world cup announcers

I usually get around to discussing the announcers as the World Cup gets closer to the end. This year is the first where I have only watched in Spanish on Telemundo, so I don't have anything to say about the English-language announcers, with one exception to come later. As I always say when I'm giving opinions on Spanish-language announcers, my take should be filtered through my less-than-perfect command of the language. Having said that, I get better with every year, and I feel more confident about my comprehension nowadays.

I have a World Cup blog I have used in previous tournaments. It remains online as an archive, but I haven't used it in 2019. I have very few readers of this blog, but the size of my audience is Twitter compared to the 1 or 2 people who stopped by the Cup blog. So I've just moved my occasional comments to this regular blog.

Also, while I'm not proud of it, the truth is I don't give as much of my attention to the Women's Cup than I do to the men's. Oh, I spend more time than most, I suppose ... I'd be surprised if very many readers have watched a single match that didn't include the USA, or even if anyone has watched the Americans at all. But I don't let the Women's World Cup take over my life, the way I do every four years for the men. One result is that I haven't seen every match ... maybe half at most.

OK, with all that throat clearing out of the way, some thoughts about some (not all) of the Telemundo crew.

As usual, it begins with Andres Cantor, and his analysis partner Manuel Sol. Cantor is the best-known soccer announcer in the country, and he deserves his reputation. If there's a problem, it's that there are many excellent play-by-play Spanish-language guys who are ignored by the mainstream media, which tends to act as if Cantor is the only one we have. Sol had a long career in Mexican league soccer, and has been a commentator for several years now. He has a good rapport with Cantor, and is OK with analysis. (In fact, no one I've heard has been less than OK ... there are no stinkers.) One problem, though, is that Telemundo also has the U.S. rights to Copa América, a men's tournament featuring South American teams. Telemundo's announcers are doing double-duty, and while Telemundo's commitment to the Women's Cup is solid, Copa América is probably more important to them. So Cantor isn't doing as many Women's games as you'd like, since he is also doing the Copa.

Sammy Sadovnik is the #2 play-by-play guy, which is more like #1A with Cantor's absences. Sadovnik has long been a favorite of mine, so I'm glad to see him here. His voice is unique, which means I recognize him immediately, which I can't say for the other play-by-play guys (and thus, they'll go without mention here except to reiterate that all are at least OK).

Besides Sol, the most interesting color commentator is Viviana Vila. Vila worked the men's tournament last year, which was a landmark in itself (Aly Wagner was her counterpart on the English-language side). Now Vila returns, and she is excellent in her analysis. And she is different from almost all color commentators, including Wagner and the various men who do the job, in that Vila is not an ex-player. She's a professional journalist, a fan of the sport, unequaled in her knowledge ... all important qualities, but it is exceedingly rare for analysts on TV in any sport who weren't first a player in the game.

Deyna Castellanos is the complete opposite of Vila. Castellanos is only 20 years old (I still can't believe this, thinking it's a typo or something). She plays for Florida State, which is one of the top women's programs in the country, but is obviously not professional. Castellanos has played for the Venezuelan national team ... she is not a complete unknown ... and she's done a decent job with her commentary during the Cup. (Interestingly, two years ago Castellanos was a finalist for the FIFA Best Women's Player. This was taken as an insult by some veterans, notably WWC 2019 star Megan Rapinoe, who felt it showed FIFA's lack of interest in the women's game to nominate a little-known non-professional over more veteran players.)

The man who I find most fascinating in the Telemundo coverage is Marco Antonio Rodríguez, an ex-referee who has the job of commenting on and explaining referee decisions during the matches. Rodríguez spent close to 20 years refereeing in the Mexican League, and was chosen for three World Cups, where he took part in some infamous matches. It's not that Rodríguez was a poor referee, but he was someone you noticed, and not everyone wants a sports official to be the center of attention during a game. He became known as "Chiquidrácula" due to his resemblance to a character on Mexican TV, a fact I don't think I knew ... I just thought he looked like a Bela Lugosi Dracula clone. Truth is, he was a fine referee, but fans are always looking for reasons to hate the men in black, so Chiquidrácula wasn't very popular. He prefers the nickname "Chiquimarco", as he is a devout Christian, and this seems to be taking with the general populace. Anyway, his analysis of referee decisions has been very good during this World Cup. More remarkable, from my viewpoint, is that he is a fine team member with his fellow announcers, who all enjoy banter with Marco Antonio. I'm sure he's always been a nice guy, but I had no idea, and it's still a bit startling to hear him and his colleagues chatting happily about the match.

Finally, switching for a moment to the English-language announcers, I want to single out Danielle Slaton. Of course, I haven't heard her this time around, but she does commentary for San Jose Earthquakes games, so I'm used to her work, and she is top-notch. Slaton, a fine defender in her playing days, gives solid analysis and works well with the announcing team. I'm sure she's done the same for the World Cup. I couldn't let this post go without mentioning her.


music friday: rent

My wife is retiring. She might already be retired ... it's not clear to me. Part of me thinks her last day is Sunday, but of course she doesn't work on Sundays. So then I think her last day is today, Friday. But yesterday she went into the office and returned all of the equipment she had used over the years in order to work mostly from home. When she got back, she said she was retired, because she can no longer work from home, and she's not going in tomorrow, so it's a de facto retirement. As if to emphasize this, she went into the bedroom and unplugged her alarm clock. Said she would never use it again.

She spent 15 years working for Kaiser. They had a party for her. Lots of people told her how highly they regarded her. One of her best qualities is that while she's not exactly modest, she doesn't think she is anything special. If you point out to her that she is a good person, she replies that she's just like everyone else. If you tell her that not everyone does the right thing as often as she does, she deflects the praise. Still, I was glad to know that her long-time workmates forced her to listen to their praise. When she came home, she tried on some of the stuff they'd given her:

Robin retires

I walked off my factory job in August of 1984, 35 years ago. Robin immediately went out and got a job, then went back to school and got an MBA while she kept working. She has supported the family for the last 35 years, and you could say that she'll be supporting it for the next 35 years, too, since she made sure to put money aside for retirement. Understand, she doesn't like work. She's not someone like my father, who worked all his life and died within a year of retiring. She doesn't like work, never has, but for 35 years she supported our family so that I could goof off. I still can't believe it.

So here comes our golden years.


best teen shows

Each week, IndieWire "asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday". (The second question is always "What is the best show currently on TV?") This week, the question was "What is your favorite teen show of all time? Why?"

Among the shows mentioned that I have spent some time with are Friday Night Lights, The Wire, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Daniel Fienberg had The Wire on his list, and he's taken a bit of flack for that on Twitter, but he makes the case that The Wire was multi-genre, that kids were always part of the story, and that Season Four most definitely featured teens.

The last three would be on my own list of finalists. Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life were early candidates for the Karen Sisco Award (which I hadn't invented yet), shows cancelled after one season despite being great. Buffy, of course, made up for it, getting seven seasons, although everyone graduated from high school at the end of Season Three. Buffy would be my obvious choice, since I taught a course on it at Cal that I think was the best course I ever created. A sample essay topic:

In the introduction to Fighting the Forces, Wilcox and Lavery claim that "quality TV aspires towards 'realism.'" arguing that Buffy the Vampire Slayer deals in "emotional realism." Discuss the presence or absence of "realism" in Buffy, using the episodes we have watched in class ("Angel," "I Robot, You Jane," and "Prophecy Girl") and/or any other episodes you may have viewed from Season One. For this essay, you might want to consider these questions: what does "realism" mean? How do the fantasy elements of Buffy influence the show's realism or lack of same? What is "emotional realism"?

There were a couple of other shows I might have included (I'm sure I'm forgetting something). Two episodes is too soon to tell, but Euphoria is at least getting talked about. Sweet/Vicious was another "Karen Sisco" show that I loved. I liked 13 Reasons Why, but I thought one season was enough and so I haven't kept up. The 100 is my current fave, but it suffers a bit from Buffy syndrome, in that it has lasted long enough (currently in Season Six, with a seventh already announced) that the teens are grownups now. Unlike Buffy, they don't graduate from high school. But there is a jump of six years at the end of Season Four, and there is another jump at the end of Season Five (125 years this time, although the characters were in "cryosleep" during that time and so didn't age physically).

My list is affected by my age ... I was already in my mid-40s when Buffy began. None of these, therefore, are teen shows I experienced when I was a teen. (Don't know what my favorite teen show of the 60s was ... Shindig?)

What the heck, I'll rank my choices. A couple of comments. Claire Danes as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life was REAL ... she was also basically the same age as her character, which isn't always the case with teen shows. Freaks and Geeks may be the all-time Before They Were Famous show. And there are people to this day who refuse to watch The 100 after Season 3 Episode 7. At least, that's what they said at the time.

5. Sweet/Vicious

4. My So-Called Life

3. The 100

2. Freaks and Geeks

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer


revisiting mccabe & mrs. miller (robert altman, 1971)

I last wrote about McCabe & Mrs. Miller in 2013:

The shaggy-dog feel of the movie, which is v.Altmanesque, also takes a while for the viewer to get accustomed to. You have to give yourself over to the rhythms. Once you do, a lovely movie emerges, one that messes with genre just as surely as does The Long Goodbye. And for all its loveliness, McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a very sad movie. But not sad in the cheap way of a standard weeper. Instead, it’s sad because we see how tentative is McCabe’s outward bravado, because we know that despite her competence, Mrs. Miller ends up in the opium den. We want the titular characters to have a happier ending, but that isn’t going to happen. And everything sneaks up on you, because when Altman is at his best, his movies always sneak up on you.

That post including a good comments section with Phil, who loves the film. That discussion helped me understand that I had buried the wrong lede. Because I started with a rant about Leonard Cohen. Now it is true that Cohen's music is important to McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and that many people who love the film think Altman's use of Cohen is one of the best things about the movie. I was ready to change my mind with this re-watch. But it didn't work. I liked the movie even more than I did before, but I still see Cohen as a flaw, not a feature. Back in 2013, I admitted that this was "something silly in me", and I still accept that. For me, the film would have played better without any Cohen songs. Even in the great and famous final scene, I found myself wishing there would be no Cohen song. But I can't be trusted here, so let me give Phil the last word: "I can't imagine McCabe & Mrs. Miller without Cohen. (And if I try, I get a movie that's hard to follow, harder to hear, and wouldn't be half as evocative.)"

Vilmos Zsigmond was the director of photography. Zsigmond had one of the great movie lives. Born in Hungary, he escaped after the Hungarian Revolution with his friend, László Kovács. Zsigmond went on to have a long and prestigious career, winning an Oscar for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and being a part of some of the best American movies of the 70s and beyond. McCabe & Mrs. Miller was his breakthrough ... to say his resume before then was unconventional is an understatement. Among the films he worked on in the 60s: The Sadist, The Nasty Rabbit, Rat Fink, Psycho A-Go-Go, and other classics.

Finally, give it up for Manfred Schulz, who does a creepy-good job as a young gunslinger.  As far as I can tell, this was his only film. Here is his big scene:

Yes, that's Keith Carradine, in his film debut. This is as much as I can find about Schulz. Someone named Linda Berg commented on the above video, saying "I remember when this film was filmed here in Vancouver. The role of the gunslinger played by Manfred Shultz, from Richmond BC. My family knew his family, his dad was our plumber. There were high hopes held for Manfred but he didn't go much further in acting."

# 225 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.


marta: cry at the beginning to smile at the end

Marta is the greatest women's soccer player of all time. If you are only a casual fan, you might think it makes sense that a Brazilian was the best women's soccer player ... we know that Brazil loves their soccer. But, as in most countries, women's soccer is treated as a second-class citizen in world football. It is worse in Brazil than in most countries. This article summarizes the situation: "Brazilian women’s soccer shouldn’t also have to fight misogyny".

Marta is the greatest, but the Brazilian team has yet to reach the top, finishing second in the 2007 World Cup and in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. The roadblocks are many.

Today, Brazil lost to host France, 2-1, in extra time. Afterwards, Marta delivered this message to the next generation of Brazilian women (in Portuguese with Spanish subtitles, but you'll get chills even if you don't know those languages):

A crappy translation of part of the above:

"People have to cry at the beginning, to smile at the end. You need to want more, to train more. To be ready to play ninety minutes, and thirty minutes more than the game lasts. This is what I tell the girls, you're not going to have Formiga forever, you're not going to have Marta forever, you're not going to have Cristiane. And women's soccer depends on you. To survive, think about it and value it more. Cry at the beginning to smile at the end."


smells like jobs

I wrote this in 1994 for the journal Bad Subjects. It was anthologized in a book in 1997. I am reprinting it here, because the Bad Subjects website has been down for what feels like years. This is slightly edited ... I never liked the ending, so I've removed the final sentence, which isn't a very good fix, since now it just seems truncated.

Smells Like Jobs

Geography made me what I am today.

I was fourteen years old during the Summer of Love, and I lived about thirty-five miles from San Francisco. I listened to the emerging hippie counterculture on something called the FM dial, where 'underground radio' was being born before my ears. My geographical proximity to San Francisco allowed me to experience this new phenomenon without leaving my house. Which was just as well, since when I left my house and entered the world of my hometown, Antioch, I couldn't have been further from the Summer of Love, Antioch's geographical proximity to San Francisco notwithstanding.

Antioch was at that time a mostly blue-collar town of around 15,000. My father's parents had moved to Antioch from Spain in the late 1910s; my father was born and raised in Antioch; when my mother was pregnant with me, the family moved into a new tract home in Antioch, where I was born and raised along with two brothers and two sisters. There were many factories in Antioch and the surrounding towns: paper mills, power plants, canneries, chemical factories, steel mills, makers of glass containers and tin cans. The air often smelled awful, thanks usually to the paper mill (I never understood why paper smelled bad) and the cannery (everyone understood about the cannery, which stunk whenever they canned tomatoes). The general opinion of the stench was simple: it smelled like jobs, and no one really objected, despite the obligatory complaining when the town reeked of rotten ketchup.

My father was a white-collar worker. After trying his hand at various enterprises he had finally found some success as a real-estate agent, working hard in his own business, becoming probably the second-largest realtor in town. We were only thirty-five miles from San Francisco; my mother, who grew up in Berkeley, I suspect had occasional visions of a life beyond Antioch; both of my parents were excellent bridge players. And so they spent many a weekend in San Francisco, staying in nice hotels, playing and sometimes winning bridge tournaments. Over the years I've had many opportunities to talk with my parents' peers about those years, and a congenial envy always enters into the reminiscing. To someone living in Antioch, my parents' lives had a touch of glamour. Nothing exciting ever happened in Antioch; our most famous residents were football Hall-of-Famer Gino Marchetti and the Mitchell Brothers, purveyors of porn. At least my parents got to visit San Francisco.

I was raised a good suburban white boy, interesting in itself since Antioch was far from suburban in those days (it has since fallen victim to suburban sprawl, simultaneously losing many of its factories and gaining tens of thousands of white-collar suburban residents). It was all geographic, of course, with various elements of the landscape conspiring to isolate Antioch from the big city. San Francisco Bay separated The City itself from the East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley, which had their own urban character, connected to San Francisco and yet unique. The Berkeley Hills separated these urban environments from the suburbs proper. To get to these suburbs, you drove through the Caldecott Tunnel; you could mark the relative affluence of a community on this side by simply noting how far it was from the tunnel. The richest places were the closest, and every resident of East Contra Costa County clearly understood this. People from Moraga and Orinda were richer than people from Lafayette, who were richer than the people in Walnut Creek, who were better-off than the residents of Concord. Concord was very low-rent compared to Moraga; it existed at the margins of suburbia. Then came more hills, geography once again intruding. If you were on the wrong side of those hills, you weren't suburban, no matter how close you were to San Francisco. You were blue-collar. Closer to the hills, in Pittsburg and Antioch, you lived in a mill town. Farther away from the hills, in Oakley and Brentwood and Knightsen, you lived in a rural town. Wherever you lived on the wrong side of the hills, you knew you were not suburban, which didn't stop many families from trying their best to be suburban anyway. If your father was a successful realtor and you had a newfangled FM radio, you could pretend that you had somehow risen above your station, but the smell of jobs always worked as a corrective.

More geography: attached to Pittsburg, between that town and the Naval Weapons Station in Concord, was a little place called West Pittsburg. Whatever bad might have been said about Pittsburg, you always assumed it wasn't as bad as West Pittsburg. West in this case meant Worst, Worst meaning lower-class. West Pittsburg was not immune to the spread of suburbia, though, and one morning its new residents woke up and realized when they told locals that they lived in West Pittsburg, those locals assumed the Worst. And so the town changed its name; next time you're in the area, don't forget to check out Bay Point, where the Worst hides behind the Point.

Still more geography: Pittsburg and Antioch were adjacent to each other, with a hazily-defined no man's land between. Teenagers marked this quasi-neutral zone by Hazel's Drive-In, where kids from Antioch could get a burger and maybe meet up with some of the enemies from Pittsburg. (Hazel's was on a long road called the Pittsburg-Antioch Highway, the dumpiest highway I've ever seen.) Pittsburg had a few more people than Antioch in those days, and since factory work ranked higher on the upward-mobility scale than farm labor, and since Pittsburg was almost entirely factory-oriented while Antioch was in the middle of the factories and the farms, Pittsburg was also a bit more prestigious than Antioch, although in reality those two ranges of hills separating us from San Francisco effectively eliminated any chance in those days of true prestige. (Thirty years later, the needs of suburban sprawl have finally broken down these barriers, of course.) In any event, there was little to distinguish the two small towns from each other in the 1960s, with the exception of one factor which again had a kind of geographical locus, in that it helped establish beyond a shadow of a doubt exactly where was the border between the two: there were no black people in Antioch.

Geography is everything and nothing. Antioch was less than an hour's drive from liberal, diverse cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, yet we were as segregated as Selma, Alabama. More segregated, in fact, or rather, we weren't segregated at all; there was no need for a separate but equal rule in Antioch, because there were no black people to keep separate. Black people lived in Pittsburg, but not a single one lived in Antioch. The radio again: Pittsburg had a radio station, and late at night I could listen to broadcasts emanating from only half a dozen miles away, presenting a culture I could never hope to participate in. Pittsburg was on the chitlin circuit, and I would hear advertisements for James Brown and His Famous Flames or Little Junior Parker. The Hardest Working Man In Show Business would perform a stone's throw from my own house, and I knew I couldn't, wouldn't go, and not just because I was only twelve years old. It was simply a different world.

Antioch had Mexicans; they were 'our' minority. But we had no black people. My parents were very concerned about this, and I owe them an unpayable debt for their efforts to raise a family that wasn't inflamed with prejudice. We had black housekeepers, which wasn't that odd. Most white families in Antioch would hire a black housekeeper if they had the money. (We did, presumably because my father was a successful realtor. Eventually he was arrested for real-estate fraud and we learned where the money had come from all those years. We also lost the housekeepers.) But we also had black babysitters, and that was odd. You didn't let those people care for your children, after all. And our church had a black family as members, and they became good friends with my family, and they came to our house, and this all seems pitifully inadequate now, but at the time, it was important and necessary, and for the most part my parents did not act out of simple guilt. They lived without grandstanding (the positive morals we learned from this were interestingly contrasted to the ethics we pondered when our father went to jail).

We had no blacks, but we had Mexicans. My own place in this world was problematic, however, because while I wasn't Mexican, and while I was being raised 'white,' I was in fact half-Spanish. The meaning of being Spanish mostly eluded me as I grew up. My mother was in many ways a typical middle-class housewife of her era, and my father was most certainly traditional-minded about how a home was managed, and so it was my mother who composed and cooked the meals, and my mother was far from Spanish. She was an adventurous cook, and we ate everything from Chinese to Mexican to Italian, but we never ate Spanish food unless my grandmother sent some over. My father never spoke Spanish in the home, so there was no way to identify our heritage with the language. Outside of my grandmother's thick accent when she spoke English, and the occasional batch of Spanish rice she would cook for us, I lived the life of a whiteboy, albeit a whiteboy with 'yellow' skin (I hadn't learned the meaning of the phrase 'olive-skinned' and so spent years of my childhood comparing my color to that of the white and Mexican kids and concluding I had a life-long case of jaundice).

Except, again, there was a geographical angle. My grandmother lived in the same house her husband had built for her when they came to Antioch in the 1910s, the same house my father and all of his brothers and sisters were born in. This house was in the 'old' section of Antioch, and it was the oddest thing: while there were times when I thought the only Spanish people in the world were the Rubio family and perhaps a few flamenco artists who showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show, when I would visit my grandmother I couldn't help noticing that her next-door neighbor, and the old folks just around the corner, and maybe three-fourths of all the older people in a two-block radius around my grandmother's house, all of these people were Spanish. There was, in this lily-white town which used Chicanos for their local color, a tiny enclave of Spanish expatriates who watched the Spanish-language television station and hung velvet paintings of bullfighters on their walls. These people all looked like my grandmother, they all talked like my grandmother ... although it wasn't nearly as obvious as the invisible geographic marker separating white Antioch from the mixture that was Pittsburg, nonetheless the geographic lines were there. Antioch had a 'Little Spain!'

I never identified with that Little Spain. I wasn't embarrassed by my Spanish heritage, although I can't take much credit for this attitude. I don't think it occurred to me that other families didn't have grandmothers who spoke with accents. But I never really associated myself with the Spanish part of me. Not that I didn't absorb things subconsciously. In an introductory Spanish class I took at Berkeley when I was in my thirties, my teacher told me early in the semester that my family was from Andalusia, an accurate conclusion he came to because it turned out I spoke Spanish with an Andalusian accent, although my father never spoke the language in our home. Geography made me, indeed.

But I didn't identify myself as Spanish when I was growing up. I was from Antioch. This, more than my ethnic background, more than my father's occupation, more than anything else about me, was what identified me to the outside world. Geography made me who I was: someone from Antioch. And I was most definitely embarrassed by this. To be from Antioch was to be from nowhere. Even worse, to be from Antioch, in the context of the San Francisco Bay Area, was to be from the wrong side of the hills. In the Summer of Love, you could go to San Francisco and smell incense in the air; 35 miles away in Antioch, all we could smell was jobs. (And later, after I married, when I went to work in a local factory, I, too, began smelling like jobs.)

A year after I married my sweetheart from Antioch High School, we moved to Berkeley, where we have lived happily for the past twenty years, with the exception of a two-year period around 1980 when a few bad breaks brought us back to Antioch, where we lived in a newish suburban enclave and smelled what was left of the jobs. It was the worst two years of our marriage, and I can't help but think it was once again a matter of geography messing with my self-esteem: for 18 of the last 20 years, I have been proud to say 'I am from Berkeley,' but for two years, I had to admit I was from Antioch, and I couldn't bear the thought, and I ended up one night standing in the middle of the street in our calm suburban enclave, screaming and crying at nothing until my wife came to take me to the hospital.

A few years later, I visited Spain for the first time. I stood on the balcony of the hostel where we spent our first night. It was dark; I couldn't see anything. But I could smell the Mediterranean Sea. And though we were in Catalonia, on the opposite end of the country from Andalusia where the Rubios once lived, I loved that smell, it didn't smell at all of jobs, it smelled of Spain, and I felt like I had come home.

A month or so after we returned from our vacation in Spain, I quit my job at the factory and returned to school. Once in awhile, my wife will get a whiff of some cleanser, and she'll say 'that's what you used to smell like. When you came home from working in the factory, you smelled like hand-cleaner.' I smelled like jobs. I haven't smelled like a job in years.

When I visit Antioch now, I feel like a tourist. I don't recall, as I type, if it still smells like jobs. I used to be from Antioch. Now I am from Berkeley. This feels too easy, somehow, as if I could wipe all traces of Antioch from my existence by merely moving away. We are, ultimately, more than our geography, which isn't to negate all I have said in this essay: geography makes me part of what I am today, all of my geographies, past, present and future.

Copyright © 1994, 2019 by Steven Rubio. All rights reserved. Permission to link to this site is granted.


murder by contract (irving lerner, 1958)

Murder by Contract is a solid, compact (81 minutes, shot in 7-8 days depending on who you ask) B-movie that offers many pleasures. Vince Edwards, known to American boomers as Ben Casey, is well-cast as a smoldering hunk. His killer could have come out of French existentialism ... in fact, the whole picture feels a bit like something from the French New Wave. Perry Botkin's score is catchy in a good way, and the veteran Lucien Ballard, who later worked frequently with Peckinpah (including The Wild Bunch), does wonders with black & white. Martin Scorsese speaks very highly of this one. It's the film debut of Kathie Browne, who my wife recognized for her role in an episode of the original Star Trek series. Also Herschel Bernardi, who is fine but if you are of a certain age and someone tells you that Bernardi did the voice for Charlie the Tuna ("Sorry, Charlie") in StarKist ads, you won't be able to get that out of your mind:

Finally, there's the mysterious Caprice Toriel as one of the killer's targets. This was the only movie she appeared in, and endless Google searches turn up nothing about her except that she was in Murder by Contract.


music friday: on this date in 1967

What actually happened on this date is a matter of dispute.

Bill Graham offered his "Opening the Fillmore Summer Series" with a six-night stand, June 20-25, at the Fillmore Auditorium. Jefferson Airplane were the headliners. They were coming off of their second album, the seminal Surrealistic Pillow. They were also coming off a performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, which took place just a few days earlier, June 16-18, with the Airplane playing the Saturday night show.

Second on the bill was Gabor Szabo, a prolific jazz guitarist who recorded five albums in 1967 alone. Here he is at Monterey in 1967, although in his case, we're talking about the Monterey Jazz Festival:

The opening act, at least the first night of the six-night stand, had also played at the Monterey Pop Festival. When Graham booked him for these shows, the man was mostly unknown. After playing the Fillmore shows and a few others on the West Coast, he signed on as the opening act for The Monkees, who were on their first U.S. tour. While our Fillmore man was American, he had hit first in the U.K. ... Monterey was the first time he got the attention of American fans, so to capitalize on that, it was thought that the Monkees tour would expose his music to a larger audience.

It didn't work out. His music wasn't quite what the Monkees fans were looking for, and he dropped out from the tour after eight shows.

Here he is, introducing himself to America:

There are many stories about what happened at that Fillmore stand. I'll let Airplane biographer Jeff Tamarkin tell the story, from his Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane:

What exactly happened that week at the Fillmore is a matter of conjecture, but from most accounts, the Airplane played the first night, June 20 (and perhaps the second), then canceled out of the rest. The official word was that Grace's voice gave out, forcing the Airplane to pass on the other shows, with Janis Joplin - newly benefiting from the Monterey raves - and Big Brother and the Holding Company replacing them. That's how Mitch Mitchell, drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sam Andrew of Big Brother and Bill Thompson all remember it.

Another popular version of the story goes like this: The Airplane, on that first night, saw what Hendrix was capable of doing to an audience and, although they did finish out the week, they switched the billing so that Hendrix could close the show. Yet another assessment - a minority opinion - has it that the Airplane stayed the whole week, closing the show as planned.

But one thing everyone agreed upon was that Hendrix took the old rulebook and threw it out the window. He married technology and technique in a visionary way, yet for all of the pyrotechnics and drama of his act, his music oozed soulfulness, sensuality and spirituality - there was nothing phony about it.

I don't want to let this go without noting again how diverse Bill Graham's concerts were in those days. A folk-rock band with psychedelic tendencies, a jazz guitarist from Hungary, and Jimi Hendrix.

Finally, a bonus. Big Brother may or may not have taken over for the Airplane during those Fillmore shows, but they (and Janis) definitely made a splash at Monterey. She's great in the movie, but they edit "Ball and Chain" to remove the psychedelic guitar solo. So here they are a couple of months before Monterey, from a little show that was broadcast on the local public TV station. It got some play on the underground FM radio stations ... it's a bit more raw than the version on Cheap Thrills: