Sunday, March 20, 2011
Spring! When a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. That's the best time to whack him over the head with a club and lock him in a closet. "Think about something else, young man!" you yell through the door. "You're just asking for trouble with all this 'lovey-dovey' crap!" Don't forget to feed him at least once a day, and make sure he's getting a life-sustaining amount of oxygen in there. You're already in enough hot water as it is without hanging a murder rap around your neck.
Actually, my thoughts do turn to love every spring. I think about how much I love to hate spring's big fat guts. To me, spring means the return of hot weather, bugs, and bird crap all over my car. It also means that summer is just around the corner, and I hate summer even more than I hate spring. "But, porfle!" you would protest if, for some reason, you actually cared. "Spring is a magical time of beautiful flowers and lush greenery, and the lovely, lilting music of birdsong!" Well, here's my answer to that--my dog's butt. Enjoy!
Birds would be a lot more wonderful to have around if they would simply learn to shut the hell up more often. Think of the times you've tried to sleep a little later than usual, but you kept getting blasted awake by a bunch of birds sitting around in the trees chirping their freakin' heads off. What the hell are they saying to each other? It's probably just stupid pointless chit-chat like "Boy, that fat, slimy earthworm really hit the spot" or "Lookit that dumbass down there washing his car" or "FYI--I've got the urge to mate and I'm rarin' to go! YEE-HAAAA!"
"SHUT UP!!!" I scream out my window. "SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUUUUT UUUUUUP!!!" Invariably, there's some old fart in a fishing hat out watering his lawn or something and he thinks I'm talking to him. "No, YOU shut up!" he yells back indignantly.
"I wasn't talking to you!" I shriek at the top of my lungs. "I was talking to the BIRDS--DUMBASS!" I love totally winning an argument like that. Sure, it destroys the poor guy, but he asked for it by getting involved. Besides, just knowing that he's out watering his stupid lawn while I'm trying to sleep ticks me off. For all I know, all of those birds making such an insufferable racket might be talking about him. "Hey, check out the old fart in the fishing hat! Let's crap on his head!"
Of course, I don't want to give the impression that I don't like birds, because I do. Birds have saved me an awful lot of money on cat food over the years. And they make wonderful targets, too. In fact, anytime you're stuck for something nice to say about anything, you can always say, "Well, it makes a dandy target." This is especially true of things like Muppets, Paris Hilton CDs, or Carrot Top. "Fun to shoot at" and "explodes in a pleasing fashion" are other positive ways of describing certain things so that you sound nice.
But this doesn't work with spring, because you can't shoot at it or blow it up. You can make it the "target" of caustic, extremely witty barbs as I've done, but that doesn't bother it a bit. It just keeps barging into your life every year and sitting on your face and braying "HEE HAW!!!" like a donkey. Only it's an invulnerable Super-Donkey that you can't shoot or blow up like regular donkeys. That's why, whenever someone starts gushing about how wonderful spring is and then asks me how I feel about it, I always tell them:
"Spring is an invulnerable Super-Donkey that you can't shoot or blow up like regular donkeys."
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Friday, March 18, 2011
Once, back when I was managing a small nightclub called "Porfle's Playpen" on the south side of Chicago, I was fortunate enough to book Gladys Knight and the Pips for a solid week of what I was certain would be big, big, blockbuster business. It wasn't every day we had big, big big-name entertainment like that on our stage. Usually it was people like Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods or Neil Sedaka, or the guy who played Sam Drucker on "Petticoat Junction." Sure, they're fairly well-known, but nobody wants to see them naked.
Not that they ever actually got naked, but you know how people are--they hear that a certain celebrity is going to be performing somewhere, and they show up in hopes of seeing them naked for one reason or another. That's why so many people really went to see Elvis during his declining years--they were hoping his pants would fall down or that tight costume would explode right off of his body or whatever, and they'd get to snap a picture of naked Fat Elvis. It's also why so many people used to watch "The Golden Girls." They were hoping, due to some incredibly unlikely but still slightly possible turn of events, to see naked Bea Arthur.
Anyway, Neil Sedaka was onstage the night I found out over the phone that Gladys Knight and the Pips were confirmed for the following week. I felt celebratory, so I indulged in something that was rare for me, which was to run out onto the stage and rip Neil Sedaka's pants off. Then I signalled to Fred, who worked the canned music and lighting effects up in the booth, and he pressed the red button, which released several gallons of water onto Neil's head. One moment he was in the middle of singing "Laughter In The Rain", and the next moment he was standing there in nothing but a red spangled speedo with little candy canes all over it, dripping like a wet hog. It was like some kind of horrifying "Flashdance" outtake. Several of my customers started to throw up, especially the ones who happened to be eating cottage cheese.
"I hate you! I hate you!" Neil screamed as he ran offstage, crying. But it was his last night anyway, so I felt lighthearted and optimistic. Then, suddenly aware that I might possibly have raised the ire of some of my patrons--especially the Neil Sedaka fans--I gaily announced, "Free club crackers for everyone!" This seemed to placate the goofy bastards.
Well, the weekend passed slower than molasses on Al Gore's ass, but at last Monday came and it was time for Gladys Knight and the Pips to begin their engagement. I didn't greet them when they arrived to set up, since back in those days I thought I was better than everyone else and felt it beneath my sanctified magnificence to actually associate with lesser human beings, which included the entire human race except for Ben Gazarra, Robert Loggia, and, of course, Doris Day. But I did make sure to be sitting at my special private table when the show started, basking in my own greatness and ready to be entertained.
As the lights dimmed and Gladys Knight and the Pips sashayed onstage, wave after wave of pure excitement washed over my body. It was just like that time I took a shower. Fred flicked the switch and the first sweet strains of the pre-recorded "Midnight Train to Georgia" backing track began to waft over the audience. Gladys assumed her position at the mike to enthusiastic applause as the Pips danced in unison behind her. I looked around at all the happy-faced customers--or "pigs" as I jokingly referred to them back in the day--who had just lined my pockets with wads of sweet, sweet cash and were even now shelling out top dollar for day-old food that the cafeteria down the street sold to me for practically nothing every night instead of throwing it out. All was right with the world.
Suddenly, I sensed something was amiss. Gladys was singing "I'm leavin'...on that midnight train to Georgia" just as beautifully as ever. Two of the Pips were harmonizing the words "she's leavin'...leavin' on that midnight train" and dancing with their trademark precision choreography. But the third pip was a different story. Not only were his movements dreadfully erratic and non-choreographed, but the only sounds coming from his mouth were things like "ZZZRRRKKKK" and "SSSSKKKRRRTT." As the song drew to a close, I arose from my seat and slowly made my way onto the stage.
"Thought you could pull one over on me, didn't you, Gladys?" I said, hands on hips.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" she replied, trying to use the old "innocent act" on me.
"Oh, nothing," I remarked nonchalantly. "Except that one of your so-called 'pips' seems to be, in actuality...A ROBOT!!!"
Her eyes went wide. "CURSES!!!" she screamed, realizing that the jig was up. Leaping from the stage, she grabbed a hanging light fixture and swung over the crowd, landing like a cat near one of the exits. I sprang into hot pursuit. An off-duty cop rose to stop her, but she gave him a vicious karate chop to the Adam's apple and grabbed his gun. I dove over the bar and snatched the double-barrelled shotgun from beneath it. Gladys ducked behind the cop's overturned table and fired. I returned with a double blast of buckshot that took out the jukebox.
"YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!!!" she shrieked, crashing through the front window. I sprang from behind the bar and was out the door just in time to see her scurrying up the steps of a huge petroleum storage tank next door to the club. She turned to exchange fire with me again as several police cars converged on the scene, sirens blaring.
When she reached the top, she could see that there was no escape. Laughing maniacally, she emptied her pistol into the tank and raised her arms in victory as flames began to rise out of it. "TOP OF THE WORLD, MA!!!" she screamed right before the tank erupted into a massive, earth-rattling explosion that could be seen for miles.
After that, of course, I made it a point to check all further performing acts for robots before allowing them into my club. Which paid off, too, when the freakin' Partridge Family tried to pass off a "Danny" robot on me. And there's no telling how many robots had already performed in the club before I was on the lookout for them. I still have my suspicions about Jose' Feliciano--that incident with him bursting into flames and his head falling off during "Feliz Navidad" is starting to make a little more sense to me now.
As for Gladys Knight--well, don't ask me how, but, against all odds, she somehow survived that night. In fact, there she was hosting "The Midnight Special" on NBC the very next Friday night. The Pips all looked like real people this time, thank goodness, but I'm pretty darn sure Wolfman Jack was a robot.
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
(thanks to Stripcreator.com for the pic)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
When you come right down to it, there's nothing in this whole wide world that's more fun and entertaining than looking back at the magic that is Old Hollywood. And if you disagree with that, then you're just plain stupid! So let's turn back the clock and revisit the legendary land of make-believe, shall we? We'll begin with some memorable movie quotes that should evoke the proper mood of golden-hued nostalgia and set our course for Memory Lane...
"Hey" -- James Caan, "The Godfather"
"The" -- Marlon Brando, "On The Waterfront"
"My" -- Claudette Colbert, "Cleopatra"
"It's" -- Sylvester Stallone, "Rocky"
"But" -- Judy Garland, "The Wizard of Oz"
"You" -- Joe Pesci, "Goodfellas"
"Instead" -- Meryl Streep, "Sophie's Choice"
"Now" -- Gregory Peck, "To Kill a Mockingbird"
"Or" -- Ben Kingsley, "Schindler's List"
Ha ha, oh boy, does that ever bring back some golden memories. And now, here's one of those delightful stories from Old Hollywood that may be true, or it may be apocryphal...but if it isn't true, it should be!
"THAT'S AWE, FOLKS!"
As the story goes: During the crucifixion scene in the star-studded production of THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, John Wayne played the Roman centurion who delivered the famous line: "Truly, this man was the Son of God." Unhappy with the first couple of takes, director George Stevens asked Wayne to try the line again, only this time with "more awe."
Wayne considered Stevens' advice carefully and, during the next take, dramatically intoned the line "Truly...this man was the Son of God"--and then exploded. The blast took out three soundstages and killed the entire cast, including a thousand extras, and the resulting inferno destroyed most of what was known at the time as "Little Israel", which was also used in such films as ABBOTT AND COSTELLO STAY HOME and THREE GUYS AND SOME SPINACH.
Wayne had given the line "more awe", all right! Missing in action after the explosion, he was discovered three months later in Hackensack, New Jersey, managing a small boutique under the name "Beaufort Shmeck." The famous actor had no memory of the incident, but was later said to often wake up in the middle of the night screaming, "Gah, prunes!!!"
Wow! What a story. That Old Hollywood sure had its share of incredible anecdotes that entertain and astound us to this day. And here's another one, this time involving popular comic actor Don Knotts during the filming of his classic comedy THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.
"OH, YOU KNOTT-Y BOY"
It seems Don had an unforeseen problem during the big sex scene in which he and co-star Joan Staley are rolling around "buck-nekkid" and covered with molasses in the back of what, unbeknownst to their characters, turns out to be a float in the city's Founders' Day parade. Well, Don and Joan are having furious "X-rated" sex all the way down Main Street before their characters realize they're being watched by hundreds of shocked townspeople, in what is to be one of the comedy highlights of the film. Suddenly, Don stands up right in the middle of a take and shouts, at the top of his voice: "Hey! I forgot that this is supposed to be a G-RATED movie!"
Whoops! Sure enough, while writing the screenplay, the fact that THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN was meant as a wholesome family film had totally slipped Don's mind. It was only after he'd had sex with former Playboy centerfold Joan Staley approximately sixteen times that this crucial bit of information finally dawned on him. The scene was then hastily re-written to place Don and Joan's characters (tastefully clothed, of course, and not having sex) at a Chamber of Commerce picnic in honor of Don's character "Luther Heggs." Attaboy, Luther!
Don later would jokingly refer to the incident as "that funny old slip-up where I accidentally had sex with Joan Staley sixteen times." Ha, ha--it sure was a humorous mix-up, all right! But not as humorous as the fact that during filming of Don's next movie, THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT... the same mistake happened again! This time Don inadvertently had sex with attractive co-star Joan Freeman a whopping THIRTY-FIVE TIMES before he remembered that the film was intended for general audiences. (Sounds like that particular "astronaut" wasn't quite "reluctant" enough!) The doubly-embarrassed Knotts later admitted: "It was all my own bone-headed fault, no doubt about it. I just need to pay more attention while I'm writing those darn screenplays."
And now, here are some more fun movie quotes. See if you can remember these from your favorite blockbuster films:
"This" -- Vincent Price, "The Ten Commandments"
"I've" -- Jean Harlow, "Grand Hotel"
"Unless" -- Ronald Colman, "The Story of Mankind"
"Because" -- Rock Hudson, "Giant"
"What" -- George Kennedy, "Cool Hand Luke"
"If" -- Fay Wray, "King Kong"
Hoo-boy, you never know what those famous stars are going to say in their classic films! And finally, here's a terrifying tale from the mist-shrouded mysteries of Old Hollywood's voluminous vault of apocryphal anecdotes. It's an unnerving urban legend that's reluctantly referred to by the denizens of Dreamland as..."Rhett Butler's Fart." (Parental discretion advised.)
It was during the filming of one of Hollywood's most memorable scenes, as Victor Fleming directed Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in the unforgettable climax to GONE WITH THE WIND. All that was left was for Vivian, as Scarlett O'Hara, to breathlessly implore a departing Rhett Butler: "Rhett, Rhett! If you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?" and for Gable, as the roguish Rhett, to deliver his immortal comeback: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Whew...now that's movie history in the making!
There was just one catch...Clark Gable had eaten beans for lunch. And not just the ordinary portion, but bowls and bowls of them. It seems Gable was a bean fanatic, known to down a dozen cans in one sitting when the craving was at its peak, and right before the fateful scene was to be shot he had gobbled a record fifteen cans of "Old Faithful" Extra-Strength Ranch-Style Beans while guzzling an entire gallon of Grade A whole milk and six quarts of tutti-fruitti ice cream. Thus, Gable's innards were positively roiling as Vivian Leigh fed him the line that prompted his historic retort.
"Rhett, Rhett!" Leigh dramatically intoned. "If you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?" Without missing a beat, Gable twisted his ruggedly handsome face into that familiar roguish smirk and confidently proclaimed: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." FRRRRRRRRRRT!!!
The horrendous fart blasted the seat out of Gable's pants and took out thousands of dollars worth of scenery, setting it on fire, while the ghastly stench swept instantly throughout the soundstage like a full-scale gas attack. Cast and crew who were caught in its wake dropped like flies or stood petrified on the spot.
Vivian Leigh's hair turned white as she sagged backward and crashed through one of the mansion's front windows. Paint melted and dripped down the backdrops used to represent the scenery surrounding Tara before they, too, went up in flames. The hapless Fleming, who had been standing directly behind Gable at "ground zero", went missing for six weeks and was later discovered in a traveling circus, where the amnesia-stricken director was performing nightly as "Stinko, the Chicken Geek."
When asked about the incident later by famed gossip columnist Louella Parsons, an insouciant and unrepentent Gable gave his customary smirk and remarked: "Frankly my dear, I still don't give a damn." With that, he threw back his head with a resounding belly-laugh. Everyone else joined him in laughter, there was a freeze-frame, and the closing credits rolled. And folks--that's Old Hollywood for you!
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I don't go to the movies very often anymore, but last week I was having my house sprayed for fleas and needed a place to hang out for a couple of hours. Since I no longer frequent pool halls and videogame arcades as I did in my younger days, the movie theater seemed to be my best bet. Unfortunately, there was hardly anything playing besides Best Picture nominees, so I decided to take in a film I'd never heard of with the colorful title of HORSE ATTACK!!!
As I sat through the coming attractions, deftly applying several little packets of mustard and relish to the lukewarm, semi-cooked hot dog that I'd purchased for five bucks from an indifferent snack bar attendant, my imagination ran wild at the thought of the impending horse attack that would be assailing my senses in mere minutes. Of course, your standard horse attack probably wouldn't be all that exciting, but with three exclamation marks in the title, HORSE ATTACK!!! promised to be a humdinger of a film.
Little did I know that only a few months earlier, a pre-release screening of HORSE ATTACK!!! for the head of Imperial Studios had been less than successful. A particular bone of contention came in relation to, not surprisingly, the big horse attack sequence. The setting was a typical city street with ordinary people walking to and fro about their daily lives, when suddenly Natalie Portman leapt into the frame, pointed, and screamed, "HORSE ATTACK!!!"
"NOOOOOO!!! YAAAAAAA!!!" bellowed another woman, played by fellow Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock. She dropped her grocery bag, which had celery greens and an egg carton sticking out of the top just like grocery bags in movies always have, and ran away in stark terror.
The rest of the players began to scurry and hop around, flailing their arms and screaming at the top of their lungs. "HELP!!! HELP!!! THE HORSES ARE ATTACKING US!!!" cried the film's director in his usual cameo role.
Frantic neighing and clippity-clop sounds filled the air as the characters on the screen rolled around in their death throes. Sprawled between the sidewalk and the curb, a look of inutterable anguish on his face, Morgan Freeman croaked a dying lament in his distinctive voice. "We...had no... warning...(gurgle)"
Then the camera panned to the right to reveal Jeff Goldblum standing there, assessing the situation. "Horses...horses..." he was muttering to himself, making a series of eccentric hand gestures. "Let's just stop for a minute and think about these...horses. Where do they come from? What do they want? Now, if we could...discern...the answers to these questions...then...then...we'd have something."
"Stop the projector!" boomed a commanding voice. The screening room went dark, then was illuminated by the overhead lights. Studio executive J. Warner Wanger turned in his seat to face the film's producer, Feldmar Burrito, who asked, "Is there a problem, J.W.?"
"Well, I do have a question," said Wanger. "Where are the horses?"
"Horses?" Burrito responded, perplexed. "What horses?"
"The horses that are supposed to be attacking everybody!" Wanger shot back. "Where the hell are they?"
"Oh!" said Burrito, finally understanding the meaning of Wanger's words. "Well, unfortunately, we ran out of money for special effects."
"What do you mean, you ran out of money?"
"CGI is expensive, sir. Why, these days, just a single digital horse costs upwards of--"
"I know how much it costs!" Wanger cut in, irritated. "So, why not use real horses?"
"Real horses?" asked Burrito, confused. "Is there such a thing?"
"What do you mean, 'is there such a thing'? Of course there's such a thing!"
"You mean, like, on some other planet?"
"No, no!" Wanger sputtered, not quite understanding the question. "Right here on earth. Horses are indigenous to earth!"
"THEY ARE?" Burrito marveled. "WOW! I thought they were just some kind of imaginary creatures whipped up by special-effects technicians for all those Westerns and Robin Hood movies and whatnot!"
"Don't forget NATIONAL VELVET," added a junior executive.
"Shut up!" said Wanger. "Listen, Burrito--there's no way we can release this picture without horses it it. Why, we'd be the laughing stock of Hollywood! A horse-attack movie without any horses!"
Burrito thought about it for a minute, then snapped his fingers. "I've got it! We can stick a title card at the beginning of the movie, telling everyone to IMAGINE the horses!"
"IMAGINE the horses?" echoed Wanger. "But...that's ridiculous!"
"Sorry, J.W, but it's either that or get rid of Portman, Bullock, Freeman, and Goldblum. Well, maybe not Goldblum. His mom wrote the screenplay."
"And THE BLACK STALLION," added the junior executive.
"SHUT UP!" spat Wanger. "Hmmm...'imagine' the horses. Maybe this'll work after all. We can tell people it's like a brand-new kind of 3D or something."
"Movies of the mind...IMAGI-MOVIES!" gushed Burrito, squirming in his seat. "It'll be the greatest film innovation since...since that thing they invented where you could hear people talking and horns honking and stuff!"
"You mean 'sound'?"
"YES! YES! SOUND!" screamed Burrito. "IMAGI-MOVIES WILL BE BIGGER THAN SOUND!"
And so, a few months later, there I was sitting in the theater watching HORSE ATTACK!!! and imagining the horses during the actual horse-attack scenes. I heard a little kid on the next row ask his parents if he could go to the bathroom, and they told him to just imagine he was going to the bathroom. Then I looked over and spotted a young couple sitting there imagining that they were making out instead of actually making out. I tried to imagine that the hot dog I'd just eaten didn't give me gas and that HORSE ATTACK!!! didn't totally suck, but it was no use.
I found out later that movie concession sales, where theaters actually earn most of their profits, were plummetting across America because patrons were imagining that they were eating popcorn and hot dogs and stuff instead of buying them. Pretty soon, people simply started staying home and imagining that they were at the movies.
This began to carry over into all other areas of popular entertainment as well, with millions of people avoiding concerts, video games, TV shows, live theater, sporting events, brothels, and even restaurants, and cavorting instead within a mental wonderland of their own imagining. This lasted until studio executives put out a press release announcing that imagining things was "out of style", causing panicked theatergoers to rush back to the movies in droves.
Well, believe it or not, I purchased HORSE ATTACK!!! when it was released on DVD, because the box promised extra nude scenes not included in the feature version. It turned out the bonus footage consisted of Morgan Freeman applying medicated ointment to his left buttock after being bitten by a horse. So I guess HORSE ATTACK!!! got the last laugh after all--the old "horse laugh", that is! (wink)
(originally posted at Andersonvision.com)
Thanks to Stripcreator.com for the image!