June 30, 2002 · 10:30 AM PDT ·
WE HAD a system crash last night that wiped out this page. It has now been successfully reconstructed back to its old self
with nothing lost. This was made possible by the kindness of several readers of this website, including Carolyn Kelly, Bob Heer, "DRG4," Rephah
Berg, David M. Lynch and Kurt Pirmann. Thank you all.
June 29, 2002 · 6:30 PM PDT ·
HAD A LOVELY time this afternoon at the Hollywood Collectors Show at the Beverly Garland Hotel in Studio City. (The event
continues tomorrow. If you want to attend, further details can be located here.)
If you've never been to one of these, it's basically a ballroom full of celebrities selling autographed pictures, autobiographies and
other collectible items — a wonderful chance for them to make some bucks and for their fans to meet them. I got to see some old friends
— Teresa Ganzel, Susan Silo, Greg Berg, Bob Bergen and others — and say hello to some folks I'd met only briefly. For instance, the
only other time I ever chatted with Warren Berlinger, it was on the set of a short-lived TV show he did in 1971 called The Funny Side.
(Anyone else remember that? Gene Kelly was the host and I used to sneak into NBC to watch them tape and to pester Mr. Kelly with questions when
he wasn't busy on the set.) Last week, I saw Berlinger playing the party host in the production of Follies I mentioned then, so I got to
tell him how good it (and he) was.
Also told Roy Stuart how good he was in a play in which I saw him. Roy is probably best known for playing Corporal Boyle on
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (that's a shot of him at left on the show) but I recall a wonderful production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple I saw
back in the late sixties at the Ivar Theater in Hollywood. Stuart played Felix, Jesse White was Oscar and the two of them managed to wring
every possible laugh out of a very funny play. I never got to see the original combo of Walter Matthau
and Art Carney on stage but I can't believe it's humanly possible to laugh harder than we laughed that night at White and Stuart.
The production was directed by Neil's brother, Danny, upon whom
the character of Felix was somewhat based. Roy told me that, throughout
rehearsal, Danny kept saying to him, "That's not how I'd do that," and he [Roy]
had to keep reminding him, "I'm not playing you, Danny. I'm playing Felix."
Across the room, Bruce Kimmel was doing a brisk business selling copies of his novel, Benjamin Kritzer, and the newly-released
DVD of a wonderful little film he directed wrote and starred in, The First Nudie Musical. In recent years, Bruce has turned his talents
more often to producing some of the best Broadway-type CDs and he also has an unnatural relationship with Guy Haines, a camera-shy vocalist who
appears on some of them. Matter of fact, Bruce writes a daily journal over at Guy
Haines's website and it's full of fun info about show biz and the theater. While you're over there, order the novel and or the DVD.
The biggest line at the entire show was for Barbara Eden, about whom every male in the place and most of the women remarked, "God, she
still looks great." She does. She was there all day, signing pictures and I Dream of Jeannie memorabilia (one guy brought a crate
of toys) and feigning laughter at all the ha-ha hilarious remarks about her navel. Nearby, Jamie Farr was hearing other fans ask, ad
nauseam, "Where's your dress?" I wonder if folks will ever realize that, when you meet a celebrity who's known for something special, it's
nearly impossible to make a wisecrack they haven't heard 3,000 times before, often from the guy just before you.
As always, the "celebs" with the shortest lines were some of the most interesting and the ones who weren't selling anything, who were
roaming about to see friends, were especially fascinating. Chuck McCann was there and he introduced me to one of the great impressionists of
all time, Will Jordan, who was telling stories in the aisles. Every time I'm around comedians like that, I realize someone could do a helluva
great low-budget TV show by just pointing a camera at guys like McCann and Jordan and having them tell show biz anecdotes. You could probably
do a solid 26 weeks just on tales of Milton Berle's penis.
June 29, 2002 · 1:30 AM PDT ·
I NEVER PARTICULARLY liked Bill Maher as a person but — and these rarely go together for me — I've always liked him
as a stand-up comedian. And I've really liked him as the host of Politically Incorrect,
which has just aired its last original show, at least on ABC. The show has
included a lot of wrestling (in the Vince McMahon "put on a show" tradition) and
has given air time to a lot of pundits who never convinced me they weren't just
saying what brought them air time. Still, I generally enjoyed his
issue-based chat show and usually heard enough honest, perceptive commentary —
mainly from Maher — to make it a must-see for nine years.
I especially marveled at his ability to kick-start tepid
conversation and to, more often than most "hard news" guys, nail an interviewee
for evasion or outright fibbing. If I were a weasel politician, I think
I'd rather face an army of Tim Russerts than one Bill Maher.
I don't know if this still works but, about two years ago, I did a newsgroup search on the guy and was amazed at the range of hatred he
engendered. Some called him a fascist; others, a communist, a misogynist, a ladies' man, etc. Often, someone would agree with him on most
issues, then dismiss him as Satanic-possessed scum the second he took one "wrong" position. A self-described Libertarian who voted for Ralph
Nader is a tough guy to pigeon-hole, but many tried. None, I think, really succeeded...and I admire that about the guy, as well. I always
thought "politically incorrect" was a silly, meaningless term. But if it applies to anyone, it applies to him. The conventional wisdom
seems to be that Maher was cancelled for some awkwardly-phrased remarks he uttered, a bit too soon after 9/11. In interviews, he seems to be
saying that, as well. My friends over at ABC claim those comments — widely and deliberately misinterpreted, I believe — were merely
the excuse. One, in fact, told me months ago that Maher had ridden out the controversy and was no longer in jeopardy. When I asked him
recently what happened, he said, "It wasn't that. It's that no one on the 10th floor ever liked Maher. They never thought he was an ABC
star or that Politically Incorrect was an ABC show." I find it hard to believe that Jimmy Kimmel and his forthcoming program will pass
those tests but there you are.
I will miss Bill Maher's show, and I look forward to his return some day soon. Rumor has it he's dickering for a long-term deal
on some cable channel for a show that would incorporate elements of Politically Incorrect but also showcase the host's talents for stand-up
and sketches. As I've said here before, I think Mssrs. Leno and Letterman are way too afraid of real spontaneity on their stages, and go to
elaborate lengths to eliminate any chance of it. If Maher is going to roar back with an unexpurgated show that is as unplanned as P.I.
was, he could have a very long, successful run. He'd certainly have a Season Pass on my TiVo.
June 27, 2002 · 3:30 AM PDT ·
AS REPORTED here last week, four comedy shows did the same joke — three of them on the same night. Your obedient
website has assembled the precise texts of these jokes, and you can read them by clicking here.
I'M REALLY SICK of people impugning one another's patriotism — especially based on gestures as simple as flying an
American flag or saying you love your country or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think you should get even the tiniest bit of credit
for "patriotic acts" that cost you less than five bucks or 45 seconds. True patriotism involves at least a little sacrifice — or, at
least, taking a stand that could conceivably cost you in some meaningful way. In fact, it's kind of insulting to real patriotism to suggest
that singing the Star-Spangled Banner before a ball game is in any way comparable.
The whole brouhaha over the words "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance will probably trivialize the concept of real
patriotism further...plus, we'll have to listen to the suggestion that to not utter those four words makes you not only a bad American but a heathen,
to boot. Never mind that the country somehow survived a couple of World Wars, a depression and other tests of its endurance when the Pledge did
not include those words. We will see politicians — and I include the Supreme Court in that category — climb all over themselves to
be the ones who save America from not having that clause in the recitation. It will return or perhaps just remain, with only token
Frankly, I think the problem is not in those four words; it's all the others. Why does a country that values Freedom of Speech
feel that its children must be ordered — or, at least, pressured — to recite a pledge? Has anyone who was ever inclined to do
something unAmerican ever said, "Uh-oh, I'd better not. After all, I took that pledge back in fifth grade"? Someone once wrote that the
U.S.A. shows the courage of its convictions when we allow people to advocate extreme views, counter to that of the government and/or its
people. Seems to me it would be supremely American if we just ashcan the whole Pledge and tell the world, "We trust our people to be loyal
without compulsory vows of allegiance."
And while we're at it, I think the pizza down at Johnnie's on Wilshire should taste exactly the same but contain zero calories.
June 26, 2002 · 12:00 AM PDT ·
STILL FIGHTING MR. DEADLINE. I would, however, like to call your attention to this article by William Saletan over on Slate.
It's about the inherent flaws in our president's "vision" for the Israel/Palestine nastiness and why his recent speech is all spin, no
substance. I think so, too.
FLYING SOMEWHERE soon? Here are two terrific sites (this
this one) you might want to bookmark. They feature diagrams of most of the
airlines and how the seating arrangements on their planes are configured.
You may need to check out both pages to find the craft on which you are about to
June 24, 2002 · 2:30 PM PDT ·
YOUR OBEDIENT WEBMASTER is trapped in Deadline Hell for the next day or so. As always, don't expect anything new on this
page for a while, barring another damn obit or time-sensitive matter. But when we return, we'll make it up to you.
AND REMEMBER that Late Night With Conan O'Brien is scheduled to run that segment tonight — the one in which Triumph
the Insult Comic Dog poops all over Star Wars fans. (Hint to people on the street who find themselves in front of the camera of some
comedy show: Don't try to be funny or clever. He who controls the camera and editing process controls the thrust of the piece as it will
be aired. If the premise of the segment is — as it usually is, especially on late night comedy shows and The Daily Show —
that people who get stopped on the streets are clueless dorks, you will either come off as one or be cut from the tape. I'm amazed how many
people who find themselves before Letterman's camera — or Jay's or Conan's or any of those boys — think they can "top" the comedian or
even just not look at least a little foolish. The game is rigged, people. If you want to be on TV, fine...but know that this will be the
Okay, back to the salt mines...
June 23, 2002 · 6:00 PM PDT ·
THE ONE-TIME editor of Timely Comics (aka Marvel),
Vince Fago, has passed away from stomach cancer. He was 88 years old and
had devoted his entire life to cartooning and comics. Fago was born in New
York and got into the animation field there in 1933. He worked for an
array of small commercial houses in New York and Detroit before settling in
briefly at Max Fleischer's operation, where he worked on Betty Boop, Superman
and Popeye other cartoons, as well as the feature, Gulliver's Travels.
When World War II broke out, most of the animation studios shifted over to
making films for the military and Fago, who found such work boring, went out to
try and get work in comic books.
Timely was plunging into "funny animal" titles and when editor Stan Lee saw Vince's work, he knew he had a good source of them.
Fago drew strips with names as odd as " Frenchy Rabbit," "Dinky and Rudy Rooster." and "Floop and Skillyboo." Soon after, when Stan entered the
service, he had to pick someone to take over the editor's job in his absence. He chose Vince Fago.
Fago held the job until soon after Stan returned. Thereafter, Vince worked for Timely as well as other companies as a writer,
editor and artist, usually of "funny animal" comics. He dabbled in newspaper strips, magazine publishing, animation, commercials and just about
any field where you could make a buck drawing silly pictures. Roy Thomas's fine magazine, Alter Ego, recently published a number of exhaustive articles and a long interview with the
man, conducted by his friend, Jim Amash.
June 23, 2002 · 2:00 PM PDT ·
THIS SITE was off-line for the last day or so, for reasons I cannot fathom. Apologies from the crack www.POVonline.com tech team, which is me.
A COMPANY called Wilson Research Strategies does all sorts of polls to gauge the American public. Recently (May 5-8), they
conducted one that asked 1000 registered voters, "Who is your favorite super-hero?" This poll has a margin of error of ±3.2% and I offer
it here for whatever it's worth, with the suspicion that Spider-Man's stock has probably risen since the movie came out.
- Superman - 27%
- Spider-Man - 15%
- Batman - 14%
- Wonder Woman - 11%
- The Incredible Hulk - 7%
- Flash Gordon - 4%
- The Bionic Man - 4%
- Other/Don't Know - 20%
I DON'T AGREE with a lot of reviewers so I expected to quibble a lot with the notices for Neil Simon's Oscar and Felix: A New
Look at the Odd Couple. But I disagreed with almost none of this review in the L.A. Times or the one that ran
in Daily Variety, which is available on-line only by subscription. And at this page over at the Times, you can see two
on-line clips from the show.
ON HIS SHOW this week, Dennis Miller did the same Southwest Airlines joke, and I have to wonder why. Leno, Letterman and
O'Brien all did it the same night — Tuesday — and none of them could have seen the other shows when they taped. But Miller does his
show live on Friday nights. Hard to believe no one on his staff had seen Dave, Jay or Conan. (I am not suggesting theft here; just that
someone needs to be a little more careful.)
AND, YES, I have seen this
article about the guy who ripped off royalties for Garfield & Friends. No wonder I haven't gotten a check lately...
JOE RAIOLA is a senior editor at Mad Magazine and when he's not doing that, he delivers impassioned, entertaining
speeches about Censorship and the First Amendment. My pal Lou Mougin e-mailed me to tell me that one of Joe's addresses was on C-Span this
weekend. (I'd have alerted you folks via this page but my site was down — a high-tech form of unintentional censorship.) If and
when it reruns, I'll try and announce it here...but I found it very interesting. I agree with Joe's belief in the sanctity and importance of
Freedom of Speech, disagree with him on some of the particulars, and respect the hell outta him for going out and speaking his mind. In any
case, here's a link to a website that books speaking engagements for the guy.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME