Cover Of The Advocate

Claude Raines, in Casablanca, is not the only one to be “Shocked, shocked.” That’s how I felt when a copy of this week’s New Haven Advocate was thrust at me while getting coffee next door at Roberto’s.

On the cover of the December 28, 2006 issue of the Advocate, in an homage to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album cover, is a montage of 44 identifiable locals… including #29 – me.

I’m flattered they think enough of me to assume people can identify my mug shot (it’s all part of a contest, which I now seem to be shilling for them). I’m not sure I want to know how many of the entrants actually identify me as someone else.

Our former governor, the one who served jail time, used to tell a story of how he was spotted at the mall. When they said how much they enjoyed him on the weather, he realized they’d confused him for me.

Anyway, it’s nice to be on the cover of anything without being associated with a major crime or Britney Spears!

21st Century Vacation Plans

With the winter soon over (isn’t that nice?), we’ve decided to schedule a spring vacation. We enjoy Southern California, have been there many times, and have decided to go again.

There’s a lot to be said about California. The weather that time of year is dependable. We have friends and relatives there. There’s lots to do. As long as the ground doesn’t shake too much, we’ll be happy.

Planning a vacation is different now than it once was. There are so many ways to make reservations and plans. We wanted to get the best and pay the least. That makes sense.

But how do you know? You don’t, is the simple answer! In fact, in many ways the best deals are structured in such a way as you know nothing – or close to nothing. You are buying blind.

Our plane reservations were a breeze. Southwest Airlines is very different from the other carriers as far as using free tickets is concerned. I can’t imagine being able to get three tickets ‘only’ six weeks before a flight on USAir or United or Delta.

We’re flying to Burbank&#185 instead of LAX. Burbank should make for an easier arrival and departure. LAX can be totally crazy and I’d like to avoid that.

Hotel reservations were another story.

Helaine had perused and found pretty good prices in the area we wanted to stay. Of course they don’t tell you what hotel it is they’re advertising, so there has to be a great deal of trust in deciding if your idea of a 4.5 star hotel is the same as theirs.

After looking and searching and looking again, we decided on a hotel we thought was either the Century Plaza or Park Hyatt in Century City. Good guess. It was the Century Plaza. Even if you’ve never been to L.A., you’ve seen this hotel on TV. It has a very distinctive sweeping look.

We got it for half the price the hotel advertises – though a friend immediately told me he could have gotten it for less. Nothing is simple. Nothing is foolproof.

Next step is to start lining up the places we’ll visit. That’s where my friends come in. This is their department in their city. Last time in, my friend Paul got Steffie into the first row on American Idol. They are not without influence.

&#185 – Burbank Airport was the actual location for the final scene of the movie Casablanca. Pretty much everywhere you drive in Southern California, you’re going to come across something you recognize from the movies or TV.

The Maltese Falcon

Earlier this week, as I passed by TCM, there was a promo on for classic Humphrey Bogart movies being shown this weekend. I set the DVR. One, Casablanca, I had seen before. The other I had not. Tonight I watched The Maltese Falcon.

I am 54. For 54 years I’ve heard about this movie – what a classic it is. I am so unhappy to have watched and felt it fell short – very short.

The Maltese Falcon is a detective thriller. It is a perfect example of film noir. From

The primary moods of classic film noir are melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia. Heroes (or anti-heroes), corrupt characters and villains include down-and-out, hard-boiled detectives or private eyes, cops, gangsters, government agents, crooks, war veterans, petty criminals, and murderers. These protagonists are often morally-ambiguous low lifes from the dark and gloomy underworld of violent crime and corruption. Distinctively, they are cynical, tarnished, obsessive (sexual or otherwise), brooding, menacing, sinister, sardonic, disillusioned, frightened and insecure loners (usually men), struggling to survive and ultimately losing.

Black and white in this case is more than the film stock. The movie itself was shot to produce stark scenes with little gray. I was surprised to see at least a few jump cuts (film editing errors) in the action scenes. Even at the theater they would have been obvious.

The story itself is very complex and in some ways implausible. I’ll look past that. It’s the dialog, not the story, that upset me the most. It is stilted – and not just because the movie is over 60 years old. The words were trite.

Bogey is fine. He was better in Casablanca, the African Queen and a bunch of others. There’s less to like about Mary Astor and Elisha Cook Jr. Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre are the best parts of the movie.

I am so used to seeing these two ‘done’ by impressionists that I forgot what they were really like. Both men put real life into over-the-top characters. Joel Cairo (Lorre) and Kasper Gutman (Greenstreet) could have become comic strip characters had lesser actors played the roles.

About halfway in, I started looking for a way out. I fought the urge and watched until the end. It just wasn’t satisfying.

Back in the 60s, I used to listen to albums by the Firesign Theater, a comedy troupe. One of their albums featured an entire side called, “Nick Danger: Private Eye.” It wasn’t until tonight that I realized they were doing The Maltese Falcon!

I feel like a fool, having missed the joke for all these years.

There is one very memorable line, always associated with this movie. As Bogart is carrying the Falcon out of his office, a police detective asks what it is. “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

I wish I’d said that.