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Sunday, December 10, 2006

New Link

I am now writing blogs and stories for the Arizona Republic and the Rocky Mountain News. The Republic just started blogs and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a writer. Although most of the stuff I write about is aimed at the coverage area of the Scottsdale Republic, some of it is general. Please check out the link and leave some comments, I am interested in your thoughts.

Thanks, Jim McAllister

Link to Republic: http://www.azcentral.com/blogs/bloglist.php?blogtype=PluggedInsr
Link to RMN blogs and stories: http://denver.yourhub.com/User.aspx?UserID=26356

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

A MOVIE REVIEW AND SOME OTHER STUFF

By Jim McAllister

Just when it looked like Hollywood was going down for the count, they had a great summer. The summer of 2006 showed an increase of $200 million in box office receipts over 2005. A big part of that success has to be attributed to the continuing success of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.....QUICK MOVIE REVIEW...Have you seen "Little Miss Sunshine"? It’s a great little indie film about Olive, a young, plain, and minimally talented little girl (Abigail Breslin) who wants to attend a beauty and talent contest for girls in California. The winner of the contest will be crowned "Little Miss Sunshine" which is kind of ironic at the time of the re-emergence of the JonBenet mystery. Most of the little girls in the contest eerily remind one of JonBenet. Olive is a member of a dysfunctional Albuquerque family which includes father Richard (Greg Kinnear), a loser trying to sell a motivation program that nobody wants, mother Sheryl (Toni Collette) who strives to keep the family together, brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) who won’t speak as he dreams of entering the Air Force Academy, gay uncle Frank, (Steve Carell), and Grandpa (Alan Arkin), a heroin snorting, foul mouthed, old man. The family decides to head to California in a beat up VW microbus and that is where the fun begins as they endure a series of mishaps along the way. The movie is funny and also injects some pathos as this family is so pathetic. This film is funny, sad, and heartwarming with fine performances by the cast. Greg Kinnear continues to improve since his days on "Talk Soup." It has been out a while and you may have to look for it at the art houses but it is worth it. Run time 1:42, Rated "R".....
The cast of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE....L-R
Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Toni
Collette, Abigail Breslin. A funny little road
movie, worth seeing. (Fox Searchlight Films)
Baseball season is basically over for me as the Diamondbacks are finished after being swept by Washington this past weekend and the Reds are circling the drain. Are you ready for some football? I’m excited about the Cincinnati Bengals again this year. I know pre-season games don’t mean much as half the guys on the field will be cut by the season’s opener but I am still impressed by the way the Bengal’s romped through their 4 games. I haven’t lived in Cincy since 1967 but I never lose my home town loyalty for the sports teams, GO BENGALS!.....Speaking of Cincinnati, I recently had the privilege of interviewing Former University of Cincinnati and ten year NBA player Connie Dierking for the sports page of THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Connie played in the 1950's and ‘60's and was a great interview.....Good-bye to Andre Agassi. He had quite a career and was good enough to stay competitive in big time tennis until age 36. I’m sure we will see more of him, probably in a color analyst role for tournaments....
WILLIAM H. MACY in THE COOLER (2003)
Macy is a pro and knows that Lindsay Lohan isn't
(Lion's Gate Films)
This in from Suzanne Condie Lambert. William H. Macy, a true professional and a fine actor, comments on the work ethic of actress (actress?) Lindsay Lohan: "You can’t show up late. It’s very, very disrespectful. I think what an actor has to realize is that when you show up an hour late, 150 people have been scrambling to cover for you. There is not an apology big enough in the world to have to make 150 people scramble. It’s nothing but disrepect." Right on William H.! The thing that amazes me is that Lohan is such a non-entity in films. She is not good looking, she has no charm, and she can’t act worth a damn. Have you heard anyone clamoring to see a Lindsay Lohan movie lately? It’s the same old story, it’s not what you know but who you know and she has enough clout to keep her in the mix. She couldn’t carry Katharine Hepburn’s handbag. Kate was asked once what she thought of tardiness. Her reply? "There are no excuses"......
MITZI GAYNOR....One of the queens
of babedom from the 1950's is 75. What
a dish she was as Nellie Forbush in SOUTH
PACIFIC (1958)! (Boomer Pinups)
Can you believe Mitzi Gaynor just turned 75 and little Macaulay Culkin is divorced and 26? I don’t want to admit where that places me!.....Now we will have the "morning after" pill. I wonder what the Republican right thinks of that little morsel.....In case you need further proof that there are weird people in the world department: A guy in Kingman, Arizona started shooting at firemen who refused to rescue his cat that was stuck in a tree. He called the fire department and reported that the tree was on fire because he knew that the firemen would not respond to a cat stuck in a tree. When they arrived and saw the situation, they started to leave telling the guy to call the animal welfare folks or wait until the cat came down on its own. The man went in the house, got a gun, and came out shooting. Luckily, no one was injured and the fool was arrested by the Mohave County Sheriff’s department.....
STEVE and TERRI IRWIN....The
host of THE CROCODILE HUNTER
is dead at 44. (Greg Barrett)
Recent deaths: Actor Glenn Ford, 90, Olympic champion and former congressman Bob Mathias, 75, Jazz great Maynard Ferguson, 78, and Australian host of "The Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, 44....A couple of months ago, I did a column about my favorite mystery writer, John Dunning. John is a great writer and author of my favorite mystery, "Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime" along with the Cliff Janeway series of mysteries. John has experienced some health problems this year that required several surgeries but is slowly convalescing. I am sure he would appreciate some "best wishes". If you get a chance you may drop him a line at books@oldalgonquin.com. Thanks a lot, see you next time. JM (Comments? azjimmcallister@cox.net.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

WHEN CIGARETTES RULED THE AIRWAVES

(Originally published in the INDEPENDENT, October, 2005)

by Jim McAllister

The date is January 1, 1971. At 11:59 p.m. on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson", a commercial runs for Virginia Slims cigarettes. This commercial is significant since it is the last advertisement for cigarettes ever run on television thus ending a long run of cute ads and jingles designed to impress the public with the virtues of smoking.
If you are a certain age, you probably remember most of these ads: There was, "I’d walk a mile for a Camel", "You get a lot to like with a Marlboro; filter, flavor, flip-top box" (You can also get lung cancer as two of the handsome, rugged, Marlboro men found out), "Smoke Kent with the micronite filter", and "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should". When chastised by English teachers for using bad grammar (using "like" instead of "as") Winston replied, "What do you want, good taste or good grammar?" I never heard the teachers complain about, "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch" which is equally bad grammar. But, would smokers really care as long as they had their precious smokes? There was Willie the Penguin proclaiming: "Tired of hots? Smoke Kools", Oasis touting, "Smoke the big O", Old Gold with their dancing packs and on and on, ad infinitum.
When radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh came on the air with commercial radio in 1919, a new medium was established for companies to advertise their products. Cigarettes had been popular in print ads for years. Radio, and later television, would become natural outlets for their messages.
1933 was a fateful year for young 22 year old Johnnie Roventini. In April of that Depression racked year, Johnnie was a bellboy working at the Hotel New Yorker in New York City. Johnnie enjoyed a bit of fame as he was considered, at four feet in height, "the smallest bellboy in the world" and featured as such on the hotel’s postcards. One evening Alfred E. Lyon, Vice President of Sales for Philip Morris cigarettes and Milton Biow, President of the advertising agency that handled the Philip Morris account, happened to be in the lobby of the New Yorker. They had quite a task ahead of them: How to increase sales of a little known cigarette brand. They had already established a logo of a snappy bellboy shouting the merits of their brand but felt that they needed a live version to further establish the Philip Morris name. Enter Johnnie Roventini. As a bellboy, he was required to call out guest’s names in the lobby if those individuals had messages. A routine task for many, Johnnie poured his heart and soul into calling the guest’s names. He did it in such a convincing manner that he made the person feel like the most important person in the hotel! When Lyon and Biow heard Johnnie, they decided to give him a radio audition without letting him know. They gave him a dollar and asked him to page, "Mr. Philip Morris." After a few calls of "Call for Phil-lip Morr-ees" echoed through the New Yorker lobby, they knew they had their spokesman.
When offered the job of saying, "Call for Philip Morris" over the radio, Johnnie was a bit reluctant to accept. Radio was still fairly new and he was making $25 per week at the hotel, good money in 1933. He did eventually take the job and became an advertising icon for over forty years completing his Horatio Alger journey with his death at 88 in 1998.
JOHNNIE ROVENTINI..."The smallest
bellhop in the world" was the spokesman
for Philip Morris cigarettes for over 40
years beginning in 1933. (bellhop.org)
With radio, television, and print advertising, cigarettes had a stronghold on advertising for many years. The print ads from the past are actually comical to read now. Olympic swimmer and later TV star Buster Crabbe touted cigarettes as giving him "better wind" while training. Chesterfield once advertised that you should "smoke for health." Another brand boasted that they were "recommended by doctors."
Smoking and the media have been lifelong companions. Tobacco still spends $12.5 billion per year on promotion but in the period of 2000-2002, sales actually dropped 5.5%. Still, 2,000 kids per day are lighting their first cigarette. Peer pressure is strong with kids, nobody wants to be "weird." My advice to them? Being weird beats being dead. Don’t smoke! (Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net).
LUCILLE BALL...We all loved Lucy
and she loved her cigs. This 1953
print ad shows her pushing Philip
Morris. She and Johnnie made a
formidable team. (adclassix.com)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

BASEBALL, YANKEE STADIUM, AND A KINKAJOU

by Jim McAllister

Welcome to late August in the desert we love called Arizona. It hasn’t been as hot this summer as in some past years and we have actually had a few decent storms during the monsoon. Whatever the weather, it is still my favorite place to live. Here are a few thoughts that just happened to cross my mind recently.....I like Harvey Mackay’s syndicated weekly column. Last week he discussed thinking before speaking and mentioned several quotes from history that he considers really dumb. I disagree from the standpoint that although the quotes seem dumb now, they didn’t seem so ridiculous at the time. It’s easy to look back in retrospect and say , "Wow! That guy must have been nuts to say that!" If someone said in 1999 that oil would be over $70 per barrel in 2006, they would be laughed out of the room. Have you looked at the latest oil cost? Anyway, Harvey lists some good ones.
PRESIDENT WILLIAM McKINLEY...
Why isn't he smiling? My advice: Stay
away from Buffalo. (Robert McMahan)
For example: In 1899 the guy who ran the U.S. Patent Office told President McKinley that he should close the Office because "Everything that can be invented has been invented." I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time as cars were arriving, the electric light was relatively new, aircraft was four years away and Marconi was working on that radio thingamajigger. What else could there possibly be? In 1949 Popular Mechanics magazine talked about the future of computers with the statement: "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Uh, huh. How about this doozy: Ken Olsen, president and co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, once said that "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home. The personal computer will fall flat on its face in business." I guess these guys should have followed the advice that a lawyer once gave me. When I asked him, "What should I say?" he replied, "Don’t say anything!".....
YANKEE STADIUM..."The House that Ruth
Built" will be history in a couple of years (Newsday)
There is a guy in New York named Ryan Leli who loves the New York Mets. Leli, 18, loves the Mets so much that he counterfeited press identification credentials to get into games and mingle with the players. He actually had a conversation with catcher Mike Piazza before the Mets brass got suspicious and contacted the cops. Leli is charged with possession of a forged document, larceny, impersonation, and a bevy of other stuff and could face seven years in prison if convicted. I think that what he did was pretty cool, kind of like the guy in Boston many years ago who used to stand above the tunnel to the players entrance at Fenway Park and snatch player’s hats. Hopefully Leli will only get a slap on the wrist and I admire him for his nerve. It would be a shame if he had to do time while O. J. still walks around free.....Speaking of baseball, believe it or not, Yankee Stadium is on its last legs. A new Yankee Stadium is being built next to the old one. So much for tradition and the great memories in the old place of Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, and all the famous events that happened there since it was built in 1923 for $3 million. Nothing that involves the power freak that is Steinbrenner surprises me. Gee, George, now you can make even MORE money, like you really need it!.....
A KINKAJOU...cute little guy , huh?
He looks harmless, huh? Paris Hilton
thought so too until she was bitten.
(Blueand gold.com)
I still love baseball and although I have resisted some of the changes made in the game, I do like the wild card. If you wonder about the value of it take a look at the division races in both leagues this year. The wild card is allowing a lot more teams to remain in the hunt thus keeping the fan’s interest. One change in baseball that I have never agreed with is having World Series games at night. It’s all about greed and selling out to television. They even wanted to put advertising on the bases a couple of years ago but refrained because of the uproar over such crass commercialization. It’s bad enough that they have all those ignorant ads behind home plate.....Former football star and Monday Night
FRANK and KATHIE LEE GIFFORD...
C'mon Frank, you can smile a little more
than that. Yeah, I know (Starplus)
Football announcer Frank Gifford is 76 years old! It’s hard enough to be getting older but the poor guy has to look at and listen to Kathie Lee who claims to be 53. Frank was a cool Southern Cal guy in his youth and played many years in the NFL for the New York Giants. The famous 1958 championship game with the Baltimore Colts was not one of his best efforts but he had a nice career overall.....Flash! Paris Hilton update! She is resting comfortably while recovering from a bite from her pet kinkajou. At this moment you are asking, "What is a kinkajou?" The first time I ever heard of one was in the old 1961 pop tune from Charlie Drake called "My Boomerang Won’t Come Back". In the fourth verse of the song Drake sang: "I can ride a kangaroo (yeah! yeah!), Make kinkajou stew (yeah! yeah!), but I’m a big disgrace to the Aborigine race, my boomerang won’t come back." The kinkajou is a nocturnal, racoon like animal that is usually found in Central and South America. All rich heiresses simply must have one I guess. Oh, yeah, before I forget. The kinkajou is doing fine too.....Golf’s Ryder Cup is being played September 22-24 in Ireland. Go USA!.....(Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net. For "Rocky Mountain News" postings click "R.MT. News" in link section above.

Monday, August 14, 2006

MAURICE MY MAN, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

by Jim McAllister

The tragedy of former Ohio State University running back Maurice Clarett continues. It is a sad story that would have seemed unlikely when he scored the winning touchdown in double overtime of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl to give Ohio State the National Championship.
Clarett, who will be 23 in October, has had a roller coaster existence since his famous touchdown. He was declared ineligible for the 2003 season after being charged with falsifying a police report concerning thousands of dollars of his supposed property being stolen from a car he had borrowed from a Columbus, Ohio dealership. He eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. That incident ended his relationship with Ohio State so he attempted to enter the NFL. When his lawsuit against the NFL’s refusal to draft him failed, his life continued in its tailspin. An attempt to make the Denver Broncos in 2005 failed and in early 2006 he was charged with robbery of a man and a woman outside a Columbus bar. He has been free on bail since that time as he awaits trial which will now begin September 18. Last Wednesday Clarett was arrested by Columbus police in a violent confrontation that started with an illegal left turn by him. After subduing him by force, the police found four loaded weapons and a half consumed bottle of vodka in his vehicle. He was arrested in the vicinity of the home of one of the witnesses against him in the January robbery charge.
MAURICE CLARETT in happier times
before he was cut by the Denver Broncos
in 2005. Is he headed to the slammer
after his recent escapade? (Wash. Post)
Whew! That’s quite a portfolio for a guy not quite 23. It sounds like a redux of former Nebraska University star running back Lawrence Phillips. Phillips also had "star" written all over him but chose to pass into the dark side of life as it appears Clarett wishes to do.
You may ask: "What is it with these guys?" They pass up the chance for an education, fame, glory, and money to do stupid stuff like rob people of a cell phone. Perhaps it’s their background which has not geared them for the pressure of all that is expected of them. One of Clarett’s lawyers states that, "Universities make millions of dollars from kids and they don’t provide the necessary support and guidance to get through those still-adolescent years." To that comment, I say "baloney!". Coach Tressel of Ohio State claims that a "Herculean" effort was made to blend Clarett into college life and that he constantly resisted. I know that my friends and I never thought of robbery and carrying loaded guns in cars at Clarett’s age and we certainly didn’t have anyone advising us not to do it. We had an ingredient that you either have or don’t have and it’s called common sense. Who knows what’s the problem with Maurice Clarett? Whatever it is, I hope that he gets through it. Unfortunately, he may have a long time to think about it in a prison cell.
ED ROBERTSON and BILL GROVES have started
the Television Chronicles site at
www.televisionchronicles.com. That funny looking
diagram on the TV screen is a "test pattern" from
the early days of television. (Television Chronicles)
On to more pleasant subjects....My friend and vintage television expert Ed Robertson has started a site with Bill Groves at www.televisionchronicles.com. These guys know all you would want to know about vintage TV, a subject that is near and dear to me and anyone else interested in the old days of the tube. Included on the site are interviews with stars of the past, information about old shows, book reviews, and other good stuff. Ed has written several books about TV shows including "The Rockford Files" and "The Fugitive". Bill has extensive experience in the magazine business. I’ve looked over the site and highly recommend it.....So, what is BP up to? In case you didn’t know "BP" stands for "British Petroleum". They don’t seem to like to use "British" anymore so I thought I would mention it for them. Why would they let their Alaska pipeline deteriorate to the point where it was 80% rotted out with corrosion in certain places? Perhaps by avoiding the cost of repair it helped contribute to BP’s profits of $7 billion in the second quarter of 2006. The area of the pipeline that sprung a leak had not been inspected for 29 years! With these guys around, who needs terrorists to destroy the pipeline. Maybe Walt Kelly’s Pogo was correct all those years ago when he proclaimed, "We have met the enemy and he is us.".....
The new Cardinals' Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
The NFL has prohibited local camera crews
from recording footage of NFL games, just
another revenue stream gimmick for the league.
(Az-sta.com)
It is almost time for the National Football League season to begin and already they have dropped the ball. Greed is a terrible thing and nothing exemplifies this more than the NFL’s decision to ban local camera crews from covering the games and recording footage for local viewing. It has caused an uproar in the journalistic field and I don’t blame them. The reasons for the banning according to the NFL: The league says the sidelines are getting too crowded. Of course they are with all the "hangers-on" taking up space. Run them off, not the guys that have a legitimate reason to be there. They also say that it will stop unauthorized use of game video. Translation: It is another way for the league to suck in more revenue, what a joke. In case they forgot, and it seems that they have, all NFL stadiums but one are publicly financed. When the supply of football someday exceeds the demand, the public will have their say and the NFL may not like what they hear.....Thanks for stopping by, see you next week.....Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND A VACATION REPORT

by Jim McAllister

Barb and I had a great week in Del Mar, California. Beautiful beaches, great race track loaded with celebrity history, and some nice casinos made for a lot of fun and relaxation. We even had a little rain one day which to most people would be a vacation spoiler but to us "zonies", it was a luxury we seldom get to enjoy. One thing that takes some getting used to on our yearly sojourn to the San Diego area is the California drivers. The other day I was going down a freeway with a 65 mph speed limit so I figured, "Well, it’s California, so I guess 80 ought to be about right for the left lane. About two minutes later a guy in a truck went around me on the right pointing at me telling me to move to the right. He had to be going 95. Life on the left coast; you gotta love it.....
THE McCOYS...Rick Derringer's band from 1965.
Their big hit was "HANG ON SLOOPY" from Octo-
ber of that year. Rick is second from bottom,
he recently turned 59 and is still at it. (Rhapsody.
com)
Rick Derringer just turned 59 years old. He was the founder, at age 17, of the mid ‘60s rock group, The McCoys (big hit: "Hang On Sloopy"). He went on to do some work with Johnny and Edgar Winter and is probably best remembered for his 1971 hit, "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo", a classic for rock fans. What makes this more significant is that CNBC, the business channel, is running ads for Fidelity Investments featuring Derringer singing "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo." It’s a hilarious ad, check it out.....Speaking of birthdays, Loni Anderson just turned 60. Wasn’t she something on WKRP back in the 1970's? Also, Mr. Whipple (Dick Wilson) of Charmin toilet paper fame from many years ago is now 90.....I would hate to be an American factory worker. Many are uneducated but have had good careers through hard work and loyalty to their respective companies. They have made a fair wage, lived a decent lifestyle, and provided for their families. All of a sudden, that lifestyle is being threatened by a word that didn’t even exist a few years ago, "outsource". It’s all part of a "global economy" and has to be a huge worry for many in this country.....I never get tired of Turner Classic Movies. Yesterday was a full day of Humphrey Bogart flicks. Among them was the movie that got Bogie over the hump from "B" to "A" status, "High Sierra" from 1941. It was the last film he made where he didn’t receive top billing (Ida Lupino did). His next movie wasn’t much ("The Wagons Roll at Night") but then it was on to "The Maltese Falcon" and his biggie, "Casablanca". It was stardom from then on until his death at age 57 in January of 1957......
DANICA PATRICK...Will be driving
for the Andrettis next season. She
has improved lately with a couple
of fourths. (eforu.com)
There was a rumor that Indy race car driver Danica Patrick was going to defect to NASCAR next year. It turned out not to be true as she signed with the Andretti team and left Letterman-Rahal. She gets a lot of press for someone who appears to be average at best at what she does. Is it because she is a woman race driver and that is considered unique? Is it because she had a chance to win the Indianapolis 500 a couple of years ago and the fame from that is still carrying over? Whatever it is, she seems like a sharp lady and I hope she does well without injury in what is a very dangerous sport.....Mel Gibson joins the list of Hollywood stars to be nailed on the 101 or the Pacific Coast Highway. He joins Robert Downey, Jr., Nick Nolte, Shannen Doherty, and Bridget Fonda among others to have incidents on that road. It doesn’t help that Mel was going 87 miles per hour with a bottle of tequila between his knees at 2:30 in the morning. Once again the question pops up: "What was he thinking?".....MTV is now 25 years old! I used to really enjoy that channel when it debuted with "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles" in 1981. They had VJ’s like Martha Quinn, J. J. Jackson, and Mark Goodman playing all the videos to the hits of the day, great stuff. Now, it all seems immature and silly and I don’t think it is because I have gotten older. I think they have bad programming.....
MARTHA QUINN...A real cutie VJ from the early
days of MTV. (pessimistic.com)
TOM CRUISE...Keeping Suri under
wraps. Tom was once a member of
a Franciscan seminary (eforu.com)
What is the deal with Tom Cruise’s kid Suri? It seems that only some of Tom’s Scientology friends are being permitted to see the little guy. What is the big secret? Isn’t it just another baby from another ego inflated Hollywood star? Cruise should be happy that anything he does is still in demand. At 44 he is not getting any younger or cooler with the clientele he is seeking. At 5 feet 7 he is never going to be dark, handsome, AND tall. His movies aren’t the blockbusters they used to be either.....Tiger Woods just won another golf tournament, ho-hum. That is tournament win number 50 for him and he is just 30. I really like Tiger, he is a great champion and appears to be a really good guy.....The clock is ticking and number one draft pick Matt Leinart still is not in the Arizona Cardinals training camp.....
LANCE ARMSTRONG...7 time
winner of the Tour De France
(jsmcelvery.com)
Why would Floyd Landis take performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France when he knew that he would be tested afterward? Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong, where are you when we need you?.....Woody Allen’s latest film, "Scoop", seems to be doing well. I have always been a fan of Allen’s style and I’m glad to see that he is starring in his latest effort and has the gorgeous and talented Scarlett Johansson along for another appearance. She was great in Allen’s "Match Point" from last year..... The critics seem to generally dislike "Miami Vice". That’s not surprising as the TV show was mediocre at best back in the 1980's.....That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by and come back next week. JM (Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net).

Monday, July 31, 2006

I'M GOING TO DEL MAR TO COOL OFF!

by Jim McAllister

Del Mar, California is one of the really nice places in this world. It’s nice to escape the hot climes of Arizona for a week at this time of year and enjoy the beach, the race track, and the nice restaurants in Del Mar. "California, here I come" starting tomorrow!.....Harvey MacKay writes this week about the importance of manners, in particular when it comes to RSVP invitations. It amazes me how so many people these days have no clue about the importance of the RSVP notation on an invitation. Many have no idea what it even means and others are too rude to care. For the uninformed, RSVP is French for "respondez s’il vous plait" which simply means "let us know one way or the other if you are coming." Is that so difficult? Email or pick up the phone, contact the inviter, and say "Yes" I will attend" or "No", I can’t make it but thanks anyway."
Manners are sorely lacking in this country anymore and it is not just because of the RSVP situation. In the busy and selfish world we live in, many parents are too busy to teach their kids those important values that many of us learned in childhood not that long ago. Hence, you see people eating in restaurants with hats on, men stepping in front of women getting on and off elevators, and other actions that would not have happened a couple of generations ago.....
MATT LEINART...The first round
draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals.
He is still unsigned as of 7-31.
(boifromtroy)
I see where the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has been basically eliminated from the league playoffs by losing last night. I’ll take a short pause while you weep over that sad news. I admire the athletic ability of these girls just like I admire the ability of soccer players but, as I have said many times, who cares?.....Here we go again with the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL. This is the time of year when training camp begins in cool Flagstaff and is also the time when the Cards fail to have their number one draft pick on hand because of the inability to sign him. This year it is Matt Leinart, the Heisman trophy winner from Southern Cal and personal friend of Paris Hilton. Maybe that is the reason for the stall in negotiations, they don’t want Paris hanging around Flagstaff. I’m sure the reason is the usual one: MONEY! Hey, Cardinals: With the new stadium you are going to make a fortune this year. Cough up the dough and this get this show on the road!.....
STARBUCKS original store in Seattle, Washington.
They bring new meaning to "ubiquitous." (Starbucks)
Bill Gates is a brilliant guy, so are Dell, Ballmer, Wozniak, and all the other guys that have made a fortune with computers. However, they pale in comparison to the guy who thought up Starbucks. I don’t even know his name and I’m not going to bother researching it. All I know is he took a cup of coffee and turned it into a fortune with one of the most successful companies around. He understood the yuppie culture, that constant need to be "hip" and be involved in what is "yuppie cool". Think about it: what could be more mundane than a cup of coffee? If you can sell that idea to the world I would love to see your ability at selling something that is meaningful.....Speaking of Dell Computers, you could almost pull off a sitcom on the gyrations one has to go through with their customer service department. Like most companies, Dell outsources a lot of their jobs including customer service which has been handed to the citizens of India. These folks are very nice, congenial, and helpful. There is only one problem: they are very hard to understand. If you call them two items will come in handy: an extension phone and a person on the extension that speaks the Indian language. Otherwise, you will be better off using their chat room on the Dell site as their spelling is much easier to understand than their accented English.....I see where Ken Jennings of "Jeopardy!" fame from last year, has posted a statement on his blog that is not too complimentary to the show and host Alex Trebek. He says that Alex is like a robot and that the show has gotten stale. He also criticizes the set saying that they don’t do enough to update it every year. I hope the check cleared for the millions he won on that great show before he decided to spout off. He is entitled to his opinion but isn’t his opinion a bit like biting the hand that feeds him?.....Paul McCartney has filed the papers for his divorce from Heather. He should have known better than to marry her in the first place, she was too young and headstrong for him. The May-December thing is a tough sell but his biggest mistake was no pre-nup. He is worth about 1 ½ billion bucks, at least for now. Yes, Paul, you are 64.....
JOE DIMAGGIO in his prime. The "Yankee
Clipper" hit safely in 56 straight games
during May to July of 1941. He
went hitless in one game then hit
safely in 14 in a row. (Art.com)
"Dead or Alive", one of my favorite online sites, has a section for people to leave memories of meeting celebrities. My memory is of meeting baseball great Joe DiMaggio. It was 1974 in Chicago at McCormick Place during the Housewares Show. Joe had just begun his duties as spokesman for Mr. Coffee and as I walked by his booth, I saw him standing alone looking resplendent in a blue suit, white shirt, and tie. I did a double take as this guy was an idol to me. After all, he had been married to Marilyn Monroe and hit safely in 56 straight games in the same lifetime! I introduced myself and was pleased with his demeanor and manners as he autographed a picture for me with, "To Jim McAllister, Best wishes, Joe DiMaggio." I still have that photo framed on my office wall. Those were more innocent days. I’m sure that today Joe would be surrounded by opportunists trying to grab an autograph for its monetary value.....Thanks for stopping by, see you after Del Mar! JM (Comments, Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Monday, July 24, 2006

VIEWS FROM AN INTERESTED OBSERVER

by Jim McAllister

Quickie movie review: THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, (1:46, PG13), Starring Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci). This sounds like a "woman’s movie" but it should be appealing to everyone if for no other reason than the performance of Meryl Streep as fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly. Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a recent graduate of Northwestern University, who goes to work for "Runway", a top fashion magazine. Her job is to be the assistant to the unbelievably demanding and temperamental Miranda. Since Andy hasn’t a clue about style she is in for a rough time but, as you will see, she is a quick learner. The job is very demanding which causes some stress in Andy’s personal life so she faces some hard decisions. Streep steals the show with her over the top performance and Tucci is also excellent. This one is worth your time.....Recent deaths: Mickey Spillane, mystery writer, author of "The Girl Hunters", "Kiss Me Deadly", "I, The Jury", and many other novels featuring Mike Hammer. Criticized by many for his hard core violence, Spillane laughed it off. He considered himself a "writer" as opposed to an "author". The difference was that a writer was a person whose books sold.....
ANNE HATHAWAY, MERYL STREEP, and EMILY
BLUNT (L-R foreground) in THE DEVIL WEARS
PRADA. Shenanigans in the world of high fashion
with Streep showing the way. (20th Century Fox)
Character actor Jack Warden is dead at 85. Two of his better known parts were in "Shampoo" (1975) and "The Verdict" (1982).....So, Katie Couric will be the new CBS News talking head beginning September 5. So what? She is being hired more for her celebrity as long time host of the "Today" show than for her knowledge and ability to report the news. I don’t dislike Katie, I just think she is a lightweight when it comes to the news. So far most of the questions about her new job seem to be centering on what outfits she will wear. It doesn’t really matter, with Fox News and CNN operating 24/7 who watches the networks anyway? Their audience share continues to dwindle every year, too much competition from cable and other sources. They don’t make any friends with their bottom of the screen promos during broadcasts either.....From Jimmy Kimmel: "So the World Cup is over, and now we can get back to our national pastime: NOT watching soccer." From David Letterman: "They’ve uncovered some personal papers of Albert Einstein. Turns out he had 10 girlfriends. Think about it: 10 girlfriends--that’s 10 different names, 10 different phone numbers, 10 different birthdays. You’d have to be a genius!".....I have to laugh every time I read about the effects of legalized gambling on certain segments of the population. Where gambling is concerned, whether it be on horses, dogs, lotteries, or casino games, someone is going to go off the deep end and lose their shirt along with their savings, car, and house. It is the nature of the business. It is also human nature to try to get something for nothing. The majority of gamblers accept gambling for what it is: A game of chance that they are probably going to lose. If most people gamble responsibly, should they be penalized for the lack of responsibility of others? Of course not, and if the casinos are closed they will go somewhere else.....
JIMMY KIMMEL with SARAH
SILVERMAN.....Kimmel is from
Phoenix and has come a long way
since hosting "Win Ben Stein's Money".
(all movie photo)
Paul Simon is making another comeback. He is playing a venue in Sun City, Arizona, the renowned retirement area. Bob Dylan has played the same place a couple of times. I guess "the times they are a-changin".....Huey Lewis and Tom Petty are both 55 and still going strong on their concert tours.....I still know a lot of people who refuse to bank online. I don’t know why unless it is because of the old fashioned fear of the unknown. Banking online is faster and safer and saves you a lot of money on stamps. If you insist on writing checks be sure to use a gel pen as it will stop a check thief. If a thief gains possession of a check that you have filled out with a regular pen, all he has to do is tape over your signature and dip the check in an acetone solution to remove all writing but your written name. A gel pen will stop this practice as the ink will not come off the paper. The world is full of identity thieves, be careful.....
PAUL SIMON...Now in his 60's Simon is still around
playing in venues like Sun City. "Where have you
gone, Joe DiMaggio?" (Kevin Mazur)
Quick notes: You must come to Phoenix for the summer. Golf is cheap, restaurants have great deals, and traffic is light. Oh, yeah, did I mention that it was 118 degrees on July 21 and 116 on July 22? Those were exceptions though; it usually is only about 110 this time of year!.....Maybe Kate Hudson finally has made a movie that will make some money. The lovely daughter of Goldie Hawn has been in some clunkers but it appears that "You, Me, and Dupree" is doing well at the box office despite being an airhead flick...... Paris Hilton now considers herself a singer. I checked out her song online today and it’s a yawner. Maybe she ought to actually go to work in one of her daddy’s hotels and see how the other half lives.....Sylvester Stallone turned 60 a few weeks ago. Can "Rocky" really be 30 years ago? Let’s see: 2006 minus 1976 equals 30! I guess it’s true.....What is the cure for the Arizona heat? Answer: San Diego, and that is where I am going in early August. As much as I love Arizona, even I have to have a break from the heat sometime.....Have a good week and thanks for stopping by. JM (Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net

Friday, July 14, 2006

MICHELLE WIE, THE NATIONAL ANTHEM, GOOD BOOK, BAD MOVIE, ETC., ETC., ETC.....

By Jim McAllister

I have no problem with Michelle Wie playing against the best men golfers. I do have a problem with her being given exemptions into several men’s events. Ok, ok, I know; she brings a lot of people to the golf course which the tournament sponsors love but isn’t it getting a bit overdone? She has yet to make a cut in a men’s tournament in five attempts. Suggestion to Michelle: You are a marvel at 16 but so far you can’t even win a ladies tournament. You want to play with the men? Go through the same qualifying process as they do and I will welcome you to the tour with open arms. Oh, by the way, whining isn’t going to help. Show me some scores.....
MICHELLE WIE...a great talent
but needs to beat the ladies before
she considers playing with the big
boys. Oh, yeah...try qualifying too.
(golfafoot.COM)
The Baseball All-Star game was a snoozer this year until the 9th inning when the American League made a nice comeback to win. The thing I enjoyed the most about the game was the singing of the National Anthem by Carrie Underwood. She is a good looking gal with a great voice but more importantly she sang the Anthem the way it was meant to be sung. Too many of the popular stars want to add their own interpretations of the song. That is a definite no-no; you don’t tinker with the National Anthem. Thanks, Carrie for doing it correctly.....One good book: "The Wal-Mart Effect" by Charles Fishman. This is an interesting look into the gigantic chain. Fishman presents a dichotomy for readers: Is Wal-Mart good or bad for the economy? The answer may be "yes" and "no". Some economists say that Wal-Mart has kept inflation in check with its low prices. Others agree but ask if it is worth the residual effects of lost jobs, plant closings, and a lack of competition. You will be interested in some of the methods used by them to maintain low prices. Fishman explains it all in 259 pages and while giving us the facts doesn’t take a firm stand either way which is good. This one is worth you time.....One bad movie: "A Prairie Home Companion" starring Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson. If you like "A Prairie Home Companion" on NPR, I would suggest avoiding this mess. It’s boring, slow, senseless, and not worth your admission price. I thought it would be out of the theaters within a week but is still hanging on at a few shows here in Phoenix. Meryl Streep must have had a bad night at the casino and needed some extra cash to participate in this drivel; if you want to see her in something more suitable to her talents see "The Devil Wears Prada". This one is about the demise of the show and that is about it. The rest is slow going and monotonous.....Recent deaths: June Allyson, 88. She amazed me and herself. She was surprised that she made it big in the movies. She appeared with all the big guys including Jimmy Stewart three times and Alan Ladd. She was never a beauty but had a certain likable charm.
SYD BARRETT, one of the founding
members of Pink Floyd is dead at 60.
Barrett was a recluse late in his life.
(Neptune Pink Floyd)
Syd Barrett is dead at 60. He was one of the founding members of rock group Pink Floyd in 1965. He left the band in 1968 suffering from mental problems and was replaced by guitarist David Gilmour.....Red Buttons is dead at 87. He was a former comedian from the 1950's who went on to play character roles in 30 movies. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1957 for "Sayonara".....Bob Uecker, 72, former baseball player and 35 year announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers is suing 45 year old Ann Ladd for harassment and stalking. What is it with stalkers? Can’t they take a hint?.....Mark Twain once said: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." So true, and that is why today words like "singer", which used to relate to someone who could actually sing (like Frank Sinatra), now relate to non-entities like Ashlee Simpson. Thanks to REPUBLIC colleague John MacDonald for that bit of wisdom.....I like to watch Texas hold ‘em poker on TV but like any good thing, it is being beaten to death which will probably result in its downfall. For the best of this genre, watch the "Professional Poker Tour" on The Travel Channel and "Poker Superstars" on Fox Sports. They are the best, the rest is just repetition.....Have you noticed how more major league sports are leaning toward hip-hop and rap music? What are they thinking? I know they want to identify with youth but these aren’t the people forking out the big bucks. There must be something involved that I don’t know about because it doesn’t make sense.....I hope everyone is sitting down for this one: It appears that the kissing friendship between Britney Spears and Madonna is kaput. Apparently Brit has given up studying Kabbalah and Madonna is in a snit over it. Don’t blame me folks; it’s all supply and demand and I don’t contribute to either of these two airheads. Blame their fans for this being even mentioned.....
A "3-way" from Skyline Chili of Cincinnati, Ohio.
A delicious treat any time of the year (Skyline Chili)
Quick notes: Chili is a year round food especially if you are from Cincinnati like I am. I laugh when I see chili advertised as "in season", it’s always chili season!....Dan Rather working for Mark Cuban? Interesting, stay tuned on that one.....Oil is pushing $80 per barrel, better put a lock on your gas tank.....Christie Brinkley is ditching husband number 4, Billy Joel seems like a long time ago....I just heard a song by Cream, "Sunshine of Your Love" from about 35 years ago. Why can’t these groups come back?.....Tom Cruise was so good in "Risky Business" in 1983. Why did he have to get goofy after that? I think he dumped Kidman because she was taller than he was.....I wish Lance Armstrong was still riding in the Tour de France. That guy is amazing when you look at what he has overcome.....Of today’s actors, Johnny Depp is the best.....Keira Knightly is a real dish but is very undernourished looking. I hope she is not starving herself, I loved her in "Bend it Like Beckham".....That’s all folks! See you next week and thanks fore visiting. JM (Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Friday, July 07, 2006

SOUNDSTAGE, AUSTIN CITY LIMITS, HEDY LAMARR, AND OTHER THOUGHTS....

by Jim McAllister

SOUNDSTAGE is back! That’s right, the great rock showcase opened a new season last Saturday night (check local schedule to be sure of broadcast time) on PBS. The first show starred Robert Plant and he sounded the same as thirty years ago in his Led Zeppelin days. Last year they featured John Mayer, Heart, Chris Isaak, Lindsey Buckingham, and others. If you like good rock with no commercials, don’t miss SOUNDSTAGE. As long as I am plugging PBS, don’t forget AUSTIN CITY LIMITS. It’s been on for thirty years and is still going strong with great acts.....What and when was the first rap song? Some may disagreee but I think I am right with "Rapture" from 1980 by Debbie Harry and Blondie. Check it out sometime if you are not already familiar with the tune. It helps if you listen to the extended version ("Fab 5 Freddie told me everybody’s high").....
SHIRLEY MANSON of GARBAGE.
GARBAGE is a highly regarded
techno-pop group founded in
1993 and is featured this week
on SOUNDSTAGE. (PBS)
Did anyone see Mariah Carey recently on Jimmy Kimmel’s show? She brings new meaning to the words "breast enhancement". She looked good at 36 and was very congenial with the audience and Jimmy. I was wrong about her when she first came around in the ‘80s. I thought she would be another flash in the pan a la Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and Kim Wilde but she has managed to remain on top a long time despite setbacks like the ill advised "Glitter" in 2001. Did you know that her name was derived from the song in the movie and stage play, "Paint Your Wagon" (stage 1951, movie 1969). Remember "They call the Wind Maria"? Her parents added the "H"....How does Rob Schneider continue to have a career? His Deuce Bigelow movies are an insult to anyone with a brain and are continuously panned. I admire his attempts to tweak the nose of political correctness but the guy just isn’t funny. Let me know if you feel differently, I would like to know what you see in the guy.....Those of you who like the fare on Turner Classic Movies are familiar with Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000). I saw her in a couple of movies lately, "Boom Town" (1940) and "H. M. Pulham, Esq." (1941). If ever there was a more beautiful woman in the movies, I would like to see her. Late in life, she was arrested in Florida for shoplifting, a sad ending to a beautiful gal.....I wish all the rain flooding the eastern United States could be channeled to the west. We are in a constant drought in Arizona and could use all that unnecessary water flooding the east.....Wouldn’t it be funny if we landed a camera on Mars and some guy was standing there waving back at us?.....
HEDY LAMARR with SPENCER TRACY in
BOOM TOWN (1940). Hedy was one of the
Hollywood's most beautiful besides being a
fine actress. (Hedy lamarr.com)
The July edition of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS contains a fine article on the joys of mountain climbing by my good friend and former cohort from the INDEPENDENT in Scottsdale, Brendan Leonard. It is a nice piece with some great accompanying photos and is worth your time. Brendan now works for the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS in Denver and is enjoying the cool weather .....This week’s list of annoying people: Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, Britney and K-Fed, Ben Bernanke, Sean ("Puff Daddy", "P-Diddy", "Diddy") Combs, Ashlee Simpson, Paris, and Tori Spelling. You might be saying, "How can you put Bernanke with those Hollywood types?" He annoys me because every time he raises interest rates, my portfolio decreases. Now, that’s annoying!.....Moose, the Jack Russell terrier who tortured Frasier every week as "Eddie", died recently at 16. That dog was great on that show! Other recent deaths: Kasey Rogers, who played Louise Tate on "Bewitched", is dead at 80. About the only one left from that show is Tabitha. Comedian Jan Murray is dead at 89. He was the quintessential Catskill Jewish comedian and hosted some game shows on TV many years ago. Ken Lay is also dead; he was 64. They attributed it to heart failure undoubtedly due to the stress of the Enron situation among other things.....
MICK JAGGER....still touring and singing
"Satisfaction" at 63. (Yahoo.music)
Is there anything more boring than World Cup Soccer? I think it is to the credit of the United States that we ignore this monotony. What is the excitement in watching a bunch of guys run around all afternoon faking life threatening injuries, just to see a 0-0 score. Then, they have to have a "shootout" to determine the winner. Suggestion: Eliminate the game and just have the shootout or make the field smaller and the goal wider. I want to see some 10-9 games.....The May/June edition of "AARP, The Magazine" has a picture of Paul McCartney who is now 64 years old and still going strong. Can it really be 42 years since "I Want to Hold Your Hand"? The Beatles turned the pop music world upside down in 1964 while leading the British Invasion. Ringo is still around with Paul but John Lennon and George Harrison are gone (1980, 2001).....Speaking of the British Invasion, my favorite Mick Jagger quote still echos today as Mick turns 63 this year and is still touring. While in his 20's he said that, "I would rather be dead than singing "Satisfaction" when I’m 45." It’s all right Mick, a lot of us don’t always keep our word....See you next week! JM (Comments? Questions? azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

ERIC STEWART and GRAHAM GOULDMAN,
(L-R, both in foreground) were the driving forces
behind 10 cc, one of the great '70s bands (10 cc)

A FEW THINGS JUST HAPPENED TO CROSS MY MIND

by Jim McAllister

A little bit of this, that, and the other thing or musings, miscellaneous ramblings or whatever...I was getting a haircut this morning at my friendly Supercuts haircut factory. By the way, do you know the difference between a Supercuts haircut and a $40 haircut? Answer: $27, but I digress. Anyway, Yvette, the girl cutting my hair and I were talking about great rock musicians and the cost of concerts now and years ago. In 1971 my wife and I saw Foghat at the Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City for $3.00! Throughout the ‘70s we would see the best of the day for $10 to $15. Bands like The Electric Light Orchestra, 10cc, Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, and many others. Today, secondary acts are getting $50 and higher, and acts like The Stones and Paul McCartney get $100 or more. No thanks, that’s ridiculous and I won’t pay it although I hear that Roger Waters is coming to Phoenix and doing a whole Pink Floyd show including the entire "Dark Side of the Moon" album. I might relent for that! I am so weak!...Those of you who are into the vintage movie scene probably know that director Vincent Sherman died this past week at 99. He directed a lot of the top stars in his day including Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Claude Rains. Also recently deceased is character actor Arthur Franz. Right now you are saying, "Who’s he?" Unless you are a close follower of old films and the tube, you may not know Franz by name. He was a handsome guy who was on about every TV show there was in the ‘50s in addition to many movies. The name may not sound familiar, but if you saw him you would probably say, "Oh, that guy! I remember him!" Arthur Franz was 86...I watched "The lost Weekend" (1945) last night on TCM.. That movie still packs a punch. Ray Milland was not the first choice for the lead, and he didn’t consider himself capable of it either. But after Cary Grant and Jose Ferrer (Jose Ferrer?) turned it down, Milland gave it a shot and won the Best Actor Oscar for 1945...I like the BP ads on television. They are trying to make us believe that they are a bunch of Albert Schweitzers in dealing with energy. Notice also that they never mention that "BP" stands for British Petroleum. Could it be that since a lot of the UK is hostile towards us they don’t want to advertise that they are British?...Cadillac has sure changed their ads also. They used to appeal to the older set with very sedate advertising including country club scenes and soft music. Now they show the younger folks doing wheelies to the sound of rock music. It looks like an MTV video. It seems to be working, sales are up...The number one car on my "most disliked car" list continues to be the Cadillac Escalade. Coming in a close second is the Hummer. These two heaps illustrate what gluttony, greed, and waste are all about...Congratulations to Scottsdale, the embarrassment of "The Tuesday Night Book Club" is over. Much to our relief, CBS canceled this mess after two shows, so those bimbos will have to seek out something else to do with their lives. Thanks to all who didn’t watch this silliness; you renewed my faith in the taste of the American public...Flash! Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton hate each other! Does anyone care other than rags like PEOPLE? As talentless as Lohan is, at least she does work. Hilton is just a perpetual partier. By the way, don’t invite her and Robert Redford to the same party...Is it annoying to you to have to push "1" on the phone to hear English? This is the USA, right? This is supposed to be an English speaking country. Hopefully, English will never be demoted to "2" on the push button. I have no problem with LEGAL immigrants but when you move here, take a shot at English. That’s what we do here. Remember the old saying, "When in Rome,......". The same goes for the USA...
ARTHUR FRANZ and PEGGIE CASTLE in BACK
FROM THE DEAD
(1957). Arthur Franz died

at 86 recently. He was a busy guy in TV and movies
for many years. (20th Century Fox)
The frustrated members of the canceled THE
TUESDAY NIGHT BOOK CLUB. Supposedly
living in Scottsdale, one lived in Chandler. After
cancellation one of these Einsteins actually said,
"The audience thought were were actually going
to read books." Uh.......Yeah. (CBS)
"Dead or Alive" is an interesting site if you want to keep up with celebrity deaths. I know it sounds a bit morbid, but it is a good research tool with some interesting features. Recently they listed all the TV dads from the 1950's and what their status is. Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver, died in 1982 at 73. Beaumont was a good character actor in the 1940’s but is usually only remembered for his role on "Leave it to Beaver"...The critics are killing "Nacho Libre", the latest from Jack Black. Most of them see it as a bunch of flatulence jokes, no real story line, and supposed "pie in the face" type nonsense. As usual, that’s good enough for audiences as it did $28 million for its first week. Never underestimate the taste of the American public!...In other current movie news the latest Poseidon remake seems to have flopped doing only about $60 million, and Tom Cruise’s latest Mission Impossible flick has not lived up to expectations at the box office. I guess all of Brooke Shields’ fans are boycotting it!...See you next week, I have to go mourn the U. S. A. soccer loss to Ghana. Ghana?! (Comments? azjimmcallister@cox.net)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

DENVER HAS A TREASURE IN WRITER JOHN DUNNING

(Author's note: This column was also published in the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, Denver edition on June 17, 2006)

by Jim McAllister

John Dunning is the best mystery writer that I have ever read and my favorites, other than Dunning, are no slouches: Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Tony Hillerman, Michael Crichton, and others of the same level. Why, then, would I pick Dunning over those guys who have much longer resumes and, in general, are more well known?
It started in 2001 when my wife was at a Border’s store in Scottsdale and came across Dunning’s novel for that year, "Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime". She knows that being a history major, specializing especially in American history and the period of the 1940's, I enjoy stories pertaining to that period. I also like anything that involves old time radio. After perusing Dunning’s book, she noticed that not only was it a mystery, but was involved with the early days of World War II (1942) plus some strange happenings occurring at a radio station along the Jersey shore outside of New York City. She bought the book, I immediately read it, and have been a John Dunning fan ever since.
Mr. Dunning has also written a series of mysteries involving fictional former Denver cop and now bookseller, Cliff Janeway. His first in the Janeway series was "Booked to Die", which was published in 1992. Happy just to be published, Dunning figured to sell the initial printing of 6,500 hardback first editions and maybe go through a small second printing. After all, he hadn’t had a published work in ten years. What actually happened was "Booked to Die" had its initial printings sold out immediately and from 1992 through 2000 has had four more hardback and nineteen paperback editions.
BOOKED TO DIE...John Dunning's
surprise best seller that introduced
ex-Denver cop Cliff Janeway
(Old Algonquin Books)
THE BOOKMAN'S WAKE by
JohnDunning. Number two in
the Cliff Janeway series. (Old Algon-
quin Books)
Since that time he has written four more Cliff Janeway mysteries: "The Bookman’s Wake" (1995), "The Bookman’s Promise", (2004), "The Sign of the Book" (2005), and "The Bookwoman’s Last Fling" (2006). Two other good mysteries are "The Holland Suggestions" (1975) and "Looking For Ginger North" (1980). Also in 1980 he published a sprawling novel about his adopted hometown called simply, "Denver". It covers the lives of some fictional families in Denver and the effects of the Ku Klux Klan on them during the 1920's. The last three selections are excellent but are long out of print. I was lucky and found used copies on Amazon.
John Dunning was not always a successful writer. In 1964, after something of a nomadic lifestyle, he settled in Denver working at a glass shop and later at some horse racetracks. By 1966 he was working in the library of "The Denver Post". That job led to a reporter’s job. During that time he also was in the process of collecting recordings of old radio shows which he turned into a 25 year long radio show in Denver and the publication of "The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio", a must for radio enthusiasts.
JOHN DUNNING, author of TWO O'CLOCK,
EASTERN WARTIME at a book signing (Jon Jordan)
In addition, Dunning owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver from 1984 to 1994. He closed it at that time and has been in the book business on the internet since its closing.
I think that is a pretty good resume for a guy whose formal education consists of a GED high school diploma from South Carolina in the early 1960's.
If you like good mysteries combined with a bit about the book business, John Dunning’s books are for you. He writes in a clear, concise, style with well defined characters, interesting storylines, and great endings.
Yes, Denver, you have a treasure in writer John Dunning.

Monday, June 12, 2006

CATCHING UP AND A COUPLE OF MOVIE REVIEWS

by Jim McAllister

This week I am going to take a step backward to catch my breath. It has been a busy time! Last Tuesday THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC published the piece that I had originally done in April of 2005 about the ghost army of World War II. It was published in conjunction with D-Day, June 6, and was focused on a member of that group from Scottsdale, Dr. Harold Laynor. The REPUBLIC liked the article so much that they have asked me to write opinion pieces for them at a rate of three per month. These pieces will concern things that are going on in the northeast part of the Phoenix metro area (Scottsdale, Arcadia, Salt River Indian Community, Carefree, Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley). I have also been keeping in touch with my old buddy from the INDEPENDENT of Scottsdale/Paradise Valley, Brendan Leonard, who is now with the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS in Denver. I am posting a blog in that paper which has been receiving a nice bit of attention with a lot of responses and a 5 star rating out of a possible 5 stars by readers. Along with that, I am trying to keep up with this blog and possibly contribute something to my good friend, Emily Soccorsy, at the INDEPENDENT without whose help, along with Brendan, I may have never made it to the map. Thanks to all you readers and supporters, I appreciate you all!
BACK TO BUSINESS....Have you seen the recent British import flick, "Kinky Boots"? If you enjoyed "The Full Monty" or "Calendar Girls", you will love "Kinky Boots". Yes, this story has been done in the aforementioned, but it is still a funny and heartwarming film.
This time the action is in Northhampton, an industrial town of the UK. The local shoe factory, which has been around for generations, is about to go under. Their products are boring and sales are down. The 62 year old owner has just died and his son Charlie (Joel Edgerton), who is lost in space in the shoe business, has taken over. He contemplates selling off the company assets but reconsiders after realizing how that would affect the long time loyal employees. What to do, what to do...after stumbling into a gay bar full of female impersonators, he meets Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who has a hell of a time trying to find a decent pair of women’s shoes to wear. The lightbulb goes off in Charlie’s head! Maybe there is a market in shoes for cross dressing men! He goes for it along with Lola’s help and the rest is predictable along with the ending at the big Italian fashion show. However, it is so well done, flashy and funny, it makes for great laughs and a feel good feeling. Ejiofor steals the film with his over the top portrayal of Lola, Edgerton is good playing Charlie in a low key, and cutie Sarah Jane Potts is good as Charlie’s factory worker girlfriend. There are some good musical numbers too. Nothing complicated here, just an enjoyable 107 minutes. Rated PG-13, limited distribution, check the art houses.
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, SARAH-JANE POTTS and JOEL
EDGERTON star in KINKY BOOTS (Miramax)
Another recent film that will probably be found at the art houses is DOWN IN THE VALLEY which is a bit too long at 125 minutes (rated "R"). It is also a downer but it contains some very good acting by Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin, and David Morse. Norton plays Harlan Carruthers to the hilt as a cowboy from South Dakota who, somehow, has wound up in the San Fernando Valley. He is a rope carrying, cowboy hat wearing, western epithet speaking character that is totally out of place in this "gag me with a spoon" environment. While working in a full service gas station (those still exist somewhere?) He meets Tobe (Wood), a gorgeous typical SFV teenager, and her girlfriends as they are on their way to the beach. Tobe invites Harlan along and, after one thing leads to another, they fall in love. Harlan seems like a good, albeit naive, guy but Tobe’s father (Morse) detects another side to him and discourages his daughter from seeing him. Harlan’s intensified feelings for Tobe and dislike of her father, start the story in another direction.
EVAN RACHEL WOOD and EDWARD NORTON
in DOWN IN THE VALLEY. Cowboy meets San
Fernando Valley teen with unpredictable results.
(Element Pictures)
DOWN IN THE VALLEY plays the L. A. scene to the hilt with good photography of the confusion and overbuilding of the place as compared to the hayseed mentality of Harlan. It’s a long movie, I wish I had brought a pillow to sit on when it inched past the two hour mark, but I liked it enough that I would recommend it to those who like a show with a psychological twist.....Upcoming flick not seen yet but on my list: A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Garrison Keillor’s NPR show comes to the big screen. A niche movie for sure but down my alley.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

ALAN FREED AND ROCK AND ROLL

by Jim McAllister

It’s the kids that make it work. If Benny Goodman was still alive he would tell you that statement is true after his Oakland and Los Angeles, California experiences in the late 1930's. His band was on the verge of breaking up while on a failed tour until they reached California and the ballrooms packed with kids wanting to jitterbug to Goodman’s new swinging sound. His late night broadcasts to the West Coast from New York had won them over and they were ready to party.
Rock and roll had a similar beginning since, once again, it was the kids that made it work along with help from rock and roll legendary promoter Alan Freed. Freed was born in Pennsylvania in 1922 and by the time he finished college he had developed an interest in music and radio. After World War II he went to work as a disc jockey for several stations in the Ohio-Pennsylvania area before finally ending up in Cleveland in 1949.
ALAN FREED...credited by many as
the originator of rock and roll through
his Cleveland radio show. (alanfreed.com)
One day a local record store owner contacted Freed and said that for some unknown reason his teenage customers were starting to buy a lot of black rhythm and blues records and that it might make his show more popular if he began playing some of these tunes. Freed took his advice and in 1951 he started playing black rhythm and blues to a white teenage audience. The response was immediate as his show skyrocketed in popularity. He coined the term "rock and roll" from a song done by a black group of the day as a means to appease those who held a prejudice against black music.
This success led to Freed’s "Moondog Coronation Ball" in Cleveland in 1952. It was held at a hall with seating for 10,000 and featured popular black acts of the time. Another 6,000 stormed the gates for a total attendance of 16,000, two thirds of which were white.
By 1954, Freed had outgrown Cleveland and moved to New York to work for WINS radio. Once again his show took off and was soon rated number one. He also starred in a series of rock and roll movies which further increased his popularity.
CHUCK BERRY...He will be 80 this year
and is still at it. He was once promoted by
Alan Freed (Yahoomusic.com)




By 1957, the bloom was beginning to leave the rose. ABC-TV had given Freed a nationally televised show. On one episode, black singer Frankie Lymon danced with a white girl, virtually a no-no for that era. The ABC southern affiliates were incensed by this and the show was canceled. Next came a show he promoted in Boston where he was charged with inciting a riot. Although cleared of the charges, WINS let him go.
Freed was now mired in bankruptcy and his troubles were just beginning. He was convicted in the payola scandals of the late 1950's where disc jockeys were accused of accepting money and gifts for playing certain records. Although his sentence was a small fine and no jail time his career was basically finished.
He worked briefly at stations in Los Angeles and Miami and tried to cash in on the "twist" craze of the early 1960's. When that fad passed, he was out of work again and drinking heavily. In 1964, while broke and barely existing in Palm Springs, California, the Federal Government charged him with income tax evasion. Shortly afterward, Freed entered a hospital suffering from uremia and eventually died on January 20, 1965 at the age of 43.
ALAN FREED surrounded by a collage
of stars that he promoted (rockabillyhall.
com)
Freed was like a comet: one day he was here and the next day he was gone. Anyone who loves rock and roll should know about Alan Freed, for without him the genre might never have existed. Alan Freed, radio, and the kids made rock and roll work and caused great rock stations to evolve like WHB in Kansas City, KXOK in St. Louis, and the all night 50,000 watt giants like KOMA in Oklahoma City, WLS in Chicago, and KAAY in Little Rock. Many a kid went to bed at night with their transistors tuned to these guys.
Alan Freed loved rock and roll until the day he died and supported the black performers who played the hits he loved over the "clean cut" white cover versions. He was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. (If you would like to receive my column automatically on a weekly basis, send me a note at azjimmcallister@cox.net with your email address and I will add you to my bloggers list.)

Monday, May 29, 2006

THE ERA OF "SCREWBALL COMEDY" FILMS, 1934-1941

by Jim McAllister

"Screwball" comedy was popular in Hollywood films from about 1934 until the early 1940's. Last November I devoted two columns (11-9, 11-16) to discussing the musicals of the same period and how their purpose was to cheer up audiences of the Depression and try to make them really believe that "We’re in the Money". The screwball comedies were designed to do basically the same thing during the same period and, like the musicals, they usually added a bit of commentary to their stories.
CARY GRANT and ROSALIND RUSSELL in
HIS GIRL FRIDAY. Classic "screwball" in this
remake of THE FRONT PAGE. Fast paced and
funny. Grant even refers to his real name "Archie
Leach"! A must for all "screwball" fans. (Modern

Times)
What were the screwball comedies about? The word "screwball" came about in the early 20th century and meant "crazy" or "insane" so the first thing one notices when discussing these films is the fast pacing and frenetic or crazy action. A good example of this is the 1940 entry, "His Girl Friday" starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Another trait is the story line which usually involves the breakup of a romance, as one or both partners decide they can’t stand the other, and gets involved with another person. Usually, through a rough and tumble story, they eventually find that they can’t live without each other after all. The dialogue is almost always sophisticated and slapstick comedy can be involved. Somebody or some thing is usually being laughed at such as in "My Man Godfrey" (1936) where the rich are being skewered during the height of the Depression for their frivolous spending while others starved.
WILLIAM POWELL and CAROLE LOMBARD
in MY MAN GODFREY. Made in 1936, it was
a good example of "screwball" commentary with
its portrayal of the wealthy during the Depression.
Powell and Lombard were married briefly in the
1930's. He lived to be 92, she died tragically in
a plane crash in 1942 at 34 while on a war bond rally
trip. She was married to Clark Gable at the time;
he never fully recoverd from her death. (Modern
Times)
When watching a screwball comedy, one will notice that although there is a lot of sexual innuendo, there isn’t much in the way of sex. Had these movies been made before 1934 this may have been different, but 1934 was the year that Joseph Breen took over the administration of the Hollywood Production Code and started enforcing the Hays Code of 1930. Hence, Frank Capra had to be careful in the first successful screwball comedy, "It Happened One Night" (1934). Clark Gable was allowed to take off his shirt to reveal a bare chest in the motel room but with a blanket dividing the room between him and Claudette Colbert. (Note: that scene almost ruined the undershirt makers as men wanted to be like the ultra cool Gable and quit wearing undershirts.) "It Happened One Night" also incorporated a couple more traits of screwball comedy: strong willed women, and wealth by one or both parties. In this case, Colbert is the strong willed, runaway heiress being chased by reporter Gable and her harried father, Walter Connolly. A similar role is that of Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey". It’s hard to think of Lombard as anything but strong willed as she played a similar personality in other screwball favorites, "Nothing Sacred" (1937), "Twentieth Century" (1934), and "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" (1941).
CLAUDETTE COLBERT and CLARK GABLE
in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. Gable was loaned
to poverty row Columbia Pictures by MGM as
punishment for asking for more money. Col-
bert originally had no interest in the movie. Result:
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT won Best Movie Oscar
for 1934, Best Actress: Colbert, Best Director: Frank
Capra, Best Screenplay: Robert Riskin. Truly "screwball"!
(Modern Times)
William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in "The Thin Man" series of six films produced between 1934 and 1947. These entries exemplified the screwball touch. Nick and Nora Charles (Powell and Loy) were characters invented by Dashiell Hammett and "The Thin Man" movies had it all: plenty of wealth, some slapstick, misunderstandings, a lot of drinking, a strong female lead, and a good final resolution. They are fast paced, funny, sophisticated, and well worth watching.
Some of the Hollywood’s best were well suited for screwball comedy. They were all good looking, classy performers who weren’t afraid to take a pratfall or get a pie in the face. I have mentioned Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Carole Lombard, Gable and Colbert, and Powell and Loy. Others were also good such as: Melvyn Douglas ("Ninotchka" (1939) with Greta Garbo), Jean Arthur (The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) with Powell), and Ginger Rogers ("Bachelor Mother" (1939) with David Niven).
WILLIAM POWELL and MYRNA LOY
in THE THIN MAN. The popular pair
starred in five other Thin Man movies.
These films had most of the attributes
of "screwball". (Modern Times)
A lot of popular character actors inhabited these movies too. Among them were Edward Everett Horton, the above mentioned Walter Connolly, Franklin Pangborn, the ever rotund Eugene Pallette, Alan Mowbray, and Edward Arnold.
Although there were a few more screwball films made in the 1940's, the style had pretty much run its course by the early 1940's. With the onset of World War II, the Depression finally ended and with it the feeling for frivolity. War pictures became popular as part of the fighting mentality and people turned their attention to more serious matters. The day of the screwball comedy was basically over but not forgotten by the Depression audiences of the 1930's.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

THE "GHOST ARMY" OF WORLD WAR II

(Author's note: This article was originally published on April 27, 2005 in the INDEPENDENT. I was fascinated by the story of the ghost army and the bravery of those guys in World War II and, with Memorial Day arriving in another week, I feel a tribute to them and our current fighting forces is appropriate with a reprint of that column....JM

by Jim McAllister

I’m sure you are wondering, "What in the world was the ghost army of World War II?" It’s an interesting story that I will explain in this column.
Ever since warfare has existed, armies have relied on some type of deception to gain an advantage on their opponents. Some ancient armies used plaster dummies, others used fake smoke signals and spies, and we all know about the famous Trojan horse. These ancient examples of deception were carried into modern warfare during World War II with the exploits of the ghost army or their actual title which was the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.
The ghost army was a unique and little known group of American soldiers who played a big part in the Allied victory over Germany through their abilities in the art of deception. Even though information on this unit became available about thirty years ago, not much has been written about them. As World War II faded into history, so did the 23rd Special Troops.
The ghost army was organized by Lieutenant Colonel Merrick Truly. He was the executive officer in charge of these deception experts. Although Truly’s men reported to the American ground commander in Europe, General Omar Bradley, most of the American soldiers did not know of the existence of the Special Troops. They operated at night under strictly special orders and were not even required to give their identity to superior officers.
DR. HAROLD LAYNOR... a member
of the American 23rd Special Troops
of World War II. Photo taken in
France, 1944. (Courtesy Laynor
Museum)
The most unique part of this already unique group was the composition of its members. Many of these men were already famous as artists, sculptors, architects, literary figures, and others from the world of the arts and humanities. Actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was perhaps the most well known for his Hollywood successes, but there was also renowned fashion designer Bill Blass, Olin Dows: a prominent artist, George Diestal: a Hollywood set designer, Art Kane: a fashion photographer, and Harold Laynor, whose artistic works depicting World War II and other subjects, are shown in galleries throughout the country.