Arnold Stang Has Died

Arnold Stang is on my ever increasing list of actors I wish I’d met. I guess I’d better get a little more proactive on that.

Arnold Stang.jpgArnold Stang has passed away. Maybe this won’t mean much to you–Arnold Stang isn’t a household word any more. He was a skinny, nerdy comedic actor known for his distinctive look and even more distinctive voice.

I just took a look at his IMDB resume. He was there as TV came of age. He was there when a single appearance on a variety show could get higher ratings than the Super Bowl! Those were heady days.

Stang did television, movies, commercials and animation voices. He was perfect at playing Arnold Stang. Typecast? Sure. But for Stang there was good work in being typecast.

Arnold Stang is on my ever increasing list of actors I wish I’d met. I guess I’d better get a little more proactive on that.

I remember Arnold most fondly as the voice of Top Cat, a smart alack Hanna-Barbera cartoon character from the sixties. Here’s a sample with Allen Jenkins as the voice of Officer Dibble

Holy Crap–It’s William Schallert

OK–maybe you don’t know who he is. William Schallert might be the most cast TV character actor of the 50s-60s-70s-80s.

William_Schallert.jpgI don’t watch Desperate Housewives, but I’m sometimes on the sofa while Helaine is watching.

Nicolette Sheridan walked into an office and an older, white haired gentlemen walked to the counter to serve her. It was only a brief glimpse, but I knew who it was instantly–William Schallert.

Well, I thought it was William Schallert.

I turned to Helaine. “Is that William Schallert?”

Too late. He turned full face to the camera and there he was.

OK–maybe you don’t know who he is. William Schallert might be the most cast TV character actor of the 50s-60s-70s-80s. He has 340 credits in IMDB (and multiple episodes of the same show only count once)!

To many people my age he is best known as Martin Lane, Brooklyn Heights newspaper editor and father/uncle to Patty Duke on the Patty Duke Show.

Anyway he looked great and sounded great. He will be 87 this summer. It’s good to see he’s working.

It has to be for the love of performing. He can’t need the cash.

Another Website Gets Set To Go Online

He knows enough to be dangerous, but not enough to know what he doesn’t know. He will enjoy this too.

I’m helping a friend mount a new website. I love this stuff. This is my fun.

My friend knows enough to be dangerous, but not enough to know what he doesn’t know. He will enjoy this process too. He writes about technology, so all I can think of is Rock Hudson’s 1964 movie, “Man’s Favorite Sport?”

“Roger Willoughby is considered to be a leading expert on sports fishing. He’s written books on the subject and is loved by his customers in the sporting goods department at Abercrombie and Fitch, where he works. There’s only one problem however: he’s never been fishing in his life. When the store owner enters him in a fishing contest, mayhem ensues. – IMDB review

OK–mayhem probably won’t ensue. We’re still in the ballpark.

Though he doesn’t want a blog I’ve convinced him to use WordPress as his CMS (content management system). He found a $70 template he liked with a magazine type look and signed on for a $4.50/month hosting plan at GoDaddy. He’s basically finished spending money!

What’s made things easier for me is he’s organized. I threw out a list of things he should plan for and… holy crap, he followed through.

Still to come, I’ve got to install WordPress and his template. Then he’s got to start feeding content to the beast, making decisions along the way on how he’ll tag and categorize the content.

You wonder why print and TV outlets fear the Internet? I’ll get him on-line and ready to compete for under $100. Getting people to his site–that’s the tougher part.

Woody–While He Still Speaks With The Little People

Holy crap–he’s in a movie with Steven Segal!

woody-hoyt.jpgMy friend Woody, sometimes seen commenting as Wudzy and legally named Elwood, recently went into semi-retirement in Santa Fe, NM. It’s a beautiful place.

Maybe Woody wasn’t ready to totally retire. He’s sent me his new listing from IMDB! As it turns out Santa Fe is an artist’s community and film production center.

Holy crap–he’s in a movie with Steven Segal!

Celebrity Rehab

I’m not totally sure if I wrote about this before (and without Google to check, I’m powerless to see), but I’ve been watching Celebrity Rehab on VH1.

Sure, I can say one of the executive producers was best man at my wedding, but that would be a weaselly way of justifying it. I started watching and now I’m hooked on a show about dependence.

Stef originally told me about it and asked me to watch the first episode so we could watch more while she was home (she is home now). Tonight we watched episode two.

The premise is, a bunch of Z-list celebs with substance problems do rehab together under the supervision of America’s favorite physician, Dr. Drew Pinsky – the Dr. Joyce Brothers of the 21st Century.

To quote a friend, “It is like a car wreck. You can’t look away.” That’s a perfect characterization.

Stef says many of the participants have been on MTV/VH1 reality shows before.

There’s Brigitte Nielsen, looking very tired, very old, very spent. She has the largest hands I’ve ever seen on a woman. Mary Carey, porn star/alcoholic is skankier than I would have imagined. Seth “Shifty” Binzer is a tattoo with legs… and a Mohawk.

There are more, including a Baldwin brother (I don’t remember which one), but all the characters fade into the woodwork when compared to Jeff Conaway. He was young and cute on Taxi 25 years ago. That’s his most recent work I remember, though IMDB says there were 50 episodes of Babylon 5.

Even that was off-the-air ten years ago. The last ten years has been less stellar.

I have seen people drunk and stoned. When I was younger, I helped friends down from bad trips (does that language date me? Probably). I’ve never seen anyone close to being as fcuked up as he is. This is not a part time gig. He seemed strung out 24/7.

His tremors and suffering while in detox were disturbing for me to watch. Even seeing him being pushed around, slumped over in a wheelchair was terribly sad. He was obviously suffering… obviously in his own personal hell.

Stef and I watched the show. When it was over, we talked about it.

She looks at TV like this differently than I do. She is a veteran of TV reality. For her, the shock value is gone. Not for me.

I was deeply touched. She was more cavalier.

She didn’t feel sorry for these people because these were choices they made for themselves. More importantly, she didn’t think they were in rehab as much as they were participating in career enhancement!

Wow, that’s an indictment.

I hadn’t thought of that, but she’s most likely right. It puts a despicable edge on the whole thing. Is there nothing in life that’s not commerce?

Her point was, would any of them be in rehab if there wasn’t a camera and MTV?

These are sad people. I’m guessing the show is a hit.

The Simpsons Movie

Stef had a friend in from out-of-town yesterday. With Helaine, the four of us had dinner out. Just a pizza. Nothing special.

The girls headed north, into Hartford. We went south, to North Haven and the movies.

There was never a doubt I’d see the Simpsons movie. I’ve been saying it since I saw he first trailer. This movie has gotten an intense amount of buzz.

Here’s the funny part – though I enjoy The Simpsons, I’m not a regular viewer. In fact, I can’t tell you the last time I watched an entire episode. Yet I’m totally comfortable with the characters and can identify most by name.

There has never been another program on television with as many identifiable on-screen regulars.

I’ve never walked in on Helaine watching The Simpsons. She still wanted to go.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Homer is the straw that breaks the camel’s back as far as Lake Springfield goes. With pollution out of control, an emergency is declared and Springfield is isolated from the outside world.

Does the actual story make any difference? No. It’s all funny situations and incredibly clever, well thought out, funny dialog.

I’ve read the complaint the movie is just an elongated TV episode. OK. I came because I like what’s on the TV show. That wasn’t a problem.

The animation seemed more richly colored than what’s on the tube, and with more spatial layers. This is 2D, have no fears. Still, there were times when it was drawn with a very shallow depth of field.

It’s funny that on IMDB, there are people listing continuity errors! It’s a cartoon. for heaven’s sake. Schwarzenegger was drawn with three fingers on each hand on purpose.

What I liked most about this movie was, it was about the Simpson family and though some of what they do is cartoonish, it’s a very loving, tight-knit family.

All the characters are as you expect from the TV show, but Julie Kavner deserves singling out for her emotional portrayal of Marge. I was especially impressed by a very poignant monologue from Marge which added much to the movie.

We both loved the movie. It’s a good movie to see in a theater, where you can enjoy other people’s laughter as you watch. I just wish there was more Krusty!

Blogger’s note: There was a trailer for the Chipmunks movie, coming later in the year. I smell giblet gravy.

Charles Lane – Trust Me, You’ll Know Him By Sight

As character actors go, he had quite a career. He was always the stiff, stern company man or governmental hack – the guy who had a ready “no” for anything you needed.

Charles Lane’s resume on IMDB is as long as your arm. There are 300+ entries, many of them for multiple appearances on the same TV series. On Bewitched alone he was Mr. Roland, Mr. Cushman, Mr. Jameson, Mr. Harmon and Mr. Mr. Meikeljohn.

Like most character actors, he wasn’t well known by name. If you’re too well known, your value as a ‘character’ diminishes. The ratio of those who knew him to those who knew his name had to be 100:1, maybe more.

From the LA Times: “His roles were so numerous that he told TV Guide in 1965 that he would occasionally see himself in movies on TV and have no memory of having played that role.”

I most remember Charles Lane as Homer Bedloe, president of the railroad (the CF&RW) that employed Floyd and Charlie and ran the Cannonball between Hooterville and Pixley with that stop at Petticoat Junction’s “Shady Rest Hotel.”

Mr. Bedloe was out to get Kate Bradley, while Kate’s Uncle Joe tried to get Bedloe. Kate was always victorious. By definition, everyone on Petticoat Junction prevailed against Uncle Joe! Homer Bedloe never got more than a Pyrrhic victory.

It wasn’t until I read about him in Wikipedia and saw his ‘original’ name (Charles Gerstle Levison) that I realized he was Jewish. They had Jews in San Fransisco in 1905? Who knew?

Charles Lane was 102 when he died on Monday in Southern California. He was one of my all-time favorite mean people.

A documentary on his life is in production. I’d like to see “You Know the Face” when it’s released. Meanwhile, the clip below is from Nickelodeon on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

The Longest Yard 2005

Steffie was away today, doing her internship at KC-101. That left Helaine and me as empty nesters, so we decided to take in a movie. Neither of us wanted Star Wars, nor did Madagascar seem appealing.

We decided on The Longest Yard, the remake of Burt Reynolds’ 1974 movie about a prison football game between guards and prisoners. It was a simple movie with Burt Reynolds as a good old boy up against the good old boy establishment – beating them at every turn. Today the lead is Adam Sandler, with Reynolds in a supporting role as an older former player who becomes a coach for the prisoners’ team (a part not in the original).

We went to the movie thinking we’d see the 5:05 PM show, but arriving at 4:40 we were still there before the coming attractions were over for the show that was advertised to begin at 4:25 PM!

The International Movie Database‘s users (incredible reference site) gives the original 7.1 stars, this 5.7. I’m with them!

Helaine found the beginning of the movie, when the captain of the guards tries to ‘soften’ Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler today, Burt Reynolds then) by gratuitously beating him, a little tough to take. It was unexpected by her, though anticipated by me as (with a few exceptions, like the one previously mentioned) this remake runs pretty true to the original.

So why is the original so much more liked by the IMDB visitors? In both movies there has to be some suspension of belief to buy into prisoners and guards physically playing against each other and the prisoners having enough freedom to practice, as they do. I barely believed the first time, but so many additional over the top scenes and characters have been added that I just can’t believe now.

This is an Adam Sandler movie, not a Burt Reynolds movie (Sandler is one of the many executive producers). I mention that because you might be confused considering all the cameos! There are recognizable sportscasters, football players and at least one pro wrestler (maybe more – I don’t follow wrestling closely).

Some head-to-head comparison is called for.

Adam Sandler has been charming in everything I’ve seen him in recently, but he’s not Burt Reynolds – certainly not Burt Reynolds circa 1974. First, Sandler doesn’t look like a pro football quarterback. Second, he just doesn’t have Reynolds’ ‘eye winking’ charm.

I’m not sure Reynolds still has what he had thirty years ago – but who does?

Cloris Leachman plays the warden’s secretary – sexually drawn to Paul Crewe. The part was originally Bernadette Peters, who was sensational. Now, with the part re-cast as a spinster, I’m not as impressed. With all these people to get on screen there are lots of meatless parts.

Chris Rock plays Caretaker, originally played by James Hampton. I’m a big Chris Rock fan… and a moderately big James Hampton fan (in spite of “F Troop”). I’m not sure Chris Rock is actor enough to play anyone but himself. Nod to Hampton who just looks likeable.

The original warden was Eddie Albert (who died a few days ago at age 99). This time, the part was played by James Cromwell. For my money, Cromwell had the performance of a lifetime as the pathologically evil police captain in “LA Confidential” (one of the darkest, most intense movies I’ve ever seen). He was totally different, while still believable and enjoyable, in Babe. This role was too shallow for him to shine. I wasn’t impressed with Eddie Albert’s job either. Toss up.

The portrayal of effeminate gay prisoners (including former SNL alum Tracy Morgan) was meant to be funny, but struck me as homophobic. Maybe gay people will see the humor differently, though I doubt it.

I enjoy going to the movies. It is a totally different experience than watching a DVD or cable telecast. So, in that regard this was a good thing. But, when you’re spending as much for a movie as you do today, I think you deserve something a little better.