolves spokesperson, Susan Prather, said doctors did not want to speculate on the outcome. “They have no way of telling how this will affect his voice.”  The Messmers were cautioned that it might be a year and a half before they would know how his voice would sound.

The road to recovery was filled with doubt.  Would Wayne sing again? Would he be able to even speak well?  It is impossible to imagine what goes through the mind of someone who makes his living with his voice.  He was determined to succeed.  A quick return would take a miracle.  Wayne tells the story in this brief interview:

A miracle and some luck were on Wayne’s side as he returned to his passion.  He sang at a Blackhawks game six months after he was shot.  He has now sung for 33 consecutive Chicago Cubs home openers.  Sometimes he will take harmony as his wife sings the melody for the anthem, but mostly it is Wayne at the microphone at Wrigley Field when the organ starts to play.

Although I was never in a production with Wayne, we both did shows at Theater on the Lake and I have seen Wayne perform.  We have a number of mutual friends, not just on Facebook, as a result of community theater.  I have met Wayne a few times and can say he is as nice as he seems.  It is always a delight when a good person is a success.

If you asked Wayne now why he continues to sing, he will say “because I can.”  For this veteran performer and Chicago guy with a miracle comeback on his résumé, nothing could be greater than to sing the national anthem at a World Series for the Chicago Cubs.  Yes, he has that miracle on his résumé too.