Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Acting”

Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – Whatever Happened To…

Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – Whatever Happened To…

 

Whatever Happened To…

Van1I GOT UP THIS MORNING AND TURNED ON THE TV, just like I do on most mornings. I fiddle with the remote until I find TCM – Turner Classic Movies. It is my first mental challenge of the day. Remember the channel number and get my fingers to cooperate enough to hit the right buttons.

Just about every day is some Star’s “day,” either the day they came into the world or the day they left it. Once it has been established who the Star of the Day is the next question in my mind is: Still Alive or Dead?

About a week ago I figured out that the featured Star was Van Johnson. Being sure it was Van van7was not as simple as it sounds. They were showing a movie with both Van Johnson and June Allyson. Those two made about 600 movies together (or so it seems). It took another movie coming on to nail it down as Van’s day in the spotlight. Alive or Dead was not so easy.

At about 8:30 I went to see if my wife, the lovely and cinematically knowledgeable, Dawn, could, hopefully, give me an answer.

“I think that he is still alive,” she said over the edge of her teacup. “I think so too, the last of his era,” I agreed.

Van Johnson died in 2008. I guess I missed that one.

He just disappeared from my consciousness that morning. He disappeared from everything else in 2008.

People come and then they go. Things do that too. One minute they seem to be everywhere and then, Poof! You find out that they disappeared years before.

This morning I mentioned one such thing to Dawn. She looked at me like I was leading up to another Van Johnson question.

“Whatever happened to all those old Fotomat booths that used to be everywhere?” I asked her out of nowhere. She’s used to me doing that.

Van2“I think they went out of business years ago – Digital cameras and all that.” She never lifted her eyes from her Kindle.

“No, I know that, but what in the world did they do with all of those little booths where you dropped off your film? There must have been millions of them.” She did lift her eyes on that one.

“I dunno,” and back to the Kindle.

This sent me off on a fact-finding mission. For an apparently pointless reason I needed to learn more about Fotomat and their ubiquitous booths. I should have spent my time researching Van Johnson.

I did uncover that those booths started popping up in the 1960s in strip malls all over the country and lasted unto 2009 – one year after Van Johnson checked out.van4

I found a lot of information about the company and its ups and downs and eventually it’s over and out as a corporate entity. But not one word about the fate of the (In reality – 4000 of them) booths.

When I finished my research I rushed into the other room to tell Dawn all about what I had lvan5earned. To say she was not impressed would be an understatement – like saying World War Two was just a little dust-up between friends. I can’t blame her, but still…

There is another show on the TV about a trend/fad in housing where people are building incredibly small houses, little more than – Oh, I don’t know – Fotomat booths. Maybe that’s to where they all disappeared: Cable TV – just a few channels down from Van Johnson.

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I Am Not Spartacus!

 

I SAW A LOVELY FAMILY PORTRAIT the other day. It was quite a crowd spanning several generations. At the crux of the gathering was the Patriarch of the Family – Kirk Douglas. THE Kirk Douglas, the world famous actor, who starred in countless movies spanning decades.

He is 102 years old now and still ticking. His wife is 100 years old and still tocking. Together they are defying time.

When I first saw that Kirk Douglas had cracked the century mark it made me feel positively young, but then I saw that his oldest son, Michael Douglas is a year older than me. So much for that illusion of youth that I was clinging to.

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It Puts The Remote In Remote Control

I’VE BEEN LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LATELY: ENGLISH. Considering that English is already my first and primary language you wouldn’t think that I would need lessons – but I do.

My wife, the lovely and Queen of the Remote Control, Dawn, has us watching a number of TV shows from “Across the Pond,” most of which are Police and Cops N’ Robbers shows from England and Scotland. I didn’t know that the Scots were so into crime shows. I didn’t know that the Scots were into much of anything other than not being English.

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Persistence

“BEING A WRITER, WRITING FOR A LIVING, IS ONE LONG PERSISTENCE GAME.

“EVERYONE WANTS YOU TO QUIT. YOU GET KICKED DOWN. YOU COME UP SWINGING. YOU KEEP GOING. EITHER YOU’RE COMMITTED TO IT, OR YOU AREN’T”

This is a quote from a young writer named Kameron Hurley. I have no doubt that this was her response to a question from another writer who was feeling the pangs of lonely frustration. Either that or she was feeling that in her own literary life.

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What Will I Do On Sunday Nights?

 

WELL, WELL, WELL. WE HAVE FINALLY DONE IT. We have reached the end, the finale, the climax, the resolution of the 37 year long television series, “Game of Thrones” – or is it “Game of Thorns?” I’m not sure.

We watched it all, each of the 57, 147 episodes. My guess is that the script writers just couldn’t bring themselves to edit away anything or fill in the gaps left when a flame throwing dragon went to get a nice 89 octane refill.

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I Love Watching Radio

 

HOW LONG HAS “GAME OF THRONES” BEEN RUNNING? I could swear that I watched it while I was still in elementary school. I think that the actors in the current show are the grandchildren of the actors at the beginning.

I wrote about “Game of Thrones” once before – several years ago.  At that time I was talking about how I couldn’t follow the multiple storylines. I was totally confused when characters disappeared only to reappear out of the blue two seasons later with no explanation.

“Honorable Phlegmball, where have you been?”

“Ummm… I was visiting my mother, Queen Effluvia, in the far North, Mr. Nosey Pants.”

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I Don’t Want To See Any Pictures

 

SOME DAYS I WONDER. I know I’m not alone in that. What am I wondering about?

Us. You, me and all the others out there every day who are doing the darndest things that defy logic, common sense, and threaten our status as the tippy-top of the food chain. I’ve got to stop looking at the online news in the morning before I’ve had my coffee and my meds.

Just this morning I was mentally assaulted by stories that dragged my brain lobes around like they were Fisher-Price pull toys.

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The Face Is Familiar

Myron Healey

John Doucette

George Chandler

Do you recognize any of these names? If you do I’d be very surprised, but I’d bet that you would recognize their faces in a flash.

Every film and TV show has Leading Men, the “Stars” but it is the “Character Actors” who fill in the blanks. What good is a Hero without a Villain to vanquish or someone to rescue?

These three guys were what Hollywood called “Character Actors” portraying any number of roles in countless films and TV shows. For every John Wayne or Clint Eastwood there are hundreds of actors who create the atmosphere of danger and serve as the Antagonists that keep us on the edge of our seats. Someone has to rob the stagecoach so that the Lone Ranger can hunt them down.

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I Wouldn’t Put Up With Me.

 

I DO IT BECAUSE I LIKE IT. I do it because most other people like it. I do it because it is fun.

I do it because I can.

I confuse people.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I used to be part of an Improvisational Comedy group in San Francisco. The eight of us (AKA the “Improv Alternative” and later as “Anchovi Daiquiri”) worked in nightclubs, theaters, street fairs, and any place that would let us through the door. We would do a two hour show made up entirely from audience suggestions.

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Is It Him? No.

TALK ABOUT PAINTING YOURSELF INTO A CORNER…Whew!

This morning (a few days before Valentine’s Day) I was stumbling into St. Arbucks for a transfusion with a little Half-n-Half when I saw a poster advertising a weekend concert. Whoever put it up was careless and posted it sideways on the bulletin board. The concert featured a singer doing a Frank Sinatra Tribute Show.

That singer is a performer whose Show Business career is firmly rooted in “The Law of Diminishing Returns.”

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Comrade Cotton-Eyed Joe

PARTIALLY DUE TO THE INCLEMENT WEATHER and the seemingly endless weeks of battling bugs of varying virulences we have been watching a lot of TV.

My wife, the lovely and the ultimate Amazon Prime Minister, Dawn, and I have gathered up blankets, Kleenex, and hot tea so we could do some serious binge watching.

With Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap we settled ourselves down for a long winters Ripping Yarn. Dawn had been scouting the terrain and had come up with a series that had six years of episodes in the can. We figured that should hold us until Spring. Well… After one week we are halfway through Season Four. Spring better arrive soon.

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Sieg Heil, Kemosabe!

I LIKE TO START OFF MY DAY IN SLOW MOTION. I do not want or need to be jarred into actual thought before I have had my coffee. Before that first influx of caffeine into my system I am not capable of digesting information or spatial-temporal incongruities.

That is why I am in recovery today after a surprise challenge to my cranial lobes the other day.

One of my early, early, early morning rituals is to slowly crawl into consciousness with the TV lighting the way as I try to figure out how socks work. My heart is beating sporadically and my brain is clicking away at an invertebrate level. I don’t need surprises.

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Steps Must Be Taken

I’M GENERALLY PRETTY AGREEABLE. It’s easy to get along with me and I try not to be too grumpy. Unfortunately the world does not always cooperate.

For example: Stairs.

Stairs and I do not agree. I want them to not be there, but stairs demand that I go up or down. I end up just trying to avoid the situation altogether. I would prefer a one level world.

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Throwback Thursday from September 2015 –”Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be”

Throwback Thursday from September 2015 –”Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be” 

 

 

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THERE IS A GOOD REASON my wife, the lovely and unfailingly perceptive, Dawn, calls my trips to St. Arbucks, along with, “The Usual Suspects,” my “Play Group.” I admit that there are some days when the maturity level drops below Pre-School closing in on Pre-Natal.

For several days now the main topic of conversation among the group has centered on the television western series, “Gunsmoke.” This show hasn’t been on the air since 1975. Why this has become important enough to warrant two days of conversation is unknown.

I understand the lure of nostalgia – the being able to share common memories with contemporaries who are now getting along in years. What I can’t understand is why it has become necessary to dramatize scenes from the show – right there in the corner of the coffee joint. It mystifies me and I think it scares some of the staff and other customers.

The conversation seemed to center around one character on the show: “Chester Good” – portrayed by Dennis Weaver, a mediocre actor at best.

“Chester” was the Deputy to Marshall Matt Dillon, played by James Arness and irrelevant to this discussion.

The character of “Chester” was disabled on the show. His character was gunned down in an early episode and for the rest of his time on the show he ran around with one leg, unbending, and stiff as a pool cue.

Week after week he would scuttle around, getting in over his head with the local bad guys. He would then run, after a fashion – stiff leg swinging out like the line on a weed eater, and yelling, “Mr. Dillon, Mr. Dillon, come quick.” Not exactly a showcase for Mr. Weaver’s acting chops, but it paid the bills.

How all of this was remembered by The Usual Suspects in 2015 is where things got dicey.

After describing “Chester” and his “mobility issues” it was determined by one Suspect that more was needed to illustrate his point (Whatever it was). He also thought that it would help if he performed Chester’s lines, but his recollection veered a bit from reality.

The Suspect hauled himself out of his chair and began to stiff-leg it across the floor. Then his dialogue came out, loud enough to reach the back row at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Holy Sh**, Mr. Dillon. Come quick. Holy Sh**!

It was at this point that I tried to hide under a table. I’m positive that “Chester” never said that on network television – ever.

This breach of nostalgia etiquette had the other Suspects trying to force him back in his chair.

“Sit down! You’re going to get us all thrown out of here!”

I peeked around and all of the baristas and other coffee drinkers looked like prairie dogs – alert with eyes wide open, wondering what was happening. Was the big guy with the bad leg going Postal? Was he a threat or merely nuts?

The answer to that particular question was: All of the above. But I’m not being judgmental.

Now, all of this could be written off as a quirky, one-time event, like Ross Perot or World War Two, except that there was an encore performance the next day.

When I arrived on the scene this “Faux Chester” was already wound up like a Joy Buzzer and moments later he was off and running, albeit with a significant limp. I was still near the door, so I just sidled over toward the recycling bin and pretended to be checking that things were being sorted properly.

If this was going to be a daily performance, I told him, he was going to have to join the Actors’ Equity labor union. It was either that or he was going to be hauled off for a 72 hour observation at the Bubble Factory. Personally, I’m voting for the 72 hour gig.

Most days at St. Arbucks are quiet, contemplative even, but this week it was more like being trapped inside bad Community Theater.

But…But…I Love You

 

HERE I AM SITTING IN A SMALL TOWN when I know that my fame and fortune lies in the Big City with Bright Lights. You know, some place like Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Albuquerque, aside from being the only city with two “Qs” in its name, seems to be a really “Happening” place. After all, wasn’t the hit TV show “Breaking Bad” set there? And so is “Better Call Saul”- my personal favorite. Albuquerque seems to be the place to be. It is also the home of a World Record Holding Crazy Person.

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Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “But Wait! There’s More!”

 

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “But Wait! There’s More

But Wait! There’s More!

infomercialI WAS SITTING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE the other morning, minding my own business and eating some grapes, when I turned on the TV and came in halfway through an Infomercial.

The format is always the same – one guy and one gal acting as if their conversation is completely ad libbed. Sure it is. These mini-dramas are scripted out by a team of advertising copy writers who try so hard to be creative. They fail every time. Most of the time these actors sound like they are just coming out from under heavy anesthesia.

I immediately recognized the guy part of the infomercial pair. That is his picture up top. I’m sure he came to Hollywood with the dream of being the next Spencer Tracy or Vin Diesel. Instead he has landed the plum role of “The Guy” in about 47 different infomercials over the years.

So much for Art.

In most of his infomercial gigs he portrays a guy who is mildly stupid and needs to be enlightened by “The Gal” about the earthshaking benefits of whatever trashy product they are selling. I can’t believe he is really that dense. If he was that thick between the ears he would never have survived so long. He would have been distracted by a shiny object and wandered out into traffic or died horribly in his own apartment because he ignored the warning to, “Don’t try this at home!”

He must be a better actor than I’m giving him credit for – or he has an off-screen helper who keeps him fed and away from potentially dangerous home appliances. I’m not sure.

My point being –

This poorly acted and written infomercial that I chanced to bump into while eating grapes, on July 16, 2015, was showcasing the ease, importance and beauty of Outdoor Christmas Lighting so I could turn our home from simply being a boring “baby poop yellow” into a neighborhood shocking light show that would scare the neighbor’s dogs and probably be visible from space.

This infomercial went a bit farther than most by having “unpaid testimonials from satisfied customers.”

They showed the exterior of a house that looked as if it was being invaded by Smallpox pustules that could crawl around over your siding at will. It was spooky.

When they interviewed a woman who claimed to be the home owner she seemed not only overjoyed, but seriously overdosed. Lord knows what she was seeing. She sang the praises of the lighting gizmo that did this to her house, exclaiming how much she enjoyed having strangers come down her street and drive slowly past her home. In most neighborhoods that kind of activity would generate phone calls to the Police.

To me it all looked like a prelude to a drive-by shooting.

OK, so this was just another infomercial for yet another product that I neither want, need or would take as a gift. I didn’t stop eating my grapes and I didn’t dial the toll free number at the bottom of my screen.

But wait! There’s more!

As I sat there watching this thing, that only needed Tap Dancing Zombies to make it worse, the one and only pertinent fact finally wormed its way to the surface of my consciousness:

It was July 16th for cryin’ out loud!

Why were these Morons of Marketing running this infomercial in the middle of Summer? It is 86 degrees outside, I’m wearing a Hawaiian Shirt and the dog next door is trying not to die from heat prostration.

Who in their right mind would be buying Christmas lights on July 16th?

Maybe the actor playing “The Guy?” He seems to be downright enthusiastic about the whole idea of turning his home into an eyesore. But, then again, he is getting paid to do this gig.

Now, this may seem callous, but here goes.

I hope that this actor’s parents are deceased. I say that because I hate to think that they would be watching this infomercial and have to endure the anguish of realizing that they paid a bloody fortune to send their boy to the Yale Drama School for four years and this infomercial is, very likely, the peak of his career. If they weren’t already deceased, seeing this infomercial might be enough to warrant the removal of any sharp objects from their home.

Their home – the one WITHOUT the friggin’ ugly Christmas lights infecting the neighborhood.

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “Randall The Candle”

Throwback Thursday from July 2015 – “Randall The Candle”

 

 

Randall The Candle

candleIN 1997 THERE WAS AN EPISODE of “Law And Order” (An American Cops and Robbers TV show set in New York City) that had a character, an arsonist, who went by the moniker of “Randall the Candle.”

Cut to 2015 in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Change the battery in your smoke alarm.”) and a conversation with one of the “Usual Suspects” during services at the Chapel of St. Arbucks.

The “Suspect” – a former resident of New York City and the son of an NYPD Detective and I were discussing the recent fire at a café across the street from St. Arbucks that destroyed the place within 24 hours of their “Grand Opening.” He hinted that it looked a little suspicious and that maybe “Randall the Candle” was in town.

Egads!

Further interrogation uncovered one of those “Art imitating Life” things. According to the Usual Suspect seated in the chair across from me – Randall the Candle was a real person, and an arsonist, and an off-the-books consultant for the NYPD about fires of a “suspicious nature.”

I do not find this to be at all beyond belief because every writer I know borrows from real life in every paragraph and a character called “Randall the Candle” is too good to pass up. If he didn’t exist you would have to create him.

Given the timeline of the TV show and the youthful remembrances of my cohort in coffee, I would guess that “Randall” is long gone to that Great Tinder Box in the Sky.” He isn’t still alive to file any lawsuits over using his colorful nickname. Even if he was around to make a play for some cash – any court action would almost certainly result in him admitting to a long career in crime and that would then open up a whole new set of fertilizer hitting the fan issues.

It seems that in real life, rather than “reel life,” Randall the Candle was a man who worked on both sides of the Law. For the right price he would light up your life and/or your warehouse in such a manner that your insurance company would have to pay off. He was a Capital P Professional.

But as active as he was, Randall wasn’t the only game in town and he did not like competition – especially “small p” professional arsonists who did sloppy work. It was sort of like a dishonest politician smearing the reputation of an honest —  wait, bad analogy there. There are no honest politicians. But you get my drift.

Randall the Candle would work with the police on cases of arson – helping them to identify how the job was done and often by whom. Arsonists, like most people, are creatures of habit and tend to repeat themselves – left sock, right sock, left shoe, right shoe, left incendiary device, right incendiary device.

In my own perverted literary way I am glad to learn that Randall the Candle actually existed. His whole story has a Damon Runyon-esque flavor to it. With a name like his, and a decent voice and sense of rhythm, he could easily have been a character in “Guys and Dolls.”

I can’t say that “they don’t make ‘em like Randall the Candle anymore.” I don’t know.   But I’ll bet you’d be hard pressed to find some jamoke with the moxie to play with the bacon and still run with his torch like Randall the Candle.

The Early Worm

THE TIME BETWEEN 6 AM AND 8:30 AM IS MY MOST PRODUCTIVE time of day. Before 6 AM I am asleep and after 8:30 the rest of the day intrudes and calls the shots. Those 2 ½ hours are when I get 90% of my writing accomplished. The other 10% comes when I type it up and try to have it all make some sort of sense.

Quite a chore, that last part.

I try to get my writing time every morning. It’s important to me. I can knock out this daily blog in that time and maybe get some work in on my longer fiction pieces – the things that nag at me to finish them off.

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My Very Own Award Show

WE HAD THE OSCARS ON THE TV A FEW WEEKS AGO. I didn’t say that we actually watched it, just that we had it on the Tube. Of all the films nominated for an award I think we had seen…One. And I didn’t care for it all that much.

It is Springtime and we are hard into the Award Shows Season as well. Various Organizations and Industries are stumbling over themselves to put on a show of overwhelming Self-Congratulations. Heavy-Duty exercises are being done to facilitate better the patting of one’s own back.

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Were You There?

IT’S EASTER ALREADY? I guess that it has sort of sneaked up on me this year. I was just putting away all of the Christmas stuff when – Poof! I turn on the TV and it is filled with all of the Jesus Movies. That’s what I used to call those Biblical Epic movies when I was a kid.

The 1950s was a big decade for Jesus Movies – “Ben Hur,” “King of Kings,” “The Robe” with Richard Burton chewing the scenery like a rabid Schnauzer. We saw them all as soon as they hit the Wide Screen.

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