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by request: whiteboyz (mark levin, 1999)

It took me awhile to follow up on this request, since the film seems to be available under two titles (Whiteboyz and Whiteboys) and for the longest time, I thought they were two different movies and didn’t know which one had been requested.

Whiteboyz captures turn-of-the-century wigga culture in a way that seems both exaggerated and believable, and adds an extra element by placing most of the film in Iowa, rather than one of the coasts (although they eventually visit Chicago, which serves as the “real world” as opposed to their fantasies of the real). Since there are hardly any actual black people in their town (the one that we see is a college-bound, middle-class chap), the crew is able to play their wannabe games without anyone challenging them (although the other kids think they’re nuts). The wiggas take their behavior to the extreme, without realizing that’s what they are doing, since they appear to believe that African-American life is just like a Master P video. Some of this is funny, but the film’s tone is so random that you can’t tell from one scene to the next if we’re supposed to be laughing at these guys, sympathizing with them, or just wishing someone would beat the crap out of them.

In other words, Whiteboyz is a mess. Occasionally, everything clicks, but such moments are rare. It would probably work better as a short. If it’s a comedy, it could easily be a continuing skit on Saturday Night Live. If it’s a drama, they could cut all of the repetition and give us a much shorter movie, maybe a 42-minute job that would stretch to an hour with commercials on FX.

I am obliged to note that Piper Perabo is in this movie. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about Perabo, but she’s the star of Covert Affairs, a TV show my wife watches, and so we have a running joke where whenever she turns up in something, I exclaim, “Hey, it’s Piper Perabo!” Whiteboyz was her first feature film. A year later, she caught people’s attention with Coyote Ugly, and ever since, she has worked steadily. She hasn’t become a big star, but she usually livens up whatever she’s in, even if her part is small (she had so little screen time in Looper that I forgot to say “Hey, it’s Piper Perabo!”). Meanwhile, I fear it says something about Whiteboyz that I am reduced to talking about the actress who played a secondary character. 6/10.


stand-up to sitcom

At breakfast today, Robin brought up an interesting question: who was the first stand-up comic to do a TV sitcom. She thought we could start with Roseanne and work backwards, and I quickly came up with Redd Foxx. I told her I loved the question because it made me think, no matter what the answer was. What is a sitcom? When did they begin? What actually makes a performer a stand-up comic? And what is the history of stand-up comedy and situation comedies? Off the top of my head, I assume stand-up evolved out of vaudeville, and sitcoms began with radio. I also felt we were asking something more specific than was stated: did the comic have to star in the series? Did the sitcom have to begin as a TV series and not as a continuation of a radio show?

When we got home, I started searching. I know I’ve missed a lot … this list is tentative … and I know I am stretching the definitions of both stand-up comic and TV sitcom. But here are some early examples of sitcoms with stand-up comics, in reverse chronology.

Bill Cosby, The Bill Cosby Show. This debuted in the fall of 1969. Cos played a high-school P.E. teacher. It wasn’t his first series, of course … that would be I Spy, which ran from 1965-8. But that show wasn’t a comedy.

Phyllis Diller, The Pruitts of Southampton (later The Phyllis Diller Show). This one debuted in the fall of 1966, and featured Diller as the head of a rich family that had gone broke. It only lasted one season. The most remarkable thing to me was that none of the various lists I checked out mentioned this series. Diller was one of the people Robin and I thought of over breakfast; she seemed like an obvious choice. But, as usual, Diller has to fight for recognition.

Joey Bishop, The Joey Bishop Show. This was a spin-off from another series I’ll get to shortly. It had a checkered existence, at least at first. Bishop played a press agent, but after the first season, the show was revamped with a new cast, and Bishop became a talk-show host. It ran for four seasons, beginning in the fall of 1961.

Andy Griffith, The Andy Griffith Show. This is tricky, because I’m not sure Griffith was ever what we think of as a stand-up comedian. He was a monologist, and his story about a football game sold almost a million copies in 1953. He had other recordings … I can recall his Hamlet … but I understand he might not qualify for this discussion. Anyway, his series began in the fall of 1960.

Joe E. Ross, You’ll Never Get Rich (later The Phil Silvers Show). This show, which began in the fall of 1955, is often remembered as “Sgt. Bilko”. Ross was not the star, but just one of many supporting characters, so you might not want to allow this one. He was the co-star of Car 54 Where Are You?, which debuted in 1961, and even later, It’s About Time.

Danny Thomas, Make Room for Daddy (later The Danny Thomas Show). This show, which debuted in the fall of 1953, was eventually the parent of Joey Bishop’s spin-off. It ran for eleven seasons. I don’t know if Thomas ever did stand-up … he was a radio performer from the beginning of his career, so he may not qualify.

Jack Benny, The Jack Benny Program. Began its TV run in the fall of 1950, but the radio version (one of the greatest radio comedies of all time) goes back all the way to 1932.

George Burns and Gracie Allen,  The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. The TV version began a couple of weeks before Benny, so they get the “oldest” prize so far. They came out of vaudeville, so I suppose your opinion about whether they qualify depends on how you define stand-up comedy. To be honest, I’m having a bit of trouble pinning down the debut of the radio show … call it 1934.

I remember every one of these TV shows, which can’t be said for the last entry. I thought of Morey Amsterdam for his work on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but he’d been on TV long before that:

Morey Amsterdam, The Morey Amsterdam Show. The first episode aired on December 12, 1948, and ran for 71 episodes. Amsterdam played himself, and it seemed to have a variety show format, but Wikipedia calls it a sitcom.

Here is Andy Griffith’s classic “What It Was, Was Football”:


music friday: delaney & bonnie, “never ending song of love”

Recently, I tried to put together a playlist that combined a group of musicians from the late-60s/early-70s who showed up on each other’s albums. Not sure what got me started on this, but I was thinking of people like Leon Russell, Derek and the Dominos, Dave Mason. I quickly realized that what I was latching onto was the extended universe of Delaney & Bonnie.

As an example of this, take their album Motel Shot, from which “Never Ending Song of Love” comes. Among the people on that album: Duane Allman, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker, Jim Keltner, Bobby Keys, Dave Mason, Gram Parsons, Carl Radle, Leon Russell, Clarence White, and Bobby Whitlock. Missing was Eric Clapton, but he’d already been accounted for … one of their earlier albums was called On Tour with Eric Clapton. (Besides Clapton, that album also featured George Harrison, Jim Gordon, Jim Price, and Rita Coolidge.)

These people were everywhere for a few years, most notably on Layla. Delaney & Bonnie were never big stars on their own … On Tour was their best chart performer, hitting #29. Motel Shot made #65, and “Never Ending Song of Love” was their top-charting single, at #13.

The stories are told about Delaney & Bonnie’s rough relationship (they divorced in 1973 after six years of marriage), which I suppose adds a layer of irony to the fact that “Never Ending Song of Love” was their biggest hit.

Here’s Bonnie and friends, singing in the backyard:

Bonnie was the first-ever white Ikette, and in later years, she spent some time on the sitcom Roseanne:


am i dying?

On io9, my old friend Annalee Newitz has a piece, “Magazines have finally killed blogs – but in a way you never expected”. She describes how RSS grew out of Usenet (in the process, probably reminding us that most people don’t even know what those are, which matters to what follows).

Usenet was a text-based publishing system that allowed people to create newsgroups, kind of like group blogs or Tumblrs, where people could swap stories, news, information, pictures, and more. Like blogs, the topics of these newsgroups ranged from kinky sex and recipes, to microchip architecture and carpentry. And the way most people read newsgroups was to subscribe to the ones they liked so that they could ignore the thousands of newsgroups that were competing for their attention.

There were very strong online communities in the Usenet world … the ones I spent the most time in were rec.sport.baseball.sf-giants, and rec.music.artists.springsteen. Baseball Prospectus started when a few people from rec.sport.baseball decided there was a market for their brand of intelligent, feisty analysis (and when I was asked to join them, they knew me only from my posts in that newsgroup). Over time, people moved on, to email lists, to Facebook, to web sites that included a vital community of commenters. This wasn’t all that long ago, but for most people, my guess is it’s like Usenet never existed.

Annalee argues that the Usenet feel moved to RSS. “It was a way to recreate that newsgroup reader feeling for the web. People would publish to their blogs, and you'd use your RSS reader to bring all their posts into one place and read everything at your leisure, in reverse-chronological order. … That why RSS readers were so remarkable -- they let you take information from everywhere and organize it however you like.” Kind of like how it was on Usenet.

But, she points out, “Information in the world of RSS is not organized into silos that resemble magazines or social networks. And RSS no longer feels like the native land of the new web generation.”

Blogs made great use of RSS. You would pick up subscribers who would read your posts, along with the posts of anyone else the user was interested in. They didn’t have to search you out, or check your blog every day to see if something new had been posted. It just turned up in their feed reader. You’d get this odd blend of material … at any given time, my reader might offer up posts on the Giants, political science (sometimes both … hi, Jonathan), Android, television, and anything my friends had come up with.

Annalee notes that this is not how magazines tend to operate. “[M]agazines like Wired and the New Yorker have been able to transition more smoothly to the digital world than newspapers did a decade ago. They are porting their magazines directly into apps that silo content just the way paper magazines do. And many new online publications like Matter and The Atavist are following this model, creating apps that hold their content rather than syndicating them via RSS.” Maybe in the past, you’d see my blog and Wired in your feed reader, but now, you read Wired on your Nexus or Kindle or iPad, isolated from other material. Eventually, you’ll forget my blog exists.

All of this discussion is prompted by the news that Google is shutting down their RSS reader. As they say, “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.” Since Google Reader was the most popular reader, this announcement has serious implications for RSS itself. And if Annalee is right, this will benefit magazines like Wired at the expense of blogs like Steven Rubio’s Online Life.

To be honest, I can’t be sure how this affects me. My blog currently has 20 subscribers in Reader … I haven’t checked it in a long time, it’s possible I’ve already lost a few subscribers as people flock to new RSS tools. On the one hand, losing 20 readers doesn’t seem like such a big thing, especially since I assume a lot of those twenty people come to my blog from other places, as well. On the other hand, if my blog lost 20 readers, I might not have any readership left … it’s not like I have a huge audience to begin with.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been more diligent about cross-posting my blog posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I get some feedback from Facebook friends, and in fact I’m sure I have a few more readers than I used to, simply because until I started cross-posting, most of my Facebook friends had no idea I had a blog. Google+ works even better. For Facebook and Twitter, I just post a link to the blog, but for G+, I cut-and-paste the actual post, making another place where people can interact with what I’ve written. So I’m already adapting to the new, post-RSS world. I doubt anything can kill this blog at this point, eleven years into the project, until something kills me.


mexico-usa

Tonight, the USA and Mexico will write the latest chapter in their long soccer rivalry, as they play a World Cup qualifier in Mexico City. This promo video, featuring Alexi Lalas and Jared Borgetti, is a bit playful, but it gives you the idea:

http://espnfc.com/video/espnfc/video?id=1388556

Probably the best-known men’s soccer player in the U.S. for the casual fan is Landon Donovan, primarily because of this:

Donovan is, as Cantor says in the above video, the greatest soccer player in U.S. history. He is now 31 years old, and he is no longer the best player available for the national team (most think it’s Clint Dempsey, or Tim Howard if you like goalkeepers). But he remains a vital part of the national team. And he has an interesting relationship with Mexico and their fans. For one thing, he has scored five goals against them in his career. For another, he speaks Spanish well enough to be interviewed by the Mexican media, and to do commercials like this:

All of this is just great, except … Landon isn’t in Mexico for tonight’s match. After his club won their second consecutive MLS Cup, Donovan went on a hiatus from which he has yet to return. He needed a break from the sport. I don’t know Landon Donovan, although I’ve cheered for him (he played for two San Jose Earthquakes championship squads, and of course, there’s the national team) and booed him (he plays for Los Angeles now). But I know what it means to need a break. Yes, Donovan is letting his teams (club and nation) “down”, although it’s hard to say how much good he’d be if he spent his time on the field wishing he was somewhere else. But no one should be miserable, even when doing something you’ve loved in the past. Some think Landon should just suck it up, but they’re wrong. Landon Donovan has been sucking it up for most of his life, and he deserves a break, even if it comes at an inopportune time for his teammates.

Do I think the U.S. can win, or at least pick up a draw, in Mexico tonight? Well, it’s possible, but I don’t expect it.


what i watched last week

Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974).  I am a big fan of Roman Polanski’s movies. Chinatown is my favorite of them all. I am a big fan of Jack Nicholson. Chinatown is my favorite of his movies. Faye Dunaway … well, she’s in Bonnie and Clyde, that’s not fair competition, but Chinatown is my second-favorite Faye Dunaway movie. Heck, I even met Catherine Mulholland once (Robin remembers her as being a very nice woman). Although stories abound about how Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne were at each other’s throats during the making of the film, I think they balance each other nicely. Towne’s screenplay has become legendary as one of the greatest ever written (he won the film’s only Oscar), so of course, Polanski changed the ending. Towne later admitted Polanski was right. John Huston is as unctuous a villain as you’ll ever see. And always, there’s Polanski, looking over Gittes’ shoulder alongside the camera (except when he turns up in front of the camera long enough to slice open Gittes’ nose). The first film he made after the Sharon Tate tragedy was the bloodiest Macbeth of its time. After a dud that I saw so long ago I can’t even remember what it was about, he gave us Chinatown and the exceedingly weird The Tenant. One can go too far in associating the personal lives of artists with their work, but the fatalistic ending of Chinatown will always be entwined with our thoughts about Polanski’s state of mind in the early 70s. When we did our Facebook Fave Fifty Films lists, Chinatown was just outside my Fifty (#56 to be exact). Jeff had it at #30, while Phil chose Rosemary’s Baby, but had it at #2. #50 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time, but then, it’s on many best-of lists. 10/10.

The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964). Roger Corman takes on Ingmar Bergman via Edgar Allen Poe. Thanks to color photography, Death’s minions are red this time around, and they play with tarot cards rather than chess. Perhaps the classiest movie Corman ever directed, using sets left over from Becket, with widescreen cinematography from Nicolas Roeg. Vincent Price is a bit less hammy than usual, Jane Asher looks pretty as Innocence Personified, and if the philosophical discussions don’t quite match those of Death and Antonius in The Seventh Seal, it has better horror scenes than Bergman’s classic. 7/10.

On the Road (Walter Salles, 2012). 7/10.


the 2013 rubio begonias

I’m in one league this year, and here is my team (10 owners, AL/NL, 25-man rosters):

  •   C: Joe Mauer, Jonathan Lucroy
  • 1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Belt
  • 2B: Jose Altuve
  • 3B: Todd Frazier, Trevor Plouffe
  • SS: Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy, Everth Cabrera
  • OF: Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Shin-Soo Choo, Angel Pagan
  • SP: Kris Medlen, Jake Peavy, Jeremy Hellickson, Brett Myers
  • RP: Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Addison Reed, Steve Cishek, Casey Janssen, Jonathan Broxton, Santiago Casilla

on the road (walter salles, 2012)

I don’t often find myself running out to see a movie the day it comes out, at least nowadays. But On the Road opened in the Bay Area finally, and even though I knew from reviews that it wasn’t going to knock my socks off, I was there at 1:30 in the afternoon for the first show.

It was an interesting crowd (although “crowd” is stretching it … I’d say there were 20 people tops). There was one youngish woman alone, and two other young women who came together. Everyone else I could see was either an older man on his own (like me), or a couple of older men together. As I noted on Facebook, I think the Kerouac fans outnumbered the Kristen Stewart fans about 10:1. I assumed that most/all of the men were there because they had loved the book, but it’s not like I took a poll, so maybe I was wrong. I mention this because I can’t figure out who the audience is for On the Road, other than people like me who were going to see it, even if it desecrated the book. And really, how many Kerouac fans are still out there?

To get the important thing out of the way, the movie doesn’t suck. I feared that it would, and my relief may lead to my overrating the film. There are things it gets very right, the road itself being at the top of the list. It is generally faithful to its source, although it goes by too fast, by which I don’t mean it feels like a Benzedrine high, but that too much is stuffed too quickly into 124 minutes. It might have played better as a mini-series. Give Salles six hours and he could have had more luck. You spend a lot of time recognizing famous scenes, but this is problematic, since such thinking only reminds you what was left out, and it would have no resonance for people who didn’t know anything about the cultural context of the novel, Kerouac, and the Beats. The movie isn’t a documentary or a history lesson, so any Kristen Stewart fans who wandered in would have to take the film at face value … and it’s not good enough for that.

Which leaves the people who do know the cultural context, and since we can fill in the gaps, we get more out of the movie … it doesn’t suck for us.

Now, if you love Kerouac’s writing, you’ll be at least a bit disappointed. Certain scenes have a real charge to them, but the style of the movie is more contemplative than much of Kerouac’s prose in the novel … it’s more like some of his later work, which is nice, but not really On the Road. The film also fails to reproduce Kerouac’s romanticizing of the “fellaheen”, which is actually an improvement on the original, but which still misses something essential in Kerouac’s work, for better or worse.

The movie has many of the same good and bad points as the novel. There is an immediacy to the characters’ actions, as well as an aimlessness that can’t be covered up with philosophical statements. The novel has no real plot, as befits its picaresque nature. We get a feel for what Sal sees in Dean, but little of Kerouac’s love of his fellow hobos and the joy of eating ice cream.

What happens to the women in the movie is interesting, as well, and once more, it is at least partly an improvement on the book. The primary women characters are still treated poorly when they aren’t being ignored, but Kirsten Dunst as Camille has a strong feistiness in her few scenes … we can see why she throws Dean out of the house, and while Kerouac always seems to disapprove when women get in the way of men having fun, Dunst doesn’t play it that way, nor does the movie. Even better is Kristen Stewart as Marylou. In many ways, she is treated worse than any of Dean’s friends or lovers (or both). But Stewart’s interpretation of the character makes her real, and makes her a survivor. (Stewart has said of Marylou, “there's just a generosity of absolutely everything. Because she wants everything in return she is willing to give you absolutely anything.”) Stewart’s Marylou is the only person on the screen who can match the charisma of Garrett Hedlund’s Dean. She’s the best thing in the movie.

As for Hedlund, he’s fine, a bit less frantic than you might expect, but it’s important to remember, Kerouac was writing about these characters before they became icons. And, of course, when I say “characters”, I mean “real people”, since few writers are as transparently autobiographical as Jack Kerouac. (The IMDB cast listing goes so far as to list the characters’ names alongside the “real” ones, so they have Hedlund playing “Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady” and Kristen Stewart playing “Marylou / LuAnne Henderson.”) The blend of fiction and non-fiction in Kerouac’s work invites this kind of thing, of course, but it points out the difficulty in making a movie of On the Road in 2012: at this point, Sal Paradise is Jack Kerouac, etc.

Ultimately, I was a sucker for this movie. Not as much as I’m a sucker for the novel, but it brought up enough positive feelings that I’m glad I went and saw it on the first day. I can’t recommend the film to people who don’t know the book, and I can’t recommend it to lovers of the book who have a very specific idea of what a movie of On the Road should be. But it was good enough for me. 7/10.


music friday: lou reed at the old waldorf, march 22, 1978

Thirty-five years ago today, we saw Lou Reed live. I think it was my third time, although I’m not sure. When I say “we” saw him, I can’t be certain who I’m talking about. Robin would be the likely choice … I know we saw Lou at the Old Waldorf at least once, probably in 1980 … but since Sara was only two months old on March 22, 1978. it’s doubtful that Robin was there.

It was the Street Hassle tour … yeah, it must have been my third time, since I saw him in ‘74 (Sally Can’t Dance tour) and ‘76 (Rock and Roll Heart tour). Street Hassle was a better album than the other two, and he had a solid band with him. Two months later he did the shows that were used for Live: Take No Prisoners. The band cooks on that album, although I can’t recommend it … it’s Lou’s comedy album, there are several very long tracks that consist largely of Reed talking while the band vamps behind him (“Walk on the Wild Side” takes 17 minutes).

He was more focused when we saw him, probably because we were on the opposite coast. (Take No Prisoners was recorded at the Bottom Line in New York, where stuff like “Can you imagine working for a fucking year, and you get a B+ from some asshole in The Village Voice?” perhaps made more sense. Or maybe not. Oh, and Xgau gave Take No Prisoners a C+.) Reed made good use of two female backup singers and a sax player. (And at one of the shows where we sat up front, Robin said at one point, “his hands look like my grandfathers!”)

Here are a couple of audio-only tracks from that concert:

“Satellite of Love”: http://youtu.be/kngH3xG5OeA

“Rock ‘n’ Roll”: http://youtu.be/cj9MuihvGLw

And finally, here’s a video I’ve always liked of “Street Hassle”, a song I’ve always loved:

The album doesn’t hold up all that well, but the title song still rules.

You know, some people got no choice
And they can never find a voice
To talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
Why they follow it, you know, it's called bad luck.


did i ever

There’s a web site called “Did I Ever Tell You About the Time…” that offers people the chance to tell dull stories of their brushes with fame. The FAQ for the site explains: “Your story must be an anecdote about meeting a Pop Star. It must be dull. That’s it.” They also prefer that the story is short.

Maybe an example would help. Here’s what I got when I clicked the “Random” link:

I had at meeting at a music management company once. As I was going down the stairs, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was ascending them. He nodded at me as we passed. I was too slow on the uptake to nod in return and had passed him before I could do anything.

I saw him a few weeks later having a coffee on Portobello Road. I didn’t nod at him that time either.

You get the idea.

Of course this made me think about my own exciting tales. The biggest problem is that most of my so-called brushes with fame are with people who are not pop stars. If I adhered to that standard, I don’t suppose I’d have any tales to tell. So I’ll stretch it a bit, include a couple of actors, and also musicians who, if not pop stars, are at least famous to me. I’ve told many of these stories before.

Is Jack Casady a pop star? I suppose he was a bit in the late-60s, but then, I feel obliged to explain who he was, which means he’s certainly no longer a pop star, and likely never was. He was the bass player for Jefferson Airplane, and later, Hot Tuna. He was my favorite bassist when I was a player myself, and it wasn’t a bad choice … he’s great. I had two encounters with him, both of which follow my standard pattern in such situations. First, I notice the person. Second, I freak out because I’m in the presence of fame. Third, I act like nothing’s happening, because in the Bay Area, we’re supposed to be cool about this stuff. I saw him once at a Renaissance Faire in 1973 or so, just wandering around. And in the 80s, I took a leak next to him in one of those urinal troughs at the Fillmore at a Hüsker Dü concert.

Let’s see … fast-forward to the early 80s. We went to LA for the wedding of a friend. Another friend introduced us to her friend, Ralph Mauro, an actor who had just finished shooting They Call Me Bruce?, a comedy starring Tonight Show favorite Johnny Yune and Margaux Hemingway. This probably doesn’t fit the site’s standards … the anecdote is dull, but since we talked for quite a while, I feel like it’s a bit too substantial. Perhaps a better example comes from the same trip, when I met Brian Seff. I knew of him as “Rick” of Rick and Ruby, a comedy/musical act in the Bay Area that appeared in The Pee-wee Herman Show and on Mork and Mindy. In this case, I fear I gushed a bit, and while I recall Seff being polite, I don’t think he was enjoying himself as I badgered him. (I now know that he had just moved to LA, with “The Rick and Ruby Show” having broken up.)

Gee, I think I’m already done. My life has been so boring, I don’t even have any lame stories for that web site. I guess I’ll fall back on Gregory Peck. Here’s how I told part of that story in the first year of this blog:

I'm reminded of the time when I got to meet and hang out for a bit with Gregory Peck for a few days some years ago. At one point, thinking of the awful Boys From Brazil, I asked Mr. Peck if he ever got into a movie, saw it was going to stink, and decided that at least he could have some fun with his role. No, he assured me, that would be unfair to the audience. His job was to do his best, no matter what the circumstances; his audience expected no less. Gregory Peck was an exceedingly charming man, and I consider myself very lucky to have met him for even those few hours. But his answer explained the problem: he was so worried about his audience that he never allowed for the possibility that in a piece of shit like The Boys From Brazil, we were all in on the joke, and so he ended up looking foolish for trying to do his best. Meanwhile, in the same film, Lawrence Olivier tarted up his role as if it was more fun than having a three-way with Vivian Leigh and Danny Kaye. The result? Olivier is the only thing worth seeing in the entire film.

I have a couple of other Gregory Peck stories, but this is the one that actually placed me in fame’s orbit, rather than merely watching from afar. This is also from my blog:

Well, I was just searching myself via Amazon's "search all the books in our store" thingie ... yes, I'm vain like that ... and I find the following, on page 377-8 of the book Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life by Lynn Haney:

Around this time journalist Steven Rubio confronted Greg with an intriguing question. 'At one point, thinking of the awful Boys From Brazil, I asked Mr Peck if he ever got into a movie, saw it was going to stink and decided that at least he could have some fun with his role. No, he assured me, that would be unfair to the audience. His job was to do his best, no matter what the circumstances; his audience expected no less... But his answer explained the problem: he was so worried about his audience that he never allowed for the possibility that in a piece of shit like The Boys From Brazil, we were all in on the joke, and soon he ended up looking foolish for trying to do his best. Meanwhile, in the same film, Lawrence Olivier tarted up his role as if it was more fun than having a three-way with Vivian Leigh and Danny Kaye. The result? Olivier is the only thing worth seeing in the entire film.'

The quotes are, of course, from my old blog post. Haney doesn't get everything right, which makes you wonder ... how hard is it to cut-and-paste, anyway? She changes a couple of words and messes with some of the punctuation, and while it's a matter of contention these days whether or not bloggers are journalists, I don't think of myself as one. What's even weirder is the part that introduces the anecdote, "Around this time."  The context is the critical reaction to Boys From Brazil, which came out in 1978. (On the same page, Haney includes an extended quote from Pauline Kael's review of the film ... yes, I'm on the same page as Pauline Kael! That can be taken two ways, of course ... we're both on page 377 of Haney's book, and we're both on the same page regarding Peck's performance.) But I didn't meet Peck and ask him that question until sometime around 1990 ... I don't remember the exact year, but it was while I was in grad school. I most certainly wasn't a journalist then, just a guy sitting in the audience while Peck took questions about acting.

Maybe the next time I’m desperate for something to post, I’ll review the story about me, Bob Dylan, Joel Selvin, and the wife of Ralph J. Gleason.

And, oh yeah, I once shook hands with Muddy Waters. (That one never gets old.)