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Thursday, December 25, 2014

SOME CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS


(Originally posted December 22, 2011)
                                             
                                         James Stewart and Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu) in "It's a Wonderful Life." (RKO Studios, 1946)
Image result for Jimmy stewart and karolyn grimes photoLast night I dusted off my DVD of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) to give it its yearly viewing. Of the three greatest Christmas films I have seen, this one leads the way followed closely by The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).                                              There are other great Christmas films and I would be amiss if I didn’t mention A Christmas Story (1983) which as always will be shown for twenty-four hours over Christmas on WTBS. We all have our favorites and it’s comforting to watch them every year during the holidays. 

Miracle on 34th Street is a great example of Hollywood’s use of the fine character actors of the day to produce a fine, heartwarming film about Christmas. The stars are John Payne and a beautiful 27 year old Maureen O’Hara with nine year old Natalie Wood playing her daughter. Edmund Gwenn stole the show and won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle.

Probably the most important thing to remember when watching the classic films is to watch them in the form in which they were originally intended. That means that if they were filmed in black and white, that is the way to see them.

Years ago when Ted Turner bought the libraries of the MGM and Warner Brothers films, he thought colorization of the black and white classics would be a genius idea. It wasn’t. A good example of the failure of colorization is what it did to the Jimmy Cagney classicYankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney won best actor in 1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan and to see him dancing across the stage in a powder blue jacket that looked like a poor excuse for a leisure suit reject, was incredible. Fortunately, viewers agreed.

I guess I am old fashioned about Christmas. Like all kids, I loved everything about the Christmas holidays and there was never any dissension about the day just because it was a Christian holiday. We would have a tree in our grade school classrooms and the schools would always have a Christmas show. Any kids who were'nt Christian went along for the ride with no concern about the Christian aspect. I think they and their parents figured "What the hell." The one thing we all agreed upon was how great it was to get off school at noon on December 24 if it landed on a school day.

Today is December 21 which is my wife’s birthday. That means a celebratory trip to the casino with dinner at the Orange Sky restaurant on the roof of the Talking Stick Resort. The views there are incredible. After that we might make a late night of it by turning on the Christmas tree lights and watching The Bishop’s Wife.

That may sound corny to some but I can’t think of a better way to end the day.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

LOOKING BACK: "A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY"

                               This column originally posted on December 7, 2011

                                  (The New Pearl Harbor Museum Opened on 12-7-2010)

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan."

With that statement describing the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this nation was thrust into World War II. The first wave of Japanese aircraft attacked at 7:53 a.m. and by the end of the second wave at 9:45 a.m., the U.S. had suffered casualties of 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, while 1,178 were wounded.



Of the dead, 1,177 were men stationed on the USS Arizona, which was destroyed when a bomb hit the forward magazine, starting a series of explosions. Eight Arizona residents were listed among the dead on the battleship, which was moored near Ford Island on that dreadful morning 65 years ago.

Today the remains of the Arizona still lie in the same shallow water where she sat helpless during the attack. In 1962, the ship was declared a national shrine and a memorial was built across her remains. A room within the shrine lists the names of the dead crew members, and regular memorial services are performed to respect their memory. A new U.S. flag is raised each day above the site, and at the end of the day is folded and given to various dignitaries.

Time has taken its toll on the memorial and in September, 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano toured the site and pledged Arizona’s help in raising $34 million to build a new visitors’s center. ("Napolitano to help raise $34 million for USS Arizona," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 20, 2005).

"It’s Arizona’s battleship," she said in the article. "When it was commissioned (1916), they broke not just a bottle of champagne over its bow, but a bottle of water that had just come from the newly created Roosevelt Dam. We’ve always had a close connection with the USS Arizona."

Napolitano also declared 2006 as the "Year of the USS Arizona Memorial."

Many of the dead from the Arizona are still entombed within its hulk. Oil still seeps from the wreckage after 65 years and is sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona." Each year the number of survivors decreases and many of them have made arrangements to be cremated with their ashes placed by their fallen shipmates at the site. Many of these men believe that the oil will continue to leak until the last survivor dies.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

IF ONLY CANADA WOULD TAKE THEM OFF OUR HANDS!

I don't know how thorough the distribution is on this but in case you haven't seen it, it's pretty good.  Perhaps not if you are of the liberal persuasion in which case I would advise you to acquire a sense of humor.



 For my liberal friends, DON'T GO.  Remember you felt this way in 2000 but you survived.  It'll get better.



The unintended consequences of the recent U. S. election from    The Manitoba Herald:

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the   border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls   for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of   the Tea Party and the fact Republicans won the Senate are prompting an exodus   among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray,   and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.
Canadian border farmers   say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights   activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.


"I went out to   milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the   barn," said Southern Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage   borders North Dakota . “The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.   He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said   I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my   screenplay, eh?"
In an effort to stop the illegal   aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled   them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the   fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and   Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any   milk."
Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet   liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, and   drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for   themselves. "A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged   conditions," an Ontarioborder patrolman said. "I found one carload   without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice   little Napa Valley cabernet, though." When liberals are caught,   they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear   retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being   made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink   domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.
In recent days, liberals have   turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as   senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs.   After catching a half- dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian   immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed   senior-citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were   alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The   Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age," an   official said.
Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal   immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the   Michael Moore movies. "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the   Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said.   "How many art-history majors does one country need?"
In an effort to   ease tensions between the United States and Canada , Vice   President Biden met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the   administration would take steps to reassure liberals. A source close to   President Obama said, "We're going to have some Paul McCartney and Peter, Paul   & Mary concerts. And we might even put some endangered species on postage   stamps. "The President is determined to reach out," he  said.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

LOCAL VETERANS SHARE MEMORIES FOR VETERANS DAY

Veteran's Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, November 11.  It is an opportunity for all to celebrate the courage of those who have fought to preserve the American way of life.

I have written a story for the November issue of the IMAGES magazine Anthem edition to celebrate this holiday.  In the story I have interviewed three veterans: two from World War II and one from the Korean conflict.  All three have interesting stories to tell of experiences that many of us have probably only seen on the movie screen. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ.  If the print in the story is too small you can enlarge it by clicking the box in the lower right corner of the page. 

I would enjoy seeing any comments you may have.  To leave a comment PLEASE CLICK HERE.  Type your reply in the box and click "Publish your comment."

Thanks,
JM 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

WHERE WERE YOU IN '62?

                                           
My wife says we need to get out more and get the feel of modern nightlife in Phoenix and Scottsdale. I say "But, honey, I know all about nightlife. I started serious partying in 1962. Surely nothing has changed since then, has it?" She says, "Yeah, maybe. Tell me about one of your nights from ‘62."

Well, in those days I never thought about going out until 9:30 on a Friday night. By then I would be showered, shaved, splashed with Old Spice or Hai Karate, and have my hair slicked back with Groom and Clean. I would put on some pressed pegged pants, a white shirt, a pair of Weejuns (white socks optional), and I was ready for action. I would head for some of my favorite dance joints in Kansas City which were usually smoky bars with a loud band. Nothing fancy, just beer joints with great music and girls kind of like the ones you WOULDN'T bring home to meet momma.

Usually there was a cover charge of $1.00 at the door and the bands never started until 9:00. If you got there about 10:00 you had it timed just right. I always knocked down a couple of beers before I arrived since the beers at the club were 50 to 75 cents and I sure couldn’t afford that all night!

You had to be fast to meet the ladies. Closing time was usually 1:00 a.m. so you had no time to waste. If you couldn’t pick up some babe maybe you could at least get a bank deposit slip. In those days, if a girl gave you her phone number it was via a bank deposit slip which had her name and phone number printed on it. Her address was even there but it didn’t matter since you would never just "drop by" without an invitation..  There was a lot more trust then.  If you received a girl’s number it was to call her for a future date. After a few nights out, you could build a pretty good portfolio of slips.

I have a feeling things have changed since those nights in ‘62. I just read a review about a new place in Scottsdale called Taste. Apparently some rappers were recently in town and they were cruising the place "making the most of the bedside bottle service and hottie dancers." Huh? These rappers also released a song that "became the ring tone, download, and car bumpin’ song of the summer." Once again, Huh? And what are those funny looking $12 drinks everyone is having? I’ll bet they don’t even sell Schlitz beer! What kind of a place is this?

A guest list was recommended so you had to email the club to confirm you were on a list. I know of other places where you stand in line and the bouncers choose who gets to go in. It’s like you have to qualify and meet their standards. I don’t like that, our lines in ’62 were always "first come, first served."

I don’t think I like the new bar scene. It seems very superficial and I’ll bet those modern women don’t even carry deposit slips. One thing they probably do is jabber on cell phones all night. It doesn’t matter, I prefer women who use a pay phone if they can find one.

Today I would rather remember 1962 as the year Lawrence of Arabia, The Manchurian Candidate, and To Kill a Mockingbird were released. As for me, I had a sleek ’61 Chevy, and was serving in the Air Force.  Now, if only I could find some Schlitz beer!                              
                                        Me and my trusty '61 Chevy in 1962.  Gas was 24 cents a gallon.    

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

TOO MUCH SENSITIVITY TODAY

I knew it would happen when the Washington Redskins football team came to Phoenix recently to play the Arizona Cardinals.  Sure enough, there were protestors out in force although not as many as I thought there would be; maybe 100.  Maybe it’s because Washington team owner Daniel Snyder has steadfastly repeated that he will never change the name of the team.  Good for him; the Washington franchise has been the Redskins since 1932 when they played in Boston.  The team was moved to Washington in 1937 and remained the Redskins. 

I don’t see what all the controversy is about.  A poll taken within the last year said that 79% of those interviewed saw nothing wrong with the name.  Plus, the name has been around for a long time and it is only in recent years that problems have evolved.  I would blame a lot of it on the liberal mentality that we have to put up with in this country; especially since Obama has become president.   Of course, he dislikes the name as does liberal publications like Slate and Huffington Post.   Also, Bob Costas of NBC derided Snyder last year for not changing the name.  Does anyone care what Bob Costas thinks?

The Arizona Republic has also joined in with some sportswriters failing to recognize the name so they just call them the Washington team.  It’s a real mature group down there; aren’t you impressed at what sensitivity they have?

Smithsonian linguist Ives Goddard has shown that “European settlers in the 18th century seem to have adopted the term from Native Americans, who used ‘red skin’ to describe themselves, and it was generally a descriptor, not an insult.”  What do you think of that, Costas?

It seems like sensitivity rules these days.   With the liberal mindset that has become entrenched in some groups, there is very little that one can say or do without offending someone else.  These people are taking themselves way too seriously. The Cleveland Indians American League baseball team has been under fire for some time over their depiction of a mascot called “Chief Wahoo.”  The Atlanta Braves have had similar demonstrations over the term “Braves” and many years ago the Stanford University Indians changed their name to “The Cardinal” to avoid further criticism from some tribes. 

It’s a good thing these people didn’t live a few years ago when nicknames were given to almost everyone.  The difference between then and now is that people were a lot more mature in those days and were able to laugh at themselves.  Those who wore eyeglasses were many times called “4 eyes” or “seal beams” with the latter referring to a car’s headlights.  I heard those terms aimed at me a lot during Air Force basic training along with other niceties.  Others like me took those insults like a grain of salt as they were expected.  At 6-5 in height I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how the weather was up there.

The military taught a lot of guys not to sweat the small stuff.  It’s too bad the draft was ended in 1973.  I see a lot of guys now who would learn a lot about life and sensitivity from doing a hitch in the military.  Are you listening, Costas? 

If you have a problem with team names, just remember the mascot of the U. of California Santa Cruz. They are called the "Banana Slugs" and I've yet to hear any banana slugs complain.

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Friday, October 03, 2014

The October issue of IMAGES AZ magazine is now available.  Click here THEN GO TO PAGE 23.


I have written a story with some nice vintage photos and historical text called "Old Arizona...Remembering Apache Junction."  It begins on Page 23.  If you like Arizona history, you should like this. Please leave comments if you wish.

Thanks for reading.

JM

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Friday, September 26, 2014

                                CRUISIN' AND PERUSIN' THE NEWS, 9-28-2014

I saw this tidbit in the Washington Post this week:  “Much has been written this election cycle about the Democrats distancing themselves from Obama ahead of the midterm elections. Some Democratic candidates in tough races regularly emphasize their differences with the president.  And Obama is persona non grata on the campaign trail (unless it’s inside private high-dollar fundraiser dinners).”  Apparently the euphoria over Obama when he was inaugurated in 2009 has not been sustainable even within the Democratic Party ………..What is the number one selling vanity license plate in Arizona?  It’s the veteran’s plate.  It has been number one out of 50 plates available for at least the last three years with more than 61,000 issued in fiscal 2014.  That amounts to over $1 million for Arizona veterans……….Probably the least purchased plate would be the “Pearl Harbor Survivor” plate.  To qualify you would need to have been stationed at Pearl Harbor between 7:55 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. on December 7, 1941.  Estimates say that about 2,000 to 2,500 of those vets are still alive.  Since AZ is a retirement destination, several may live here………As of this writing (9-23) Apple has sold 10 million new iPhone 6 models.  By next month, they expect to have 60 million sold.  Next month is also when Samsung will be introducing their supposedly competitive model to the i6. Will there be any room left for them?  Maybe since I now see that the i6 is having some problems .……….Obama got off his helicopter yesterday in New York (9-23) and returned his Marine Guards’ respectful salute with a whimsical salute while holding a coffee cup in his hand.  Some may think “So what” but that is a typical breach of etiquette and bad manners that this president seems to enjoy.  There is no substitute for class and he continuously shows a lack of it……….Eric Holder has resigned! So far, I see no tears from anyone……….U. S. pro golfer Ricky Fowler showed class and patriotism this week while warming up for the Ryder Cup golf matches in Scotland. He got a haircut and had “USA” cut into his hair as a sign of respect for his country.  Fowler is an alum of Oklahoma State University and has had nice success on the PGA Tour.  His reasoning: “Just thought I would do it for a little team spirit and knew the guys on the team would like it, and it’s been fun to see the reaction of the fans and people, social media, guys on the European squad and caddies over there, as well”.……….Meanwhile, public school kids in Denver are protesting their having to use a certain textbook in their history classes because it shows too much patriotism for the USA.  Maybe they have been using some of the legal marijuana available in Colorado. I suggest they leave this country if they are dissatisfied. That would give them an accelerated course in how life is in the real world and wouldn’t even require a textbook………..Eric Bledsoe has finally signed a contract to play basketball for the Phoenix Suns after the team offered him $70 million for five years. That’s a sweet deal for a guard who has had his share of injury problems but that is the state of sports today……….UCLA 62, ASU 27. Ouch for the Sun Devils. I think Todd Graham is overrated.  It takes a lot more than yelling at your players to win………I wish MSN would quit posting those photos online of people getting beheaded by ISIS. We know what’s happening; we don’t need an illustration every time it happens………… This just in from reader EB:  Michelle Obama must not have passed American History based on a statement by her.  She told 50 attendees of a naturalization ceremony that the Founding Fathers weren't born in America: "It's amazing that just a few feet from here where I'm standing are the signatures of the 56 Founders who put their names on a Declaration that changed the course of history, and like the 50 of you, none of them were born American - they became American." Did she actually mean that those who signed the Declaration of Independence and participated in the drafting of the Constitution were not born in America? Benjamin Franklin was born in Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison were born in Virginia. John Adams was born in Massachusetts. Only eight of the 56 were not born in America……….Later, JM  

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                                                             Ricky Fowler




Thursday, September 18, 2014

REMEMBERING AZ CENTRAL BLOGS

                       Blogger's party of 2009.  L-R, Me, Allison, Butch, Steve.                      

It’s been a while since I sent out a blog typical of what I have sent since 2005.  I’m still doing hard copy and internet stories for IMAGES Magazine but I miss the interaction of the AZ Central blogs that we began at the Republic in 2006. Call it déjà vu or whatever but here goes an attempt to return to those days in my favorite Walter Winchell style: 

Barb and I were listening to some 1970’s oldies last night like “Safety Dance” from Men at Work, “Spirit in the Sky” from Norman Greenbaum, and “Green Eyed Lady” from Sugarloaf.  Great memories of the days in Kansas City when we danced until closing time in Missouri at 2:00 a.m. then crossed over into Kansas to the private clubs until 5:00 a.m.  Crazy stuff but if you’re going to do it, do it while you are young.  The Home and Garden Network and The Food Network can wait their turn to get you………It looks like Moochelle Obama’s plan for feeding kids in American schools is a gigantic flop.  Too bad; gosh, what a surprise that kids are starving eating that crappola she thinks they should have.  Meanwhile, her kids go to a PRIVATE school and are enjoying fine dining just like the Wagyu beef and other delicacies she enjoys.  What’s that?  Did I hear someone say she is a hypocrite?..........It looks like the Arizona Republic is in trouble again.  They are cutting their workforce by 15% and giving employees new titles.  Those who remain will have to apply for the new positions.  Hopefully extra baggage like Montini, Valdez, and Benson will be seen waving those advertising signs while walking the sidewalk,  Oh, did I forget to mention that they just raised my monthly bill by $8.00  Yeah, that too!  Someone should tell them that not many people read the paper anymore.  I only read it for tradition and the crossword puzzle………..Now I see where the AZ Cardinals have joined the list of NFL teams with women beaters.  You have to love pro football with the number of fools playing it.  There is no substitute for class; too bad they don’t have any.  Where are Fran Tarkenton, Roger Staubach, Kurt Warner and others like them when we need them?  Some sponsors are pretty upset over these recent developments.  If they pull out, the players will get a taste of how the other half lives………….Interesting tidbit:  The last guy to play in an NFL game without a helmet was Dick Plasman (1914-1981) of the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL Championship Game won by the Bears.  He was a 6-3 running back who weighed 218 and near the end of his career played for the Chicago Cardinals.  He lived to be 67; not bad for a guy playing pro football without a helmet……….I have been asked to speak at the quarterly meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution on October 4 at McCormick Ranch.  I get the microphone for 20 minutes and am going to talk about 20th Century Scottsdale history.  It’s been a while since I spoke to a decent sized audience but I’m looking forward to it.  The DAR is a good organization; very patriotic……….If you want to communicate with me on Twitter, my address is @JimMcAl97309703. If you want to leave a comment on the blog click "comments" below and you will be taken to the comments page There is a box provided............Thanks, JM

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MAG"S HAM BUN BUNCH AND THE SCOTTSDALE FIRE DEPARTMENT

Hi Everyone,

The September issues of IMAGES AZ magazine are now available online and are being mailed to 50,000 homes in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

I have two stories published this month.  One relates to The Mag’s Ham Bun Bunch which is an organization of movers and shakers in the Scottsdale area that have been meeting to just basically “shoot the bull” since 1953.  They consider themselves a group where conversations are conducted with  a “no hassles camaraderie.”  To read, click http://imagesaz.com/magazine then click on the box to the right that says “North Scottsdale” and go to page 22.

My other story deals with the evolution of the Scottsdale Fire Department from a leased venture in the early 1950s to a city owned streamlined modern department today.  To read go to http://imagesaz.com/magazine and click the magazine cover on the right that says “Grayhawk” and go to page 34.

Thanks for stopping by.  Leave comments if you wish on the blog page at jmcallister.blogspot.com.

   Chief Tom Shannon, Scottsdale fire Department



                               Part of Scottsdale's modern fleet of fire trucks


                               

Thursday, July 31, 2014

ARIZONA'S A-1 BEER AND SOME NORTH SCOTTSDALE HISTORY

Hi Everyone,

The August issue of IMAGES AZ magazine for north Scottsdale Cave Creek, Carefree, Grayhawk is being mailed to local homes and is also available online.

I have two stories in this month's issue:  One relates the history of Arizona's A-1 beer; a product that was popular in Arizona  from the 1930s into the 1950s when competition got the best of them.  

The other story relates some history of an area in north Scottsdale as seen through the eyes of two brothers who grew up there in the 1950s and 1960s.  It's poignant, funny, and a good example of life in Arizona from the past.

I hope you enjoy this month's efforts.  To read click here and page through to see my stories and others published this month.




Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hi Everyone,

The latest issue of Images AZ  magazine is now available online for those who do not receive it in the mail.

I have a story this month in the Carefree, Cave Creek, North Scottsdale edition  that gives a look back to a place called the Arizona Falls.  It is an interesting bit of history that you will enjoy relating to the growth of Scottsdale and the founding of Glendale because of the work of a guy named William J. Murphy in the late 19th century.

The story is located on page 48-49.  Thanks for reading Images.

Click here.

Thanks,

Jim

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Hi Everyone,

The June edition of Images is being mailed this week or you can read it online.

This month I have written three stories which I hope you enjoy:  A look at historic SkyRanch Airport in Carefree, a remembrance of two great Scottsdale pioneers; John Curry and Don Pablo, and you can learn about “Wild At Heart,” a sanctuary in Cave Creek for the care, love, and eventual release of owls run by the dedicated Bob Fox and his wife.

I hope you enjoy all three stories and thanks for reading.

Copy URL here to read.  http://imagesaz.com/magazine/2

Jim McAllister

Sunday, May 04, 2014

IMAGES magazine, May 2014

I have been doing stories for Images magazine for the last few months.  Here is the latest edition (May, 2014).  I have four stories this month:  A tribute to Memorial Day, A tribute to the Stoneman Road, K. T. Palmer and the founding of Carefree, The founding of Desert Ranch in north Scottsdale.

To read, copy URL  here:  http://imagesaz.com/magazine/2

Thanks,

Jim

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

THE AUCTION OF ORSON WELLES

                                             
The daughter of Orson Welles lives in Sedona.  Her name is Beatrice, she is 59 years old, and is the offspring of Welles and his third and last wife, Paola Mori. 

Beatrice has decided to auction off several items from Welles’ estate because she thinks they would be better off in the hands of those who appreciate Welles’ work rather than gathering dust in a museum.  Since she lives in Sedona, I assume she is not destitute and selling the stuff just to get some dough.  Her reasoning makes sense too.  I’m sure there are still many Orson Welles fans around who will appreciate his mementos.

There may be some who never heard of Orson Welles.  For those who fit that category, it’s all right since Welles died in 1985 at age 70 and I realize that for many younger movie fans, nothing happened before their lifetimes.  They are still mesmerized by Donnie Walberg and Leonardo DiCaprio.

I admit that Welles was an acquired taste for many but he did enough in his lifetime to gain fame and produce a lot of great films.   He also scared the hell out of a lot of people on Halloween night, October 30, 1938 when he and his Mercury Theater players did a radio version of H. G. Wells’ sci-fi classic, “The War of the Worlds.”  Most of the six million who tuned into that broadcast knew it was a spoof but enough thought it was real enough to cause quite a stir.

If I was to choose some favorite films by Welles I would start with probably his greatest:   “Citizen Kane” (1941).  Although William Randolph Hearst’s name is never used in the film, Charles Foster Kane showed a remarkable resemblance to Hearst while Dorothy Comingore resembled his lover, actress Marion Davies. 

Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) is another fine Welles’ film with a great cast consisting of Agnes Moorehead, Welles (as narrator), Joseph Cotten and other stars of the day.  Unfortunately, after Welles completed the film and was working on another project, his studio (RKO) sweetened the ending of that film which was a big mistake.

In 1949, Welles starred in “The Third Man” which may have been his best acting role as the evil Harry Lime.  The use of a zither for the background music is haunting and adds a lot to the suspense.  A beautiful and young Alida Valli isn’t hard on the eyes either.  She was quite a dish!

In 1958, “Touch of Evil” was released and portrayed Welles as an aging, blustering, crooked police officer in a small Mexican border town (actually filmed in Venice, California).  Welles is outstanding among a cast that includes Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston in the unbelievable role as a Mexican narcotics officer!

Even if Ms Welles is selling out for the money, I doubt if her father would mind.  Orson Welles once said: “I am essentially a hack, a commercial person.  If I had a hobby, I would immediately make money on it or abandon it.”                                                          


Orson Welles (R) and Joseph Cotten in "The
Third Man" (1949)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

OVERUSED WORDS AND A SHORT RANT

Is it me or is the word “awesome” becoming the most overused word in the English language?  Everything seems to be “awesome!”  these days.  For those old enough to remember, awesome was also one of the most overused words in the late 1980s.  Occasionally, I also still hear girls say “like” but not as much as I used to thank God.  Then there is the old standby “cool” which has managed to survive many generations from the early 1950s on.  It has outlived Elvis, James Dean, The Beatles, Disco, Michael Jackson, and many others.  Hey, now THAT’s cool!

How much would you pay to see a “no holds barred” fight in the ring between Putin and Obama?  It would be the highest rated event in the history of television and my guess is that more Americans would probably root for Putin if for no other reason than he is a man going against a pseudo-man.  One thing I DO know is that Putin could take the impostor in one round in spite of giving away six inches in height.  Obama is a laughing stock as he has once again reinforced his image as a wimp with the sorry sanctions he levied against some Russian officials.  Can you imagine President Eisenhower being referred to as a “prankster” by government officials in Russia?

Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.  It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.  Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.  Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.

 Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense.  Believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.  Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

The above definitions of Liberal and Conservative come from the “Student News Daily” and are pretty accurate.  Today, because of many changes in demographics we are seeing the domination of the Liberals.  We have too many addicted to the government dole who have no incentive to leave the cozy confines of government freebies.  They don’t have to think on their own as the government will always be there for them with their handouts.  They love hearing about the possibility of a minimum wage of $10.10 since they don’t have to do anything to earn it.  They are so enamored of that thought that they don’t realize that along with that increase would be lost jobs and higher goods costs which mean higher retail prices.  But, hey!  I got a free phone.

There was a time when the current system would have no chance.  Pride prevented the average person from thinking about government freebies.  There were other organizations like churches that helped the poor get by until they could get back on their feet.  Businesses had more freedoms which allowed them to expand causing more job creation and better benefits for employees.  The bad news for the freebie lovers was that they had to work to get ahead; a very disagreeable requirement for many.  They would rather hear a pseudo president crow about “We want those rich folks to pay more in taxes!”  Tax the makers and give to the takers.  November is coming; cross your fingers that this country wakes up.

Monday, March 03, 2014

THIS, THAT, AND OTHER THINGS

                              Has anyone seen this?  I copied it from Walt Armour's site on 
                                Google+. "Who's body did Vogue use to stick that head?"

I have been writing this blog since 2005.  Google tells me that it has had 134,993 visits derived from 673 posts. That breaks down to about 200 per blog which seems a bit high but who am I to dispute Google? Regardless, thanks to everyone who has been reading my rants for past 9 years.

Those numbers don't include the 5 years of AZ Central blogs from 2006 to 2011.  That was a good deal until nastiness took over and the Republic switched over to Facebook to screen comments.  Big mistake! Who wants to have their comments screened and purified?  The whole point of comments is for everyone to let it all hang out.  Needless to say, the Facebook experiment was a failure.

John Callow, also known as PROUD is now doing a new blog.  John is a good guy so read what he has to say on his WordPress blog.  Hey, John:  Post your URL here so someone can read your stuff!

I have been writing some articles for the last couple months for  Images AZ  magazine.  They put out what I call "shiny magazines" and are available in various northern parts of the Valley like Scottsdale, Carefree, Cave Creek, Anthem, Grayhawk, Tramonto, etc.  To see them online google "Images AZ" magazine then click the edition you want.  I have had some stories in the Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Carefree editions during February and March with more scheduled for April.

My favorite quote of the day:  "I think Putin is playing chess, and I think we're playing marbles. And I don't think it's even close." House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan.  

But, Mike, Didn't BO tell Medvedev that he can be more flexible after he was re-elected?  By the way, What's the latest about Snowden?

JM

Saturday, February 15, 2014

LAST DRINKS WITH W.C. FIELDS' 'NEPHEW'

by Rip Rense
(Originally published in the Los Angeles Times)
"In youth I wassailed neighb'ring pubs,
but now reflect on friends gone by."

--from In Repose, by Will Fowler 


I went to visit a waning landmark the other day, in the company of a living landmark. It's an elegant way to witness history.

The landmark I visited was Chasen's Restaurant in West Hollywood. The landmark that took me there was 72-year-old Will Fowler. Chasen's, of course, is one of the last of the great old L.A. celebrity restaurants. Fowler is one of the last of the great old L.A. reporters. In Japan, both would be declared national treasures.

To explain the historical importance of Chasen's, which closes tomorrow after 58 years (operating cost, not popularity, is the culprit), one could merely fill this entire space with the names of people who have held it dear. A brief sample: Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, William Powell, Greer Garson, Alan Ladd, Jerry Colonna, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, David Niven, Jimmy Stew- art, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ethel Barrymore, Walter Cronkite, Leo Carillo, Howard Hughes, Presidents John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan. . .

To explain the historical importance of Will Fowler, one could write a book---but then, Fowler already has. To read his autobiographical The Second Handshake and Reporters: Memoirs of a Young Newspaperman, is to wonder about a voraciously-lived life that has touched almost as many diverse and remarkable figures as Chasen's.

Consider these rather varied Fowler resume items: while in his late teens, lived with and cared for a declining John Barrymore for six months; smoked cigars with W. C. Fields at age 13; studied orchestration with Ferde "Grand Canyon Suite" Grofe; wrote a hit song for Doris Day ('He's So Married'); acted in B-movies in the 40's; while working for the old L.A. Examiner, was the first reporter on the scene of the so-called "Black Dahlia" murder Jan. 15, 1947; news director for George Putnam at KTTV in 1960; comedy writer for Red Skelton; Jack Dempsey's godson; was "one of the best of the great barroom fighters," as another of the last of the great old L.A. reporters,   L.A. Times columnist  Jack Smith, said of his long-ago colleague in Reporters.

In the late 1930s, young Fowler drank plenty of martinis at Chasen's, which was, more or less, a cozy diner presided over by the be- loved ex-Vaudevillian founder, Dave Chasen, and his gorgeous wife, Maude. Into this homey atmosphere, thick with the aromas of new-lit cigars and burbling chili, regularly retreated members of a kind of round table of somewhat battered wayward knights: principally Barrymore, Fields, artist John Decker, writers James Thurber, Ben Hecht, Robert Benchley, boxing great Dempsey, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, directors John Ford and Leo McCarey, pie-faced actor Jack Oakie, actor Thomas Mitchell---and the man who usually brought them together, Gene Fowler.

Gene Fowler, of course, was the fabulous Hearst newspaperman and Hollywood screenwriter who became one of the most revered authors of his time. He was also Will's pop, and, as Will still reverently proclaims, "my friend."

These mythified figures, whose achievements and characters are barely comprehensible to today's generation, enjoyed their privacy, and their alcohol---two items liberally provided by the kindred host of their round table, Dave Chasen. Will was the group's sturdy 'designated driver'---as he was mine, one recent evening when we went to Chasen's to bid farewell to this one-time sanctuary, and any of its lingering ghosts.

"It's like looking at a Roman ruins with the extra stuff put on, like the Sphinx with a new neck," said Fowler, surveying through trifocals the glittering palace that the modern Chasen's has become. "You want to see it as it was; you want to go back. You're reaching out, but your arms aren't quite long enough."

Fowler couldn't even find the entrance anymore; we sort of lurched in through the kitchen, like a couple of big-shots accustomed to the back way. We were nonetheless smartly greeted---not, sadly, by Dave Chasen, who passed away 25 years ago---but by a dapper young gentleman named Scott McKay, who turned out to be Chasen's grandson.

"Some of the employees swear that late at night, they still smell Grampy's pipe smoke," said Scott, who told us he holds out hope that a smaller, more intimate version of Chasen's might return to the development that will soon occupy the Beverly Boulevard site. "I believe he's watching over this place, and would understand what's happening now."

Scott poured Fowler a glass of brut, then escorted us straightto the heart of the restaurant, Dave's very office, where his dearest friends were often invited to dine. Many of those very friends were still on hand---smiling deathlessly from black-and-white photographs that left barely an empty space on the old pine-panelled walls. Chasen himself grinned from one, proudly frying burgers in the original kitchen.

"Here's Uncle Claude! My God!" Fowler suddenly exclaimed, spying an amateurishly printed, grainy old photo of a shirtless W. C. Fields, posing as a boxer. Fowler, who by his own admission has come to rather resemble Fields, is living dis-proof of the great comic's fabled hatred of young people; W. C. so admired the teenager's alacrity with gin and cigars that he anointed him honorary nephew, even permiting use of his hated middle name.

"You know what? I took this picture!" said Fowler, barely believing his memory. "It was in his house on DeMille Drive. Uncle Claude had a punching bag. I had a hell of a time getting him to take his shirt off. Gee, that's amazing. That knocks me out. I printed that thing myself, when I was a kid! About 1938. It's been here all these years."

He stared at the photo long and hard, almost as if waiting for Fields to unleash that permanently cocked left jab. "Uncle Claude and I were sitting here with Ben Hecht one night," Fowler continued, "and Ben told the story of a guy in Chicago being executed, who insisted that he be allowed to wear full tails and tie. When they were ready to put the noose around his neck, they asked him if he had any last words. He said, 'Not at this time.' And Uncle Claude went crazy. He thought that was absolutely marvelous."

McKay graciously left us to commune with other spirits that might be present, there in what 91-year-old Maude Chasen still calls the restaurant's 'inner sanctum.' Fowler's thoughts, however, kept coming back to his long-missed Uncle Claude, and another honorary uncle, Barrymore. Random observations spilled out, almost as if talking about the departed figures might conjure them up. (I looked over my shoulder more than once.) Both men, he recalled, would enthuse effusively about esoteric cuisines, but like many tragically dedicated alcoholics, rarely partook of solids. Fields, in particular, championed Chasen's crepe suzette, yet usually left it untouched: "He just didn't want it to interfere with the alcohol."

"And Jack Barrymore," Fowler added, "loved to read cookbooks, but he would never eat! I'm famished when I drink. That's probably while I'm still alive. After I drink, I love to eat." He hoisted his champagne glass. "Cheers!"

Chasen's-as-refuge cannot be more poignantly---or amusingly--- illustrated than with Fowler's account of rescuing a Barrymore as ravaged by marriage as the bottle:

"Barrymore used to call his wives his bus accidents. When he was married to his fourth wife, Elaine, we drove to his house, off Benedict Canyon. We went in---Tommy Mitchell, John Decker, Pop and me---and Jack came down to answer the front door. He was wearing the bathrobe he wore in 'Topaze,' and Pop said, 'We've come to rescue you.' He didn't even take off his bathrobe. We brought him here! And that's how we got him away from his wife. It was just like getting him out of prison."

The memories eventually seemed to surround Fowler, his words unable to keep pace with the images on the walls, and in his mind. Mile- stones were relegated to a scant sentence. It was in Chasen's, he announced, that Gene Fowler---author of the lovingly penned Barrymore biography, Good Night, Sweet Prince---insisted on filling out the actor's death certificate himself. He somehow substituted gentle and touching prose for the chillingly detached patois of the physician. It was also in Chasen's, Fowler noted, that his father drafted the tribute to W. C. Fields published in theHollywood Reporter Dec. 27, 1946. A still fresh-looking copy of the ad hung in the office, in part proclaiming: "To the most authentic humorist since Mark Twain, to the greatest heart that has beaten since the middle ages---W. C. Fields, our friend." And it was in Chasen's office that Will and his mother dined with Dave shortly after the passing of Gene Fowler in 1960.

"It's a strange thing," Fowler offered, with the tone of a benediction, "to be hit with all these things attacking your memory at once. It gives you such a wonderful, warm, melancholy feeling."

With that, we left the office and its paper-thin haunts, took in the celebrated Thurber sketches in the men's room (delightfully ribald), then adjourned to a table famously reserved for the explosive, unpredictable theatrical agent of bygone times, Billy Grady. There, we did what you're supposed to do at Chasen's: drink, have some freewheeling, sincere, and inconsequential conversation (ours covered the spectacular late 20th century spoiling of earthly paradise, and the symphonies of Bruckner), and eat some of the justifiably famed chili. From other tables, more typical specimens of the evening's clientele, dressed to the nines (I would rank our wardrobe somewhere around the fives) seemed to regard us with something akin to wariness and disdain, like dogs that sense a coyote isn't quite canine.

We opted to slip out as the nattier crowd thickened, and in an exit that seemed somehow appropriate for a couple guys who came in through the kitchen, we headed for the front door. There, seeming to bid us adieu, was the John Decker oil portrait of Fields-as-Queen Victoria. Resplendent in regal gown and jewels, Uncle Claude haughtily scowled over the perfumed heads of chi-chi folk crowding in for a last Chasen's meal.

Fowler sniffed, assessed the scene, and in a line worthy of Fields, or possibly the author he so admired, Charles Dickens, declared: "A collection of strangers in a stolen hermit crab seashell."

And as my designated driver proceeded to cruise L.A. streets through which he once escorted grander guests, I couldn't help but think that Dave Chasen's little diner had, for a final time, offered sanctuary to the last of those somewhat battered wayward knights of long ago.
(Copyright Rip Rense, 2002)

Thanks to reader "Randy" for the submission of the above.  Great memories about guys from the "old" Hollywood.  They were quite a group compared to now.  I can't imagine Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Wahlberg even getting cast in the days of guys like Errol Flynn, John Barrymore, and Clark Gable.  JM


John Barrymore, (1882-1942)