Archive: September 2003
September 30th, 2003
We're all idiots.
(Actually, I'm just talking about the true and tried comic book fans amongst us. I'm not referring to those of you who check in periodically to read my television reviews, scan my Mets recaps, suffer my Macca memories, and wade through my endless Julie anecdotes--YOU people are just strange...)
How did I reach this somewhat harsh sounding conclusion you ask? Simple: I saw it on the TV...
Actually, first I accidentally stumbled across it in that indispensable Bible for all us devoted tube sucklers, the TV GUIDE. Checking the Monday night listings, a display ad for the CBS line-up of early evening sit-coms caught my eye. There, underneath display lettering promoting the critically bashed "Yes, Dear" was a photo of a strangely familiar figure decked out in a makeshift cape and striking his best "Up, up, and away!" pose. Naturally, my next move was to locate the capsule description and read it. Here's what it said:
"When his parents (Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence) visit, Greg is horrified to learn that his dad is obsessed with collecting comic books and dressing up as a superhero."
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out, as I write this, I am not currently wearing my costume. As for LATER, well, that's privileged information...)
How could I POSSIBLY resist the opportunity to once again see the whole comic-collecting sub-culture maligned by the smugly popular and infinitely more pervasive television industry, especially by such a font of quality yocks as the "Yes, Dear" series?
No, no, no--I'm not bitter at this turn of events. Not at all. More bemused than anything. Comics--either you like 'em or you don't. Fine. I understand that. But it's always curious to get a glimpse into the way outsiders view us comics fans, and if this little trifle of a farce is any indication, it sure ain't pretty, folks!?!...
Of course, this show has somehow found itself being designated as the Poster Child for Mind-Numbing Mediocrity--of which there are decidedly no surfeit of candidates--currently being pumped out over the airwaves, so who knows--maybe they went searching for something that, even on THEIR lowly perch on the critical zeit-geist, they could feel comfortable making fun of? And towards that end, what better than the notion of grown men forking over cold hard cash for cheap pulp paper pamphlets that once sold for a mere 10 cents?
Oh, wait--that involves money. People understand that. People respect that. In fact, in our little scenario, when Greg, at the behest of his flustered mom goes up to confront his dad about his new-found hobby, the topic quickly turns to money. Tim Conway shows Anthony Clark one of his latest acquisitions, ACTION COMICS #23, correctly identified as the first appearance of Lex Luthor, but woefully undervalued by half when McHale's ex-colleague tells his son that he paid $925 for it. Rather than being distressed that his future inheritance is being frittered away for the questionable pleasure of seeing Luthor with a full head of hair, this instead substantially impresses him, especially when he hears that these books not only hold their value well, but that a 15% uptick per year is almost guaranteed. And this with even without CRCing them!?!
Coming down the stairs, the newly won over Anthony Clark briefly tries to persuade Vicki Lawrence that maybe dad's onto something after all, and perhaps it's best if we all left him alone. And THEN Tim Conway descends the stairs, wearing a cobbled together Superman outfit (minus the "S" shield), looking all the world like he's attempting to fly. Big laugh. Blackout. Commercial.
And when we return, Clark and Mike O'Malley--playing, I think, his brother-in-law--attempt to interest the recently retired 65 year old Conway in another--ANY other--more suitable hobby. First up is golf, allowing the comedy veteran to indulge a sly salute--if not necessarily a funny one-- to none other than his Dorf persona. When that doesn't take hold, the boys try assembling model cars with the old fella, the laughs in this instance coming from some several expertly delivered double-takes by Conway as a result of accidental glue-sniffing (a GREAT message for the kids!...), and eventually following that up with a visit to a field where the trio commandeer a remote control model airplane. Wanna guess just exactly WHERE said air-borne machine crashes? I'll leave it to your tawdry imagination, friends, but believe me, Super Dave Osborne would've been proud!! (Either that or he'd rightfully sue for copyright infringement--and WIN!...)
Rejecting the notion of gardening, Papa Conway defiantly puts his foot down, and gets back to the REAL reason he visited his son in San Diego--to attend the Convention!! When they eventually do arrive at the Con, one has to believe it's ANOTHER San Diego Con, cuz these dinky little confines couldn't possibly hold all the thousands I hear about attending that legendary event year in and year out. No matter. Wandering through this ersatz Dealers Room allows for our skeptical duo of O'Malley and Clark (alongside the once-again costumed Conway) to encounter all sorts of ridiculously garbed characters. Not only that. but it ALSO allows for the writers to include even more comedic homages--coff coff--as O'Malley's exchange with a heavily made-up alien-suited geek ends with a punch line virtually the same as the one famously delivered--and recently repeated on Conan's 10th Anniversary Special--by Triumph, the Insult Comedian Dog to some real life sf enthusiasts! Y'know, I'm surprised grape-stomping or an assembly line belt featuring a relentless barrage of chocolate candies wasn't somehow shoehorned into the plot as well...
As we mercifully close in on the playlet's finale, son Greg becomes more and more embarrassed by his father's behavior, as dad first meets a group of his Internet buddies--a gaggle of generically costumed 12 year olds, of course--and then proceeds to act out a superhero scenario with the entire pre-pubescent lot of them up on stage, much to the approval of an enthusiastic audience, but to the utter disgust of his disapproving son, who's now on the verge of abandoning his father once and for all. Uh oh. Do I smell a very special moment waiting surreptitiously around the corner from these hilarious hi-jinx?...
Yup. Sigh. Confession time. Tim Conway reveals that, at a loss for what to do upon his retirement, he seized upon the comics angle after inadvertently catching a broadcast of "Superman The Movie" while channel surfing one day. Turns out he deeply relates to the Man of Steel, an admission that makes absolutely no sense to his son (nor, for that matter, to the audience). The REAL root of the situation is that Conway himself was adopted, something he'd never told his son before. It'd always bothered him, and as a result, he blocked it out of his mind for most of his life. But somehow, seeing how Superman's parents sent off their only son when they themselves felt unable to raise their offspring properly (because, y'know, their planet was just about to blow up and all...), well, it somehow crystallizes for Conway the situation his birth parents must have found themselves in. This, predictably, leads to a tender reconciliation between father and son, and, in the next, and last, wordless scene, we see a costumed Conway walk out past a confused O'Malley in the Dealer's Room, followed directly by a now identically garbed and proudly strutting Clark. Fade to black, and quickly find something--ANYTHING!!-- else to put on!?!...
Okay, okay--I've seen worse shows. "Yes, Dear" may indeed be mediocre, but at least it wasn't nearly as offensive as some things I've witnessed on the tube. And although playing the role of the uptight stick-in-the-mud does him no favors, I've always enjoyed Anthony Clark. Plus, the "Carol Burnett Show" vets certainly brought their professionalism to the table (if not, unfortunately, their writers). Fact is, there WAS one line that genuinely elicited a chuckle from me, though it was due probably as much to Lawrence's razor-sharp delivery as it was to the writing. Midway through, she turns to her son and says, "Greg, do YOU know who Mr. Mxylptlk is??" No, he replies. "Well, I do!", she answers desperately, "And I SHOULDN'T!?! I SHOULDN'T know these things, Greg!?!..." Funny.
Of course, the tag with the couple jetting back home, and Lawrence glimpsing her brightly bedecked hubby--allegedly on a trip to the loo--instead flying alongside her window made no appreciable sense in the context of this reality bound sit-com, but hey, it was just the sorta thing you might expect from a Burnett skit, so believability goes--you should pardon the expression--right out the window...
There must be some sort of prohibition limiting the usage of trademarked characters, as while Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Lex Luthor, and of course, Superman, are mentioned, no actual costumes are duplicated. We DO get a quick glimpse of that ACTION COMICS (though I don't think it was REALLY number 23), as well as an issue of PLASTIC MAN, which Conway incongruously had folded in half and stuck in his back pocket after earlier stressing how he safely ensconces his treasures in plastic to maintain their value. But it resulted in a cheap laugh, so what the heck--fold it.
Yeah, so that's it. Based on a viewing of this program, we're all a bunch of idiots who wear funny clothes and spend way too much money on silly little kid stuff. Well, I for one, have had my eyes opened. Yes indeed. From now on, I'll do my best to shunt this whole area of my hitherto wasted existence aside and find more mature and enriching things to do with my life, you betcha I will!
You know--like watching "Yes, Dear" each and every Monday night!! Oboy--I sure hope they do more jokes about getting hit in the crotch by flying projectiles!?! It just don't get no better than THAT, do it!?!...
September 29th, 2003
You've heard the old saying about not judging a book by it's cover, right? Well, allow me an addendum to that--sometimes you can't judge a book properly by it's TITLE, either!?!...
That's pretty much how I felt mid-way through Blake Bell's "I Have To Live With This Guy!" (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2002, $19.95 softcover). With the announced premise being to celebrate the women/lovers/significant others who've stood, generally unnoticed, by the sides of some of the comic book field's most celebrated cartoonists, it certainly sounded like the perfect recipe for light-hearted tales of life with Mr. Wacky, doesn't it? Well, while there still may be a tome floating around somewhere out there worthy of fulfilling that description, lemme tell ya, it sure ain't THIS book, folks!!
It's filled instead with stories of relationships strengthened by sacrifice, united by necessity against a common enemy, that enemy being an uncaring comics industry--one that, incidentally, more often than not, wins a majority of the battles--and ALWAYS the war. Yup, buried beneath that cute little title (provided by Joanie Lee, perhaps the happiest and most financially satisfied spouse found within these pages--and why not? The woman's hitched herself up to Stan the Man, after all!!...), Bell's manuscript provides a sobering glimpse of what it's REALLY like to live life with a name found in the credit boxes of so many of our beloved classic comics of the not so distant past.
The author has spoken with a widely far-ranging representative group of women (and in the case of the sole gay cartoonist included, one man as well) to get a hitherto untold take on their husbands' generally lauded--but previously examined almost exclusively in intellectual terms--creative careers that puts the struggle, rather than the artistry, up to the forefront. Fiercely devoted to their partners, a surprising percentage nonetheless don't even READ their hubbies work. That doesn't stop them from providing their unwavering support, however. Most all of the subjects included have been paired up with their talented companions for several decades at the minimum, with only a single case of divorce thrown into the mix.
Basically, the ladies speak out in a manner that could only be termed "brutally frank"--and why not? What have they got to lose at this point? Just who do they owe, save their own partner? When Lindy Ayers complains that she used to get furious back when the early Marvel work pencilled by Jack Kirby arrived for her husband Dick to embellish because "It's just outlines", saddling the ink-wielding Ayers with what amounted to two jobs for the meager pay of one--well, with that sort of perspective, re-reading those old FF's will never seem quite the same, I assure you!?!
Despite his role in the nascent transformation of Atlas to Marvel Comics in the early sixties, I must confess to never personally being much of a Dick Ayers fan. Still, abstract judgments concerning art tend to go right out the window when confronted with the heart-breaking vignettes Bell illuminates in the chapter focusing on both the Ayers and Loretta and Ric Estrada, two of what he terms the industry's "foot soldiers". When work dries up for Ayers at Marvel in 1974, he soon finds himself working as a night watchman to support his family. Luckily, Lindy's also found employment, as Dick is soon after felled by a severe gallbladder attack, ultimately confined to a bed in an ICU ward for an extended period. It was the insurance provided by Life Savers, Lindy's employer, that kept the couple financially solvent. But that, unfortunate as it is, isn't what REALLY pulls the ol' Hembeck heartstrings...
Nope, it was this all-too-telling reminiscence contributed by the artist himself: while confined to the ICU, Dick says, "I even received visits from guards I served with, but Marvel? I had not one visitor or card."
Thanks to the kind efforts of Neal Adams, Dick soon found himself working on three books for DC Comics, but despite the younger illustrator's generosity, the sort of Bullpen-shattering mythology that finds Ayers alone and ignored in a sick bed is what, sadly, predominates, particularly in the cases of pioneering individuals. Whether it's Adrienne Colan trying to fathom the insensitive treatment afforded her husband, Gene, by head Marvel-man Jim Shooter, or Josie DeCarlo's palpable dismay at the even more egregious treatment her husband, Dan, suffered in his declining years at the hands of the company he virtually single-handedly both artistically guided and sustained for near half a century, Archie Comics, well, there ain't a whole lot of warm and fuzziness included herein, gang.
Sure, Virginia Romita has happy memories of her own tenure working in the Marvel offices, and along with Muriel Kubert, offers some fascinating insights into not only marrying a cartoonist, but actually SPAWNING them as well!?! And while life has apparently treated Ann Eisner--and especially Joanie Lee--well, there's more than a little melancholy surrounding Adele Kutrzman's recounting of her late husband Harvey's continual inability to turn almost unanimously held critical plaudits into any sort of lasting financial success.
Bridging the gap between spouses connected to artists pre-dating the sixties and the more modern group is Archie Goodwin's widow, Anne T. Murphy. By the time this couple came upon the scene, the rules concerning a women's place in the societal arena were swiftly and radically changing, but Anne is here to tell you that a lot of Archie's colleagues most assuredly DIDN'T get the memo! As one of only two women featured in this book that I'd ever actually had the pleasure of meeting, after reading the chapter devoted to her, I now regret that I had little more than an opportunity merely to say "hi" upon that single occasion (and folks, it's not like I ignored her to speak instead to Archie, as our conversation was only slightly more in depth. Yes, he was indeed a great guy, but a combination of awe and shyness on my part prevented me from yakking it up any further. Unfortunately...). Anne is especially frank, and comes off as a strong-willed individual, one who despite a fully formed identity of her own wholeheartedly believed in her so-called other half. Dealing with the suits up at Marvel can be a maddening experience, even after one has departed this mortal coil, as when Anne is rudely informed that it is simply not the corporation's policy to pay reprint royalties to a creator--or more specifically, his or her estate--after they've passed on. Sigh. Add miserable treatment by the moneyed to their employees alongside death and taxes as things one can, sadly, always, ALWAYS count on...
Bell's survey comes to a conclusion by investigating Melinda Gebbie and Alan Moore, Ed Sedarbaum and Howard Cruse, Jackie Estrada and Batton Lash, Julie and Dave Cooper, as well as the since-divorced Deni Loubert and Dave Sim. Being younger, these various pairings haven't weathered the nearly life-long topsy-turvey adventures the group of couples from earlier decades have already shared. The working landscape has changed significantly as well, though sometimes it's just as grueling. That's particularly noticeable as Howard Cruse's valiant struggle to see through the creation of his ground-breaking "Struck Rubber Baby" graphic novel is recounted by his partner, the duo enduring self-imposed financial hardships, all in service to his art. Jackie Estrada's description of hubby Bat's efforts to successfully self-publish his ongoing SUPERNATURAL LAW title, while not nearly as dramatic, succinctly sheds light on just how hard a job it actually is getting your own regularly published comic out onto the stands.
If there was one chapter that felt somehow out of place in this collection, it'd have to be the one focusing on Gebbie and Moore. Without knowing the method employed in conducting their particular interviews one way or the other, their answers to Blake's queries came across as specially prepared email quips supplied to primarily portray the couple as a team of fun-loving, non-stop, wise-cracking gadabouts! Hey, the gags WERE cute, but the depth level was decidedly shallow. Oh well--at the very least, the opening page featured what has to be the only photo I've ever seen of the usually menacing Moore actually SMILING--as opposed to scowling--which has to count for something, doesn't it?!?...
Then there's Deni Loubert. AND one of my inevitable personal asides. I knew Deni and Dave during much of the time period covered in her chapter, though not very well. There are several references to some conventions the pair--as well as their fellow independent star-couple, Wendy and Richard Pini--that I found myself also in attendance as a guest back in the early eighties, sitting either hither or yon from the (lower case) fantastic four. I claim no great insight for doing so--nor deserving of any sort of historical mention either, mind you--but it does add an extra resonance to her recounting of Dave's successful creation and marketing of his CEREBUS series for me.
Beyond that, this was the chapter that motivated me to actually fish "I Have To Live With This Guy!" out from an extensive pile of unfairly ignored volumes and actually sit down and read it--but only because good ol' Rocco Nigro got to talking it up on the phone one night not so long ago. I couldn't believe my ears concerning some of the things he recounted Ms. Loubert sharing with author Bell. In addition to being seemingly alternatingly wistful and angry--if only a little--with her ex-husband, she spoke frankly and freely about some of the other artists she dealt with while running her own publishing house in the eighties, Renegade Press. As always, I was especially fascinated to get her take on the reclusive Steve Ditko, and as Rocco correctly informed me, she was far from shy about giving it...
Time for yet another, even more meandering Hembeck digression. In case I haven't already mentioned it--and I'm reasonably certain I haven't--I know author Blake Bell personally. Oh, not well, mind you, but we've struck up a bit of an acquaintance over the last several years. As I've stated time and again, the enigmatic Mr. Ditko has long been my favorite cartoonist, and when I first became enthusiastic about the Internet--i. e., when we FINALLY got a fast connection--one of the sites that initially commanded my attention was Blake's Ditko Looked Up page. Soon after, with the full blessing of my computer bereft pal, Terry Austin, I submitted uninked copies he had shared with me of a Captain America Ditko job Terry had provided finishes for about 15 years previously, heeding Blake's call for rare examples of Ditko's pencil art. This led to a few cordial phone calls between us, mainly discussing our mutual interests. And then, late last year, he enlisted yours truly to help provide expert commentary for a full-blown Ditko coffee table book our Mister Bell was assembling for Fantagraphics publishing!
Well, it's not every day I'm asked to lend my expertise, such as it is, to a project of such magnitude, so I happily and readily agreed. Blake in turn sent me out a packet of artwork spanning Ditko's entire career, and asked me to review it, either via prose or phone. My typing skills being what they are, taking a call on Blake's dime seemed so much the easier choice, so that's what I did. I soon realized exactly how serious he was about this artistic overview when our survey of a few dozen black and white xeroxes took nearly two hours!?! Yipes! Despite what you might think, it wasn't necessarily because of my running off at the mouth. Blake kept digging and prodding, looking to get as much out of me as possible regarding my thoughts concerning each and every page sitting there in front of me. An admirable approach--and one that no doubt got the spouses in his already-completed-but-not-yet-released first book to open up--but one that would have worked far better had I anything particularly constructive to say!?! When it comes to talking off the cuff or writing upon careful consideration, well, YOU figure out which comes across more substantially!?! As it was, I found myself saying lotsa dopey stuff like, "That sure is some swell cross-hatching at the bottom of panel 4, you bet it is!", and the like. I dutifully reviewed the transcript he kindly sent me, and figured, well, he'll probably only pull one or two quotes out of this fairly unenlightening morass, and that would be it. I was delighted just to be included, and awaited the finished product--though I knew better than to do so with any sort of bated breath. Good thing, too...
Soon after this TwoMorrows book came out (and before I had an opportunity to read it), author Bell received one of the most vicious, negative reviews I've ever seen in the pages of THE COMICS JOURNAL, and that surprised me for two reasons--as you most likely know, firstly, Fantagraphics publishes TCJ. Well, I found it a bit unsettling that they'd savage a scribe who'd soon be releasing a tome under their aegis. And secondly, even for TCJ, this review seemed excessively nasty--and that's going some!?! I'm thinking, WHAT'S going on? While I have my own set of criticisms of this project--which, in the spirit of objectivity, I'll enumerate towards the end of this discussion--an awful lot about what was RIGHT about this book was conveniently overlooked. Soon after reading this curious slam, I got word from my pal Bill Alger that the Ditko book's a no-go, and while he sent me some specific info surrounding the circumstances that he garnered on the Internet, I was unable to open the file for technical reasons that continue to baffle me, so to this day, I remain ignorant as to the cause(s)--though my instincts tell me they just might have the initials of S.D., R.S., and/or G.G...
Y'see, Ms. Loubert vividly paints as unflattering a picture of working with Stubborn Steve as I've yet to encounter in print. Additionally, she also paints Ditko associate Robin Snyder with much the same brush, calling him, at one point, "an oddball character", later adding that "he seems to have a personality that can deal with Ditko and that says a lot." Perhaps, for Misters Ditko and Snyder, she's already said TOO much? Or rather, author Bell has seen fit to include far too much of observations that are, admittedly, far afield of dealing with her life as the lady who co-launched CEREBUS? Oh sure, these acidic anecdotes were all part and parcel of her many memories of running Renegade post Dave, but, c'mon--had her less than warm feelings regarding her Ditko dealings been omitted, no one would have ever been the wiser, AND the subject of Bell's next book might've actually managed to sit still for his word portrait?!? And as for that mean-spirited TCJ review, could there have been ANY correlation between Deni's bitter little vignette portraying Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth as a morally deprived back-stabbing liar who cold-bloodedly stole the JOURNEY series right from under Renegade's noses, working from privileged information gathered under the supposed (mis)understanding of a mutual friendship, hmm? Could something like that ACTUALLY happen? Hey, just read this book, and you'll soon wind up being more surprised when it DOESN'T!...
Let me stress that this is all pure conjecture on my part, as I have absolutely NO verifiable idea as to why the Fantagraphics Ditko book got derailed. It just seems to me that when dealing with such a famously difficult personality as Steve, one needn't make things any tougher for oneself than necessary, and with all due respect, Blake, that appears to be the case here. Quoting someone referring to him as "a very strange guy, and that's kind of an understatement" couldn't POSSIBLY endear the man to you--and THAT'S kind of an understatement, too, dig? I know the guy says he respects the truth at all costs, but odds are, Deni's viewpoint is not HIS truth! Well, anyway, who knows--maybe you'll manage to get the project going again somehow. After all, we certainly wouldn't want to deprive the world of my breathless insights into the way Ditko's drapery hangs ominously in his shadow-ridden backgrounds, now would we?...
Enough with the personal counseling already. Now for those criticisms I promised. (Oboy! Blake's having fun NOW, isn't he?) Mostly, I found my problems to be in the areas of stylistic choice, not content (which I feel was generously abundant and extremely worthwhile). First of all, I wasn't enamored of Bell's attempt to write his connecting narrative passages in what passes for a present-tense, you-are-there type mode. Sometimes all this good stuff came off sounding like a cheesy scandal schlockumentary on the "E" Network. Regarding the DeCarlos, he writes, "Josie fears leaving home, but is anxious to reconnect with Dan", that being but one example of many. It adds a false sense of drama that these already dramatic tales hardly need. Plus, it's difficult to maintain this focus throughout the course of 208 pages, and despite best efforts, the ever-present past tense slyly slips in from time to time.
And at times the prose can be nearly as purple as Prince's wardrobe: "The life of a freelancer in the 1950s is as turbulent as the Jersey shoreline." Still, for all it's occasional lapses wandering off into hard-boiled territory, the text is never boring, and does in fact contain some keenly rendered observations, downbeat though they may be. And while I saw the wisdom of pairing up Ayers and Estrada into a single chapter, I think the author overreaches himself in the fourth chapter, which combines, contrasts, and alternates between the Eisner, Lee, AND Kubert families over the course of 30 pages!?! A lot of solid information is undeniably contained therein, but the way it bounces back and forth between it's three sets of protagonists is, in the end, unnecessarily confusing. Interesting idea, but evidence that a sharper editing job could've made this an even stronger book.
A curious aside regarding the introduction--while this book nicely serves as a confirmation as to both the spiritual and emotional advantages of the institution of marriage, our author nonetheless professes to be totally clueless as to reasons exactly WHY folks would ever enter into such a state in the first place!?! Read your own book, friend--it's all there.
Lastly, there WAS one thing about the text that bothered me that fell outside the stylistic realm, and that was Bell's unfathomable decision to introduce each of the ladies as connected legally via surname to their eventual partners from the moment of their birth--as in, "It's 1942, and Forest Hills, N.Y. trumpets the birth of Adrienne Colan"!?! No, Blake, it DIDN'T! Any trumpeting that might've been heard surely didn't include the last name of the man she wouldn't even meet until several decades further down the road!?! Chapter after chapter, Bell chooses to identify the women solely by the names given to them by their eventual spouses (save Josie Dumont, whose tale of life with her family in war-torn forties France and her courtship with the American soldier DeCarlo, is too integral a part of the couple's history to blindly slough over) Even some of the women who hold onto their own names AFTER the wedding vows have been exchanged suffer this unfortunate glitch--Jackie Estrada, I was surprised to find out, inherited the "Estrada" from her FIRST husband!?! (Who, I should hastily clarify, WASN'T Ric Estrada...) What her name was before that, well, I have absolutely no clue, as the author doesn't chose to supply it. It's an odd decision, one that could easily be interpreted as a sexist oversight, if it weren't for the clear absence of any such additional taint to be found anywhere throughout the remainder of a very respectful manuscript. Let's just chalk it up as an inadvertently thoughtless gaffe, and leave it at that, okay? Should there ever be second printing, I think you owe it to the ladies to go back and include their actual birth names, okay, Blake?
In conclusion, despite whatever small faults there may've been, I found "I Have To Live With This Guy" to be an engrossing examination of a heretofore mostly uncharted corner of the history of comics, and would recommend it to anyone who's interested in the way things REALLY went down in those fabled four-color funnybook factories.
Just toss aside your rose-colored glasses before you crack open the covers, okay? It'll be for your own good, believe me...
September 27th, 2003
|Looking back, much to my surprise, Lynn did
in fact manage to snag some tickets--three
to be exact. Yup, we were going to see Paul
McCartney again, and this time Julie was
lucky enough to be accompanying us. At least,
WE thought she was lucky...
Julie didn't agree. She grimaced when informed we were all going to pile into the car and drive nearly three hours to see Macca at the Hartford Civic Center. The show was scheduled to commence at 8pm on Friday, September 27th, 2002--which just happens to be exactly one year ago today.
When we initially saw the Fab One at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum a few months earlier on April 21st of last year, our dear darlin' daughter stayed home with her grandmother. There were no complaints from either quarters that particular night, but when Lynn saw that another show at the relatively close Connecticut venue was inserted into the ex-Beatles touring agenda, she inquired as to if we'd like to all go to see another show should any tickets suddenly turn up available.
"Sure", I said, little thinking there'd be any REAL chance we'd be fortunate enough to score seats so close to the show's actual play date, but, like I said, much to my surprise, mere days before Paul carted his Hofner bass to off to Hartford , we came into possession of three choice--if not necessarily magnificent--seats!?!
Not being part of a package deal like our Spring expedition--bus transportation was provided for us and other folks that time around--we found our selves driving dark, unfamiliar, and--did I mention it was raining?--wet highways in the hopes of getting up to Row D in time. And in the back seat? Little Miss Kicking and Screaming. Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT bad, but Julie indicated her lack of interest on more than one occasion in recent days past, and she wasn't at all shy about reminding us on the way over.
I suppose I might've reacted much the same way if my parents had tried to cart me off to see Frank Sinatra when I was 12 years old--that's assuming my folks would've ever attended an actual concert, an event that never actually occurred in my lifetime--but I also knew that years later, I'd look back and say, "Wow. I saw Sinatra?!..." I never actually did, of course, but hopefully the day will come when Julie will thank us for dragging her along to see one of the most famous composers and performers of the 20th century--and if I'm really, REALLY lucky, I won't be six feet under when it happens!?!...
We arrived with 15 minutes to spare, only to find that, in the name of security, only ONE door was open, creating a tremendous bottleneck of anxious fans standing out on the steps, slowly squeezing their way inside and out of the (thankfully) light drizzle. There were many doorways open back on Long Island in April, making for a swift and uncomplicated entrance for all concert goers, but not here in the Hartford Civic Center. Uh uh. As the minutes ticked away, the frustration level rose, and then rose some more, but luckily, the show was delayed about 45 minutes so not a single note of the upcoming musical extravaganza was missed by the snail-like march of ticket-holders! And at the hefty prices we shelled out for this twice-in-a-lifetime experience, that certainly was a smart and justified move on behalf of the knuckleheads responsible for letting the crowd ever-so-slowly siphon it's way in!!
Sitting in seats oddly and eerily located basically in the very same spot on this venues floor plan that mirrored our seats at the previous concert, we finally managed to sit back and enjoy the show once safely inside. And what a show it was!! Check out my April 21st entry for more details--or buy the "Back In The U.S." DVD or CD (or BOTH!) The two shows were remarkably similar, right down to our star's "spontaneous" stage patter, but it was all so wonderful the first time around, merely enjoying the performances' subtle nuances the second time around still made for a worthwhile trip.
Oh, there WAS a bit of a change in the set list over the five month interval--three new numbers were added, three old numbers were eliminated. The first ever stage performance of "She's Leaving Home" joined "Michelle" and "Let 'Em In" on this leg of the tour, replacing "Mother Nature's Son", "C Moon", and "Vanilla Sky", an upgrade in each and every instance, to my way of thinking.
I absolutely loved it, Lynn absolutely loved it, the crowd in general absolutely loved it!! Julie? Well, I'd love to report that she was won over by the magic of the evening, but I can't honestly say that that's what happened. I will tell you, happily, that her resistance was finally--FINALLY!!-- broken down--albeit just the teeniest tiniest bit--when, during the crowd singalong portion of "Hey Jude", I glanced over to see my kid, big smile splashed across her face, "Na Na Na NaNaNaNa"-ing with the best of 'em! Lemme tell ya, that small but indelibly memorable moment pretty much made all the hassle of bringing Julie along worthwhile.
Silly love songs? Sure. But, well, like the man asked, what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?...
September 26th, 2003
That's a long time to stay in the public eye, but that's the amount of time Bob Murphy spent behind the microphone in the New York Mets broadcast booth. He was there from the very first inning of the very first game that the National League expansion team played starting way back in the Spring of 1962. And while he took the occasional day off now and then over the past decade, last night he called his last regularly scheduled innings at the tail end of a 3-1 Mets loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Y'see, Murph, as he's affectionately known, didn't get up to the mike 'til late in the contest as he found himself the center of much hoopla earlier on in the evening. It was, please understand, Bob Murphy Appreciation Night at Shea Stadium Thursday, and that's what the crowd showed up to celebrate, certainly not another dismal, lifeless defeat. The warm and touching on-field tribute before the game even included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's official proclamation of "Bob Murphy Day" throughout the city--not to mention in the hearts of Mets fans everywhere!!...
The triumvirate of Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and Bob Murphy provided the voice of the Mets from their inception right on up through 1978, setting a record for the longest lasting, unchanging three man announcing team in baseball history. That particular record came to an end when Mr.Nelson decided to move back to his native San Francisco and semi-retire, just doing some football broadcasting part time. With new owners and new cable outlets to be staffed, new voices were brought in to supplement Ralph Kiner on the TV side, while Murphy was unceremoniously bumped over to the radio booth exclusively (save for the emergency fill-in) back in 1982. All indications are that he wound up thriving there, though, in my own case, watching 90 plus per cent of the games on the tube, I really only got to hear Bob a handful of times each year. Still, there was always something comforting when I did get to hear that voice floating out over the airwaves. Hey, how could it NOT seem that way? Murph was there when I hopped aboard the Mets bandwagon in those woeful days of 1966, and he was there when the Amazin's shocked the world in 1969, miraculously going from the cellar of the N.L. to the top as World's Champions in but a single year!! Talk about your happy recaps?!?...
That's what the always positive Murphy called his review of a Mets victory, y'know--a Happy Recap. Too bad this year's underachieving nightmare of a team couldn't provide Bob with one last opportunity to give his listeners a valedictory happy recap, but hey, that's baseball. Truth is, as much as I'll miss him, I'll confess to mocking his unflaggingly cheerful manner in my earlier years--y'know, back when I was a snotty kid? But growing older has opened my eyes a bit, and my appreciation for Murphy's steadiness has grown immensely. Having just turned 79, he found the spirit was still willing but the legs just weren't up to co-operating (partner Kiner, at 81, is still hanging in there, hopeful of getting at least another couple of dozen broadcasts under his belt next season, just as he has in recent years). The rigors of travel are what drove Bob into retirement, which is why he went out with a flourish calling the 2003 season's last home game--the Mets actually have three road games left to play, but one of the hidden benefits of Murphy stepping down when he did is that now he won't have to watch them!! (Did I mention it's been an abysmal--up to now--159 games? It has, believe me...)
Good luck to you, Bob, as you now embark on a never-ending "Honeydew Season". That was one of his little jokes, y'know, and he exhumed it each and every year just as the baseball season was winding itself down. He'd casually comment that soon, all the players, coaches, and managers would be headed off to their home bases, and THAT'S when the "Honeydew Season" truly began--as in, "Honey, do this, and Honey, do that..."
Okay, so maybe Gloria Steinham wouldn't have cracked a much of a smile at that little piece of retro-yocks, but coming from the Murph, we Mets fans just had to laugh, if only to keep from crying!
And that, sports fans, ends today's sappy recap!
September 25th, 2003
So the plan was simple enough: I'd wait until 10pm, and then I'd continue on in my quest to get caught up, first watching that evening's Bravo broadcast of an old episode of "The West Wing"--in this case, the 4th episode of the second season--and then I'd roll right into last night's fifth season opener and see what sort of comparison I could make in light of the dual viewing experiences.
First thing I noticed: everyone looks older in the more recent broadcast!
Hey, don't nobody say I don't give ya all the benefit of my keen insight! And at a bargain price, no less!...
Well, beyond that stupid joke, what did I learn? After all, this was the first hour NBC has aired that hasn't been written by and watched over by creator Aaron Sorkin. Of course, the script was provided by the talented John Wells, a man who works on and had a hand in concocting the much lauded "ER" series. I mean, it's not like the remaining "West Wing" braintrust brought in scribes cut adrift by the unfortunate cancellation of "Homeboys In Outer Space" to fill Sorkin's parking space, y'know! Quality replaces quality in this instance, but still, it was a subtly different sort of quality...
Let's take a quick look at that old show first. It was the one where they introduce Ainsley Hanes (played by Emily Proctor), a slim, good-looking blond young Republican lawyer whose besting of Sam Seaborn ("The Lyon's Den"s Rob Lowe--and how long are we going to be able to say THAT, I wonder?...) on a fictional political chat show so impresses the Prez, he requests she be offered a job in his Democratic White House. Meanwhile, his administration is dealing with the problems the leader of a small African nation is having with American based pharmaceutical companies in getting the necessary drugs to stave off an AIDS epidemic in his country. These scenes, mostly shot around a large conference table, come off as a typical Sorkin slanted civics lesson, albeit one with a generous helping of reliably snappy dialog.
Our gal--who pretty much stands against everything the Bartlet administration believes in--is on the verge of turning down Martin Sheen's gracious offer when she happens to hear a conversation in the Oval Office between the cast's regulars and the aforementioned African President. Word just came in that, once out of his country, the visiting dignitary has been the victim of a military coup, and yes, several members of his family have indeed been murdered. The ensuing eavesdropping convinces the GOP cutie of the undeniable basic nobility of the folks who are currently running the country, even if, in her mind, they ARE a bit off on the details. When she meets her fellow Republican operatives for lunch the next day, they fully expect to wallow in the warmth of her curt refusal, only to have their hyena-like gloating cut short by the news that Ainsley, recognizing patriots when she sees 'em, has flip-flopped and proudly accepted the position!?!
The episode ends with a dramatic postscript when word comes in that our hapless African leader, against all advice given to him by his Emmy winning colleagues, was executed on the airstrip when he proudly if perhaps ill-advisedly attempted to return to the land of his birth.
To quote Keanu Reeves--or was it Eddie Arcarro?--"Whoa!" Heavy, man. And frankly, a whole lotta malarkey, too.
Don't misunderstand, I really do like this show, and when it comes to politics, those times when I can summon up enough interest to care, yeah, I generally lean towards the Democratic side of things, but his whole script struck me as pandering. Obviously having been criticized for stacking the deck in his previous scripts, Sorkin sought to add a lovable Republican operative to the mix. Fine. Good idea. But the way in which she was enlisted and the manner in which she breaks free of her long-held convictions to agree to sign up with the Loyal Opposition, well, it all plays out like a wish-fulfillment fairy tale. Despite making for compelling drama, this was hardly one of the more realistic episodes of "The West Wing". (..But then, that Carville guy married that Republican lady, didn't he, so I guess stranger things HAVE happened?...)
As for the Wells written "West Wing", he's picking up from a tremendously melodramatic storyline inherited from Sorkin: the President's youngest daughter, Zoey, is kidnapped by terrorists in apparent retaliation for an earlier assassination covertly carried out by the Bartlet administration, and because of the conflicted nature of the situation, the nation's head honcho invokes the 25th Amendment and steps down and leaves the country and his little girl's fate in the hand's of a blustery Republican Speaker of the House, his own Vice President having conveniently been recently ousted in light of a sex scandal that surfaced only episodes earlier. Whew! With all that swirling around, not much time for a civics lesson THIS week, lemme tell ya...
Two bits of minutia to note. One, way back in the 5th or 6th episode, when Zoey inadveratntly causes a ruckus in a DC bar, the Prez lays into her afterwards, screaming that one day, if she's not more careful, she'll find dead Secret Service agents on either side of her, and eventually wind up in some dark dank prison in some hostile country her own sorry self. And, as it turns out, that's pretty much what happened--though Martin Sheen neglected to mention that he'd also have to suffer the indignity of being replaced by "Roseanne"s John Goodman in the Big Chair!?! Maybe because it's supposed to be a secret?...
That's item two. When Goodman barreled onto the set in the closing minutes of Sorkin's tenure last May, he arrived without a screen credit. A wise decision, as once in awhile, it's nice to be able to surprise an audience (although I read about his casting a few days earlier on...sigh...the Internet...). However, I noted that even with television viewers fully aware of his status on the show, he remained an actor without a credit line again this time around. Gee, are we supposed to believe he's the real thing, and not the guy whose closest previous connection to the Beltway was playing Linda Tripp on SNL? I don't quite understand what's the deal here, but consider it duly noted.
The story itself played out in a gripping fashion, and besides the obvious consternation rippling through the entire Bartlet family--including the appearance of two never before seen but long spoken of daughters and their respective broods--the disorientation felt by the staffers as their world was turned upside down by these GOP interlopers was palpable and fascinating to watch. Overall, there was a slightly different feel to things, with there perhaps even being a slight change in the type of film stock utilized in filming the show--though I'm certainly no expert and that may easily be something I'm imagining.
When Bartlet turns to Chief of Staff Leo near hour's end and bemoans the fact that they initially went into all this with high hopes for the many changes they'd hoped to make legislatively, only to find themselves in THIS seemingly untenable position, well! The way things were presented last night, it's hard to figure a way of realistically rescuing Zoey from this dire fix. Oh sure, Jack Bauer could do it--AND in under 24 hours to boot--but I don't think he's available to THIS particular administration, y'know?!? And yet, if she DOES meet her untimely demise, how then doesn't this show devolve into a present-day version of Captain Archer piloting the Enterprise through the Expanse in search of revenge on the mysterious Ziti (not to mention the delicious Ricotta and the tasty Mozzarella.)?
Melodrama. The uncharted course. We'll just have to wait and see where things go when this story arc is cleared up--THAT'LL be the true test of how the new folks are doing. And if Josh and Donna FINALLY hook up soon after, well, then we'll have a pretty good idea the direction things are heading, won't we?...
(And no, to the best of my limited ability to keep track of these sort of things, I didn't hear a single declarative "okay'' uttered by the cast last night. Told ya so....)
September 24th, 2003
I was once hopelessly, painfully, and utterly addicted to daytime TV talk shows.
The time-frame? The late eighties and into the early nineties. Julie was just a baby then, and I spent many an evening nocturnally working on my Will-It-EVER-Be-Finished epic, KIDZ, and since blasting out loud rock music at two in the morning was frowned upon by the other, peacefully sleeping, members of the family--the sort of work hours I once maintained, though no longer--better to be accompanied by the provocative posturings of the various microphone wielding hosts than listen to the Rolling Stones ever so softly croon "Under My Thumb"...
I watched them all--or rather, I taped them all. Funny thing--when you watched 'em after the fact on your VCR, an hour's program only took a mere 40 minutes!! That meant, for every 3 gabfests viewed, you had time for a bonus fourth with the time you saved!! Some might say there's a far better way to spend that extra allotment of precious minutes--or, the duration of the entire initial 3 episodes as well, but hey, I SAID I was addicted, dig? I never said I was RIGHT!?!
In fairness to me, however, I must insist that talk shows make ideal viewing--or listening, actually--for a cartoonist focused mainly on his drawing board. You mostly don't need to look up to follow what's taking place there on the screen (I tried watching reruns of old series like "Bonanza" and "Bewitched" at one point, but eventually had to stop as I found myself looking up far too often--or else, being confused by some key plot point I'd missed whilst inking merrily away?!?...). And beyond that, the talk arena of 1990 was a far different beast than what it would summarily devolve into later in the decade. There was actually--honest--signs of intelligent life sitting up there on the various and sundry sets.
Ron Reagan--the son, not the Prez--had an issue-oriented, if short-lived, hour. And you could always count on Phil Donahue to be against the war, WHICHEVER war happened to be going on at the time. A charismatic newcomer by the name of Montel Williams quickly and totally won me over with his sincere approach to the dual purposes of bettering people's lives AND addressing the injustices sadly found in our society even today.
On the slightly frothier side--but no less earnest, or so it seemed--relationship issues were examined by the likes of Jenny Jones (an early favorite), the so-unhip-she-was-hip (almost) Sally Jessy Raphael, and for the younger folk, fresh from a series of John Waters cinematic-masterpieces (no, NOT Divine--though THAT sure would've been a sixty minute slice of tube-steak worth ordering from the video menu!?!...), the still-on-the-air-to-this-very-day Ricki Lake. And of course, this was back when Geraldo still his daily talk show and the Fox NewsChannel was but a nightmare Al Franken suffered after eating an undigested piece of sausage. So there was an awful lot to keep track of.
Back then, the topic of UFOs still made the cut upon occasion, and I can also vividly recall, years before the demise and subsequent freezing of legendary baseball slugger Ted Williams, a morbid discussion featured on a Montel program concerning said practice, complete with calmly laid out details regarding the slicing off and popsicling of the client's noggin! Brrr! (No pun intended...) The fact that that particular episode by chance came up for viewing in the middle of the night--sometime after 1 am or thereabouts--in a deathly quiet house made the whole thing all the more ghastly and curiously memorable, but I nonetheless felt it was something worth watching. I could still legitimately say I was learning things from daytime talk. Not for long, though...
Far from subtly, the topics began to shift towards relationship problems, and soon, that's ALL that concerned the myriad of hosts, save the occasional Donahue attempt at dignity (when he wasn't wearing a dress, mind you...). New people by the score were getting their chance to roam studio audiences. A woman named Jane Pratt tried to make a youth centered-Ricki Lake styled rip-off fly--twice. Another Jane--whose last name totally escapes me--attempted a more sensational version of Donahue, with over the top "newsmakers" as her guests. Maury Povitch-- yeah,I was so desperate that at times I even watched that chucklehead!?! (I don't, nor have I ever had, a very high opinion of him. Sorry, Connie...)
Presaging the genres' future direction, a fellow by the name of Richard Bey hosted a local New York program which dealt almost exclusively with dysfunctional, not altogether camera-friendly couples. He seemed to slyly realize the joke was on the audience, so after hearing his guests various tawdry tales of woe, Bey reserved the final third of each hour for his sorry specimens to compete in some absurd game of chance, usually aided by a large, garish prop, and often accompanied by the incessant throwing of food!?! Man, I really thought this guy was going places, but somehow, he never managed to break out of the New York market. While I was correct in assuming the audience indeed wanted to peek in on a never-ending series of relentlessly rotten relationships, they just didn't want the whole affair to be made into a big joke while they were doing so. At least, not yet.
I remember the first time I ever saw a threesome(...no, not THAT kind!...)--two guys and a gal--confront the issue of infidelity on one of these shows. It was on an episode of Geraldo, and I was alerted to it by a fellow cartoonist (no names please! I'M confessing here, but I'm not giving up any of my colleagues.) who told me I HAD to watch that afternoon's episode. Inasmuch as I had it safely stored away on tape, that posed no appreciable problem. When I hit the "Play" button, I witnessed an artfully choreographed revelation of forbidden hanky-panky between friends, with one party watching off stage, only to rush out angrily and confront both his lady and his erstwhile compadre upon receiving the nerve wracking news. Blows weren't exchanged--not quite--but the threat was definitely present. And unlike so many folks who found themselves in similar situations in the years to come, this trio was all graced with glamorous movie-star--or at least, TV star--looks. I was shocked, I was stunned, I was--yes, I'll admit it--enthralled. Luckily, Geraldo was there to smooth things over, for who better to give advice to the lovelorn than a fellow who, at the time, was only on his 4th marriage?? (I THINK that figure's right, but golly, who can really keep up?...)
(To answer your unspoken query, yes, I watched Oprah, but only rarely and generally only when all the other talk shows were in reruns. Something about her manner has always put me off. Although this example post-dates my chat-show mania, let me present it to you like this: Say what you will about Rosie O'Donnell (not a beloved figure hereabouts, either) but at least, at the height of her fame while commandeering a monthly magazine, SHE chose to share--and even turn over entirely--the cover spot with/to another celebrity on her euphonious periodical. Now, has anybody ELSE except the Big O EVER appear on the front of the "Oprah" rag, hmm?...)
So the shows continued to get tackier and tackier, but that didn't stop me from continuing to tune in. No, what got me to finally turn the set off were two things, one of a general nature and one a specific instance. Obviously, there was a certain amount of overload going on racking up all those hours (gee, you think?...), and it became wearisome after a while trying to keep up. But the single episode that made me turn my back on the whole gang--or most of 'em, anyway--was a particularly self-indulgent hour of Montel airing just a few weeks before Christmas. Here was this straight-talking guy that I'd come to admire sitting up on stage with a number of formerly destitute families, all of whom were the privileged recipients of his largesse--or, more likely, moolah emanating from the show's production company--thereby having their holidays rescued from oblivion by good Saint Montel.
I'm not saying this wasn't a good thing, as those poor folks certainly deserved whatever break they could get, but the smugly self-congratulatory manner in which each family received their gifts drove me to get up out of my chair and turn off the tube before the show had even reached it's sentimental but strangely hollow conclusion. Seeing the crass manipulation of emotions on that episode--ours at home, the studio audiences, and most egregiously, those poor wretches sitting up on stage with the host--belatedly opened my eyes to what was REALLY going on in daytime, and I found I didn't much like it.
That was it for me and Montel. Geraldo, Sally Jessy, Ricki, Maury, ANYBODY named Jane--they all were pretty much out of my life from that point on. There was, however, one talk show host I hung onto after casting all the rest aside. He was a relatively new figure on the scene, but he seemed to truly care about his guests. He didn't stuff his show with several configurations of sad sacks like the lady in the red-rimmed glasses routinely did. One thoroughly investigated scenario per hour was enough for his more well-reasoned approach. He was funny, he was charming, and he was intelligent. He was the one talk show host, I decided, that I was sticking by.
His name? Jerry Springer, of course!
Hey, no snickering out there! His show really did seem sincere, if not particularly weighty, in it's first few years. Myself, and the couple of other hundred folks who were watching regularly, can readily attest to that. All that other stuff--chair throwing, full-scale swearing, casual disrobing (not to mention huge ratings)--that all came later, long after I'd finished with the format once and for all. What it eventually came down to was that we were in the process of moving in 1995, and that turned out to be a full-time, months long proposition. Something had to give, and it sure wasn't gonna be "Seinfeld"! I bid Jerry (but not George, Kramer, or Elaine) goodbye, and not soon after, the whole genre exploded on the front pages of newspapers worldwide (well, at least in Canada, I'd imagine...) Guests were killing other guests, and new standards in low-brow entertainment were being set on an almost daily basis. I felt good about casting the whole lot of 'em adrift in what amounted to be the proverbial nick of time. I didn't miss 'em.
Oh sure, over the ensuing years, I've glimpsed a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Many new shows have sprouted up, only to wilt soon after--remember Carnie, anyone?--and even established stars like Phil, Sally Jessy, and Jenny(Matchmaker)Jones have taped their final hours. After all that bad publicity sustained by the genre, the word is that the remaining programs--Maury, Montel, Ricki--have endeavored mightily to regain a modicum--however slight--of taste. Except for Jerry...
Like I said, I heard all about the mayhem--staged or not--that raged throughout his studio in recent seasons. I knew all about the women--and some men--who eagerly peeled off their outer garments so as to better thrust their pixilated goodies right into the faces of the American audience Monday through Friday mornings. But, despite that knowledge, yesterday, I still found myself shocked at what I saw happen under Mr. Springer's aegis...
Let me explain. Julie was home sick yesterday--just a bit of a virus we were well aware of the night before--so I took advantage of the situation and slept in a bit longer than usual. I fell out of bed and flipped on Regis and Kelly (along with Conan and Jimmy Kimmel, my current--and, stylistically, radically different--talk shows of choice). Generally, I get to work right after the choice opening twenty-plus minute host-chat segment, viewing the rest of the standard showbiz interview portions of the endeavor safely from behind my drawing board. But as I said, I arose later than usual that morning and wasn't quite awake enough to tackle the task of scrawling out squiggles just yet, so I sat on the couch intending to just watch the rest of the show. Well, mixed in with the interminable commercials was a musical guest I really wasn't hepped-up about seeing, so I decided instead to channel surf. Three guesses as to where I wound up, and as the old saying goes, the first two don't count, Einstein!...
There were three young ladies up on Jerry's stage, y'see, and two of 'em were clearly vying for the affection of the third. I know this to be true since the pining pair obviously both felt that righteously ripping off their oh-so-confining clothes would clearly demonstrate to the world which of these not-quite nubile lasses deserved the love--and lust--of the conflicted third party. Ho hum. Nothing new there. The show was almost over, anyway. The only thing left--besides the still comically maintained high-minded "Final Thought" delivered by the barely interested host at the hour's conclusion--was the segment wherein the audience gets to quiz--or more likely--berate the ne'er do wells assembled up on stage. THAT'S where, as a lapsed viewer, I had a tremendous surprise waiting for me...
Oh sure, the people sitting comfortably in the audience mostly just hurled insults towards the sorry bunch up on the stage, but then a funny thing happened: each time a young woman would make a comment, the rest of the audience would start chanting for her to lift up her top and bare her breasts for all to see--or at least, for those folks in the immediate vicinity, as the rest of the world had to suffice with pixilated pecs!?! Much to my astonishment, this happened time and again, with acquiescence the order of the day! Some of the more uninhibited gals were even invited up on to center stage where the lights were dimmed, the music piped in, and a short dance--more erratic than erotic--ensued! And if a heavy-set guy piped up with an opinion? Strip buddy--show us your man-boobs!!
I tuned back in today to confirm if whether what I saw yesterday was an aberration. It wasn't. Of all the folks who stood up, ostensibly to speak their mind--questionable a concept as that may be--, only one young woman demurred when asked to flash the assemblage with her assemblage!! In fact, one considerably overweight woman cheerily informed the host that she in fact had nothing to say (...hey,THERE'S a surprise...), she merely wanted the opportunity to earn some so-called "Jerry Beads"! Yes, following in the grand tradition of awarding plastic trinkets to bosom baring babes during each year's Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, the Springer circus has queasily co-opted this already questionable routine--without, as far as I can tell, even needing to booze up their marks first!!...
So this then is what it's all come too. I suppose it's only a matter of time before audience members start throwing chairs at each other, too--but maybe they already have and I've just missed that episode, y'know? It's difficult for me to reconcile the fact that I once thrived on these daytime yakkers while witnessing all the sleazy nonsense that came spewing out of Jerry's show these past two mornings. But I certainly shouldn't attempt at coming off all holier than thou on you either, gang. Because after all, the minute they start talking UFOs again, you KNOW I'm back on board (so to speak)!!
But I think I'll skip that follow up interview with Ted Williams, if you don't mind. "Sports and the Frigid Superstar"--no thanks. Better that toothless lady from the WalMart down the street should earn herself a string of Jerry Beads!?!...
September 23rd, 2003
They call it wallpaper.
You know, that image that resides comfortably on you computer screen underneath all your various amassed icons. We're a well wired household, with several laptops readily available for use at all times, but still, there is that one central computer that all the rest seem to revolve around. Lynn and I long ago surrendered the choice of background art--or wallpaper--on the prime PC to our daughter, Julie. Of late, the pictures she's chosen--they change every few days--have all had something or other to do with her current (and overriding) fixation, the self-proclaimed King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Album covers, stills, even photographic progressions documenting the decline and fall off of his nostril units--THIS is what greets me each and every morning when I first check in with my email. Certainly there's never anything up on the screen related to one of MY pet obsessions, comics...
Yup, my little Jacksonette had NO idea she was spotlighting the work of one of the all-time greats in the comic-book field, Mr. Neal Adams himself, when she posted the above illo on our mutually shared screen! Amused by the coincidence, I thought I'd share the artwork with you folks out there in e-land! Running this vintage drawing (done, I believe, as publicity for the long-ago Jackson 5 cartoon series, though it was later also utilized for the "Soulsation" box-set issued by Motown a few years back) should please several divergent components of my audience:
Comics fans who adore nifty Neal's oeuvre--but may find this subject too far afield to have ever encountered it before--should appreciate the opportunity to view this drawing without ever once having to listen to "Rockin' Robin"!! (...I should be so lucky...)
Julie will be happy that, in however backhanded a manner, her dad is helping her perpetuate the gospel of--as she calls him--MJ. Gee, to us comics' geeks, "MJ" has a whole 'NOTHER meaning!?! ..sigh...
...And of course, seeing Tito and his four sibs appearing colorfully on his screen is sure to delight Jim Salicrup, who continuously urges me to brighten up my text-heavy blatherings with some snappy images! If only it were as easy as A B C, Jim! But every so often, yup, Lynn has a few extra minutes, and some purty pictures do get posted! Can I help it if lately they all seem to be of the World's Strangest Superstar?...
I realize I've been offline for a far longer period of time than usual. No specific reason, save maybe just hitting a dry patch. I've said it before--I'm not much of a typist, so these things probably take me far longer than they do the likes of a Mark Evanier or a Bill Sherman, both of whom I envy for their ability to post so often and so cogently. You could do worse than check out their respective sites, folks--that is, as long as there are no pearls of wisdom from yours truly flailing out across the electronic highways and byways that particular day, of course!! So stay tuned--more to follow.
And not ALL of it will concern Lisa Marie's ex, this I promise...
September 10th, 2003
Aaron Sorkin's television series about the fictional Bartlett presidency, "The West Wing", has won a score of awards, critical plaudits, and mass audience devotion alike for it's exquisite blend of deft acting, intelligent writing, and top-notch production values, and while I wouldn't be one to disagree with that assessment, if you came right out and asked me about the show, well, THIS is what I'd say--
"The West Wing" is an okay program.
The REASON I'd say that? Probably because never in all my years of watching ye olde boob tube have I stumbled across a show where the phrase "okay" is used so frequently by so many different characters but yet, always with basically the same exact intonation in their voices!?!
Look, when this "The West Wing" business debuted four seasons back, I avoided it. This despite the fact that I very much enjoyed Sorkin's previous series, "Sports Night". Despite being a long time fan of star Martin Sheen. And despite having been fascinated with the office of the Presidency since I was but a wee lad. WHY then didn't I watch? Simple--I didn't want to get my heart broken. This thing had all the looks of disappearing even before the leftovers at Thanksgiving did. And if, by some miracle, it DID manage to hang on for a full year, there's just no way the inevitable season ending cliffhanger would ever be resolved, because the network re-upping for a second season, well, that was totally unfathomable to me back that Fall. So why torture myself? Why? Smugly, if somewhat sadly, I elected to stay clear of this Cancelled Series Airing...
But then, astonishingly, the show not only hung on, it became a hit, at least of sorts!?! Not "Survivor"-like maybe, but it wasn't going anywhere soon. So, about midway through the second year, egged on by some prodding from pal Rocco Nigro, I set the VCR, took the plunge and haven't looked back yet!! Well, at least not until the Bravo network began running the show on a daily basis recently, commencing, obviously, with the episodes I had initially avoided. And that's where, viewing them daily, or some times in bunches of two or even three in a sitting, I noticed this odd little writing tic Sorkin employed in show after show after show...
For those of you not in the know, creator Sorkin has written all but one--or maybe two--episodes of the series over the past four years, an amazing accomplishment. Inasmuch as he's very good with the words, that's basically a plus. But it also means that, at times, the shows tend to sound a bit alike, especially when it comes to the usage of that aforementioned word, "okay"...
Please understand that I'm not referring to the word "okay" buried deep somewhere in a sentence, as in "Do you think it would be okay if Charlie Sheen dated the President's daughter during sweeps?" And I don't mean "okay" delivered with the sort of excited joyousness implicit in a statement like "Okay, we did it!!" or with the weary resentment that comes through in "Okay, okay, I'll take out the @#$! garbage!!" No, the way Mr. Sorkin employs it--and employs it over and over again--is to utilize it as a way for character A to nonplussedly agree with some statement made by character B, a statement that, from the tenor of character A's voice, character A fully didn't expect to agree with initially, but ultimately did, if only belatedly and somewhat shamefacedly. Usually, these exchanges are played for mild comedic effect, but not always.
And they ALL do it. Maybe Josh is the most pronounced proponent of this verbal scene sealer, but I've witnessed it slipping out of the mouths of everyone from the President on down. In fact, Danny the reporter ends practically every conversation he engages press secretary C.J. Craig in with an "okay". And each and every one of them, regardless of which actor's lips it's escaping from, and in what context, is spoken with the same odd, little, almost apologetically blase inflection. While you may not notice this when viewing the show on a weekly basis, tuning in day after day makes it blatantly apparent. Last night alone, six such utterances were heard by this score-keeping viewer. Yes, it was indeed the first time I counted, but--Saints preserve me!!--it's surely won't be the last!?! And if I've somehow ruined the viewing experience for any of you out there, I'm sincerely sorry, but sometimes I've just gotta call 'em as I see 'em. (To which YOU reply, "Okay"...)
The fifth season will begin soon, and unlike previous ones, Sorkin will no longer have a hand in his brainchild's course, writing or otherwise. What effect this will have on the show remains to seen. "The West Wing" may very well continue to be a great show, or become, just as easily, a horrible mess. What's highly unlikely, though, is that, without Sorkin at the helm, it will remain such an "okay" hour of television...
September 6th, 2003
The skipper was Jim Starlin.
Me? Well, to paraphrase the immortal Melville, call me Gilligan! The multi-talented Kevin Ferrara/Schnaper made a fine stand-in for the Professor, while the lovely Cindy Dill took on the roles of both Mary Ann AND Ginger!! Thurston Howell the Third? Why, Terry Austin, of course, because frankly, hiring him to ink a comic book for you is like having money in the bank!
Our little crew of five was gathered on Skipper Jim's brand new motor-boat for a three hour tour of the Hudson River Friday night, and with Hurricane Fabian still far, far afield off our shores in the Bahamas, odds were good that our fates wouldn't likely duplicate that of the Minnow's crew!?! So, besides being eerily analogous to the castaways of one of the lamest--yet strangely most popular--sitcoms in TV history, what exactly were we all doing there?
Well, the simple answer to that is that Jim invited us. We're all regulars at the weekly volleyball game Jim helped found years and years ago, y'see. Terry and I signed on way back in 1987, with Kevin joining in the early nineties. Cindy's been with us for only four or five years now, although we'd all known her a least a decade longer than that from the many Hudson Valley artists get-togethers that were once the rage. You comics fans may not recognize their names, but both Cindy and Kevin are talented artists in their own right. Okay, so neither of 'em ever offed Captain Marvel, put the kibosh on the Marvel Universe, or applied the finishing touches to Jean Grey's demise, but that doesn't make them bad people, dig? Some, in fact, would say just the opposite...
We four met Capt'n Jim down at the docks at five bells,boarded his craft shortly thereafter, and soon set sail. Obviously, you need more than five to play a decent game of volleyball, but six seemed to be the maximum amount of passengers the Skipper felt comfortable sailing with at a time, and I've no doubt the rest of the group will get their chance to traverse the seas with Sailor Starlin soon enough (Lynn would've been the sixth member of our expedition, incidentally, but she had other commitments that afternoon and regrettably had to bow out).
Jim took us out of the harbor area slowly and smoothly, but soon opened things up when we came upon the open river, revving things up to a speed of 35 knots, which is roughly the same as 35 miles per hour. It was quite the rush for a life-long landlubber like me, and when I excitedly turned to the group and commented that the last time I was in a small boat like this, a plastic Rhinoceros stuck it's head out of the water and sprayed me and the rest of the passengers, most of 'em had NO idea what I was talking about. Cindy did, though, since she had long-ago been employed in the realm founded by the Man Who Made His Cheese From A Mouse--Disneyworld! Yup, she knew I was referring to the "Jungle Cruise" ride as being my last significant seagoing experience--and maybe that's why, when I spotted a clump of seaweed floating dangerously close to our vessel, I was quick to shout out "Alligator!!" Jim, our genial maritime expert, calmly explained to me that we don't have alligators in these environs, though if we drifted a little too close to the New York City sewer system, he couldn't in good conscience rule out our encountering a crocodile or two!?!...
The weather was magnificent, and the sights equally so. Our host gestured towards the shore and pointed out a home once owned by literature's Gore Vidal, a Madonna sea-side residence, and a mansion housing none other than smut-magnate Bob Guccione! Quite the tour--and nothing at all like the one I last took at Florida's most popular theme park (though I half-expected to see plastic women pop out the water near Guccione Manor and spray us, but it never happened...)
Finally, we dropped anchor in an area reputed by our sea-worthy sensei--and who were we to argue?--to feature the most beautiful sunset anywhere around. While we awaited the solar submerging, food was broken out of the coolers stashed below. We each made our own sandwiches from an array of turkey, ham, cheese, bread (rolls and rye), lettuce, tomato, and chips, all generously provided by Cindy. (I brought the pickles, condiments, napkins and paper plates, for those of you scoring at home...) Some folks had ham and cheese on rye with mustard, others turkey and cheese on a sub role with mayo. Never one to discriminate, yours truly had BOTH!?!
Jim furnished the beverages, of which I admit to sipping a small quantity of white wine. At one point, needing a refill, I casually asked where the "Winey-wine" was stashed, and they all laughed at me!?! Can you imagine that? Don't they know that's how I speak around my own house? Sure, Julie's 13 now, but that doesn't mean I've totally shaken the manner in which I learned to gibber-jabber when she was but a wee lass? So stop chuckling, chumps, and pass me that winey-wine!?!
This was the talking portion of our outing, and you might be surprised to learn that the topic of comics barely came up. There was a short discussion about former Hudson Valley resident--and good friend to us all--Ron Marz and the birth of his and wife Kirsten's third child down in the land of Crossgen, the place to whence he emigrated several years back. That was followed by brief comments concerning Crossgen's current financial crisis, and it was the unanimous wish of all those aboard that the company weather the storm and remain afloat, if only for the Marz' and their ever expanding brood...
Otherwise, it was the usual good-natured chatter. Odd foods we have eaten. What's wrong with the Fox NewsChannel. What my teenage daughter thinks of my musical taste (you don't want to know, but you can count on it to be insulting...) At one point, the topic turned to a memorable Halloween Party Jim and I attended almost 14 years ago, and we had the rest of the crew in stitches as we retold the events that had unfolded that evening. It's quite the little story, but the time for recounting it here hasn't quite come around yet. Worry not, though--by now, my regular readers know how much I like to cue my stories in with specific dates, and come this All Hallow's Eve, no detail will be spared, no nuance neglected! This is both a promise AND a warning, so stay tuned!
Time for dessert! Terry had baked some chocolate chip cookies, but felt he'd messed them up by pouring the entire bag of Nestle chips into the dough instead of the recommended half a bags' worth, a little nicety in the recipe he'd missed initially. He truly seemed crestfallen for his mistake, but we all assured him things weren't nearly as dark as he painted them. After all, how bad could too much chocolate be anyway, and sure enough, we were soon proven right, as his baked goods were a hit with all! Additionally, Cindy contributed most of a chocolate cake she'd made with her son just days earlier. With him now off to college, she requested our help in finishing it off, and I for one was only too happy to help! Finally, Kevin kicked in some delectable Chocolate-covered Hazel nut candies to put the final touch on our river-bound feast!! (And not a single passenger threw up from seasickness, happily--though I may've come closest due to good old-fashioned overeating!?!...)
Then there was the matter of that box of Lorna Doones I bought in Kevin's name on the way over while he was otherwise engaged. Carpooling the last half of the trip--just like on volleyball evenings--he gave me some money and sent me into a small country store to purchase an additional desert for our imminent voyage, and he was non-plussed to find out I'd spent his hard-earned money on butter cookies loaded with lard!?! Well, for one thing, the selection was way limited, and I didn't want to get anything that'd compete with Terry's confection. What better way to clear the palate than with a plain wafer? Well, turns out I was the only one in attendance who favored the Lorna Doones, and was continuously--if good naturedly--mocked for forking over cash for them. Fact is, no one one else so much as took a nibble on a single one of them, and at voyage's end, they were unceremoniously dumped on me!?! You'd thought I'd made one of the great food faux pas of all time from the goings on around me, but let me ask you this--at the conclusion of our evening, I walked away with a full box of delights that I myself desired, and I DIDN'T PAY A SINGLE PENNY FOR 'EM!?! So WHO'S the victim here, hm? Who? Lorna Doone's--mmm!...
We'd witnessed a splendid sunset, shared a marvelous meal, and had some crazy conversations, but like all good things, it came to an end roundabout eight bells as our capable Captain carefully steered his craft back towards the docks. We each disembarked, heartily thanking our host for his invitation. Then, off to our cars and back to our land-based existences! Thanks Capt'n Jim--it was one heckuva voyage! It was, you might say, the Voyage of the Darned!?!...
(Though Cindy's lovely large landscapes are, to the best of my knowledge, currently unavailable for viewing on the Internet, Kevin has his very own website. Besides being able to listen to his Brian Wilson inspired musical compositions, read his philosophical meanderings, view his celebrity and political caricatures, and delight at his design work, the comics fans amongst you may want to check it out if only to see a few sample pages of his so-called zombie western, drawn as it is in the Frazetta/Williamson tradition, which, as traditions go, ain't a bad one to be counted amongst!?! Old Salt Starlin has a handful of sites, but if you start with this one, I'm sure you can find your way around them all! And Terry? Well, Terry doesn't have his own site, but he DOES have an art book, about which you can find all the information you'll ever need to order yourself a copy of by checking out our Terry Austin Art Book sub-section right here at Hembeck.com!! And if you're hoping to buy some Lorna Doones, hey, don't look at ME--I finished my box of 'em hours ago!?! Mmm--Lorna Doones....)
September 3rd, 2003
|That's SOME image, huh?
I'll tell you what--if that were bona fide reality depicted above, we sure wouldn't be in the mess we're in now, you betcha by golly!?! Oh, we'd be in a mess, alright--it'd just be a totally DIFFERENT one, of that I have no doubt!?!...
Today marks the first day of eighth grade for my daughter, and that delightful computer composite that greeted you when you dialed me up (yes, that's right--for the slower amongst you, that IS indeed a faked photo!) was the very last thing Julie did with the waning moments of her rapidly dwindling summer vacation last night. She was SO pleased with her work that she requested I post it here for all the world to see (or as much of the world as I can manage to lure to my site), and I was more than happy to, since, well, I found it kinda funny myself! Julie welcomes any and all comments you might have of her work--or MJ himself--so drop us a line why don'tcha?...
A note for those of you who come directly to the "Fred Sez" section of the site and don't usually check what else is going on hereabouts (up to date information of which is always included at our "New On Site" area). I'd like to point out that I've finally embarked on a "Best Of Dateline:@#$!?" sub-category over in the "More" corner of Hembeck.com. I've posted 6 additional strips to go with the Ditko one I initially hoisted up a few days back, and more moldy oldies will henceforth appear on an intermittent basis. We'll be drawing them from several eras, more or less randomly (although we'll try to save the REALLY bad ones for last!) Dates of original publication will be provided to give you some sort of idea where things were at in the field at the time. Unlike the "Classic Cover Redos" intros, I'm keeping it down to a sentence or two to set the stage for these creaky commentaries.
I resisted putting these pages up for quite a while, partially due to the dated nature of a lot of the material, but hopefully, you folks can still extract some laughs--and maybe even a pearl of wisdom or two--from my pictorial observations. More importantly, I hope you can READ them!?! Bear in mind that most were originally done for the large-sized "Comics Buyers Guide" newspaper, and were lettered with that in mind. Plus, early on in my career, I never let myself get overly worried much about a little thing called legibility!?! And by the time I finally wised up to the importance of not destroying my reader's eyesight during my most recent tenure at CBG, they'd morphed into an almost square sized publication, and somehow, despite the care I took--and the strips read just fine on the Krause newsprint, honest--the few I've posted here are, um, a little tough on the peepers. Any suggestions? Make 'em even larger, maybe, or skip 'em altogether?(..even though they're some of my favorites?...) Lemme know what you think, okay?
And in any event, I'm preparing a brand new ditty no one'll have trouble reading, I guarantee it! More as it develops...
I just received my 4 comp copies of FANTASTIC FOUR #500 Director's Cut edition from the fine folks at Marvel Comics. For those not aware of this landmark publication, it features all sorts of good stuff, including--to my everlasting delight--two pages by yours truly!! I'll be sending one copy off to the Library of Congress for safe keeping later today, while you'll likely find the other two copies going for premium prices on eBay!! (The fourth copy, you ask? Why, under my pillow each and every night when I turn in, naturally--where else did you think?...)
Seriously, big thanks to Tom Brevoort--easily my favorite editor to work with whose first name isn't "Jim"--for letting me be a part of such an impressive celebration! My instructions were simply to tip the hat to Stan and Jack's early days, and I hope that I managed to do so to some small extent! (Okay, okay, I DID have one contemporary call me up and say, "Fred, I just read your strip in FF 500, and I have NO idea what you're talking about!?!", but he has a notoriously bad memory. How ANYONE could ever forget Johnny's lanky circus runnin' cuz, Bones, well, it's truly beyond me, I'll tell ya!?!...)
Mucho gracias for the opportunity, Tom! And just so you know--in anticipation of the not-quite imminent publication of FF1000, I'll nonetheless be sitting by my phone, waiting patiently for your call in the hopes of being in THAT issue as well!
(Call sooner if you like!...)
September 1st, 2003
For several years running, Elayne Boosler had the important initial stand-up spot all to herself on the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon broadcast. Why not? She always received a tremendous response. And then, just to screw things up a bit, the host aggressively shoved his pricey Gucci loafers directly into his protruding piehole...
Y'see, Elayne opened the proceedings more than once with a deftly delivered monolog, and in fact became so involved with this worthy charity effort spearheaded by Dean Martin's ex-partner, she even went so far as to co-host the local New York City telecast upon at least one occasion, maybe more. I can't say exactly--I'm going totally on memory here.
Which is why I can't give you the specific details of the incident that ruined Elayne's relationship with Jerry, and hence, the organization. Oh, it wasn't a personal clash of any sort, mind you. As best I recall it, Mr. Lewis was guest of honor at some sort of Comedy Festival, and in the course of being interviewed up on stage, he advanced the opinion that there currently were--and actually never had been, nor would there ever likely to be--a funny woman comedian. None. Zip. Zilch. Given the opportunity to dig himself out of the tremendous hole he had just dug by his friendly inquisitors, Jerry only made it worse by adding that women in general have no significant sense of humor, and are essentially walking this earth merely to function as baby-making machines!?! That's not a direct quote, granted, but I don't I'm all too far off. Scary as that may seem...
So a few months later, the next telethon rolled around. Ms. Boosler wasn't featured in the show's opening hour, but her name WAS on the marquee, so I waited. And waited. It took awhile--though by no means was it the dead of night, more like 11:30, maybe a bit after midnight or so--but the moment that I'd been waiting for had finally come. Jerry sat behind his desk and began one of his trademark schmooze-filled show-biz intros, but there was a telling hesitation in his voice. He paused just as he had almost completed what was for him an unusually low-key intro, and while it seemed as if he had something further that he wanted to add, he apparently thought better of it, and so simply said, "Here's Elayne Boosler..."
She strode out purposely, clearly avoided making eye-contact with the host, quickly stood on her designated mark and launched into her routine. I believe it was her extremely clever--and sadly true--bit concerning the sponsorship overkill found cluttering up today's baseball broadcasts. Whatever it was she did, it killed. The audience loved her. Howl after howl, Here, Jerry, was a woman telling jokes and making a lot of people laugh!?! A female type person. A--dare I say it?--laaaady!?! Could he even begin to believe what for him must have appeared to be a miraculous event that he was witnessing, I couldn't help but wonder?
When she finished to lustily appreciative applause, she didn't pause to take it all in, and then turn to the master of ceremonies to exchange a warm and acknowledging glance like all the other performers on the telethon . Oh no. She took a short, quick bow, turned on her heel, and marched off even faster than when she had initially arrived. She obviously had a specific goal in mind when she took the stage that evening--proving the loose lipped Lewis wrong. That she most certainly did, and unless she turned up sometime around 5am early this morning, she hasn't been seen again anywhere near the MDA chairman in the year's since. It's a shame, inasmuch as she seemed sincere in her involvement with the cause in years past--co-hosting a local affiliate, even a big one like New York, is no picnic--but Jerry apparently drove her away with his foolish and widely criticized remarks (Of which, Jerry being Jerry, he pretty much refused to back down from...)
And friends ask me, WHY do I obsessively watch as much of the annual Jerry Lewis telethon as I possibly can each year, but considering moments like these, I think the more prudent query might be, how can I NOT??
As best I can tell, nothing quite so dramatic occurred this time around, but still I watched, because with Jerry, you just never, ever know. I've been fascinated by the comic my entire life, but I can't say I find him particularly funny in any sort of conventional way. Unpredictable is more like it, even if he does rely heavily on a lot of tried and true shtick. Jerry always seems to be train-wreck waiting to happen (though the actual derailments are few), and heaven help me, but I can't bring myself to look away...
That being said, think what you will of the guy, but he DOES do a lot of good raising much needed funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Don't worry--I made my paltry annual donation, as I have for the last several years. I admit to just free-loading for far too many years, but when Julie finally was old enough to sit down and watch the festivities with me, she was horrified at some of the tragic tales included on the broadcast, and turned to me, demanding we donate some bucks right then and there. And we have ever since.
And you know what? I wouldn't be at all surprised if Ms. Boosler sends in a far heftier check than ours each and every September, too.
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