Friday, August 24, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hello, I Must Be Going

Thirty-five years ago today Groucho Marx took his last breath.  He was a month and an half shy of his eighty-seventh birthday.  It was the only known time Groucho was shy about anything.

In the 1940's when "You Bet Your Life" was hosted by Groucho on the radio a contestant stated he was the father of 15 children.  To which Groucho replied, "Well, I like my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth every once in a while."

Groucho, along with his brothers Chico, Harpo and Gummo started the Marx Brothers comedy act in 1912. They played the vaudeville circuit across America.  They were on a less popular circuit than the headliners of the day.  Today you could compare this to a rock band playing bars instead of stadiums.  They played all the small towns throughout the U.S.A., leaving the big cities to acts such as W.C.Fields and Harry Houdini.  When they completed one tour and would be ready to start another, they would write fresh material.  Sometimes this was a rush job.  That happened in 1914 when they forgot to write dialogue for Harpo.  Harpo went on stage and did pantomime and Groucho ad-libbed jokes along with Chico.  The performance was hilarious lunacy and the Marx Brothers never looked back.  Their on the spot pandemonium was the hit of the day and their careers skyrocketed. They got top billing and played all the major cities to sold-out crowds.

In 1917, when we entered the Great War (It was not known as World War I until World War II) Gummo enlisted in the armed forces, and the youngest brother, Zeppo, replaced him in the act.  Zeppo had a great singing voice and added the final dimension to what we see in the early Marx Brothers movies.  With Zeppo the Marxes were now ready for Broadway.  So a Broadway play was written for them.  This was quite a big deal.  Broadway plays were seldom wrote for individual performers.  Generally the parts were written and then auditions were used to find suitable actors.  The roles of their first Broadway appearance were written for each brother individually.  And the brothers re-wrote their roles to give it that classic rehearsed spontaneity that made the Marx Brothers such a unique act.

Groucho was called Groucho because he carried a grouch bag around his neck.  A grouch bag was what people used to keep their money.  He was extremely frugal and had saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the mid-1920s, Groucho invested all his savings in the stock market.  Needless to say, the stock market crash of  29 bankrupted Groucho and the boys.  In order to make some quick money, they signed a deal with Hollywood and began filming their stage hits.  If you have ever seen a Marx Brother movie that had Zeppo, then you saw a repeat performance of one of their Broadway plays.  Zeppo felt he was not up to the talent his brothers demonstrated so he left the comedy team to become  their manager.  He remained Groucho's manager until Groucho's death thirty-five years ago today.

Zeppo set up a meeting for his brothers with Irving Thalberg, the wiz kid producer.  Thalberg arranged scripting an A list movie for the boys.  He considered the Marx Brothers the best comedians of the day and pulled no stops in producing "A Night At The Opera."  Originally the studio heads were upset with Thalberg spending so much money on lavish sets and production, they thought the Marxes had peaked years earlier, and could not understand starring them in an "A" feature.  But when the movie was released and it brought in the most money out of any movie MGM put out in 1935, they never bickered again about Thalberg's Marx Brother projects.  Thalberg only lived to see one more Marx Brother movie; "A Day At The Races."  He died of a heart attack while his "A Night In Casablanca" was being turned into a script.  Those three films are considered the best of all Marx Brother movies.

During the 30s and 40s, Groucho was a frequent guest on radio programs.  On a Bob Hope radio show in the mid 1940s, Bob and Groucho were performing from an open script.  Hope accidently dropped his script, so Groucho threw his away.  The two began ad-libbing for the next 15 minutes.  The verbal joust was so funny, that a listener named John Guedel got an idea for a game show featuring Groucho.  It was called "You Bet Your Life."  It took quite a bit of coaxing to get Groucho to agree to do the show.  He couldn't see  the public wanting to listen to him interviewing contestants.  But he was finally talked into it and "You Bet Your Life" played a few years on radio before converting over to TV in 1950.  It stayed on TV for twelve years.  The public loved Groucho as host.

Groucho was a familiar guest on television throughout the 60's.  If the TV guide listed Groucho as a guest on Johnny Carson or Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin or Dinah Shore or Dick Cavett or anywhere else, I would make it a point to be in front of the set when it aired.

I shall leave you now with one last Groucho quote.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Candle Blew Out Long Ago...

Fifty years ago today was the last day of Marilyn Monroe's life.  I've been watching TMC.  They have been airing her movies all day.  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes just ended.  Here's a still from the movie:

Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe

Charles Coburn was one of  the luckiest men on the planet back in 1953.  What gentleman wouldn't want to be the filling in that cookie?  (..."meat in that sandwich?")  Whatever  You catch my drift.

Here's what I know about "Gentlemen.Prefer Blondes."  It was a Howard Hawks film.  Hawks took a break from his regular style and featured women in the lead roles instead of men.  His favorite starring actor was John Wayne although he also worked with Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and the like.  Lot of heavyweights.  Hawks did not get along with Monroe because he was fastidious about time and Marilyn always showed up late causing delay after delay in his shooting schedule.  The reason Monroe was always late was because she was camera shy.  It took her a good portion of the morning to work up the nerve to perform.

During the filming of GPB the press was anticipating cat fights between Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.  Two top stars trying to outshine each other.  This never occurred.  When Russell found out the reason for Monroe's tardiness, she took it upon herself to help Marilyn.  Jane would spend her mornings encouraging Marilyn and they began walking to the set together.  They became the best of friends.

It was this movie that skyrocketed Marilyn's celebrity.  She was paid $18,000 in total, $1,500 a week for 12 weeks work.  Jane Russell was paid around $150,000 for her performance.  It would still be a couple years before Marilyn's contract would be renegotiated and her salary would enter the hundred thousand dollar range.

The one line of dialogue Marilyn hated but proved her acting ability by reciting to perfection was "I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it."  The line made her cringe when she first read it and it took her days of rehearsal to say it in the manner it was intended.  Monroe portrayed the "dumb blonde" stereotype so convincingly, it was hard for her to be taken seriously.  The truth was that Marilyn Monroe was a lot smarter than the average person.  She would have to be in order to consort with her future husband Arthur Miller.  No slouch he.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Subway Substitutions

Notice of advertising error (fraud?  bait and switch?) by Subways.  If you pay attention to commercials you may have noticed that Subway is currently hawking an Angus Steak & Cheese for $5.00.  Well if you plan on purchasing this sub from a restaurant in the Detroit suburbs, I can tell you now that it is not available. Their TV ad makes it appear that you can get this at any Subway you choose, but for the last three days and four different Subway restaurants, I have been told that they are out at the moment and should have it again later today or at the latest, tomorrow.  I went to a fifth store last night and was told that the Angus Steak & Cheese will not be in until next week.  Apparently, Subway did not count on the demand for this sandwich and thus did not order enough meat. I hope this to be true.  I do enjoy the Angus Steak & Cheese (that would be melted provolone cheese on Angus steak with lettuce, tomato, banana peppers and mayo on their herb and cheese bun.  YUM!)

The young lady who waited on me gave me this Angus ETA update.  No sooner did the words leave her mouth when a co-worker jumped into the announcement and claimed the meat could be in at any moment.  It became obvious that Subway employees had been instructed to keep their customer's mouths watering by promising an early return of the meat.  (And in the meantime would you care to order something else? Perhaps, a less tasty sub at a slightly higher price...)

So for the last several days, I have been seeking the elusive Angus Steak & Cheese and settling for inferior sandwiches.  I have had the under-cooked pink bacon of the BLT, the extremely dry  roast beef that needs gallons of fluids to wash down, the ketchup instead of sauce Pizza sub, and the Meatball Marinara that is warm on the outside and ice in the middle.

I still want an Angus Steak & Cheese.  They are tasty.  I just wonder if Subway is delaying the delivery of meat until the $5.00 price has elapsed.  On the TV just now, was the advertisement for Subway's Angus Steak & Cheese.  I know its not available...  unless the meat came in this morning...  could that be possible...   it would be nice...  I think I might take a ride and find out.  Here's hoping I don't return home with a Subway Tuna Melt.  (And it wouldn't surprise me if its the tuna that does the melting.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My New Toy

I just got my first GPS. It was a spur of the moment purchase. It will come in handy if I ever finally go someplace new. I already know how to get to the grocery store, gas station, and Wal-Mart. (And on rarer occasions, McDonalds)

Now I have a disconnected voice telling me to turn right at the next intersection and proceed 500 feet to be at my destination. Don't know how I managed to find Krogers before GPS. After all I had to navigate three turns and travel close to a half mile from my home. You can't imagine how many times they had to send in the St. Bernards for my rescue. (Love that little barrel of booze hanging around their necks.)

I like the way my GPS can point out local establishments. I pushed the fast food button and noticed that among my choices was a Mr. Pita a few blocks over. That particular Mr. Pita has been closed for over two years. I guess my GPS doesn't keep current. It also lists several gas stations that have been long out of business.

On the other hand, I was curious on what directions it would give to the neighborhood saloon and tapped the appropriate icon. My favorite watering hole was not among the selections. Worried, I quickly drove the three blocks to find it still there. What a relief, for a moment I had thought the GPS knew something that I hadn't found out yet.

Back in my driveway I select the current location on the GPS. Apparently my home address has increased by 113 digits. I hope the post office is aware of this. I'd hate to have people send me money to the wrong address. (People haven't been sending me money but just in case...)

Yes, my spontaneous purchase of the GPS has proved to be both fun and frustrating. If only it could tell me where to locate the receipt so I can get my money back.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blue Monday

I was picking out tunes on YouTube to add to my playlist when Linda says "Play that song about Mondays."

"What song?"  I ask.

"You know, the one with Monday in the title."

"Do you mean 'Monday Monday' by the Mamas and the Papas?"

"No, not that one..."

And we're off to another adventure into Linda's thinking process.  "What are some of the lyrics?" I inquire.

"I'm not sure.  I just know that Monday is in the title."

"Could it be 'Stormy Monday' by Cream?"

"How does that one go?" she wants to know.  So I pull it up on YouTube and play it for her.  Really good jam.

"No," she says, "that's not the one."

"How about 'I Don't Like Mondays' by the Boomtown Rats?"

She says, "I like that one but that's not the one I mean."

"I hope you're not talking about the Carpenters 'Rainy Day and Mondays'..."

"No.  Name another."

"The Bangles did 'Manic Monday'"

"That's another good one, but still not it."

"Can you whistle it or hum it?"  And will wonders never cease, Linda does know to hum the tune, and I recognize the song.  I sing the opening line for Linda, "Monday morning feels so bad."

"YES!"  she exclaims.  "That's it."

I tell her, "It's by a band called the Easybeats, and the name of the song is 'Friday On My Mind.'  Monday is not in the title!"

"Sure it is," she argues, "'Monday I Got Friday On My Mind'"

I already know there is no sense in trying to argue this without proof.  I pull up Wikipedia, enter 'Easybeats' in the search window, and call Linda over to read the first paragraph which refers to their song 'Friday On My Mind.'

"I don't have my glasses handy," she states and refuses to look at the screen.  Then, instead of allowing me to prove myself correct and herself wrong, Linda changes the subject.  (This is standard tactic of hers when she knows she's going to lose an argument.)

Linda asks, "What's that song with Tuesday in the title?  The one that I like..."


Sunday, June 17, 2012

From Adam to the Garden

The new Adam Sandler movie is out.  This time he plays a wacky character with a silly voice.  I wonder how long it took him to come up with that premise.  What a stretch!

Did you know that if you total all of his movies, they have grossed over three billion dollars?  This weekend's "That's My Boy" release will add to that money.

Unfortunately, both Sandler and Tom Cruise's "Rock of Ages" lost this weekend's box office war to "Madagascar 3."  Apparently people prefer animal animation to goofballs or dwarfs.  But who can blame the movie going public when Martin Short's voice is in play.  Ah, a third of the Three Amigos...  the vocal styling of Ed Grimley... and a Dennis Quaid infused bloodstream.  Who could ask for anything more?

Here is something I learned this week.  I started watching a show called "The United Stats of America."  The key word there is Stats, not States.  Stats as in statistics.  Anyway, I learned that I have a better chance of bedding Charlize Theron than winning the Powerball.  Powerball odds are 1 in 175 million.  Supermodel odds are 1 in 88,000.  I found those stats fascinating.  I only wish they would have told me where to buy the Charlize ticket.

I spends a lot of time watching edjamikatable tv.  I is always be in lernt sumtem new.  Thanks to the Discovery channel I now know that 300 million years ago, the equator crossed over the State of Illinois.  If you so desired you could head to eastern Illinois and dig fossils out of the prehistoric rain forest that existed there 300 million years back.  On the off chance that you do go on an archaeological dig because of my words, and you have a massive find of historic geological importance ( know, big bucks!), please do not forget to send my 15% cut.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Short Return

I've decided to start a business. It will be a barbershop that also sells clothes for expectant mothers. I will call it "From Hair To Maternity."

Nothing like starting out with a groan.

Here's another:

There seems to be a trend in making movies from old 70's fads.  Rockem Sockem Robots was filmed as Real Steel.  The Transformers franchise is another trend gone movie.  So is Battleship.  This got me thinking, (and we know that can't be any good) how about this as an idea for a flick:
Pet Rock - the Movie  
starring Brad Pitt as Pet Rock
Angelina Jolie as the box Pet Rock comes in.