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Friday, July 24, 2009

PC would not accept this today

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is buying a used car in an early scene from Psycho (1960). As she hesitates, the salesman sarcastically says, "Typical woman, can’t make up her mind." (OUCH!!!)

In Footlight Parade (1933), dancer-singer Ruby Keeler replies to someone who does her a favor with, "Thanks, that was ‘white’ of you." (Say, what?!!!)

In another movie the children of a black family are endearingly referred to as "pickaninnies." (Huh?!!)

Many black male actors in the Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s played ignorant or shiftless types and had names that reflected their roles. There was "Stepin Fetchit" (Lincoln Perry) of the movies and "Lightnin’" the janitor (Nick Stewart) from the Amos and Andy show. Black valets and butlers often had names like "Snowflake" or "Mantan". When a black character would be frightened, often they would make him turn white with fear. It took until the end of the 1940s before black male actors like James Edwards and Sidney Poitier began the reversal of that trend.

Eddie Anderson was a fine black actor who played comedian Jack Benny’s "man" Rochester on radio in the 1930s and 40s. In one scene Jack and Eddie are heading west on the train and when it stops in Albuquerque, Eddie says he thought he was in Harlem because he saw an Indian eating a pork chop. Benny asks what the big deal was since Indians were allowed to eat pork chops. Eddie replies: "I know, but he had it between two slices of watermelon." Try saying that to an audience today.

Gay people have received their share of abuse over the years too; a situation that would not be as overt now. Franklin Pangborn was a comic actor from the era of the 1930s and 40s and portrayed the gay stereotype to the hilt. In those days, gays were referred to as "lavender" or "musical." Pangborn and a few others made careers playing the roles with as limp a wrist as they could.

From 1975 to 1982, actor Jack DeLeon played a gay character named "Marty"on the popular Barney Miller series on ABC-TV. DeLeon was totally over the top in his gay portrayal from his clothes to his physical and vocal inflections. There must have been some complaints from the gay community since in later shows he toned it down a bit.

Times have changed. Political correctness has kicked in and it would be unusual to see any of the above happening today. In most cases that is probably good but I think it is a shame that a lot of people have forgotten the importance of loosening up a bit and being able to laugh a little at themselves.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

My 1950's summer vacations

With July upon us, it brings back thoughts of past family vacations. As kids in Ohio, my brother and I usually finished school about the 10th of June. About a month later our family would pack our 1954 Buick Special and leave Cincinnati for a couple of weeks on the seashore in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Atlantic City of the mid 1950s was nothing like the Atlantic City we see today with the myriad of casinos and high crime rates.

It was an exciting time as we would leave town at 3:00 a.m., stop at a local diner for breakfast, then head east on our 25 cent per gallon gas. The reason for the early departure was typical for those times. Since very few cars had air conditioning, most people would leave early to "beat the heat."

It usually took a couple of days to cover the 850 miles or so to Atlantic City since most of the driving was done on two lane roads. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was a little too modern for my dad although at the urging of my brother and me, we eventually got him to use it. He still muttered that we had to pay a toll just to drive on a wide highway.

Remember, this was a ‘50s vacation which meant that the dog came with us. There we were: Two adults, two teenagers, and a dog heading east in a Buick to the seashore for a summer vacation. It seemed like a story from the mind of Jean Shepherd right down to us sneaking the dog into an overnight cabin halfway there.

Atlantic City was great. As an inland kid, it was a joy to eat breakfast at a small outdoor diner on the Boardwalk and jump into the ocean afterwards (after the obligatory one hour wait after eating per my mother). We stayed in a house on North Carolina Avenue that was formerly a large mansion that was later converted to individual rooms for tourists. I think the cost was about $25 a week

I remember a restaurant on the Boardwalk by the Steel Pier called "Mammy’s" and their logo was a large black women who looked like Aunt Jemima or Hattie McDaniel. I wonder how Al Sharpton and Jessie would have reacted to that.

Eventually the years of the family vacation ended as my brother and I grew up, left home for our military service, and moved on with our own families. However, I still like to remember the days of the family taking a vacation together. It was pure Americana. Those years go by quickly and we have to enjoy them while we can.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

TV choices of a semi-modern man

Twilight Zone, one of my favorites.
I’m not a guy who needs a lot of television. I usually watch it in the evenings for 3 or 4 hours when I am home and that is about it. I also don’t need the multitude of minor channels that I was forced to take from Cox Cable when they switched Turner Classic Movies from channel 42 to 199, but I had no choice. I had to take their box and pay an extra $10 a month which is better than not having TCM at all. Now I have THREE remotes to play with, a far cry from the days of three channels and having to walk to the TV to change stations. I almost feel technical!

As far as programming, TCM is number one but I also watch the Food Network, the Golf Channel, and Fox Sports, so I can get my nightly laugh at the bumbling Diamondbacks, and ESPN to watch poker. A little PBS is nice to watch the History Detectives and those great looks of greed on the faces of people on Antiques Roadshow when they are told some piece of junk they had appraised is worth $20,000. They can’t wait to try to get that; good luck to them.

I still love reruns of some of the great old shows like Seinfeld and the Andy Griffith Show (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!). It’s fun to see Ron Howard as a kid with a thick head of hair and watch a young Jack Nicholson who was on Andy for a few episodes in the ‘60s before he went big time.

I don’t watch much on the news stations but when I do, I prefer Fox News. Even there, during discussions it seems like everyone is trying to get their 2 cents worth in at the same time and it becomes a flurry of white noise. I don’t need that.

One genre of TV that I will NOT watch is the so called "reality" shows. They are laughable in their phoniness. Do the networks really think that people act the same in front of a camera trailing them as they would if the camera was not there? For some reason, these shows do pretty well in the ratings. The only reality show that was really reality was Candid Camera from many years ago. The camera was hidden and they had a lot of terrific segments.

This is a sample of what I like and dislike on TV. I guess I am old fashioned or maybe a purist, but I still have a DVD recorder and will never have TIVO. I still watch a 15 year old TV and it is the only TV I own. If you think I am out of date with that stuff, I also have an old BellSouth answering machine on my phone. I’ve caught hell on that from reader Don who wonders why I don’t have voice mail.

Who has time to worry about that stuff? I have two other problems: I’m still trying to figure out why my garage door opens or closes every time I push that little button on my rear view mirror! I am also wondering who the "star" is between Brooke Burke and Derek Hough on "Dancing With the Stars." I never heard of either one of them.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I'm running for office

Vote for me!! I promise to lower taxes, have free health care, a chicken in every pot along with pot for every chicken, and I will never go to Argentina.
When I was a kid, most of my friends and I had girlfriends that we called "steadies." Of course, we fooled around on them every opportunity we had. We usually referred to the "fool around girls" as "side stuff."

I wonder if these political clowns we have in office now use that terminology anymore. I doubt it since we were kids of the ‘50s and they are supposedly mature guys of the 21st century. Are they that different though? Take Mark Sanford, the Governor of South Carolina, for example. The man is 49 years old, is a bible reading man, has four kids, is frugal with tax money, refused federal stimulus money, and even uses both sides of Post-It notes. He has been mentioned as a possible star of the Republican Party who might actually have a chance at the presidency.

The key words in my last sentence are "has been" because that is what he now is after the discovery of his "side stuff" in Argentina. What an amateur this guy is: he actually told his wife he was going hiking in the Appalachian Mountains while, in fact, he was seeing his honey in Argentina. When he returned this week, he gave the obligatory tearful apology to everyone and basically closed the door on any chance he may have had on the national political scene.

I have a hard time understanding guys like Sanford and the disgraced ex-governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. We’ve even had a president, Bill Clinton, who not only messed around on his wife (OK, it was Hillary so we’ll give him a little slack) but lied about it. The Republicans aren’t innocent either in the presidency as Ike supposedly was a bit of a lover with his driver Kay Summersby during WWII. I know, war is hell.

Maybe with fame comes women and it is just too hard to turn and walk away from the opportunity. However, these guys aren’t horny young kids so they should know better and that is why I am running for office. Please send all contributions directly to me at my post office box in Argentina. So far, I have $1.98.

Somewhere, former US House Rep and Clinton Arkansas buddy Wilbur Mills is having a laugh. He was seriously considered as a candidate for president in 1972 before his liaison with stripper Fanne Foxe was discovered. Coincidentally, Foxe was from Argentina. Mills died in 1992 at 83. Some say he went down with a smile on his face. There is no word on whether he was buried in the pampas.

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