Monday, February 08, 2016

Girl Most Likely and Best Little Whore House

When I first saw “The Girl Most Likely” in 1957 at Spokane’s State Theater, who knew it would take 58 years before I would own a copy.  The DVD arrived this past week and it was worth the wait for Gower Champion’s choreography and Jane Powell vocals in RKO’s last movie at 790 Gower St.  
When I sat at the same picnic table with Jane and Louis Nye at NBC in 1963 I wisely didn’t butt in to compliment her on “Girl” but the water ballet, “Balboa,” is super.  (Jane must have been rehearsing a Vegas act.)
Now I am starting a campaign to get Universal to release on DVD “The Second Greatest Sex,” a western musical with George Nader, Jeanne Craine and Mamie VanDoren. I saw that at the Riverside in Spokane.  It has a good cast.
Elsewhere … the campy Mexican horror movies, “Brainiac” and “The Vampire’s Coffin” on Netflix are worth a few laughs, particularly the monster with the paper mache mask in “Brainiac.”

BLOOMINGTON —  “Too much cussin’,” opined the matron next to me Sunday at Artistry’s “Best Little Whore House in Texas” staging with a spirited group of “college football players” doing a Texas line dance that looked like clogging or tap dance.  Kudos to Tyrone Russell the lead college boy and director Joe Chvala for this memorable moment in an otherwise forgettable 1978 Tommy Tune Broadway musical.
Remiscent of Ted Cruz as a Texas windbag politician was Hazen Markoe as the mayor and Senator Wingwoah, also inspired by the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn.
The Texas line dance was such a smash that it was reprised during the curtain call by much of the ensemble.  Those who left during the curtain call missed a lot of fun.

Kudos to Jim Pounds as Sheriff Ed Earl, a good ole boy no doubt inspired by Dukes of Hazard.  Anita Ruth on the honky tonk piano provided the right notes to make us believe we were at the notorious Chicken Ranch where Texans played when they weren’t at the local Baptist church.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 Caribbean Cruise and Tampa Bay

 Band Wagon at Ringling Museum, Sarasota
GRAND CAYMAN — Here’s where Mitt banks so it must be good.  But I got splinters from shaking hands with these bankers.  It was 84 and humid when we landed in Georgetown.

In Willemstad, Curacao there are about 115 Jewish households.  Mikve Israel-Emmanuel, now a Reconstrucionist congregation, is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas.  Another synagogue on this island, Shaarei Tsedek, a modern orthodox congregation, shown here.

SARASOTA, FLA. —Childhood memories were brought back for me at the Ringling Circus Museum which features a billboard from the Cole Bros. Circus which the Zarkin Family attended in Spokane in the 1940s under the big top.
Prominent at the museum is the poster for the Demille epic “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952) that glorifies the golden age of circuses, but is a schmaltzy mess with Charlton Heston chewing up the scenery with Betty Hutton.  Jimmy Stewart as a criminal clown saves the life of Heston’s character and no doubt they chatted about far right politics between takes.

KEY WEST — One of our mates from the ship, William, might be here in the Green Parrot Bar, and was a running joke because he never returned to the ship.  The cruises dump about 20,000 gawkers on this tropical island party town which clogs up the historic area.  

(We rubber necked our way through the galley where they feature a walk in oven which is a great idea.) A highlight was the jazz band concert where  trumpet player Yuri from the Ukraine did a boffo rendition of the cha cha hit “Cherry Pink”.  At another show, former Letterman Mark Preston, did some old hits from the ‘50s, but was beyond his prime.  The Boogey Nights dancers and singers did a great show with just the right pacing, costumes and scenery.
Schooner Bar had the Viking-Seattle game on and we saw the very sad end.  This bar featured an annoying loud trivia game.


Alamo surprised us with an upgrade with this new Chrysler 300C which had every gizmo imaginable including a moon roof and leather interior.  We rode in style for a week in Tampa Bay.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Highsmith Portrayed as Angry, Prejudice in Book

Before you see “Carol” read Marijane Meaker’s memoir “Highsmith” about her two year affair with Patricia Highsmith, author of “The Price of Salt” and “Strangers on a Train.”  Meaker gets it wrong about the movie made from the later title.  Farley Granger played the tennis player, not Robert Walker.  The last chapter sums up the real Highsmith, brandishing a switch blade and spewing anti-Semitic and racists nonsense.  “Highsmith” is an interesting look at the artists’ lives in Greenwich Village in the 1950s.
I read this on a Caribbean cruise Jan. 2016.

Friday, December 18, 2015


 Driving into Desert Memorial Park FM Mod 107.3 was playing Frank’s “Fly Me to The Moon” so we knew this was the right moment to honor him on the 100th year of his birth.
So modest a gravestone for such an important talent, I thought.  “The Best is Yet to Come” implies some notions about the hereafter.
What song would you pick for Frank's grave?  His gravestone is easy to find since it is decorated with flags.  Other celebrities are lost amongst the flat grave markers.
CATHEDRAL CITY — KNBC news anchor Jack Latham is the one good thing I remember from working at KNBC/4 news in LA in 1963-64.  Latham took an interest in me, a flunky editorial assistant.  His career started at KHQ in Spokane and he appeared as a news anchor in the cult classic film “Wild in the Streets.”  He also had an uncredited part in the ‘30s classic movie “Showboat.”  
Three of us searched Desert Memorial Park last Friday for his grave marker. 

CATHEDRAL CITY —  Singer Ginny Simms, a Minnesota native, was well known for her movie and radio appearances.  She also owned Breezy Point Resort near Brainerd.  She appeared in the RKO ‘40s musical comedy “You’ll Find Out” with band leader Kay Kaiser with whom she was involved.  
Her grave stone was difficult to find. Loved ones spend thousands for burial here and it’s almost impossible to find the graves. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I am not wild about museums, but the one in Palm Springs gets kudos
for restoring a bank building into an architecture and design museum
celebrating the mid century.  The nod to the later is the model of the Frank Sinatra house near the museum.
The house was completed in 1950 just before Sinatra’s career collapsed.  The house, designed by a noted architect, features a piano shaped pool.
Riverside's Mission Inn is old California and dark but the city's historic restoration is very spotty with ugly 60s architecture interspersed.  
Altlhough Manheim Steamroller's Christmas music with a rock beat is enjoyable, the hard plastic seats at Fantasy Springs Casino are painfully uncomfortable.
Gas prices fluctuate wildly in the valley and some stations require a credit card PIN or cash.
Rare classic cars at the Westfield Mall included the Willys Aero coupe, AMC Gremliln and Studebaker Avanti.
Tomorrow's opera stars competed Dec. 5 in the Palm Springs Opera audience choice award event Dec. 5.  We rubbed elbows with desert millionaires who listen to G. Keillor on public radio.  I voted for the Russian in the blue dress.
The Town Center Cafe serves great Greek food in Palm Desert where the Goodwill has classic VHS movies including "Wolfman" and "Attack of the Crab Monsters."
We didn't skip aerobics here where Joslyn Senior Center was best.  Indio Senior Center's "Groovin' with Delores" is for fans of Richard Simmons manic work out. 
CATHEDRAL CITY — Driving into Desert Memorial Park FM Mod 107.3 was playing Frank’s “Fly Me to The Moon” so we knew this was the right moment to honor him on the 100th year of his birth.
So modest a gravestone for such an important talent, I thought.  “The Best is Yet to Come” implies some notions about the hereafter.
What song would you pick for Frank's grave?  His gravestone is easy to find since it is decorated with flags.  Other celebrities are lost amongst the flat grave markers.
INDIO — At our Indian Palms apartment we were 40 minutes from Palm Springs on the I-10, a miserable freeway with freighters weaving wildly in the breeze.  Atheists get religion on Highway 60 to Riverside, jammed with semis. In Indio we are about 100 miles from the latest mass murder terrorist horror
Altlhough Manheim Steamroller's Christmas music with a rock beat is enjoyable, the hard plastic seats at Fantasy Springs Casino are painfully uncomfortable.
Gas prices fluctuate wildly in the valley and some stations require a credit card PIN or cash.  Expect to pay at least $3.00/gal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Marketing Electric Car to California Elites

The infante terrible of electric cars and rocket trips is profiled by Ashlee Vance in “Elon Musk” which is entertaining in parts. The prologue is the best read in the book.  Much of the narrative is bogged down in detail about his marriages and business associates.  (Tom Mueller of St. Maries, Idaho, is one of his rocket scientists.)
Musk is more a marketing genius than a techno whiz kid.  He sexed up the electric car using a Mercedes body with aluminum sheet metal, which is the Tesla that caught the attention of the car magazine editors going 0-60 in less than four seconds.  Thumbing his nose at conventions, he markets the car directly through Tesla stores at $100,000 to elites.  Vance writes that there are plans to introduce a $35,000 vehicle.  His assembly plant is in Fremont, Calif., where Toyota and GM once made Corollas, a nasty rental vehicle.
Musk could be the modern day Howard Hughes (another LA eccentric genius) without RKO Radio Pictures and Jane Russell.  Rather than insane, Musk is “profoundly gifted,” Vance concludes.  But it doesn’t make any difference if you are driving a $100,000 Tesla or a $17,000 Chevy Cruze, you are at a standstill on the Harbor Freeway on the best of days.

Although the electric car is the eco-friendly alternative to the gas engine, more and better mass transit to counter the gridlock is a brighter idea.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mrs. Cook Was Mom To Boarders at 1007 N. 6th

In the kitchen with Margaret Cook

Content with the communal living I  knew when I was a frat boy, I took a room in 1965 at Mrs. Margaret Cook’s boarding house, a few blocks from the Statesman in Boise.
Mrs. Cook was a reluctant landlady who was forced into it by her humorless farmer son, Clyde, married to the righteous Priscilla, Queen of the Bible.  They were the real American Gothic with their children Nathan, Martha, Nealus and Luther.  Clyde, a former New Mexico extension agent, lured his mother to Idaho to raise his four children while he farmed on the desert near Mountain Home.  
At this point in her life she was ripe for retirement and almost crippled with arthritis.  While he was plowing, mom was running a boarding house so his children could attend Boise High School.  
Martha, a sullen teen, slept  on the first floor with her grandmother and the boys were in the basement with Dan the Man, a Boise State College student, YMCA lifeguard and a fine picture of young manhood.  Dan didn’t fraternize with me, Albert, Duane Mitchell, Terry Newman, Jose or Roy the Boy (flim flam specialist who taught us golf and cheated Mrs. Cook out of rent money.)  Dan kept company with the married woman across the street which caused tongues to wag.
Mrs. Cook referred to the relatives as “Clyde and the others,” but she had an attractive daughter who lived in Dallas who was very professional and urban.  The daughter would visit on holidays.
The house was a smaller replica of the Governor’s Mansion, three stories with transoms above the doors on the four second floor bedrooms.  
On Sunday’s when she didn’t serve meals, four of us would go to the Brass Lamp or the Village Pancake House.  Albert had a friend with stereo equipment and tape recordings of musical shows.  Through him I became familiar with the music from “Oliver!”  
Mrs. Cook was to cooking as the Three Stooges are to plumbing.  Memorable was the time she burned the hell out of the roast beef while she caught a nap.  Sometimes Clyde would bless us with milk from the farm which was noxious so she would dilute it with powdered milk, making it even more unpleasant.  Clyde would share the meat from critters he shot on the farm.
Mrs. Cook was in the Lady’s Circle at the Methodist Church and sometimes the ladies would meet in her living room.  Since I was working nights at The Statesman, I would be home during the days.  I am sure she wished I would disappear on Circle days.  
Priscilla supplied me with literature on Christianity so I could mend my heathen ways.  When the Others visited grace was said before the meal and it was a long painful affair as practiced by Priscilla.
I would sometimes go on errands with Mrs. Cook in her 1950 Chevy coupe with manual transmission.  I enjoyed taking her and a church friend in my car to lunch at McCall, Idaho’s answer to Aspen.
Mrs. Cook would invite us to public events at the high school sponsored by her church, such as a talk by the Jewish advice columnist Ann Landers.
Terry Newman was a smart kid whose parents moved to Colorado and left him in the boarding house so he could finish high school in Boise.  He had a portable record player and introduced me to popular music such as Steppenwolf and Jose Feliciano.  
The boarding house Jose was a Latin lover who kept to himself.  He installed a basement shower in exchange for rent money he owed.  I raised a stink when he didn’t get a city building permit before doing the work.
My social life picked up when Ralph Nichols, a coworker, moved nearby and we would go to Lucky Peak Reservoir.  Bob Gould from Spokane was an attorney for Albertsons and moved to Boise in about 1969.  We went to the Snake River Stampede Rodeo and saw “Bonnie and Clyde” but I was glad to find a better social life in Frostbite Falls.
As a family, we visited Mrs. Cook on a trip to Boise in 1973. Duane visited her in a nursing home in later years.

In 2006, I returned to the house now owned by an unkept woman with two big dogs and a broken screen door.