Tuesday, October 30, 2012

David Letterman and Sandy

I've been an Letterman fan since his morning show back in 1980. I don't watch him every night anymore because my bedtime has changed over the years. But I still catch it once a week or so.

I'm really glad I saw last night's program. It opened in front of the theater, Dave and Paul in raincoats, talking about Hurricane Sandy and asking each other if they should do the show.

They forged ahead and without a studio audience did 'The Late Show' to an empty theater. It was great. In this age of so much fake 'reality' and phony enthusiasm (like Ellen DeGeneres and her 'dancing'), it was pleasure watching them wing it.

Denzel Washington was the guest and even pitched in doing some great acting as he rushed into the studio exhausted and soaked.

I still love Dave.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Newsflash: Yoko Didn't Break-Up The Beatles

For some reason, this statement by Paul McCartney is getting headlines. He was interviewed with David Frost (he's still alive!?) and said 'Yoko definitely did not break up The Beatles'.

I never believed Yoko was the blame. To me it has always been one of those myths, like the one about Linda Eastman being related to the Eastman/Kodak family (because she took photographs). Someone was telling me that whopper recently and I couldn't convince them otherwise until I emailed them an article about it.

To think that one person, who barely knew who The Beatles were, could dissolve the most successful act in show business, is absurd.

Paul said it had more to do with the death of Brian Epstein. And I agree. I've said it on this blog once or twice.

But the other reason was the old 'familiarity breeds contempt' thing. After so many years together, they just plain got sick of each other. And the whole Apple business just accelerated it.

Had Eppy lived, and been able to control Apple and their egos, they might have lasted a few more years. Or at least been able to get together for the occasional project.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Joey Bishop Show

This sitcom was on for four seasons, 1961-1965. I have no memory it. I remember his late night talk show on ABC in the late 60's, but this one escapes me.

I looked back on the network schedules and noticed that Joey's competition included 'Top Cat', 'Bonanza' and 'Lawrence Welk'. I loved 'Top Cat' and 'Bonanza' and remember that my mom always watched 'Lawrence Welk'. So that kind of explains it.

But it is still odd, because I would guess that between 1963 and 1980, I saw pretty much every show at least once. Even the 13-weekers. And I remember most of them. You'd think I would've at least been aware of this 'Joey Bishop Show', considering it was on for four years!

It could be because the show was so dull that I blanked it out. This may be the case, because I recently had the displeasure of seeing a few episodes on Retro TV (RTV).

The only way to describe it is that it's like 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', but without any laughs and a terrible star. It was made by Danny Thomas' company, which also did 'Dick Van Dyke', so I guess they were going with the same kind of look-and-feel. Joey even has a 'show business' job, like Rob Petrie. Joey is a TV Talk Show host, a premonition of the real Joey's next gig.

Unlike Dick, who was funny and lovable, Joey is just boring. Even worse, he does some occasional 'winks' and speaks to the camera. A bad thing for a guy we don't like in the first place.

But there is one interesting thing about 'The Joey Bishop Show'. When it started on NBC, it was in color. For it's final season, it switched over the CBS, which didn't have any color programming at the time. So 'Joey' went to black-and-white.

It is, apparently, the only show in the history of television to begin it's run in color and end it in black-and-white.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some Cool 'Magical Mystery Tour' Pics

Dig these groovy pics taken by a 16-year old kid during some location filming. The kid is now 61 (opposite of 16).


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

So Long Ago...

John Lennon's birthday always makes wonder what he would be like if he was still with us.

And as much as I wonder how his music would have evolved, I really wonder what would be saying about stuff. His interviews on TV and in print were always enlightening. And funny, too. He had a quick and sharp sense of humor. He was somebody who's opinion on the state of the world interested me and helped to shape my opinions on politics and social issues.

Back in 1975, Lennon went into 'retirement' and didn't talk to the press or make any new music for five years. Then he came back in 1980, made one last album, did a bunch of interviews, and you know the rest.

But during the late 70's, when he was in limbo, his fans and the press were jonesing for their Lennon fix. And fans like me were wondering what the heck was going on?

After making at least one album a year and being such visable public figures, John and Yoko eventually had to make some kind of statement. They published an open letter in all of the major newspapers thanking people for their 'good vibes' and said that everything was fine, but they needed some 'quiet space'.

I wonder, if a middle-aged rock star took a five year break today, would anyone even notice?

The intense interest in 'where is he?' during that period is even more remarkable when you consider that Lennon had fewer 'hits' than any of his fellow Beatles' (yes, even Ringo was selling more records than John during the early 70's).

Like I said, it was his presence we missed as much as the music. What did he think of Ronald Reagan? What did he think about punk rock? We really wanted to know.

Since he's not around anymore, I'd like to think he'd be appearing on 'Real Time With Bill Mahar' and 'The Daily Show', talking about immigration (he was an expert), gay rights and Obama versus Mitt.

And I'd be on the edge of my seat listening to every word.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The High-Tech World

100 years ago, you had to be an 'expert' to drive a car. Just following the proper steps to get it started was complicated. Breakdowns were common which meant you had have some skills as a mechanic. Tires were flimsy and the roads were bad, so you had better know how to slap on a new one.

There was a time when the horse and buggy was more reliable and efficient than a car was. There's a scene in The Magnificent Ambersons where an automobile breaks down. A man on horseback rides by laughing and yells, 'Get a horse!'.

After a few decades, cars became very easy to use. Anyone could do it. And breakdowns became less common a few decades after that. When I was a kid, you often saw cars on the side of the road with the hood up and people standing around wondering what to do. You rarely see that anymore.

And while cars are fairly reliable these days, they have become complicated again. Not as bad as 100 years ago, but just sit in a 1989 Honda and you'll see how easy it is to operate everything.

Sit in a 2012 Honda and you wonder, 'How do I turn on the interior light?'

So what happened? Modern, '21st Century' technology happened. And we are still in it's infancy.

And whether it's a car, TV, laptop, iPhone or clock radio, people have to accept the fact that it takes time, testing and evaluation for all of these products to be easy to use.

So the next time you think, 'Well, maybe it's just me, but I can't figure out how to bake a potato in my new microwave,' remember, it's not your fault.

Like I said, we're still in the infancy of the high-tech world.

And while glitzy ubiquitous TV commercials portray a world where beautiful people are having a blast using gadgets, that's not reality. Yes, there are 'gadget geeks'. But we've always had them. We used to call them 'enthusiasts' or 'hobbyists' and they would run out and buy the latest hi-fi system or camera.

But most people don't really care about their laptop any more than they care about refrigerators or doorknobs. Unless there's a malfunction, they go unnoticed. They expect them to just work.

The fact is, people only care about what their devices do and deliver, not the device itself. We will soon get over the novelty of modern technology. We'll see fewer ads portraying mobile phones and iPads as being 'fun'. Think of a commercial for a dishwasher. The people aren't having 'fun'. But having an efficient, easy-to-use dishwasher pleases them and makes and their lives easier.

Also, devices will reach a point where we can't improve the designs all that much. For example, a guitarist can easily play and recognize the features of a brand new guitar. There may be subtle improvements in string or tuning peg technology, but it's the same design they had 60 years ago.

(Note: Obviously, there will be new inventions we can't foresee, and we'll have our clumsy baby-steps with those, too...but I'm talking about things that we use now that are badly or over-designed.)

The upgrading of devices will eventually slow down, but the stuff devices deliver will continue to evolve. Think of the poor guy who laid out a ton of dough for a color TV, circa 1963. There were few actual color shows for him to watch. Most programs were still in black-and-white. But four years later, everything was in color. He didn't have to do anything to make 'Betwitched' switch from black-and-white to color. The providers did all of the work. And the TV he bought would last forever. Most baby-boomers watched the same living room set from kindergarten to high-school.

Just as people rarely bought new televisions back in the 60's, people will rarely buy new devices. The constant upgrading is starting to feel like extortion. And it's not just the expense. Buying a new laptop or iPhone is a time killer.

And yes, there will be legitimate upgrades, like when the rotary phone changed to the push-button style (but it took 20 years before the majority of consumers switched over to push-button).

Someday somebody will make a zillion dollars selling a mobile phone that's not only easy to use, but lasts for ten years. And we'll look back and laugh and say, 'Remember when you had to replace your phone every time the new and improved version came out!?'

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Bonanza, Keir Dullea and the Cuban Missle Crisis

The 4th Season of 'Bonanza' just came out on DVD. I was surprised to see that one of the commentaries is by Keir Dullea (of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame). It's for his episode 'Elegy for a Hangman', broadcast in January 1963.

I was surprised, because even though Keir Dullea isn't a huge name in Hollywood, he's a big enough name to easily turn down such an obscure, low paying gig.

But I think the reason he did was because the episode was filmed during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and it makes for a pretty interesting commentary. He probably thought it was important from a historical perspective. Whatever the reason, I'm glad he did it.

The October Crisis started a few days before shooting began and ended a few days after they wrapped. With World War Three looming, the cast and crew were obviously concerned. They even considered stopping production, but Michael Landon vetoed it.

Dullea talks about the surreal experience of being dressed in cowboy clothes and playing make-believe while the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Besides the Crisis, he also praises the acting chops of Pernell Roberts and fellow guest star Otto Kruger.

The 'extras' also includes an off-stage photo of Pernell listening intently for breaking news on a transistor radio.

The whole package is great and includes other extras and commentaries. But it's hard to beat this one.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

'Beatles Stories' Tonight in LA

This new documentary is showing tonight at the Egyptian Theater and available on DVD. It has 'hundreds' of interviews with celebrities (everyone from Brian Wilson to Ben Kingsley) who crossed paths with the Beatles at some point. Sounds great.


Monday, October 01, 2012

The Beatles' 'Message'

I've always felt that The Beatles were about a lot more than just the music. They were a social phenomenon. They also had energy and optimism that we Baby-Boomers loved. These two quotes are great examples of their 'message':

"If The Beatles or the 60's had a message, it was 'Learn to swim. And once you've learned - swim!" - John Lennon

"It wasn't so much that we foresaw a big success. We just never thought that anything particularly bad would happen to us. We never felt... never sat down at one particular point at all and, sort of, worried about anything. We've always thought that something would turn up sometime." -Paul McCartney