August 27, 2002 · 2:30 PM PDT ·
ANOTHER OBITUARY, this one from the Associated Press...
Sony closed the final chapter of its legendary battle with Victor Co. of Japan to dominate the home video machine market, when it
announced Tuesday that it would discontinue its Betamax VCRs. Sony will stop manufacturing Betamax machines by year's end as the company
refocuses its efforts on DVD and other technologies now dominating the market, Sony spokeswoman Shoko Yanagizawa said.
No great surprise there, of course. We long ago rid ourselves of all emotional attachment to the format, as discussed in this column. Still, it's sad to say farewell to an old friend...though it isn't a total farewell. I still have
one working Betamax in my main video setup and two more in a closet. Once the making of home DVDs becomes practical (there's another Format War
in progress on that front), we'll copy all our irreplaceable Beta tapes to them and be done with it.
August 27, 2002 · 12:30 PM PDT ·
THE MANAGEMENT OF THIS WEBSITE agrees completely with this article by Robert Scheer about the prospect of a Major League Baseball
strike. And is outraged if all or most of this article by Paul
Krugman about Bush's forestry policy is true.
And now the management of this website is returning to its deadline.
August 26, 2002 · 7:30 PM PDT ·
HORROR FROM THE CRYPT OF FEAR #12 is a new, small and limited-edition fanzine devoted to the work of the late, great comic book
artist, Johnny Craig. It was originally supposed to be a surprise tribute but, sadly, Craig passed away while its publisher, Bill Leach, was
assembling articles, rare photos and drawings by a number of terrific illustrators including Al Feldstein and Marie Severin. The zine is now a
lovely memorial to one of comics' great illustrators and it's available from Bud Plant Comic
Art. (Also included in the book with my permission is the obit I wrote for Craig which is posted here on
this site. I was proud to be a part of it even if Mr. Craig didn't live to see it.)
August 26, 2002 · 3:30 PM PDT ·
HERE'S a link to
an article in the Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Zaslow about guests on late night TV shows. I think this thing really misses the mark,
in part due to faulty examples. Zaslow's premise is that the folks who book guests on talk shows are unfairly ignoring older, veteran
performers. Here's a quote in case you don't feel like clicking over...
Such is the fate for scores of performers who once entertained America in 10-minute bursts on late-night TV. They're still alive.
They still have fans who see their acts in Branson, Mo., or on cruise ships. But today's talk-show bookers often want nothing to do with them.
As David Letterman and Jay Leno fight for the same parade of young actors, the old guard yearns for a return to the couches of their youth.
There's some validity to that but, first of all, the examples are bad ones: Charles Nelson Reilly, Phyllis Diller, Soupy Sales, Buddy
Hackett, Yakov Smirnoff and The Amazing Kreskin. With the possible exception of Hackett, those are all guests that even Carson stopped booking
long before he went off the air or never booked in the first place. A check of the guest database at www.johnnycarson.com shows that though Reilly was a frequent guest with Johnny for years, The Tonight Show
last booked him in 1986, and Phyllis Diller in 1985. Johnny left the air in 1992.
Soupy Sales was never a regular guest on any of the late night shows, even when he had the hottest kid show in the country. He
did afternoon shows once in a while but even that was a long time ago. And I'll say this delicately but I'll say it: He's not in the kind of
health that would allow him to go on one of those shows today and delight his fans. He did Rosie O'Donnell's program a few months ago and it
was a short, uncomfortable interview.
As for the other folks, I suspect that Yakov Smirnoff's absence from the tube has more to do with the fact that the end of the Cold War
rendered his act moot. Mr. Kreskin long ago turned into a parody of himself. (Carson stopped booking him in 1980.) Buddy Hackett is
turning up regularly with Craig Kilborn on The Late, Late Show.
The article's thesis is almost right. Talk shows often ignore older guests in favor of young ones. But the cases cited are
mainly folks who burned out long ago and, besides — and here's what Zaslow misses completely — that's how show business works.
Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rooney are not starring in movies and Wayne Newton does not have a record on the charts. Some performers endure and some
The late night shows often find room for Rodney Dangerfield, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles and Tony Bennett. They never found much
room for Smirnoff and even if they did once, some performers simply cannot sustain careers. Carson stayed on as long as he did, in part because
he'd decide — rightly or wrongly — that certain stars simply had worn out their welcome and it was time to stop inviting them to his
couch. If there was evidence that the mass public still loved Yakov and Kreskin and would flock to see them elsewhere, they might be right that
Leno and Letterman are unfairly ignoring them. But those guys are playing Branson and Laughlin because they can't even fill a room in
The talk shows are just booking the folks who seem to be popular. Maybe they're wrong at times. Hell, I'm sure they're
wrong at times. But it's nothing new. That's how the game has always been played.
August 25, 2002 · 10:30 PM PDT ·
BEN VARKENTINE reviews my new book, Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life over on this website. I always knew Ben was a bright guy but I didn't
know he was this smart.
I'M WATCHING the Chabad Telethon as I chip away at that deadline. They have radio talk show host Dennis Prager hosting
this year and he's awful — stiff, humorless and often unprepared. Does the world really have such a shortage of old Jewish comedians that
we had to get stuck with this guy?
And, speaking of fund raising...
August 24, 2002 · 12:30 PM PDT ·
A QUICK NOTE, taking time away from that deadline I should be working on: A reader of this site named Mary Grider just
wrote to help clarify the situation with the death toll of 9/11. At the moment, it stands at 2,807 in the World Trade Center though, as this article notes, it is expected that this total will be revised
downward. Also killed that day were 125 employees of the Pentagon plus a number of airline employees and passengers plus 10 hijackers.
The count currently stands at 3,031...tragic, of course, but far below the estimates of that day which said "more than 5000" and sometimes even "more
As I said in the NOTES from me that prompted Mary's helpful message, I think this country had spent
way too much effort mourning its dead and not nearly enough solving the problems that were created or revealed on 9/11.
Thank you, Mary. Back to work...
August 23, 2002 · 9:00 PM PDT ·
AS MENTIONED EARLIER HERE, TV Land is rerunning my unfavorite episode of The Adventures of Superman early tomorrow
(Saturday) morning. It's probably on at 12:30 AM or 3:30 AM in your area, depending on which time zone you're in or maybe which time zone your
cable company thinks it's in. The episode is "The Mysterious Cube" and the reasons I think it's so silly are spelled out in two columns, the
first of which you can read by clicking here. But read fast. These columns are only available here until
ONE OF THE GAUGES of America's pulse after 9/11 was the late night talk show. Much was said and written about how Dave,
Jay, Bill, Conan, Jon, Craig and Saturday Night Live dealt with the disasters, especially with regard to the first new broadcast each show had
to do after that day. At the time, I was touched by most of the entries and thought most of the hosts did a fine job in a difficult
situation. (This piece is continued over in the section we call NOTES from me.)
MY TV NEWS CHANNELS seem to be filled with New York City fire fighters and policemen who are condemning Bush and mayor Mike
Bloomberg for refusing them a pay increase and, some claim, expecting them to put in more hours for the same, pitiful salaries. I can't wait to
see the attempt to portray New York City firemen as greedy and unworthy. Yeah, America will certainly buy that notion, especially with all the
9/11 retrospectives we'll be watching the next few weeks. The nerve of those selfish New York fire fighters...
Someone (Leno, I think) once said that Politics was Show Business for ugly people. Lately, it's become Show Biz for people who
are neither pretty nor smart.
I REALLY LIKE Bubbie's Pure Kosher Dill pickles. My great friend Carolyn Kelly told me about them and I'll admit to having
had a bit of skepticism. I was buying Vlasic pickles or Claussen pickles and settling for adequate. This seemed to be a matter of
realistic expectations. I mean, how can pickles sold in a jar in the supermarket deli case measure up to real delicatessen pickles? Well,
Bubbie's do. I don't own stock in the company. I just like their pickles and felt I oughta recommend them to you, if not for great
pickles than as proof that you don't have to settle for adequate. A lesson for us all.
I HAVE THE Deadline From Hell staring me in the kisser so I probably won't be updating this page or answering much e-mail until
it's vanquished. See you again on the other side.
is now out and making its way to comic book shops and dealers. This handsome collection of Evanier's POV columns features funny
pictures by Sergio Aragonés and silly articles about the history of comics and the unique world of comic book fandom. You can order one
over at the website for TwoMorrows Publishing and we hope you do. We're very
proud of this.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME