September 14, 2002 · 12:00 PM PDT ·
AND THERE'S a nice article about the
convalescence of cartoonist Bill Mauldin over at the Los Angeles Times site. (The link will expire soon. Let's hope Bill
September 14, 2002 · 11:30 AM PDT ·
THERE'S A FINE MAGAZINE devoted to the work of Denny O'Neil called The O'Neil Observer, run by a heckuva nice guy named
Bob Brodsky. If you go to its website and post a Get Well message on its message board, it will get to Denny. The address is www.oneilobserver.com.
September 14, 2002 · 1:00 AM PDT ·
ONE OF COMICS' best writers and editors, Denny O'Neil suffered a major heart attack last Tuesday. He was dining in a
restaurant when it hit, and his heart and respiration actually stopped completely. Fortunately, the owner of the restaurant was a fireman and
he had defibrillator paddles handy. It took three tries but he jolted Denny back to life, and now our friend is in the hospital with bypass
surgery planned for next week. I don't have to tell anyone who's read DC Comics in the last 33 years that Denny is one of our most valuable
Some of you may not however know that he's among the most decent, compassionate people in the industry, with a very long list of
personal super-heroics to his credit. I hope he gets better in a hurry...and not just because we could be in for some wonderful "back from the
September 13, 2002 · 1:30 PM PDT ·
IF YOU MISSED Bill Clinton's appearance with David Letterman, you can hear the audio by clicking here. I don't know who put this up or how long it'll be up. So
enjoy it while it lasts.
BOB CLAMPETT was a great maker of cartoons. His daughter Ruth is a great maker of cels for collectors. She also has
a terrific website. Go there. Go there now. Go there and buy a cel.
September 13, 2002 · 12:15 PM PDT ·
BREAKING NEWS: The Fox News website has the Guiliani hair story. They
report, we decide.
September 13, 2002 · 11:45 AM PDT ·
IT WILL PROBABLY CHANGE in an hour or two but, right this minute, the headline story over at www.washingtonpost.com is that Rudy Guiliani has stopped combing his hair over. Honest. That's what's
posted there on the site. They have side-by-side "before" and "after"
photos and an article speculating on why the former mayor of New York has
decided to let his baldness show. All I can say is, Thank God the important stories are finally getting some attention.
Goodness knows there's nothing else going on in the world that matters more, especially since the press started shirking their grave
responsibility of covering Al Gore's beard and waistline. And in the week of the first anniversary of 9/11/01, of all the things that might be
written about Rudolph Guiliani, his hairline is certainly the most significant.
IF YOU were about to be executed — and let's be honest, it will happen — what would you want as your last
meal? Well, if you were in Texas, it would probably be fried chicken and/or a pile of cheeseburgers. Here we have a list of last meal requests from folks about to walk that last mile in the Lone
Star State. It's an odd list because some asked for steaks and others for yogurt or candy bars. Some asked for wine or cigarettes and
didn't get them because that's against policy. Don't these about-to-die people know what wine or cigarettes can do to your body?
September 13, 2002 · 1:30 AM PDT ·
HERE'S A MEMORY PIECE about one of the best places to see a movie in Los Angeles, especially if you wanted to get all your
Walter Matthau viewing out of the way in one visit. And even if you didn't, it had a great recorded announcement. I'll tell you all about
it over in the latest NOTES from me.
I THINK I've figured out my position on whether or not the U.S. should go to war against Saddam Hussein. I think I don't
know. I furthermore think that, like many Americans, I am reacting more to the partisan volleying in our national debate than to any realistic
assessment of the risks and benefits of action or inaction. I think Bush, Cheney and their minions are making a lame, arrogant and incomplete
argument for attacking Iraq...but I keep reminding myself that it is possible to make a lame, arrogant and incomplete argument for what may well be
the correct course of action. It is also possible to believe that Hussein needs to be taken out but that doing so without building an
international consensus first will cause more harm than good. If I had a vote in the matter — and we can all feel safer that I don't
— I suspect I'd come down on that side of the argument...today. Tomorrow, who knows?
Part of my problem, I suspect, has to do with the avoidance of direct debate. Prowling the pro-attack websites and columnists, I
see a lot of attempts to argue that anyone opposed to wasting ol' Saddam is a Democrat partisan (never mind the many prominent Republicans who feel
that way) or a wimp (never mind the many war heroes). I am naturally suspicious when someone is arguing a position largely by misrepresenting
and mischaracterizing the opposition. I'm also uncomfortable with how many questions have gone unasked and unanswered regarding Dick Cheney's
past business dealings in the region, and with the fact that the White House can't seem to get its story straight on whether or why they think
Hussein is connected to 9/11.
The other part of my problem is the vast number of ancillary issues that are clouding the debate, starting with the extent to which
leaders on all sides are trying to manipulate this question for advantage in the upcoming elections. We also have a lot of people who are
raising the matter of Bush's electoral legitimacy, and even some reaching back to scratch festering sores from the Viet Nam war. This kind of
stuff shouldn't be getting in the way but it is.
Beneath all that, there may be a sound case for us going to war against Iraq. I hope we all get to hear it before we do.
IT IS TIME for you to read this article by Michael Kinsley.
Read it and you'll see why.
THE FOLLOWING is a message that I just posted to a discussion group. Someone was wondering if Letterman's
higher-than-usual ratings the other night with Bill Clinton would have any impact on his numbers, the way the infamous Hugh Grant appearance did with
Mr. Leno, and whether Dave took viewers from Nightline. In response, I wrote...
The Hugh Grant interview actually did very little for Leno. Jay's ratings were slowly gaining before it and Dave's were slowly
declining. If the Hugh Grant thing had never happened, Jay would have passed Dave a few weeks later and from there on, things would have been
exactly the same. Grant just sped up the process a bit.
The Clinton interview didn't get that high a rating. In the last few years, Letterman has had shows that did much
better. For the most part, "event" episodes (ones where something very special occurs that triggers a bigger-than-usual tune-in) have little
long-lasting impact on the ratings. As I recall, the night Dave had Hillary Clinton on, the show got a huge rating and, the next night, the
numbers were right where they were before it. Sometimes, an event bolsters the numbers for a week or two.
I suspect that what's now at work in the late night competition has very little to do with the shows taking viewers away from one
another, at least not on a steady basis. There's a certain segment of the population that will flit from Jay to Dave to Ted, based on which
show has the best guest or topic, or the mood of the viewer — i.e., whether they're in the mood for something serious or silly.
For the most part though, viewers have all sampled the late night shows and decided which one(s) they prefer. The ratings go up and
down, depending on how many of a given show's fans tune in on a given night and — perhaps as importantly — how much of the show they
watch. That is, Dave has a certain audience that, when they watch late night TV, likes to watch him. On a great night, he'll get most of them
to tune in and watch most of the show. On a bad night, a lesser percentage of them will tune in and a lot will change the channel or go to bed after
the Top Ten List. One of the main factors in Leno's rise in the ratings was not that he was getting more viewers to tune in but that they were
sticking around longer.
So my guess is that Letterman's higher-than-usual rating that evening was mostly a matter of a higher percentage of Dave fans than
usual tuning in, plus a few folks who ordinarily watch other shows. But the major factor probably was that, of folks who tuned in to watch the
beginning of the show, a higher-than-usual percentage of them stayed with it until the end, or at least until the musical act. (Both Jay and
Dave lose a large, noticeable chunk of their audience when the guest band starts playing.)
I would have added, if I'd thought of it before sending this message, that while a lot of numeric analysis goes into the ratings,
there's also a lot of guesswork. It's what I once heard someone describe as a "sorta-exact science," meaning that there's room for
speculation. For all we know, people watch whichever late night host has the loudest tie.
September 12, 2002 · 10:00 AM PDT ·
NOT THAT the "late night wars" are even remotely as important as the real wars being discussed yesterday...but I thought someone
might be interested in how Jay and Dave fared with their 9/11 shows. The fast overnights give Leno (with lead guest John McCain, followed by an
outraged and interesting James Woods) a 4.2/11. Letterman, with Bill Clinton (and a late start in some time zones), got a 4.6/12.
Nightline had a 3.8/9.
September 12, 2002 · 1:00 AM PDT ·
A NUMBER OF PEOPLE wrote to thank me for not writing anything about 9/11 here yesterday. Matter of fact, you know how we
subtly nag you to donate cash to this site? Well, yesterday I had my highest-to-date level of donations, much of it from folks who said it was
because they were as sick of the topic as I was. I'll steer clear of the topic again today and see what it gets me.
I WILL SAY, however, that David Letterman had a first-rate interview the other night with Bill Clinton. Part of it was
because Clinton is, as even most of his foes admit, a terrific public speaker. But part of it was because Dave rose to the challenge of the
guest and the occasion.
Lately, I've felt both Letterman and Leno were spectacularly disinterested in their own shows. Word from inside both operations
is that the shows are relying heavily (too heavily, everyone seems to think) on ratings reports that break down the audience tune-in and
tune-out for certain segments and certain kinds of segments. This has caused both Dave and Jay to minimize or dump outright some spots they
like, and to increase — for example — features like Jay's "Jaywalking" and Dave's remotes in Rupert's Deli. Darn near everyone who
works on both shows, hosts probably included, thinks those segments have long since outworn their welcomes. Still, the ratings indicate that
viewers take to those bits better than some of the wittier prepared material...so "Jaywalking" and Rupert's Deli remain. This may help Act II
keep its viewership up but I wonder if this attitude hasn't taken a bite out of Dave's and Jay's spirits.
Letterman asked good questions last night and Clinton, of course, had good answers. Dave probably got more out of his guest in 30
minutes than Larry King could have in an hour. I'm not sure I agreed with most of what our former president said, and I wish one politician in
this world could answer a question without itemizing his accomplishments. But Clinton's a great talker and it's a shame he's not doing that
rumored talk show.
MY CURRENT FAVORITE SUPER-GUY COMIC (and almost the only one I read, these days) is The Savage Dragon, which is written
and drawn by Erik Larsen. It has now been written and drawn by Erik Larsen for a hundred issues, which sets all kinds of records. In the
old days, creators stayed on comics forever...or would have, had their editors kept them on the same assignment. These days, it's rare to stay
in one place for more than a few issues. Fortunately, Erik is the head honcho on his creation and has remained on it because it's the comic he
really wants to do. I think the passion shows, not only in his dedication to doing it every month but doing it so well.
LEWIS J. STADLEN, an actor I've loved in everything I've seen him in, is starring as Max Bialystock in the touring company of
The Producers. Here's a link to a
good but short interview with him about how he came to the job and what he intends to do with it.
DO YOU LIKE Beetle Bailey? Can you handle a bit of simple, straightforward flag-waving? Most important, can your
computer run Shockwave animation files? If the answer to all of these is yes, then click here to see a little Shockwave Beetle Bailey flag-waving. And on your way out, stop by www.mortwalker.com.
September 11, 2002 · 12:30 AM PDT ·
THERE IS NOTHING HERE today about the anniversary we're observing. This is just in case you're as sick of it as I am.
I'VE NEVER WATCHED Farscape, but a lot of folks I like and respect seem to love it and are up in arms over its
cancellation. A couple asked that I direct your attention to this website which is
trying to keep the show alive. So if you adore the show as many seem to, hop over there and see what you can do.
ROBERT B. WEIDE is a respected producer whose credits include the fine documentary, The Marx Brothers in a
Nutshell. Recently, he decided to pony up megabucks to purchase a harp that had allegedly belonged to Harpo Marx. What he went
through will serve as a fine object lesson that not all movie memorabilia is precisely what it is purported to be. Mr. Weide lays out the whole
sad tale over at his website. And while you're there, have a look
around. There are a number of interesting things to read.
A NUMBER OF YOU, all of whom can count better than I can, sent me messages like this one from Oliver King. This is about
the previous item about the stamps...
You can permute the three rows any way you like, and still preserve the three pairings. There are six ways to do this.
Then for each row you can swap the stamp on the left with the stamp on the right while still preserving the pairings. There are 8 ways to do
this. Thus of the 720 different ways to arrange the six stamps, 6*8 = 48 of them (or 1/15th of them) preserve the three pairings. Or half
that many, if you require that Hart look at Rodgers and Hammerstein rather than off into space.
He's right, of course. But I'm still right that they don't make Broadway composers like they used to...or maybe they do, but
there's insufficient chance for them to show what they can do. Either way, it would be hard to fill six stamps with recent guys.
September 10, 2002 · 1:30 AM PDT ·
A YEAR OR THREE AGO, the U.S. Postal Service came out with these six stamps honoring great Broadway composers. Someone
recently gave me a pane of them and they got me thinking. These men all did their major work in a 40 year period (30 if you leave out the
Gershwins) and they hardly had the field to themselves. If the U.S.P.S. had done six or even ten more stamps, they'd have had no trouble
finding worthy candidates: Jule Styne, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, etc. If they tried to do stamps covering the last 30-40 years,
they'd be hard-pressed to find six. Sondheim, certainly. Jerry Herman, I would imagine.
And then the next stop after that is Andrew Lloyd Webber. At that point, it would cease to be much of an honor. It is also
worth noting that, in my last few trips to New York, the musical shows I've attended have, as often as not, been shows written by the guys on the
Another thought I had about these stamps is that whoever decided what stamps would be on the same row was trying to make a small
historical statement. The Gershwins are on the same tier as Lerner and Loewe, which is vaguely symbolic. A lot of critics hailed the
latter as the successor to the former. (Also, Lerner won an Academy Award — a major turning point in his career — for adapting the
Gershwin's work into the movie, An American in Paris.)
The second row of stamps has Lorenz Hart on the left, Rodgers & Hammerstein to the right. Rodgers and Hart, of course, were a
team and due to Hart's drinking and decaying work habits, Rodgers finally left him and began collaborating, with greater success, with
Hammerstein. Don't those two stamps, viewed as a unit, look like Hart is looking with mixed emotion at his former collaborator who has not only
left their partnership but his stamp, as well?
Lastly, we have the pairing of Meredith Willson and Frank Loesser. The connect here is that Willson's best works were published
by Loesser's music company, done under his encouragement...and have always been dogged by rumors that Loesser ghost-wrote or ghost-rewrote certain
This may seem like I'm projecting history where none was intended...but there are 720 different ways to arrange six stamps and this is
the only one where the honorees on each tier have anything in common with one another.
WHATEVER HAPPENED to Richard Lamparski? I'm serious. It's been more than ten years since he issued one of his
entertaining Whatever Happened To..? books. Anyone know what became of him?
When Phil Silvers was in the Broadway show, High Button Shoes, one of its producers, Joe Kipness, noticed that his star seemed
dejected and not at his best. He asked Silvers what the problem was and Silvers explained he was on a tremendous losing streak as a
gambler. Every bet he made, he lost...one after the other. No matter what it was, Silvers bet and Silvers lost.
Kipness came up with a way to help Silvers get his old spirit back and most of his money, as well. He found out about a prize
fight that was fixed and he told Silvers, "Bet everything you can on the kid in the black trunks. Hock your car, borrow against your life
insurance, rob your mother if you have to. Just put it all on the kid in the black trunks." Silvers thanked him and rushed off to do
The kid in the black trunks won in a major upset, as planned. The next day, when Kipness went to see if his star had his old
energy back, he found Silvers more depressed than ever. "What's wrong, Phil?" he asked. "Couldn't you raise any money to bet?"
The actor said he'd raised thousands of dollars and bet it with his local bookie. "So," Kipness asked, "why are you so
Silvers looked up at him with sad eyes and said, "I liked the kid in the white trunks."
IF YOU USE MICROSOFT XP, read the warning over at the Gibson Research
website. This is a good place for everyone to occasionally peruse. Steve Gibson has proven to be the Internet's most adept, independent
watchdog of major security breaches.
CAN YOU SPARE 90 MINUTES? That's how long it'll take you to watch a pretty good interview of Stephen Sondheim over on the
Lincoln Center website. New York Times critic Frank Rich asks the questions and you'll need RealPlayer installed. While you watch,
browse the site and see how many places you can find where they've spelled their honoree's name "Sondhiem." (When it first went up, there were
more but they've fixed some of them.) Here's your link.
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME