Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Big Stink Over the Beatles Concert 50 Years Ago

MINNEAPOLIS — The Beatles left Minneapolis this date 50 years ago and never looked back, at least until Paul returned last year for a sold out concert.  The big stink was over girl fans who breached security after the Met Stadium concert and entered the hotel rooms of the Beatles.  (I am sure they were gathering autographs from the mop head singers.)  A representative of the rock group’s entourage said Minneapolis was a “narrow minded town” when police demanded that the girl leave Paul’s room or they would break down the door.  Indeed!
On the anniversary radio special the police chief commented about the welfare of the “kids” and wished the Fab Four would never return to the Twin Cities.  And they never did.  
The anniversary show aired last night on WDGY included the press conference for the concert that was “hosted” by WDGY but that didn’t prevent cross town rival KDWB from horning in on the action.  WDGY DJ Johnny Dollar was the anchor for the radio coverage of the concert. 
Dennis Mitchell’s anniversary show was actually a tape from a Hollywood Bowl concert with screaming Beatle fans who are now grannies. 
The show includes a promo for “Help,” the movie.

I was living in Berkley at the time and not a Beatle fan.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


At first I thought the Jake Gyllenhaal film noir “Night Crawler was a commentary on the sad state of broadcast news, but now I think otherwise.  Writer-director Dan Gilroy actually provides a commentary on our society where a crazed sociopath can swim nicely with the capitalist sharks and profit handsomely in the business world.
I ask myself, who is the greater monster in this sad story?  The bug eyed gaunt zombie news photographer Lou Bloom played by Gyllenhaal is the initial focus of our contempt, but things change moving along.  The aging TV station gatekeeper Nina played by Rene Russo may be the real villain in the film as she aids the demented Lou to provide her with blood and gore video that will boost the news program ratings.  The Nina character resembles Bette Davis as “Baby Jane” with more eye makeup than Tammy Faye ever contemplated.
There’s some kvetching about what she will and won’t do with the photographer sexually, but otherwise they get along swimmingly.
Gilroy, in an interview on the DVD, provides a perspective on the Lou character who spews Management by Objective nonsense and other business school dictums to his homeless sidekick employee.  Gilroy said that Lou is a product of the generation who spends a lifetime glued to the internet with little socializing.  This explains his lack of compassion and humanity in part.  So if it’s a slow news day one needs to stage manage events with a macabre twist and sell it to Channel 6 for the 11 pm news.

The real star of “Night Crawler” may be the 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT that is but a blur of red flashing before my eyes but I love that blur.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Documentary Revives VHS Nostalgia

Sentimental saps like me are holding onto their VHS tapes and that subculture is pictured in Josh Johnson’s engaging documentary “Rewind This!”   I paid $230 for a Hitachi VCR in 1997 and most recently I bought a used Panasonic for $3.  Prices have dropped.
Afficianados of magnetic tape point to classics made by backyard Spielbergs like David  (the Rock) Nelson who claims “Dracula vs Sadam Hussein” as his VHS production. 
VHS attracted fans of chunk blower bootlegs and titles like “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” that are much appreciated by nerds who cruise flea markets in hopes of getting lucky.
I sometimes wonder as well why I persist with VHS given that it takes two players to watch the full array of my limited collection.  
With YouTube I have dispensed with many cassettes but even that’s a problem finding anyone who wants them or has a working VCR.  
One observer reminds us that in a few years 2 out of 10 tapes in our collections will be unplayable.  Since VHS opened a new world of movie viewing for many of us, it’s difficult to break the habit.  And I am aided and abetted by a friend who still records on VHS.

Diehards detect a resurrection of the beloved VHS, with Mongo now selling new tapes.  Whatever.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


As a college student on summer vacation I was on the front line of the “milkman wars” when I solicited accounts door-to-door for Carnation Co. home delivery.  Using our own transportation, we shadowed delivery trucks from the Erie Dairy and Arden Farms, writing down the addresses of their customers.  Then we would followup, knocking on their customers’ doors and trying to get them to switch to Carnation home delivery.  It was a dirty business.  The Erie Dairy driver was not amused and who could blame him.
I think we were a public nuisance and the police were called.  I was conspicuous driving dad’s red and white Olds 88.  I made friends with the other boy “salesmen” and our leader was a mature man who told off color jokes on breaks.
A very notorious experiment in capitalism, was my two months with Carnation.  The cows were content but I wasn’t.  I got the job through the state employment agency and I thought it would be better than selling shoes for Edison Bros.  I was wrong.  
Carnation sponsored “Burns and Allen” on KXLY/CBS on Thursday night and is famous for evaporated milk.  Donald O’Connor and Jimmy Durante were in the U-I musical comedy, “The Milkman.”

(Darigold is the major Washington State dairy but I don’t think we tailed their drivers.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Very Bad Reality Shows on Cable TV

Sean and Davina hit a rough spot on cable TV’s reality series “Married at First Sight” last night but not to worry because noted sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, University of Washington professor, was on the scene to investigate.  Suspicions instantly arose when the good doctor found the fridg bare except for a soda can and potato chips and there were no family photos on the wall.  It looked like they were only staying for the weekend. She immediately put the recently betrothed on notice and enrolled them in a cooking class so they can hopefully bond.
Such is the state of matrimony in the Big Apple that couples are resorting to cable TV where they can star in their own mini-dramas while avoiding the pesky cost of dating.  It also silences family and friends who nag them about being single.  The first time they laid eyes on each other was at the altar and then it was too late to turn back without creating a nasty scene.  In the case of Shawn, eyes are the only thing he has laid on Davina after a month, but Dr Pepper is frothy with optimism.  Davina remains unconcerned about Shawn’s disinterest.  After all she’s getting weekly exposure on cable.  The sky’s the limit.  We truly live in amazing times particularly when we have friends like Gary H. who invite me over to watch cable TV.

The Belle of the South was relaxing in bed with a coke and potato chips when the doorbell rang on the cable TV reality show “Arranged.”  Surprise; it was the mama inlaw calling to investigate her new daughter inlaw’s domesticity deficiencies.  Sadly things were amiss in the newlyweds love nest including dirt on the ceiling fan and the bride hadn’t made Beauregard’s favorite casserole.  Good news:  Mom was staying the weekend to set things straight.  You can’t top that for southern hospitality or chutzpa.
With last night’s “Arranged Marriage,” I shared the concerns of a Gypsy family’s aggressive plans to find spouse’s for their teenage sons even if the boys were disinterested.  Much to every one’s chagrin we learned that 17-year-old boys generally are poor husband material, but the parents charged ahead without changing course.  It’s tradition, don’t you know!
Some of this had to scripted and rehearsed because no one could be that stupid.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


In an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Maria Montez Universal movies, Columbia in 1953 issued the hilariously awful “Prisoners of the Casbah” with Cesar Romero, Turhan Bey and Gloria Grahame.  The costumes are decent but the acting and sets are strictly poverty row studio shlock.  
Ms. Grahame is totally unbelievable as any kind of Arabian princess.  Bey is the butt of many jokes but he is sexy as the dashing hero.  (Bey was a co-star in the Montez movies.)  Romero, as the corrupt king, must have been rehearsing for his Joker shtick in the ‘60s campy “Batman” TV show.  Can you believe this mess?

Thursday, March 26, 2015


If you read “Drafted:  Vietnam at War and Peace” you will learn about a friend and coworker at the Idaho Statesman who turned lemons into lemonade while serving in the US Army in Saigon starting in May 1967 as a clerk.
David R. Frazier soon advanced from that lowly position into a sergeant and public information officer using photojournalist skills he learned at UPI.  He schmoozed generals and politicians with the greatest of ease.  The Tet Offensive was but an annoying sidebar to Frazier who wrote and edited a publication for the Armed Services in Vietnam.  He parlayed a dicey situation into a tropical beach party, almost.
In Vietnam, Frazier quickly concluded that the usual military confusion and stupidity could work to his advantage.  Through skillful maneuvering and luck he found a sweet spot where he was making money on the side by selling “hometown news” to newspapers in his native Michigan and not dodging bullets and land mines.  In Vietnam, he was an Einstein amongst countless Gomers.  This is not “Catch 22” or “Mash” but you get the idea.

By pushing yourself to the limits, you could earn “density points” in Vietnam, Frazier would say on the Idaho mountain fishing trips we took shortly after he was discharged from the Army.  He earned his density points but I had to read the book to find out what he did in the war.  While he was in Vietnam, I had completed active duty four years earlier with the Coast Guard Reserve and was a local government reporter for The Statesman.