Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Unfortunately, yes, she did!  I was foraging through my personal archives today, and unearthed this little gemmy First Grade school photo from Blue Ridge Elementary, circa. Fall, 1970.  How 'bout those baby blues, huh?  And where the hell did those Opie-esque freckles come from?

Funny story behind this photoI had to have my pic taken a few weeks after the rest of the class had theirs done because on the night before the scheduled class photo day, I just had to do my Evel Knievel impersonation by attempting to pop a wheelie on my mighty Sears bicycle, which resulted in me crashing into our neighbor's driveway, knocking myself out cold and rendering yours truly with a rather unsightly fat lip!  Meantime, I hated that bloody shirt then and I loathe it exponentially more now.  At least my ugly-ass Sears Toughskins pants ain't visible here...

I had to drop 500 semolians this week to repair my furnace, which just up and quit overnight when it got down to four degrees in the great outdoors the other night.  Seems that it was internally overheating because my condenser coil was dirty and clogged with all manner of crap, which prohibited proper airflow and triggered an automatic shut-off switch.  The blessing part came when the repairman detected how rusted-out the pipe leading from the furnace to my roof exhaust pipe was.  This is where carbon monoxide builds up and is transported out, and if it had started leaking out into my crawl space and drifted upstairs through the vents, yours truly would no longer need a furnace, so the 500 bucks was a small price to pay to correct this potentially lethal situation.  I lost a friend to carbon monoxide poisioning 13 years ago this month, so this really hit home with me.  Special thanks to the "heating man from A.B. May", as their local TV ad jingles say.

The way some morons are reacting to actor Heath Ledger's untimely death, you'd think he was indeed gay, never mind that he dated his female co-star from Brokeback Mountain and fathered a child with her.  Uhhh, Tom Hanks played a gay man in Philadelphia, yet no one considers him to be gay, do they?  The late John Ritter's character pretended to be gay on "Three's Company", but everyone knew he was straight, right?  Well, none of that stopped Fox News radio host John Gibson from taking pot shots at Ledger by using the line where Ledger's Brokeback character said, "I wish I knew how to quit you," to which Gibson tastelessly replied, "Well, he found out how to quit you!" Gibson later offered a predictably half-assed and totally insincere apology that no oneleast of all meis buying.  Then again, what else should one expect from some douche connected with Faux News Channel?

And to the surprise of absolutely no one, the merry band of walking/talking human feces known as Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest at Ledger's funeral.  It figures.  I hope the funeral is held in Ledger's native Australia so these fuckers will have to pay through the nose to get there.

The New York Times ripped on former mayor and current flagging Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani pretty good this week with an editorial that endorsed John McCain, saying "The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city's and the country's nightmare to promote his presidential campaign."  Pretty strong words, yes, but let's not forget that even though ol' Rudy handled the 9/11 tragedy about as well as anyone could under the circumstances, prior to all that, he was a VERY unpopular mayor, and some New Yawkers wanted his head on a platter.  He'll be dropping out of the race any minute now...

It took me well over 30 years to make this connection, but the game Gnip-Gnop is "Ping-Pong" spelled backwards!  Hell, I bet Forrest Gump even figured that out before I did...

"China Grove"THE DOOBIE BROTHERS (1973) This song seems to have bamboozled everyone for decades.  I've seen two different interpretations here:  "When the gossip gets to flying, they a-lign when the sun goes fallin' down..." and "When the gossip gets to flying, they ain't lying..."  Anybody know which one's correct?

All hail the mighty Milton Bradley!

Classic Old-School Fast-Food Joint #2

This time I salute a local favorite, the Smaks hamburger chain, which at one time was huge in the Kansas City area.  At their peak, they had nearly two dozen locations around the city in the early '70s, including one in Raytown on 50 Hiway that I could literally see from my bedroom window when I was young.  My apologies for the poor photo quality here (click to enlarge), which I pirated from a Kansas City Star publicationget a load of those menu prices on the sign!  We rarely ate out as a family (Dad hated taking us anywhere) but when we did, we frequented Smaks more than any other fast food joint, to the point where I never even set foot in a McDonald's until 1973!  Smaks had the finest vanilla shakes on the planet, too...

The typical Smaks was laid out in similar fashion to Sonic drive-ins, although they didn't provide curb serviceyou had to go inside to get your food. Smaks even had a mascot, Smaky The Seal, who appeared in their TV and print ads, giving their food his "Seal of Approval", naturally.  Sadly, Smaks was unable to compete with McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's as the '70s wore on, and one by one, their restaurants closed.  The one in Raytown died sometime in 1974-75 and was converted into a Dog 'N' Suds root beer stand, which will be the subject of a future post.  A Firestone tire place now occupies the site.

Useless Information--Vol. I

A little TV/movie trivia for you, just for fun...

Al Bundy on "Married...With Children" always bragged about his exploits on the gridiron for Polk High School.  The man who played him, actor Ed O'Neill, actually was a football player in real life.  He was drafted and cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969.  He was also once considered (and turned down, thankfully) for the role of the father on the saccharine "Family Ties".

Actor Mike Rileybest known for playing Tarzan in three films in the '60s, as well as Col. Penobscott on "M*A*S*H" and Junior in Smokey And The Banditactually did play for the Steelers, as well as the L.A. Rams.  He was a linebacker in the late '50s and early '60s.

Film legend Spencer Tracy was offered the role of The Penguin on TV's "Batman" before Burgess Meredith got it.  Lyle Waggoner lost out to Adam West for the show's title role, too.  Maybe there IS a God after all...

John Voight turned down the role of oceanographer Matt Hooper in Jaws.  Dummy.

John Belushi was slated to be in Ghostbusters in the role that subsequently went to Ernie Hudson.

Just sit right back, and you'll hear a talea little "Gilligan's Island" trivia for you:  The late Jayne Mansfield was considered for the role of Ginger.  Ginger's last name was Grant...Gilligan's first name was Willie, although it was never mentioned on the show...The Skipper's name was Jonas Grumby (he's Grumby, dammit!) and The Professor's name was Roy Hinkley...The Wellingtons sang the show's famous theme song...Actor Jerry Van Dyke (later of "Coach" fame) passed on the role of Gilligan because he thought it was "the worst thing I've ever read."

Howie Mandel of "Deal Or No Deal" provided the voice of Gizmo in the film Gremlins.

Anybody remember the '70s kids show "Isis"?  Actress JoAnna Cameron was also considered for the role that went to Ali McGraw in 1970's Love Story.

Film legend Lana Turner allegedly dated Judge Joseph Wapner in high school.  Wonder if Rain Man knew that...

Among those who auditioned for "The Monkees" and were turned down:  Harry Nilsson, Stephen Stills, Danny Hutton (later of Three Dog Night), songwriter Paul Williams andkeep your smelling salts handy, nowcharming Charles Manson!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just keep matriculatin' that blog down the field, boys...

Behold an outfit that calls themselves the "Dead Robert Palmer Chicks".  All I gotta say about this pic is it's a sure sign of the Apoca-lips!

In what is a minor miracle for yours truly, tonight is the tenth night in a row during which I have consumed no alcohol.  I fully admit to being a bit of a knucklehead over the past few years by overindulging in drinks of a liquorous nature (beer being my major vice), but since the first of the year, I've found myself abstaining more often than imbibing for a change.  I have no intention of going on the wagon altogether, but beer's been tasting more and more like piss to me lately and the hangovers are getting harder to recover from, so I'm giving my body a much-needed break from it all.  I'm also trying to drop some major weight, and laying off the suds has already paid dividendsI've lost a dozen or so pounds since Christmas and probably saved myself easily 40 bucks during that time that I would normally have spent on beer.  Even more impressive to me is that I've had five Mich. Ultras sitting in my coolerator over the past ten days to tempt me, and I haven't even looked at them.  Just like Hawkeye on "M*A*S*H", I'll go back to beer when I want some, not when I need some.

Looks like we might have a fairly entertaining Super Bowl this year, as New England gets the N.Y. Giants for the second time in a little over a month.  Lots of intrigue with the Patriots shooting for perfection and the Giants being the hottest team in footballI think the 14-point spread for this one is way too high.  Former Chiefs kicker Lawrence Tynes, whose mediocrity was on display on his prior two field goal attempts, somehow managed to connect on a 47-yarder to win the game in OT for the Giants at Green Bay.  A guy who wasn't even good enough for the Chefs gets to kick in the Super Bowlnow, ain't that a kick in the head?

That's what I now have for Chargers QB Philip Rivers, after it was revealed that he underwent surgery on his ailing knee early last week just so he could play Sunday against New England.  Gotta give it up to someone who plays hurt, or at least tries to gut it out, like RB LaDainian Tomlinson did as well Sunday, but his knee was hurt worse that Rivers', so he was removed from the lineup early in the game.  That wasn't good enough for "Neon" Deion Sanders on the NFL Network, who criticized LT for not sucking it up and playing longer into the game.  Leave it to Mr. "Turf-Toe" himself to question someone else's toughnessthis pussy couldn't even tackle the anorexic Olsen twin!  Deion is also the guy who once refused to pay a $400 car repair shop bill because he claimed that the Lord advised him not to, so consider the source...

Were y'all as underwhelmed by the Oscar nominations today as I was?  As usual, it's all high-brow stuff (most of which just came out last month) and a bunch of movies no one's ever actually seen.  And of course, Johnny Depp got nominated againhe's the male equivalent of Meryl Streep, and they'd probably nominate him even if he played the role of a speed bump.  I may not even waste my time watching the ceremony this year, even if there is one.

HEATH LEDGER, 1979-2008
Sad news in the movie biz as actor Heath Ledger was found dead today of a possible drug overdose.  He was also suffering from pnuemonia at the time of his death.  He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in '05 for the role of one of the gay cowboys in Brokeback Mountain.  That's a film I normally wouldn't have watched, but since all the right-wing conservative Bible thumpers said I shouldn't, well I naturally had to check it out, and I actually liked it.  I thought it had a good storyline, was well-acted, and it was something different for a change.  Hell, it didn't make me squirm in my seat half as much as Borat didthe naked male wrestling in it made Brokeback seem like a Disney flick by comparison!  And all the Bible thumpers can relax because watching this film didn't make me "turn gay"I still like girls.

Was amused to hear that Ringo Starr bailed on a scheduled performance on TV's "Regis and Kelly" show today because they expected him to do his new four-minute song in 2:30.  Ringo told the show's producers to go get stuffed when they refused to allot him and his band any more time to play the song.  After all, it's such an endeavor to work in all of Reeg's witty retorts and retread one-liners on that show, so ex-Beatles just have to take whatever they can get, huh?

Major League Baseball has gone to hell in a hand basket under Commissioner Bud Selig's watch, so what do they do?  Give him a three-year contract extension!  Now that's progress...

IS THIS WHAT THEY MEAN... the term "product placement"?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fly Like The Eagles?

A co-worker of mine is a fan of The Eagles, but being the hard-ass that he is, he valiantly refused to knuckle under to Frey/Henley Inc. by buying their latest CD The Long Road Ouf Of Eden at Wal-Mart, so he took the circuitous route and borrowed it from his local library instead!  He let me give it a listen the other day, and I was largely underwhelmed by itit's nothing we haven't heard from these guys before.  And given The Eagles' penchant for reuniting for albums and/or tours only when there's a colossal payday involved, it's most fitting their new album has a track on it called "Business As Usual".

I've had a love/hate relationship (more accurately "like/hate") with this band ever since the '70s.  I absolutely hated themhated themat times.  They came across to me as rather snobbish and uppity, with a "we're better than everybody else" attitude, and I always thought they got played way too much on the radio.  They did have a few songs I liked, though (like "Witchy Woman" and "Already Gone"), and as I got older, I learned to appreciate their stuff a lot more, although there are some Eagles songs that I never need to hear again as long as I live (namely "Hotel California", "Seven Bridges Road", "Desperado" and "Life In The Fast Lane") because they've been played to death so much.

One good by-product of their various reunions is the double-DVD "Farewell Tour I" concert video they came out with a couple years back, which features phenomenal audio quality and a pretty good performance too.  While I tend to agree with Randy Raley's stance that he would prefer it to be an all-Eagles setlist instead of including Henley, Frey and Walsh solo stuff, "Dirty Laundry" and "Sunset Grill" do sound awfully tasty here, and "Life's Been Good" was a high point in the show.

My All-Time Eagles Top 10:
10) "Those Shoes" (1979)  Don Henley gets down and dirty, and Joe Walsh gets to play with his squawk-box contraption.
9) "Take It Easy" (1972)  Another one that gets played to death on the radio, but I'm sure the good folks in Winslow, Arizona don't mind.
8) "James Dean" (1974)  "Too fast to live, too young to die, bye-bye..."
7) "Take It To The Limit" (1976)  Former bassist Randy Meisner's high-water mark with the band.  This song's intro is eerily similar to that of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now".  Meisner went on to have a minor hit in 1981 with "Hearts On Fire".
6) "Heartache Tonight" (1979)  I imagine more than a few bar brawls have been set to (or set-off by) this song.
5) "Already Gone" (1974)  This was the second song I cranked up the day I accepted my current job, thus freeing me from the miserable one I was stuck in (The Who's "I'm Free" was the first).  "I will sing this victory song..."
4) "Lyin' Eyes" (1975)  I absolutely couldn't stand this song when I was a kidtoo damn long, for one thing!  But when I started hearing it with adult ears and actually followed the juicy storyline in the song, I grew to love it.
3) "Witchy Woman" (1972)  Or as my older brother and I used to lampoon it, "Itchy Woman"!  For the longest time, I didn't even know this was The Eaglesfor some reason, I thought it was some other band when I was a kid.
2) "One Of These Nights" (1975)  Every time I hear this song, I think back to the summer of '75 with this one playing on the jukebox at Fun House Pizza while I spent all those quarters on pinball and playing those prehistoric video games.  This one comes off surprisingly well live in concert too.
1) "Get Over It" (1994)  I love songs with rapid-fire lyrics, mostly because they're usually funny too, and this one's a killer!  Full of attitude, Don Henley scores a direct hit on the daytime talk-show circuit, or "White Trash Theater", as I like to call it.  Love the line, "You're makin' the most of your losing streaksome call it sick, well, I call it weak..."  Oh, and if you don't like my opinion of this song, well, get over it!  (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

Death returns from holiday

It's funny how this goes in cycles. It's been over a month or so since any famous people passed awaymost notably Dan Fogelberg and Ike Turneryet there's been half a dozen notable passings in just the past three days...

Actress Suzanne Pleshette died yesterday of respiratory failure less than two weeks shy of her 71st birthday.  She'd also battled lung cancer over the past couple years.  I can't think of anyone else who could've played the role of Emily Hartley on "The Bob Newhart Show" so perfectlyattractive, level-headed, and classy.  Her death comes just a few months after that of her husband, actor Tom Poston.  Pleshette was also briefly married to actor Troy Donahue in the mid-'60s.

ALLAN MELVIN, 1922-2008
He was probably best known as Sam The Butcher on "The Brady Bunch", but I prefer to remember him as Archie Bunker's neighbor Barney Hefner on "All In The Family".  Allan Melvin died of cancer on Thursday at age 84, and he was also known as Cpl. Henshaw on "The Phil Silvers Show", Sgt. Hacker on "Gomer Pyle, USMC", as well as providing the voice for the "Magilla Gorilla" cartoon in the '60s.  Melvin was born right here in Kansas City, too, but was raised in New York.

ERNIE HOLMES, 1948-2008
One of the more colorful NFL players of the '70s, Ernie Holmes was 1/4 of the Pittsburgh Steelers' famed "Steel Curtain" defensive line during their glory years.  Holmes, a defensive tackle out of Texas Southern, might be best known for shaving his hair into the shape of an arrow on his head for a game here against the Chiefs, giving him the nickname "Arrowhead Ernie".  The sad-sack Chiefs sure could've used him back then, too!  Holmes was killed in a one-car accident on Thursday.

Back in the '70s when the Chiefs totally sucked, the Los Angeles Rams were my adopted favorite NFL team, and Georgia Frontiere became their owner when her husband Carroll Rosenbloom died in 1979.  The Rams left the famed LA Coliseum not long after that and moved in with the Angels in Anaheim (and ruined a perfectly good baseball stadium in the process, although it has been subsequently restored).  Unhappy next to Disneyland, Frontiere eventually prostituted the team around and the city of St. Louis with its "Personal Seat Licenses" became her "john" in 1995, and LA has been without an NFL team since.  It's great that St. Louis is back in the NFL, but the way it all went down has never felt right to me.  I get the feeling that the character of the bitch owner in the film Major League was at least partially inspired by and modeled after Frontiere, who died of breast cancer on Friday.  I have mixed feelings about her, at best.

Just as an aside, everyone forgets that St. Louis was so sure they'd get an NFL expansion team in 1993 when the late Walter Payton had an ownership group in place and the team was going to be called the St. Louis Stallions, but something went awry along the way and the NFL awarded the franchise to Jacksonville instead.  The demise of the "Stallions" led to the parody sweatshirt I'm modeling in this photo!

BOBBY FISCHER, 1943-2008
I definitely don't have mixed feelings about this guyhe was a dick!  Mr. Chess Champion became famous in America and later denounced America, especially after 9/11.  He was an anti-semitic butt-munch too, and died the other day in Iceland of kidney failure.  ESPN did a big feature on Fischer upon his death.  Dare I say it?  Chess is not a sport!!!

JOHN STEWART, 1939-2008
Not to be confused with the comedian of a similar name, you may not know this guy by name, but you probably know of his work.  A former member of the Kingston Trio in the '60s, singer/songwriter John Stewart composed "Daydream Believer", which turned out to be a mega-hit for The Monkees (and later Anne Murray, as well).  Stewart also had a #5 hit of his own in the summer of '79 with the song "Gold", which featured Stevie Nicks on backing vocals.  His brother Mike was a member of the one-hit wonder folk group We Five of "You Were On My Mind" fame.  John Stewart died yesterday of a brain anuerysm and possible stroke.  He was also diagnosed to be in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Rest in peace, one and all (including the Geldings)...