April 4, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
April 3, 2003 · 8:00 AM PST ·
April 1, 2003 · 10:30 PM PST ·
April 1, 2003 · 12:00 PM PST ·
DAVID LETTERMAN'S first show back from a bout with Shingles was a pretty good broadcast. (Did pretty well in the ratings,
too. Someone at CBS is probably trying to figure out how they can have Letterman return from long illnesses more often.) Dave included a
nice tribute to the late George Miller...and this is not meant as a criticism of what was obviously a sincere honor. But trust me: George was a
lot funnier than that clip they showed.
LATELY, lawyers for Lynne Cheney have been trying to stifle a website
that habitually ridicules the Vice-First Lady, or however one refers to the spouse of the Veep. This has led Neal Pollack — an Internet troublemaker in the grand and glorious tradition — to proclaim April 1 as
National Make Fun of the Cheneys Day. As you can see on Pollack's site, a lot of folks seem to be joining in and if I had more time, I would
too. Anyone who sics their lawyers on political satirists deserves more of exactly what they're trying to stop.
I AM INFORMED by John Hughes, who's with www.secondspin.com — the
Internet's largest dealer of used CDs, DVDs & VHS, it says in his tagline — that there actually has been one movie which included a real
audience laugh track on its DVD. What movie was it? Freddy Got Fingered. No wonder I've never seen it done.
April 1, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES ran The Sunshine Boys the other day — a pleasant movie, though one with dialogue that almost
cries to be put back on stage where it originated. Watching it on TV, I am way too cautious of pauses where a live audience would be
howling. We all dislike artificial laugh tracks but I wish some DVDs came with the sound of a real audience on an alternate audio
channel. (Incidentally, note that Matthau is almost bald in the film but has
his usual hair in the Hirschfeld drawing on the poster. One suspects that
someone decided it was more important for Walter Matthau to be recognizable in the advertising than for the key art to reflect the movie.
He also had more hair in the publicity photos like the one above right.)
One thing which bothered me a bit was not in the movie but in the introduction that film historian Robert Osborne taped for Turner
Classic Movies. Here's part of what he said...
The Sunshine Boys is an adaptation of a play by Neil Simon, which Simon had loosely based on the lives of two real vaudeville
comics. Smith and Dale were famous for being great partners on stage, but cantankerous rivals off stage. George Burns and Walter Matthau
play their counterparts in this film, although initially there was talk that Bob Hope and Bing Crosby might be cast in the movie version, but Neil
Simon was never crazy about that idea. Then Walter Matthau was signed for it along with Jack Benny, but then he died suddenly so Red Skelton
was asked to take over that part. Skelton said no, not because he didn't like the part but because the money he was offered was only a fraction
of what he could make on stage in Las Vegas. Well, at that point, George Burns was asked to play it, and he did. Won the Oscar for it,
and he began a whole new magnificent career for him — a movie star at last.
Leaving aside the awkward syntax which seems to say that Matthau died instead of Benny, this is wrong. According to Simon's
autobiography — and everything else I've read — the offer from Hope was declined (Neil wanted Jews) and then auditions yielded the cast
of Red Skelton and Jack Benny. Skelton bowed out for a much sillier reason than money: He didn't want to do a movie in which he had to say
things like "bastard" and "son of a bitch." This is the same Red Skelton who told me the joke about the Pope
and the midget hooker. Matthau replaced Skelton, and then Jack Benny died. Shortly before his death, when he knew he was failing, Benny
told people that he hoped his dearest pal in the world, George Burns, would take over his role in Sunshine Boys — and Burns did.
Robert Osborne is a good reporter and a nice man, but he got confused on this one. He booted the most charming part of the story
— that Benny "willed" the role to his best friend. That's what rejuvenated Burns's career, and it's probably the nicest part of The
Sunshine Boys. Even if it isn't in the film.
CARTOONS are always telling you to "Eat at Joe's." Someone at Cartoon Network produced a funny short (it's only a minute
long) about Joe's. If you have RealPlayer installed, click
here to view it.
MY PAL Scott Shaw! is celebrating the third anniversary of his Oddball Comics column over at Comic Book Resources. Every day, Monday through Friday, Scott fishes some silly comic book out of his
collection and shares it with the masses, accompanied by his piquant commentary. Here's a direct link to today's installment. Go. Read. Chortle.
March 31, 2003 · 10:00 AM PST ·
I DON'T KNOW how the war in Iraq is going. Some of the news is good, some is bad, and an awful lot of it doesn't seem to
hold up for very long.
The last few days, we've seen people who recently said the war would end swiftly begin denying they ever said the war would end swiftly. Military officials are telling reporters that things would be going much better if only civilian
officials hadn't overruled the experts. Even some White House sources are starting to float the idea that George W. was "out of the loop" on some pretty important
decisions...so if they turn out wrong, he's not to blame. (Reagan, Clinton and the previous Bush all had to occasionally resort to the "I
didn't know what my administration was doing" defense and amazingly, they all got away with it to some extent. We won't forgive our leaders for
bad decisions, but simply not doing their jobs is okay.)
Now, politicians and military men are notorious for pointing fingers elsewhere, and trying to avoid responsibility for their own
decisions and statements — so this could all be a lot of needless ass-covering. But at best, it's that. At worst, it's...well, it's
The next week or so, we'll probably see public confidence in this war plunge. It may not be quantifiable or provable, since some
people think it aids the war effort to not express that kind of doubt to pollsters. But there may well be some measurable dip, which will
immediately be blamed on the protestors, not on those generals complaining that Rumsfeld overruled their sage advice. And long after the battle
is over, no matter how it turns out, we'll still be hearing that the "anti-war crowd" — not the people who actually ran the war — are to
blame for it lasting as long as it did, and getting that many soldiers killed.
March 31, 2003 · 1:00 AM PST ·
March 30, 2003 · 12:30 AM PST ·
WASN'T THIS WAR supposed to be over by now? Yeah, I know: These things take time. But it seems to me that even those
who are adamant about the rightness of the mission ought to be a little embarrassed about the way it was oversold — with overly-optimistic
projections and maybe even some outright fraudulent evidence. And now we have military leaders leaking the premise that all the disappointments
and problems are a result of their key decisions being overruled by Donald Rumsfeld and other civilian officials. Yow.
I think I'm going to stop watching the news. I know this thing is going to turn out okay — though I know I'm going to wince
when people speak of the total number of American deaths as "acceptable." Right now, I can't deal with the day-to-day ups and downs.
Besides, I'm really only tuning in to see the latest report of Saddam's demise...or how yesterday's turned out to be premature. Maybe.
THE CLEVER Fred Hembeck has nice things to say about my book, Mad Art, over in his weblog, Fred Sez. Said book is now in its second printing with a few typos corrected.
SPEAKING OF Mad artists: The magazine's erstwhile editor, Al Feldstein, has a terrific painting up for sale on his website. It's a re-creation of one of his classic covers for the old EC
science-fiction comics, and it's a beaut. If I had one more empty wall in my house, you wouldn't be reading this plug.
March 29, 2003 · 4:00 PM PST ·
SINCE I'VE REMOVED a couple of articles from this site, I decided to put a couple more up. Here's an article that I did
years ago about a friend of mine who was obsessive about movie endings. And here's one about bad panels at comic book conventions.
March 29, 2003 · 12:00 PM PST ·
I HOPE everyone understands that when I review plays here, it's more for my own benefit than yours: A little "diary" to myself
so that in the future, I can read back and remember what I saw and what I thought at the time. These aren't recommendations because in most
cases, by the time I see it, it's probably too late for you to get tickets and see it, even if you're local and so inclined. She Loves
Me, which I saw last night, is just such an example.
Which is a shame...for you. Because it's very good. This is the Reprise! revival of the 1963 musical based on the play
Parfumerie by the Hungarian writer Miklos Laszlo. It's about a man and a woman who work in a perfume shop and don't get along. At the
same time they're fighting, each has fallen in love with a pen-pal whose identity they don't know...and guess what happens next. It may sound
silly but the story must have something going for it, as it's been adapted into three movies just in this country alone: The Shop Around the
Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, and You've Got Mail. The original production of She Loves Me was only the second Broadway
show directed by Harold Prince, and it starred Daniel Massey, Barbara Cook and Jack Cassidy. It had a book by Joe Masteroff (who would later
write Cabaret) and a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (whose next show, Fiddler on the Roof, may be the most-produced theatrical
work of the twentieth century). But none of them fared as well with She Loves Me, which only ran 302 performances and has rarely been
Which is a shame...for all of us. It's a fun score with terrific lyrics, and it lends itself to superb musical
performances. In the Reprise! mounting, those are supplied by Scott Waara, Rebecca Luker, Larry Cedar, Kaitlin Hopkins, and several other
terrific folks. Rebecca Luker is the lady I thought was so perfect as Marian the Librarian in the recent Broadway revival of The Music
Man. Gordon Hunt directed, Gerry Sternbach was the musical director, and I'm not going to spend any more time raving about this, because
you can't go see it. Heck, I can't even go back and see it again because it closes tomorrow. Which is a shame...for me.
IN A MOVE I hope will do more good than harm, I have rearranged the structure of this website, moving files all around.
The upsides are that this page should load faster and that the whole site will be easier for me to update and maintain. The downsides all stem
from the fact that I had to move a lot of pages around. If another website linked to a specific page here, that link may no longer work.
(A tip: If you link to an item on one of these "news from me" pages, link to the little word "link" next to the date on the item. That should
never change, even as this page gets updated.)
At the same time, I've also removed a couple more articles because they'll be appearing (in slightly-revised, improved versions) in the
forthcoming second volume of my old columns about the comic book industry. It's named after a new article I just completed for it, and this is
not (wholly) a tongue-in-cheek title...
Click here to read the previous NEWS FROM ME